There’s a fierce battle being waged over a patch of land in the heart of Northern California wine country, and it has the region’s normally laid-back denizens all kinds of fired up.
On one side is the Spain-based Codorniu, one of the world’s largest wine companies (they own Artesa in Napa, among other prestige labels). They want to clear 2,000 acres of redwoods and fir trees near the Gualala River to make room for vineyards, which will eventually be surrounded by 60 high-end estates.
On the other side are local environmentalists, a.k.a. the job-destroying devils of Michele Bachmann’s worst nightmares. These folks believe the proposed deforestation would be devastating to the area’s ecosystem, along the banks of one of the nation’s cleanest waterways.
Now, I’m kind of torn on this. On one hand, I don’t trust the Spanish. Not since the time back in ’97 when I got food poisoning from some bad paella in Seville. For three solid days I had shit coming out of every orifice in my body. It was horrible. And I will never forget it, Spain. Never.
Then again, just like you can’t get water from a stone, you can’t get wine from a tree. Redwoods are pretty to look at and all, but just think of all the happiness 2,000 acres of prime grape-producing terroir would bring.
In order to get to the bottom of this, I reached out to the most sensible, no-nonsense guy I know — my Uncle Curtis.
Uncle Curtis hails from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, where even Jeff Foxworthy drives with his pickup doors locked. The legendary and ancient wisdom of the hills has been honed over centuries, handed down from father to son like a fine rifle.
What he lacks in social graces, Uncle Curtis more than makes up for with his grass-roots chain of reasoning and his finely tuned Bullshit-o-meter.
ME: So, Uncle Curtis, what do you make of this whole brouhaha over that land in Sonoma County?
UNCLE CURTIS: First, you have to realize that around here “fir trees” means that the tree is relatively “fir” away. Otherwise, it’s time that people realize that some things on this earth just can’t be replaced… and a really good pinot noir is one of those things. The compromise here is that the developers must continue the tradition of naming the new product after whatever it replaced — you know, like the “Deer Run Mall” is built where deer used to run and the “Riverview Apartments” most likely are blocking the view of the river. So I’m thinking some Old Redwood Red and Clean Water Cab are headed for my Wal-Mart.
ME: What’s your take on environmentalists?
UNCE CURTIS: Well, the problem with tree hugging is that it sends the wrong message to our youths. You start out with trees, that might be fine, but next thing you know it’s any damn wood in the woods. You follow me?
ME: Do they drink much wine in Eastern Kentucky?
UNCLE CURTIS: Oh, hell yes! That one that’s named after Daniel Boone’s farm is likely the most popular, but even that fancy Cold Duck sham-pain, as we call it, can be found in plenty of homes.
ME: What do you like to drink?
UNCLE CURTIS: Well, Maker’s Mark of course, because it implies the very name of our Lord and you know I love that so many of our companies do the Lord’s work… Traci Lords! (That’s a joke Dan, because Ms. Lords is a famous actress very popular up at Hunting Camp.)
ME: Moving on… what advice would you give to those folks opposing the development?
UNCLE CURTIS: Just be glad they only want to cut down a few trees and are offering good wine. Around here they rip off the entire damn mountaintop, fill up the river with dirt and poison and… hey, wait, I gotta run now, Dan… I gotta get over to the Clearwater Shopper’s Plaza before Mountain Top Pharmacy locks up the cough medicine; they don’t like to have it out after dark since that True Blood show got popular. Good luck with that wine thing though…