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Action against Artesa’s Large Forest Conversion Project

To All,

FYI: I’m forwarding a little experiment direct emailing to Keith LaVine, the CEO of Artesa who was hired in 2011, and  inherited the Artesa vineyard project in Annapolis. It’s aim is to precipitate a prelude to what we expect will be a wave of public relations aimed at Artesa coming this summer, in the post-Preservation Ranch era that redefines Artesa as the last, only vineyard development destroying redwood forest….a spin we haven’t had the opportunity to use before May 31!

The email below is modeled after an Artesa Wine Club member’s inquiry to LaVine last year, who inquired about whether what environmentalists were claiming about his beloved wine were true. LaVine made some pretty ignorant (or willful) false claims in reply. The wine club member forwarded them to FoGR (along with La Vine’s email address in the email string!) for verification.  So far, I’ve had no “bounce” message, so I assume the email address is still valid.

In the run-up to the usual sign-on letters from organizations, and some other events in preparation (video, Native American gathering and blessing of the land ceremony, and maybe a new petition etc) from known sources, I thought it would be worth trying to drum up a little tremor of individual emails from multiple sources, like a pre-quake tremor. Variations of short original letters from individuals (or points from a template; examples below) may help sensitize this relatively new CEO to PR. He has experienced relative silence on this issue during the lawsuit, since the petition with 91,000 signatures made headlines.

I’m going to unofficially circulate the email below to environmentally sympathetic wine-drinking friends in the Bay Area, requesting a short message to LaVine while his email still works…and ask them to forward to other likely willing writers, or put on their Facebook pages (as they have done with Preservation Ranch news and petition links).  Variations on this mailing would be welcome.  I’m hoping this is a catalyst for a larger second wave letter-swamping and petition efforts by organizations.  I’d welcome improved permutations and other variations. This is just to break low-level writer’s block barrier. Feel free to forward.

Some potential points for variations in points and themes in short letters (infinite possibilities!):

  • Not worth sacrificing forest for vineyard. Sell the forested land in Annapolis and buy another vineyard already in agricultural land use.
  • Read writing on wall – CalPERS divested in Preservation Ranch for sound economic reasons: taint permanent conflict  over redwood deforestation threatens market for Sonoma Coast
  • Preservation Ranch confirmed public expectation that the model of vineyard development of forestland is bankrupt, corrupt – negative value. Raises stakes against stigma of forest-vineyard conversion. After Preservation Ranch ended, public officials and even wineries expressed relief that the bad idea died.  Makes Artesa look really bad and outdated to keep it going after being denounced universally.
  • Public disapproval will never go away. Artesa will never live down deforestation in era of Facebook, web links, You Tube, and other social media.
  • Public praise for Artesa as environmentally responsible for making courageous policy change



Mr. LaVine:

I believe Artesa Napa deserves its outstanding reputation for making fine wines. I’m sure you know that Preservation Ranch’s infamous forest-to-vineyard conversion proposal finally ended May 31 (making the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle). That means the Artesa-Sonoma vineyard  conversion project you inherited stands now out as the only remaining deforestation proposal in California. Nobody but Artesa is now in line to develop coastal redwood forest into vineyards.  The “black eye” that local vineyards complained about Preservation Ranch giving Sonoma Coast vineyards (quoted in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat this year) is now unfortunately uniquely associated with Artesa.

Do you believe that Artesa will be spared the demonstrated controversy and adverse publicity that Preservation Ranch suffered, now that Preservation Ranch’s huge shadow no longer dwarfs the Artesa Sonoma project?  Do you think that the Native American tribes who wrote official resolutions opposing Preservation Ranch and Artesa will become silent and forget about the project?

There is simply no credible public denial of Artesa’s precedent for clear-cutting redwood forest to clear land for vineyards. Artesa’s own Environmental Impact Report tells the world definitively that you are cutting down 1.25 million board-feet of lumber –not a half-dozen trees, but a forest—to make way for the vineyard. That raw fact cannot be disguised or trivialized to placate Artesa wine drinkers or its wine club members who have doubts about the credibility of Artesa’s  environmental  “sustainable agriculture” claims. Any visitor or user of Google Earth can see the property is covered with healthy redwood and Douglas fir, and even some mature ones. There is simply no feasible way to greenwash this project: look at Preservation Ranch’s failure to do so despite its best PR efforts.

The Artesa-Sonoma project is an outdated relic from 2001, long before your tenure at Artesa. It was first proposed in a very different wine market and national economy, prior to the controversy generated by Preservation Ranch, and the sea change in political and public opinion about it. Is it still worth jeopardizing the fine reputation of Artesa wines as the public spotlight of the redwood/red wine conflict shifts to Artesa?

As a wine consumer who would like to be able to enjoy and recommend Artesa wines in good conscience, I ask you to reconsider asset/liability balance of the project, and its future.  I am sure the environmental and Native American community in California would be eager to honor Artesa for making the right decision and follow Preservation Ranch’s example. Please withdraw the Artesa Sonoma Annapolis project and cooperate to sell the Annapolis property for conservation forestry and Native American interests.


Peter Baye,

Annapolis, California