2009 Earth Day Benefit For The Central Coast Vineyard Team

Ξ March 10th, 2009 | → 9 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Technology, Wine News, Wineries |

Earth Day Festival logoThis April 18th, the Saturday before the official Earth Day on the 22nd, you might want to consider attending the 2009 Earth Day Wine and Food Festival at Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia in honor of the Central Coast Vineyard Team (CCVT). The venue is located on the privately held of Santa Margarita Ranch surrounding the little town of Santa Margarita, pop. 1200, in northern San Luis Obisbo County. Indeed, one of the Festival’s many sponsors, Ancient Peaks Winery, is also situated on the property and is owned by the same group as Santa Margarita Ranch itself.
CCVT logoTwo contrary themes animate this year’s festivities. The first is the proper celebration of the Central Coast Vineyard Team’s great work on what has come to be known as sustainable agriculture. As they write in their introduction to their certification program Standards,
“The Central Coast Vineyard Team (CCVT) is a non-profit 501(c) 3 whose mission is to identify and promote the most environmentally safe, viticulturally and economically sustainable farming methods, while maintaining or improving the quality and flavor of wine grapes. The Team will be a model for wine grape growers and will promote the public trust of stewardship for natural resources.
Sustainable agriculture is based on the three “E’s” of sustainability, referenced above in CCVT’s mission statement. Along these lines, farming managers must address the three E’s of sustainability – economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially equitable”.

SIP certification sealIn 2008 the pilot certification program paid significant dividends. Fourteen winegrowers satisfied CCVT’s requirements to become the first certified:
Ampelos Cellars, Castoro Cellars, D’Anbino Vineyards & Cellars, Hahn Estates, Halter Ranch, Hilliard Bruce Vineyard, Jackson Family Wines, Laetitia Vineyards and Winery, Paragon & Firepeak Vineyard, Paraiso Vineyards, Pomar Junction Vineyard, Robert Hall Winery, Saucelito Canyon Vineyards, and Wolff Vineyards. (For a gloss on each of the certified farms and for a quick route to their respective websites follow the link above.)
The Earth Day Festival will also benefit another aspect of CCVT’s fine work, their farmworker outreach program. This is especially important and praiseworthy, a breath of fresh air in a world cracked open by cultural misunderstandings easily exploited by political opportunists.
But as I said above, there is a second, contrary theme at work this year. And it is an instance of especially bad timing. The town of Santa Margarita is embroiled in a serious confrontation over a sweeping series of real estate developments proposed for Santa Margarita Ranch by its owners. When one visits the History page of Ancient Peaks Winery, owned by the same group as the Ranch, one reads,
“We are proud of our ranch’s unique place in California history, and we are honored to be stewards of its winegrowing legacy.”
It is difficult to square this sentiment with this from Los Padres ForestWatch,
“The current landowners are proposing large-scale development across most of the ranch, converting this rich farmland into a sprawling subdivision. The first phase includes the construction of 112 homes. But that’s just the beginning – the ‘proposed future development’ includes buildout of several locations across the ranch property, including more than 400 additional houses, a private 36-hole golf course, a 250-unit guest ranch and lodge, a 12-room bed and breakfast, nine wineries, gift shops, a livestock sales yard, and an executive retreat center.”
On December 23rd, 2008 the project was approved by the local Board of Supervisors and a lawsuit quickly followed in late January, 2009. “The plaintiffs allege inconsistencies and shortcomings in the Environmental Impact Report’s conclusions about water, traffic, habitat protection, air pollution, and many other areas.” (Ibid.)
The battle has been joined. I wish the lawsuit success. It is unfortunate that CCVT’s day in the sun, that the 2009 Earth Day Food and Wine Festival’s benefit for the same, must be compromised by such an environmentally unfriendly development. The champion of sustainable agriculture, the CCVT, is to be hosted by the owners of the Santa Margarita Ranch. Their respective ends appear to be profoundly at odds.
It comes as no surprise Ancient Peaks Winery is not among the certified.


9 Responses to ' 2009 Earth Day Benefit For The Central Coast Vineyard Team '

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  1. andra said,

    on March 13th, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    So can it be true that no one actually responded to this article? Or have I just missed something? Shocking that men in the Central Coast with a lot of political clout and big bucks have the freedom to destroy one of the loveliest remaining untouched pieces of property in the Central Coast. All started with Mondavi leasing the land and planting its vineyards.

  2. Administrator said,

    on March 13th, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    andra, thanks for the comment. The lack of response has puzzled me, too. There certainly have been no shortage of readers, many from the San Luis Obisbo area.

  3. andra said,

    on March 13th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Also shocking that either no one has read this article or no one has an opinion. Thank you for doing the footwork required to bring this situation of several years’ standing to light. Unfortunately, this kind of scenario is taking place all over our state, and too many people…no, most people…seem not to notice until it’s too late.

  4. Wes Burk said,

    on March 17th, 2009 at 9:26 am

    There’s a lot more to the story that is not getting told. 4 or 5 years ago the Ranch owners held a series of meetings in the community of Santa Margarita where they invited input on a series of ideas and possibilities for the ranch. Then outside of the planning process and all its requirements, they funded a series of studies on the property. Biological resources, water resources, historical resources, view sheds and environmental resources were studied and maps were created demonstrating areas on the ranch that could be developed with the lowest level of impacts. The location for the proposed Ag. Cluster was determined through this technique and places development in the least sensitive area. Rarely mentioned is the fact that the proposed project preserves over 3000 acres in perpetuity and that the development area represents less than 4% of the property’s total. Nor is it often reported that many of the “Class 1″ impacts would exist if only 1 home were built because the standards are set below current realities. Traffic is a an example of this; the service levels are currently in a “Class 1” state and development conditions could actually lead to improved conditions. Biology impacts reach “Class 1”
    status on fallacious assumptions such as the ludicrous claim that the project could remove 400 oak trees. The project actually removes less than 40 trees and the SM Ranch has won national awards for oak tree regeneration due to the innovative pulse grazing techniques.

    The Real Sham in Santa Margarita is that a very small but vocal no growth contingent has hijacked the process, snowed the public and villainized great stewards of the land. They block attempts for the community to receive assistance from the Ranch because of the potential political consequences and punish an approach to development that is responsible and innovative.

  5. andra said,

    on March 18th, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Well, I will read this response over carefully, but off the top of my head, I have heard this argument about how the proposed development will allow 3,000 acres to remain undisturbed “in perpetuity”. It is the same “cry” used by William Hill, a vineyard develper in the North Coast, when he proposed lopping off the tops of mountains in a large swath of land in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Whether or not anything at all is “in perpetuity”, or whether or not the developers are sincere in their desire to preserve the environment is always difficult for anyone to assess. I know the author of this response (which I am very glad has been posted here) is a real estate agent/developer in the SLO area, and probably has been involved in the “development” of SMR. I am hesitant to term the owners of SMR “great stewards of the land” without looking much more closely and carefully at the proposal. Seems to me the fact that a lawsuit has been filed does says something about the project.

  6. Diane Weinsheimer said,

    on March 27th, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I just came across this article while researching the Earth Day celebration, at which I’m volunteering.
    My life goal is to have a farm on the Central Coast. What draws me to it is the acres and acres of open land, without all the crazy development of most of California. It has remained a beautiful, unique area with many wonderful tourist attractions that remain in scale–meaning not overwhelming the very desirable small town feel to the area.
    I’m disappointed and sad to see such a huge development being planned for this area.
    Diane Weinsheimer

  7. DMM said,

    on April 18th, 2009 at 7:20 am

    There is much history on this ranch and project, and sadly it is a lightening rod typical of our polarized political process. It is a topic that seemingly cannot generate any logical discussion among the two extremes, and those of us in the middle who live here, frankly, have heard this for over 20 years now, we are tired of it and do not have the energy to send you comments. As a longtime local with family going back generations, I appreciate the beauty of agricultural land. But it is privately owned, like it or not. In the 1980s there was a huge battle over development and it resulted in agreement for some future development in exchange for then ownership giving up some rights as well. The current owners have submitted development plans, and they list many items that may never be built but must be noticed now if they are to be even considered in the future.

    Mondavis went out of their way to work with the Indiginous tribal folks to avoid burial sites and even paid for them to be on hand during land preparation. And they left huge areas unplanted that makes the farming more inefficient. And I know they also worked to re establish habitat for native species, all on their dime.

    If you truly objectively look at the history of the ranch, you will see that the owners have worked to develop an income stream that combines agriculture, winegrapes, tourism and residential options. In the real world, it takes cash flow to keep a ranch in business. There also is little mention of the owners’ attempts to put thousands of acres into trust, which the oppostion worked to kill, believing that somehow they could stop all development while keeping the cost on the back of the current owners. With any objectivity, you have to realize that this is not fair and not economically realistic.

    The CCVT event celebrates true Sustainability. Preservation is fine but it is not fair to burden the land owner alone. And the public simply cannot afford to pay more than it is right now for more public lands. So don’t fall for all of the rhetoric. This is a great event, and demonizing the current owners is not fair. They hold many events on their ranch for non profits, they are local residents and their farming operations are sustainable. Let’s celebrate Earth Day and work toward some common goals.

  8. Administrator said,

    on April 18th, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Mr. Merrill, thank you for your valuable insight. I did try to contact you over a month ago for comment. I wrote you at both your real estate and winegrowing concerns. Regrettably, I did not get a reply.
    I did enjoy a delightful interview with Kris O’Connor, executive director of CCVT, about CCVT and the matter of the Santa Margarita Ranch development specifically. She provided valuable clarification: http://reignofterroir.com/2009/03/24/sustainable-agriculture-and-the-central-coast-vineyard-team/

    Have a fine Earth Day Event.

  9. Gerald Wilson said,

    on September 21st, 2009 at 7:37 am

    The project is in THE MOST biologically sensitive and diverse part of the ranch with the MOST oak trees and creek crossings of any other potential project locations. Althouse and Meade are well known consultants for the highest bidder. Read the objective unpaid biological opinion of DFG submitted at appeal hearing Dec 10, 2008. Not to mention the ranch is now owned by developers: one a licensed pesticide applicator and well driller. The watershed and perenial creeks are depleted by 9 wells taking underflow. All the hard work done by Mondavi is out the window-they scrapped the safe harbor-They poison wild pigs and squirrels and it ends up in every aspect of the food chain, down to the water.
    There are 13 creek crossings in their project proposal and they donated their way into hosting Earth Day just like their donations to the 3 lame duck supervisors who allowed them to take out most of the environmental mitigations and overturn the denial of the poorly planned project in a series of special hearings-anything costly or burdonsome was omitted by Kirk Consulting-This is a POPR group with Charlie Daugherty at the helm. Stewards of the land they are NOT! Mondavi were the real ethical farmers-All that is gone now, and it’s all behind locked gates -”AG” roads, infrastructure and where there is no Ag..bootlegging in the infrastructure in the name of Ag…preparing for their real objective which is a disneyland development..Urban Sprawl. The grapes are just getting their foot in the door. Developers in cowboy hats more like it… With a little wine status for their egos. 3000 acres in “ag conservation perpetuity” That means weddings, events and buildings-not conservation-Don’t buy it folks-This IS NOT a sustainable vineyard with “best practices”…it’s a vehicle to develop.

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