|by Brett Wilkison
March 1, 2013
Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Sonoma County wine industry representatives and grape growers are voicing some relief over news this week of the tentative conservation deal that would shield nearly 20,000 acres in northwestern Sonoma County from a disputed forest-to-vineyard conversion project.
The large proposal called for clearing almost 1,800 acres of former commercial timberland to grow premium pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. Industry officials said it could have flooded the market, crowding out small-scale area growers.
It also would have drawn the local industry further into a pitched land-use battle and widening national debate over the reach of vineyards into remote North Coast forests.
“That would have been a battle that we didn’t invite or initiate, and that we didn’t want to be involved in but we would have been involved in,” said Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission.
. . .
“All it takes is one mistake and the entire industry gets a black eye,” said Duff Bevill, founder of Bevill Vineyard Management. “You want to support agriculture, but this was a tough one. The good news is that it has resolved itself.”
. . .
“The public outcry has been there for years and was only going to heighten as it moved forward,” said Frey, the winegrape commission president. “We’re pleased that this has been resolved.”
. . .
“I didn’t think it made sense to begin with,” said Nick Peay, co-owner of Peay Vineyards, which includes 52 acres of premium pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah grapes near Annapolis.
He called the costs of forest conversion and management of far-flung vineyards “ridiculously expensive.” The payoff – grapes fetching up to $6,000 a ton over hundreds of acres – was also illusory, he said…
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Some wine leaders pleased with pending
demise of forest-to-vineyard project.
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The so-called “Preservation” Ranch is a 19,300 acre development in the heart of the Gualala River watershed. Premier Pacific Vineyards plans to destroy and fragment coastal redwood forest to plant grapes on the ridgetops – and call that “preservation.”