Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"A timely cautionary tale..."

                                      New review from:  Booklist                                                                                         
Napa at Last Light: America's Eden in an Age of Calamity.
Conaway, James (Author)
Mar 2018. 352 p. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, $26. (9781501128455). 641.2.
At the time of this review, wildfire is spreading across the Napa Valley in California, burning homes, businesses, and vineyards and killing record numbers of people. Such wildfire is an important thread in this third book in Conaway’s trilogy about the history and development of the famous wine region (Napa: The Story of an American Eden, 2002; The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley, 2003). Conaway tells a tragic story of conflicts between old residents and new; the rich and the filthy rich; and environmentalists and corporate profiteers. Among the victims are the land; the old, comfortable way of life; the quality of the wine; and the dreams of many to own their own vineyards. In each story, readers see the varied, fragile landscape and discover that Napa’s old governance, which used to protect the land, capitulates to demands for increasing production of expensive wines. As a timely cautionary tale, revealing what may soon happen to our nation and world, this will interest readers nationally.

— Rick Roche

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The oak initiative having risen from the dead...

Napa County will announce tomorrow whether or not to verify the 7,000-plus new signatures gathered to further protect the valley's watershed.                                  

                                By Kathy O'Leary
    Verification is expected. Then the county counsel will decide whether or not to advise putting the oak woodlands initiative on the ballot. Last time it was vetted by an outside law firm paid with taxpayer money and then disallowed on a technicality.
    This time it is expected to go on the ballot to, among other things, prevent an outright mutiny by the community.  Meanwhile the Napa Valley Vintners Association has flopped between supporters of the initiative's aims, and those who oppose any meaningful environmental restraint on business.
    The schism pits some of the oldest and most respected vintners against more recent arrivals devoted to increased building and sales at any cost.
    The former also fears that the NVVA will lose its long-standing place as the valley's leading voice, with good reason. The more reactionary Winegrowers of Napa County, the Grapegrowers and lately the Farm Bureau all now favor development in the name of "farming," and seem to have forgotten that "watershed" means just that - a place for gathering of good, plentiful water for growing things.
    The fact is that environmentally-minded vintners should split and form their own organization, both for the good will it imparts to their wine, and because they will be seen as inheritors of civic scripture that says agriculture in Napa Valley is the highest and best use of the land. Watersheds need trees, not more wineries, support structures, roads, power lines and, yes, even vineyards at the expense of all else.

     Below is an excerpt from the summary by Napa Vision 2050:
    Our North Bay communities have been disastrously visited by nature's wrath. Ironically, permissive county supervision and aggressive marketing have transformed the treasured semi-rural North Bay character, in a different way, even more than the catastrophic fires.
    Within memory, Napa and Sonoma rural roads were quiet and uncrowded. The few score wineries offered free tastings. The "wine country" was known as the Redwood Empire. Rusticity was genuine, not manufactured.
    Now Napa and Sonoma have a thousand wineries. Ten million visitors a year clog our rural roads. The commitment to agriculture as the "highest and best use of the land" is a memory smothered by event centers, gift shops, and film festivals. Locals' frequent complaints in newspapers about excessive tourism go unheeded. With county administrations friendly towards development, it is left to citizens' initiatives to enact even modest measures, like limits on helicopter flights and woodland harvesting, in these supposedly rural regions.
    Keeping the county’s semi-rural identity and respect for locals’ quality of life in mind, Napa Vision 2050 supports two propositions on the June ballot. The Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative protects our water supply and hillsides. The Private Heliport Initiative safeguards our peace and quiet. Without them, NV2050 sees the county spinning even further from its agricultural heritage, into a theme-park playground for the affluent.
    Napa’s planning commissioners and supervisors have led us down this crowded highway. In the last three years the county approved 58 new wineries and major modifications to existing ones. The permits typically also allow increased production, events, and visitors.

  In the weeks ahead Napa's vaunted vintners will reveal what they really believe is the highest and best use of the land. Consumers will evaluate more closely the environmental destruction wrought by individual labels on the shelves, and responsible wine writers should help them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Best Napa fire photo, hands down

                                               Faith D'Aluisio

Friday, January 12, 2018

Say what?


     What is it exactly that Napa's vintners have against preserving trees? No one seems to know, and that includes the vintners themselves. Just look at the reasoning, or what passes for it.
     The answer's at the bottom.
Napa Valley Vintners


To: Winery Principals
From: NVV Board of Directors
Subject: NVV Board Takes Position on Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018
Date: January 11, 2018
Following several months of gathering member input, including a January 4 study session attended by more than 80 vintners and a meeting of our Industry Issues Committee, the NVV Board of Directors today voted unanimously to oppose the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018.
The board made the decision for the following reasons:
  • The initiative, as written, is legally uncertain. The board believes there may be unintended consequences for agriculture if it becomes law.
  • The fires have reminded us of the delicacy of our environment and there is ambiguity as to how the oaks that were burned or damaged by them would factor into the initiative.
  • The majority of input the board received from members conveyed opposition.
The board also noted there are a number of members who are in favor of the initiative and it recognizes the diversity of member opinion. However, for all the reasons stated above, it is appropriate to oppose it.
In addition to today’s vote, the NVV is prepared to put resources toward an opposition campaign and formed a task force that will meet immediately to help determine its involvement.
The board confirmed the NVV’s mission to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley and remains committed to advocating for the local wine industry while preserving the Napa Valley for future generations. 
                  They want to be free to build (i.e. develop). And, by the way, preserving Napa Valley for generations means saving the hillsides as well.
           And, by the way, the vote was not unanimous. So what should right-minded vintners - and there are plenty - do?
           Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Sierra Club jumps into the Napa fight - again

Sierra Club Endorses 2018 Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative

By Chris Benz, Chair, Sierra Club Napa Group
Sierra Club has endorsed a ballot initiative to improve protections for Napa County’s watershed and oak woodlands. Voters will face the initiative in June, and, if passed, it will be a historic, precedent-setting measure that will set a limit on how many acres of oak woodlands can be permanently removed.
The Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018 focuses on land zoned for “Agriculture, Watershed, and Open Space,” which makes up the hillsides to the east and west as well as the southern Carneros region of Napa County. The eastern hillsides are a critical watershed area, where the county’s five domestic water reservoirs are located. The water flow from the hillsides is essential to feeding the streams and groundwater of the Napa Valley floor, supplying the needs of farms, residents and wildlife.
Napa residents and environmental groups have long been concerned about increasing development in the hillsides (primarily for vineyards) resulting in the loss of native oak woodlands—which provide vital eco-services such as carbon storage, native habitat, and soil stabilization—and the diversion of groundwater from rural residents and native habitat. This concern intensified with the County’s approval in December 2016 of the 209-acre Walt Ranch Vineyard Development, which will cut down 14,000 trees and sink new wells. (Sierra Club Napa Group is currently in litigation over the Walt Ranch Environmental Impact Report.)
In 2015, Napa residents led by Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett formed a committee to develop this initiative to protect the watersheds and woodlands. Though they collected enough signatures, an election code technicality kept it off the 2016 ballot. A partnership of leaders of the Napa Valley Vintners retooled the initiative for the 2018 ballot to include clearly defined protections and to align with the Napa County General Plan’s vineyard development allowances. These protections include increasing riparian buffer zones of native vegetation surrounding wetlands and streams in the watershed and requiring that three oak trees be replanted or preserved for every one removed. Napa Group Executive Committee members helped collect signatures for the initiative and will be active supporters during the campaign.
Sierra Club Napa Group salutes Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett (longtime members) and the leadership of the Napa Valley Vintners for building on Napa’s legacy of protecting rural lands that began 50 years ago with the creation of our Agricultural Preserve.
As global warming and its consequences wreak more havoc in our local environment, we recognize the critical need to keep our woodlands and watersheds healthy and fully functioning. The Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018 will help achieve that goal.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Heels of the hanged

        Poets say it best, sometimes ahead of the fact.
                From W.S. Merwin's Presidents, circa 1970:

                The president of shame has his own flag
                the president of lies quotes the voice
                of God
                at last counted
                the president of loyalty recommends
                blindness to the blind
                oh oh
                applause like the heels of the hanged