Napa Valley, Calif., is known as the heart of U.S. wine country, not exactly as a toxic cesspool. But local environmentalists say soaring wine production in the valley has lead to unhealthy farming practices that pollute the land, place heavy pressures on natural resources, and harm wildlife. The county has passed legislation designed to limit soil erosion and watershed contamination stemming from rampant hillside vineyard development, and it is also enforcing urban growth limits and creating watershed task forces to study the impact of the wine industry on the valley’s ecosystems. But vintners, who claim the industry is already one of the most heavily regulated in the nation, want to self-monitor rather than face further government restrictions. To that end, the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers recently released the industry’s first set of statewide environmental guidelines. Environmentalists said the guidelines were a step in the right direction, but questioned whether winemakers would start walking the talk.
Get Grist in your inbox