Chopping Down Redwoods to Make Wine


Written by Keith Goetzman, Utne Reader

Two California vintners want to cut down 2,000 acres of redwood trees and replace them with vineyards in the largest woodland-to-vineyard conversion in California’s history. Do I need to explain what conservationists think of this?

Under the proposal, reported by the Los Angeles Times and later tipped by High Country News, two Sonoma County pinot noir growers, Premier Pacific Vineyards and Artesa Vineyards, want to expand their growing operations by slicing into forestlands of Douglas firs and the state’s iconic redwoods. Premier also wants to develop 60 high-end estates—for members of the 1 percent, I assume—on adjacent lands that it already owns on the ironically named Preservation Ranch.

“In exchange,” reports the Times, “the developers promise to restore streams, add more than 200 acres to a county park, plant 1 million redwoods and Douglas firs and make other environmental improvements.”

But environmental advocates aren’t appeased by these offers:

“I don’t see a need for more deforestation to have a great wine economy, because there is a lot of cleared land already available,” said Adina Merelender, a UC Berkeley conservation biologist.

“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.”

A Sierra Club website that has detailed information about Preservation Ranch suggests that its moniker was a greenwash from the get-go:

The project was named “Preservation Ranch” by its proponents to disguise its essential nature as a speculative for-profit venture which targets the steep, undeveloped redwood and oak woodlands of coastal Sonoma County.

A county official acknowledges that the proposal is “controversial from beginning to end,” so approval is by no means certain. One thing is sure, though: If the deal goes down, the resulting pinot noir, regardless of its flavor profile, will most certainly have a bitter, acrid finish.

UPDATE 11/9/2012: Premier Pacific Vineyards has been terminated as the manager of the vineyard investment portfolio held by the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS, according to North Bay Business Journal and Wine Industry Insight. It’s unclear how this affects the company’s proposed vineyard expansion in Sonoma County.

This post was originally published by the Utne Reader.


Related Stories:

Will Your Favorite Wine Go Extinct?

Feel Better About Sustainable Beer and Wine

The Mabira Rainforest: In Peril Once Again


Photo from Urban Sea Star via flickr


Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Sheila D.
GGmaSiteIssues D3 years ago

As the politicians political leanings change from election to election, I would venture to say that these magnificent redwoods are going to need vigilent watching in the future to protect them from greedy businesses - and individuals.

Phyl M.
Dai M3 years ago

We all have to realize the choices we make can hurt wilderness & wildlife. We must be proactive in what foods & drinks we buy.

raya ENGLER4 years ago

Not to hurt anyone's feelings, but we have too many people on this planet pulling in too many different directions. Once, when there were not so many people in the world, there was room for everything. People, animals, land. Now we're taking over and doing a piss poor job of it.
We need to curb our indiscriminate pregnancies. Leave room for the rest of the inhabitants of this planet to have their space.

Ajla C.
Past Member 4 years ago

hvala na clanku

Bette M.
Bette M4 years ago

Wherever you go there once was a forest.
Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

There are eight billion humans on this earth.
The earth needs one/two trees for every human
alive........Plant a trees for someone you love.

Lynn D.
Lynn D4 years ago

Truely very sad.........thanks for article!

Ben Oscarsito
Ben O4 years ago


Misty Stahl
Misty Stahl5 years ago

There are enough vineyards...& plenty of OTHER places to build them as well...places that aren't treasured like this. Leave the Redwoods alone!!!

mari s.
Mari S5 years ago

Save the redwoods and those beautiful forests -- they've been around for so long and should stay as they are -- why expand vineyards anyway? If you must, come up with another idea but PLEASE LEAVE THE REDWOODS AND FORESTS ALONE! What's more, this exchange would not be an equal one -- the forests, along with the trees, are worth so much, putting a price tag on them would be difficult.