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A tale of grape versus redwood

Two wineries want to clear 2,000 acres of forest to make way for Pinot Noir vineyards.

August 25, 2011|Louis Sahagun and P.J. Huffstutter

"The big issue for us," added Jay Holcomb of the Sierra Club, "is that redwoods-to-vineyards conversions are worse than clear-cutting because they are permanent."

Opponents organized under the banner Friends of the Gualala River have enlisted allies among the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, who worry that the project would destroy sacred remains scattered throughout the targeted groves.

"I get mad just thinking about the people from far away who can't wait to buy wine from vineyards that would destroy our forests and ancestral lands," said Violet Parrish, a Pomo tribal elder who lives near Annapolis. "We don't want those vineyards, or the fertilizer and pesticides that would pollute water supplies our children will depend upon."

One thing everyone seems to agree on, though, is that Sonoma County, the lead regulatory agency considering the land deal, faces some tough choices when planners take up the issue later this year.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, August 27, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 3 inches; 127 words Type of Material: Correction
Redwoods and wine: In an article in the Aug. 25 Section A about proposals to clear redwood forest lands to plant wine grape vines in Sonoma County, the last name of the president of the Sonoma County Wine Grape Commission, Nick Frey, was misspelled as Fry. The article also misquoted Frey. He did not say: "This is not a plan to build a mall. They're talking about growing grapes." The correct quote is: "They're talking about growing grapes. It's an area of second-growth trees and the whole area, the wine industry here in Sonoma County, has been growing." The first sentence of the quote as published in the article was from a winemaker who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Sonoma County planner David Schiltgen says the project is "controversial from beginning to end."

"They are proposing to completely remove the forest and replace it with vineyards," he said, "at a time when political winds are howling with global deforestation and carbon-sequestration concerns."


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