I consider myself an environmentalist. V. Sattui Winery and Castello di Amorosa have put nearly 600 acres into conservation easements with the Napa Valley Land Trust, so that this land will never be built upon. Most of it will remain wild forever, the remainder in vineyard. Our remaining 500-plus acres shall go into conservation easements. Conservation is a way of life for me.

However, the Napa Valley Vintners went too far. Without consulting its members, grape growers, wine industry groups, experts, the public and elected officials, unilaterally two directors (one an employee of the NVV) in a backroom deal decided to draft their own Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative with two members of Napa Vision 2050. And, of course, they knowingly did this during harvest when stakeholders are busy picking and crushing grapes.

The two NVV directors should have subjected their opinions to public scrutiny. Based upon the people I have talked to, many growers and wineries (most of whom are NVV members) are outraged at this lack of transparency and insensitivity to the future of Napa Valley agriculture.

Make no mistake about it. If this initiative passes, it will spell the end of new vineyards in the hillsides and begin the demise of the Napa Valley wine industry. Existing wineries will find it difficult or impossible to expand production as the valley floor is mostly planted. New wineries won’t find grapes.

Napa County needs a balance between protecting the environment and the grape and wine industry. If ag does not thrive here, the alternative is housing, clearly an inferior alternative to vineyards and wineries.

Ag is the biggest employer in Napa County. It contributes enormously to the tax base and many worthwhile community projects and is a good steward of the land. It and Sonoma are the last Bay Area counties with widespread agriculture. What is at stake here is more than the wine industry, but also the future of Napa Valley for everyone.

Vineyards in the Napa Valley (to my knowledge) are already the most regulated in the country and perhaps the world. There are already strict regulations to protect streams and wanton destruction of trees.

Napa County’s own general plan states that agriculture is the highest and best use of rural areas, and yet a few well-meaning citizens who have little knowledge of ag are naively doing their very best to undermine our world renowned industry. The problem being that citizens with little understanding of the wine industry and its complex issues may tend to believe them and vote for the initiative.

Does the public know that a hillside parcel of up to 319 acres, if this initiative passes, will need a county permit, almost impossible to get, to cut down one oak tree over 5 inches in diameter? A county use permit, often taking years and costing thousands of dollars, will be required to cut 10 or more trees on that same parcel.

Most of us wish to retain the scenic beauty and wildlife habitat of Napa County, but this initiative goes too far, abetted by the very organization that should be helping the wine industry, not hindering it---the Napa Valley Vintners.

Dario Sattui


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