by Randy Dunn
When the Napa County Board of Supervisors convenes to discuss the Le Colline vineyard project later this month, proponents will likely throw around terms like “net zero,” “sustainable” and “zero emissions.”
Don’t believe them. These buzzwords are meant to convey a sense of environmental responsibility, but in the case of Le Colline the sustainability claim is not only false but laughable.
To make way for the vineyards, the project will bulldoze more than 28 acres of forest and shrub lands, leaving the hillsides near Conn Creek vulnerable to erosion and threatening water quality.
This is the opposite of sustainable. A vineyard project that starts with forest destruction can’t claim to be responsible no matter how many electric tractors are deployed.
I’m all for growing grapes and making wines responsibly. When I purchased the Howell Mountain property in the early 1980s, I removed just one tree to build Dunn Vineyards and this allowed me to plant a mere 30 or so vines in a lousy, rocky area. I wanted to keep the footprint of our family-run operation small. It was important for us to permanently conserve portions of our property and work toward preserving other hillside properties, too.
To keep and honor the wine-making heritage of Napa, we must balance vineyards with conservation. With the climate crisis worsening by the day, we won’t be able to continue growing grapes for future generations if we keep approving projects that harm the environment.
For years development has transformed Angwin and other neighboring communities. Oftentimes the influx of hillside vineyards goes unnoticed because the clear cutting takes place away from roads, buffered by a scattering of trees that shield passersby from the deforestation.
Piece by piece, we’re losing the key part of our community that sequesters carbon and purifies our air, and many of us aren’t even aware.
But the Le Colline project isn’t just taking away our forest, which is disconcerting enough. It’s also putting Napa’s water supply in danger. Converting oak woodlands and shrub lands to vineyards above Conn Creek would allow polluted runoff to enter the creek that flows into Lake Hennessy. This is the source of Napa’s drinking water and must be protected.
I hope our elected officials take the time to weigh these serious concerns and consider the context in which this project is proposed. Le Colline follows a long line of vineyard projects that have already chipped away at the open space that protects us.
And it won’t be the last. Another destination winery wants to join Le Colline on the narrow Cold Springs Road, this one with an even bigger footprint and a lot more visitors. In addition to ruining the environment, these projects will destroy the quiet neighborhood of Cold Springs Road. Before making a decision, each supervisor should pay a visit and imagine living on this road with the additional traffic.
At some point our supervisors will have to admit enough is enough. That time is now.
Founder, Dunn Vineyards