California Grants Artesa Sonoma Approval For Environmental Preservation

The State Of California has just issued its Final Environmental Impact Report for the 173-acre vineyard owned by Artesa Winery in the Sonoma County town of Annapolis, Calif.

Artesa Winery is wholly owned by the Codorniu Group, a family-owned company based in the Penedes region of Spain since the 16th Century.

Ironically and sadly, a small and rather controversial group, "The Friends of Gualala River", is taking an anti-immigrant, anti-Spanish stand against the vineyard, even though Artesa and Codorniu Group, based in Spain, have gone out of their way to preserve and protect the entire property.

In the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Chris Poehlmann, president of The Friends of Gualala River, which opposes the project, based his criticism on the Spanish origins of the small, family owned Codorniu, saying "This is a foreign corporation coming into the coastal forests of California wanting to cut down our forests for their corporate gain." Something not true at all. Well, it's a joke, really.

Artesa purchased 324 acres of orchard land in 1999 and will turn roughly half, 173 acres, into a vineyard. Their plans will preserve the natural and agricultural environment of the entire site, protecting the two large, older growth redwood trees, as well as many other trees, on its property, ensuring the river water quality, and protecting archeological sites as part of their vineyard plans.

Artesa purchased the property which had been clear cut by previous some 60 years before it ever owned the vineyard. The company's plans preserve and protect the land, not harm it as alleged by the anti-Spanish, anti-immigrant tirades of Mr. Poehlmann and the "Friends of Gualala River."

"We are pleased that the scientists, environmental and regulatory experts and authorities agree that our vineyard will have a minimal impact on the environment and is in keeping with the natural and historic nature of the area and town," said Keith LaVine, President of Artesa Vineyards and Winery.

Annapolis has a long agricultural history. The town was named after the first orchard here which was founded in the 1880s, the Annapolis Orchard. The Artesa property was formerly used for sheep farming and an apple orchard until the early 1960s.

The EIR for the Artesa Vineyard includes rigorous mitigation measures to ensure that all potential environmental impacts will be less than significant. The final plan is the result of many years of studies on the property by experts in their fields which include archaeology, hydrology, biology, and engineering.

Various government agencies have also walked the property on numerous occasions including CalFire, Department of Fish & Game, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regional Water Quality Control Board, and others. Great care was taken to fully take into account the flora and fauna of the land and the ecological ramifications of its proposed development.

Prior to Artesa purchasing the property, it was almost completely clear cut some 60 years ago, and as such the vegetation on the property is exclusively second growth forest. Two large older growth redwood trees will be preserved as part of protected corridors on site.

Artesa will be preserving 151 acres, or 47 percent of the property. Two botanical preserves have been designated to protect a hybrid Annapolis Manzanita population of plant species, as well as one preserve for thin-lobed horkelia. Over 3 acres of wetlands are being preserved and/or created.

Any archaeological sites discovered will be preserved if found on the property. A state of the art drainage system as well as cover cropping will be installed to provide soil stabilization and to otherwise protect the vineyard areas from soil erosion.

Patchett Creek is an intermittent tributary that ceases to flow (typically in May or June), but a few small perennial pools may continue throughout the summer months. These small bodies of water have not supported any species of fish for many years, including prior to and during the 12 years that Artesa has owned the property. All creeks and tributaries on the site will be protected from disturbance by vineyard activities with 30 to 150 foot buffer zones.

"We love this area and the land is perfect for growing world-class grapes," LaVine said, "because there are already vineyards in the area, we believe our small vineyard fits perfectly into the agricultural and natural habitat of this area--and the EIR demonstrates this fact as well. We will continue to talk with everyone involved to ensure our vineyards and preservation project move forward for the good of all."

Stay tuned, and visit www.artesasonoma.com for more information.

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