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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Citywide

Rule Lets Vintners Make Wine On-Site

September 27, 2000|LOUIS SAHAGUN and ANDREW BLANKSTEIN

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday granted approval for local vineyard owners to crush and ferment grapes--and bottle wine--on their own property.

The action will benefit wineries in unincorporated areas, including parts of the Antelope Valley and Santa Monica Mountains. Growers in these areas have had to ship their grapes out of the area to be crushed and bottled.

"Winemaking is part of the heritage of the county, most of which ended with laws passed during Prohibition," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "But there are a lot of areas with weather and soil conditions that are very similar to those found in the Napa Valley."

The new ruling will allow each vintner to produce as much as 5,000 gallons of wine--or about 25,000 bottles--annually in agricultural zones or land designated for "resort and recreation."

Those seeking to produce more than 5,000 gallons would have to obtain conditional use permits, requiring a public hearing, and would be limited to producing 50,000 gallons.

The board's action was opposed by environmentalists, who fear it could promote a proliferation of vineyards. The heavy equipment and fertilizers needed to create them--often on steep, unstable hillsides--could cause water pollution and erosion, they said.

In response, Yaroslavsky said, "We're talking about boutique wineries here. And we're looking at a potential industry in the foothills of Antelope Valley and the Santa Monica Mountains. This could be a great thing for the county."

Los Angeles was one of the state's primary areas for wine production beginning in the 1700s, when settlers led by Spanish missionaries planted grapes as they traveled along the California coast.

But Prohibition, development and disease decimated local winemaking concerns by the 1920s. In 1950, zoning laws barred wineries in agricultural areas, until vintners began complaining to county officials.

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