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"I was both pleased and surprised..."


I was both pleased and surprised that Wines & Vines continued the debate about vineyard planting in Sonoma County, but the defensive and strident tone of Nick Frey's critique of my article, "Sonoma Natives are Restless" took me aback. At least my piece had balance, but I don't think Mr. Frey tried the same. He seems to think that all is well in Wineland and he condescends that the locals should come visit a vineyard as if none of them has ever worked for a winery, lived on or near a vineyard, dealt with grape growers or made wine themselves. He seems to be of the mind that because Sonoma County wine is so great, the producers can do no wrong. For a person in Frey's position to carte blanche dismiss the concerns of his neighbors demonstrates his disdainfulness, and yet, he wonders why lawsuits are being threatened. It is my observation that the depths of the wine industry's denial is as extreme as the protestor's fears.

By taking a defensive position, the industry is missing a golden PR opportunity to promote Sonoma wineries who are quietly growing grapes organically. But, of course that would mean those would have to come out of the closet and risk being pigeonholed a 'tree hugger', which they fear will reduce the perceived value of their product.

I was also offended by Mr. Hiaring's quip about most of the protesters being mired in a 1960s mentality as if citizen action is a bad thing. Without that same "1960s mentality" we might all be dead of air and water pollution, lead and asbestos poisoning, DDT exposure, garbage overflow, population explosion, backalley abortions, and the Vietnam War.

This is not an "us versus them" situation. Both sides need to have more dialogue so that a happy medium can be reached for the benefit of producers and consumers alike.

/s/ Mari Kane, publisher of The International Hemp Journal, formerly known as Hemp World, and Hemp Pages--The Hemp Industry Source Book. She serves on the boards of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and Californians for Industrial Renewal (CAIR) Web site: E-mail:

(We don't agree with all of Mari Kane's views, hut do agree she has a right to them--Ed.)

(Nick Frey responds:)

Mari Kane is right to suggest, "Both sides need to have more dialogue so that a happy medium can be reached for the benefit of producers and consumers alike." The Sonoma County Grape Growers Association (SCGGA) is not dismissing the concerns expressed by community members. The offer to have community members visit directly with growers is in the spirit of opening communications, not dismissing concerns.

The SCGGA values the efforts of organic grape growers and their willingness to share their learning with other growers. Organic producers do not reduce the perceived value of Sonoma County Grapes for any grower. Organic grape acreage is increasing and will continue to increase. But all growers will not become organic growers, nor will all organic growers become biodynamic growers. Grower decisions about their personal grape production systems balance environmental protection, quality grape production, economic risk, and the unique requirements of their vineyard.

SCGGA has also taken actions to address our neighbors' concerns. Last July grower dollars were committed to address the neighbor relations issues that we had identified. A three-pronged program was planned and is being implemented. Firstly, we are addressing the grower community. Clearly, community perceptions have changed, and growers need to appreciate the implications those changes have for them. In addition, a total of 10 grower meetings on regulatory compliance and integrated pest management methods have been held to date.

Secondly, SCGGA will support growers who have neighbors with limited farming experience or new expectations. We encourage open and direct communications among neighbors, i.e. growers and adjoining non-farming residents. We will be providing information to growers on how they might better relate to neighbors.

Finally, SCGGA will increase its communications with the broader community. We value genuine dialogue that results in greater information sharing and understanding for all parties.

I think our actions demonstrate that SCGGA is committed to supporting growers and to responding to our neighbors so that we indeed find a happy medium for us all.

/s/ Nick Frey

Executive Director

Sonoma County Grape

Growers Association
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Publication:Wines & Vines
Date:Jun 1, 2000
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