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