Getting plowed: Sonoma forests to vineyards

In last week’s posting about the carbon footprint of wine, I intentionally just focused on the often overlooked and carbon-intensive distribution aspects. But certainly the vineyard and winery practices need to be considered as well when looking at the environmental impact of wine.

No practice might have more impact on the environment than the act of making a vineyard out of forest. A four-minute film from the Sierra Club (thanks, Jack!) demonstrates some of this deforestation/vineyard construction in Sonoma. Using images from Google Earth, they document some vineyards already carved out of forests. Then they discuss the Premier Pacific Vineyard’s proposed development of close to 2,000 acres of forest land for 90-acre “vineyard estates,” or residences set among the vines.

On their website, Premier Pacific has a statement of environmental responsibility and commitment to sustainability:

Premier Pacific appreciates its unique opportunity to help protect the environment. We take our mandate as a responsible steward of the land seriously and have invested considerable time and resources toward designing each vineyard to be as sustainable and low impact as possible…Sustainable practices are not just environmentally responsible, but less intrusive, more natural vineyard management techniques that are being recognized as an important part of growing luxury wine.

Check out the video clip (click here if the above does not work) and feel free to sound off in the comments.

Related: ” Sonoma Coast winemakers living on the edge” [NYT]

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6 Responses to “Getting plowed: Sonoma forests to vineyards”

  1. Who are the investors in PPV?
    I remember a Californian pension fund.

  2. “No practice might have more impact on the environment than the act of making a vineyard out of forest.”

    That seems a bit inflammatory, doesn’t it? Would they prefer housing developments?


  3. Hey V,

    True, it would be hard to argue that a vineyard does more harm than a housing development. But I was just talking about vineyard practices. So in the realm of applying chemical fertilizers and using pesticides, yes, I’d argue that carving a vineyard out of a mature forest would have the greatest negative impact.

  4. We have been telling ourself lies about land development and econmic development for a long time. Are not the effects of Global Warming and the War for Oil a direct result of our greed and lack of stewardship? Once developed (either for housing or vineyards) the land WILL NEVER return to forest. The VERY reason most of us live in Sonoma County is the land! Let’s not argue over symantics, protect our forests and rivers (while we still have the chance).

  5. Housing developments?

    This has been the most cliche argument I have heard in defense of the forest destroying pests we have come to call vineyards. Every time anything negative is mentioned about the negative impacts of vineyards on Northern California forests, it’s the same argument, “Well, it’s better than housing developments!”

    The fact of the matter is, the lands being consumed by vineyards are not, nor are there ever any plans to be, zoned for anything but agriculture. Your, “Housing development” argument is a moot point as the natural forested areas threatened by vineyard development are in no way, shape or form in danger of becoming housing developments anyway.

  6. I feel helpless as a young man seeing the land I love devastated everywhere by the burgeoning industry for the sake of wine culture. I can find plenty faults in the practice, but the worst is the conversion and exploitation of nature. If I could do anything to rid my homeland of vineyards and wineries, I would. But I don’t feel like I can. Those that exploit have money, and such a strong sentiment exists in the Sonoma County elite that any effort of wine would be quelled.


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