In spite of talk about the “glut of wine grapes” in Sonoma County, two companies are looking to convert nearly 2,000 acres of redwoods and firs into vineyards. Residents in the area of the proposed sites live amid dense foliage regrown after the area was clear cut by the logging industry in the first half of the 20th century, and they are not sitting quietly by while the companies move in.

Artesa¬†Vineyards, owned by Spain-based Grupo Cordoniu, wants to develop 151 acres on a site containing artifacts from ancient Kashaya Pomo villages. Premier Pacific Vineyards is seeking to put rows of grapes on about 1,800 acres of 20,000 it owns nearby in a project called “Preservation Ranch.” The latter also includes a proposal for residential housing on the remainder of the tract.

The plans are to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes; opponents argue the projects are unnecessary in a county already producing more pinot grapes than the market can bear. Further, they argue that the vineyards will hurt endangered and threatened fish (Coho and Steelhead, respectively) struggling to rebound in the nearby Gualala River bysiphoning off water and introducing pesticides that could be harmful to the fish. There is also the problem of the tribal artifacts at the Artesa site. The grape growers argue these lands will be developed one way or another as the county grows, and vineyards would be better for the environmental concerns than housing developments.

The projects still need county and state approval. Decisions should be made within the next two years.


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