Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Controversy Over Vineyard Development in Napa

Jennifer Wells has published the Note "In Vino Veritas: Grapes, Greed, and Lawsuits in the Napa Valley," 16 Hastings W.-N.W. J. Env. L. & Pol'y 515.  From the Introduction:

If blood will have blood, then Napa will have wine. Or so the sentiment goes. In actuality, a storm has been brewing in Napa County for the past fifteen to twenty years, pitting neighbor against neighbor, developer against environmental organization, and locals against outsiders. The coalescence of numerous elements - increased environmental awareness, hometown preference, a weakened economy, and revolutionary advances in wine-making - has led to numerous disputes in both California and federal courts. The underlying factor of the disputes centers around what for many longtime Napa residents amounts to a destruction of the environment in the bid to develop more wineries. Conversely, vintners see the locals'  opposition as wholly unreasonable and detrimental to the future economic health of Napa County, not to mention an abrogation of personal property rights, as county officials intervene in the disputes and force changes upon the wineries. In assessing how the three different factions - the wineries, the residents, and the Napa County government - interact and resolve environmentally induced wine disputes, important lessons can be drawn in negotiating tactics and the art of exploiting new (and old) technology to better everyone's position.

I spent many of my formative years in Sonoma County, the next valley over from Napa, and I recently made a visit home.  We drove through Napa and I was stunned at the number of new wineries that have been built in the last 10 years.  Wells describes the various political and legal controversies over those vineyards, and the newer phenomenon of underground wineries, being developed as a way around strict viewshed regulations.  A very interesting read, whether you're a wine drinker or not!

Jamie Baker Roskie

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