Thursday, February 8, 2018

A sustainable Garden of Eden?


In the Literature
Conservation vs. Exploitation
Is Napa Valley a Sustainable Garden of Eden?
Copyright © 2018, Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, D.C. Reprinted by permission from The Environmental Forum®, March/April 2018
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    Napa! What does that name conjure up? Delicious wines? A bucolic “paradise valley” with thousands of green acres stretching from the Napa River to the Mayacamas Mountains to the west and Howell Mountain to the east? Farmland undergoing rapid development? It is all of these, but the reality is more complicated. It is a microcosm of the struggle going on across America between profit-driven development and resource conservation.
     Napa at Last Light: America’s Eden in an Age of Calamity is the recently published third volume of a trilogy on this subject by James Conaway. The first in the series, Napa: the Story of an American Eden (1990), a New York Times best seller, describes this place where climate, soil, and weather conditions are extraordinarily well-suited to the growing of grapes from which excellent wines can be produced. In the late 19th century a few adventurers, including immigrants from Europe who brought with them knowledge on how to grow grapes, matching grapes to climate, and the making of wine, came to the Napa Valley. They produced wine profitably, built large mansions on the hillsides, and then the combination of a grape disease and Prohibition shut them down.
    In the 1960s, people eager to leave city life for a living in a beautiful setting “rediscovered” Napa and revived the wine industry. By 1976 the wineries that sprung up in Napa Valley were producing wine of such excellence that two Napa vintages, a cabernet sauvignon and a chardonnay, won a blind tasting in Paris against some of the very best French wines. As the number of wineries expanded rapidly, other businesses began to arrive, bringing construction equipment and traffic. In 1968 the county wisely declared agriculture to be the “highest and best use” of the land and created in the Napa Valley the first “agricultural preserve” in the country. “Agriculture” included “the raising of crops, trees, and livestock, [and] the production and processing of agricultural products.” A house or farm building required at least 40 acres.

    Napa at Last Light begins with a recap of this history, and then brings the saga up to 2017. (Disclosure: I read and provided comments on an early draft of the book). Conaway has spent over 30 years traveling up and down the approximately 25 mile Napa Valley and the surrounding communities, getting to know the people, their desires, values, and personalities. As a result, reading his books is not just a story of the evolution of a community. It is also getting to know the grape growers, the wine-makers, and their families, many of the original owners, the preservationists, the concerned citizens, the new-comers looking to make big money fast, and the local officials. You encounter the organizations that spring up on all sides, and their interactions. After reading about the fist fight between Robert and Peter Mondavi to decide the ownership of the family business, you may never look at a bottle of Mondavi quite the same.
    There are now over 400 wineries in Napa Valley, and efforts continue to increase production and profits. Some winery owners tried to increase their production by bringing in grapes from outside the valley. This increased short-term profits, but eventually debased the value of the winery name when the public found out that their bottle of “Napa Valley” wine was made from mostly non-Napa grapes, and didn’t taste quite as good. To curtail this practice the county passed an ordinance in 1990 defining “Napa Valley” wine as being produced from at least 75 percent Napa Valley grapes.
    Also in 1990, with strong backing of citizens groups and environmentalists, Napa adopted an amendment to its general plan, known as Measure J, which stated that any change in land use provisions, whether by ordinance or permit, must first be subject to a popular referendum. This was challenged by winery owners and developers, but was upheld by the Cali- fornia Supreme Court in 1994. It has been invoked to challenge exceptions to land use laws with mixed success.
    Conaway’s second book in the trilogy, The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land and the Battle for Napa Valley (2003), describes the extraordinary wealth generated by Napa’s wines, and the arrival of absentee corporate owners and real estate developers whose main interest was making money. This led to planting vineyards on steep slopes, and the associated cutting of enormous numbers of trees, which in turn led to erosion and pollution of the Napa River, which runs from north to south through the valley. The river was home to salmon and steelhead before the deteriorating water quality drove them out. This development also began to take its toll on the appearance of the valley and the hillsides, including new structures, heavy traffic, dust, bulldozers, and other earth-moving equipment.
    Many vineyard owners and winemakers have long felt they should be able to do whatever they want with their property. They began to chafe against the strictures of the “agricultural preserve” and the definition of “agriculture.” Using their wealth and influence they have been able to persuade local officials to overlook violations and to allow planting on more acres than authorized, illegal tree-cutting and construction in the wrong places. The threat which climate change poses to future grape-growing has been ignored. Some owners expanded what once was known as a “tasting” to include food service tantamount to running a restaurant. Promoted as the “full wine experience,” the events are high priced. Receptions and the like are being held, and the sale of T-shirts, bar equipment, and paraphernalia unrelated to wine has sprung up.

    By 2008 the owners were promoting an expansion of the definition of “agriculture” quoted above to include: “and related marketing, sales and other accessory uses.” This would legalize the excesses described above, and more. They argued that the greater business and profits that could be generated from these activities would benefit everyone. There was widespread opposition among the other residents. Many feared further destruction of the natural beauty of the valley, increased traffic and noise, and further pollution of the Napa River, which was already listed by EPA as impaired under the Clean Water Act. However, this change had support among the planning department and the board of supervisors, and was approved as a “minor” clarification with minimal public notice.
    While the owners reaped extraordinary profits, the farm workers and many other residents were barely getting by — some living in trailer parks not visible to most tourists. They resented the arrogance of the owners and developers, who seemed oblivious to the fact that their drive to expand operations and convert wineries into tourist attractions was destroying the qualities of the valley which brought people — including many of the owners — there in the first place.
    To put the land use conflict into human terms, Conaway discusses several examples of profit-motivated outsiders who came to the Napa Valley with the aim of creating opulent wineries with no regard for the impact which development would have on the environment. One grew up in San Matteo, made a fortune during the tech boom, and bought 40 acres on a mountain adjacent to a 3,000-acre wildlife preserve and a state park, where he wanted to plant a vineyard. This would involve clear-cutting many large trees, removing boulders, and re-contouring the land in an area that was ill-suited to development. Outraged citizens organized a strong effort to block it, and that battle continues.
    Another example was a Texas real estate developer and part owner of the Dallas Cowboys who wanted to clear cut 500 acres, including an estimated 30,000 mature oak trees, ostensibly for a vineyard. His massive infra- structure plans strongly suggested an intention to build a large number of “ranchettes.” He had done a similar development in neighboring Sonoma County. Surveys indicated that the land disturbance would cause significant erosion, damaging Napa’s drinking water supply, adversely affecting fish populations, and destabilizing downhill soil. The public, fed up with deforestation and environmental destruction, rallied to oppose this. But the developer began a campaign of misinformation and bullying, and the county supervisors allowed the project to proceed. Lawsuits were immediately filed.
    Conservation-minded citizens then drafted a proposed water and woodland protection initiative, and quickly gathered more than twice the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot for the 2016 election. The board of supervisors initially approved it to go on the ballot. Then they rejected it on the technicality, rarely invoked, that it failed to attach copies of regulations that might be affected. The citizens were left to start the process over again for the 2018 ballot, amid protests of “voter suppression.”
    Near the end of the book Conaway observes: “‘Eden’ is a figurative stretch for what the valley once represented, but all vestiges of that early in- nocence are lost. The remnant fig leaf kept in place by the wine and hospitality industries grows more tattered every year, revealing more schemes to transform a way of life into a market- able experience as or more valuable than the thing itself.”
    Napa at Last Light is a very engaging read and carries some important messages. The struggle going on in the Napa Valley is similar to struggles between developers and conservationists all across the country. At a time when our national leaders are calling for less regulation and making it more difficult to protect our environment, this book could not be more timely.

Ridgway Hall is vice chair of the Chesapeake Legal Alliance. Email: ridgehall@
       To order Napa at Last Light go to: 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A Vine Mess

Napa ballot initiative to limit oak removal from hillsides sows discord in wine industry

From Bohemian by 
SECOND TIME AROUND  After being disqualified over a technicality in 2016, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative is back on the ballot in June. - PAOLO VESCIA
  • Paolo Vescia
  • SECOND TIME AROUND After being disqualified over a technicality in 2016, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative is back on the ballot in June.
A June ballot initiative that would limit removal of oak trees for new vineyards has exposed rifts within Napa County's wine industry.
The Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative would cap oak removal from hillsides in an effort supporters say is designed to preserve remaining hillside habitat and protect fragile watersheds.
Supporters submitted more than 7,000 signatures to the county elections office last month. Only 3,800 signatures were required to qualify it for the ballot. County election officials certified the signatures earlier this month. Among other things, the measure would cap future oak-forest removal for new vineyards at 795 acres.
This is the legislation's second time around, albeit in a different form. It was on the ballot in June 2016, but the county invalidated it before election day because of a technicality. At that time, the county's wine and agricultural industry organizations presented a united front against the initiative, a measure they claimed was unnecessary given the regulations winegrowers already face.
A number of those groups—the Napa County Farm Bureau, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and the Winegrowers of Napa Valley—all oppose the proposed legislation this time around too. But in the case of the powerful Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) trade group, their opposition constitutes an about-face that is rankling winemakers inside the member-based organization and out.
Last year, initiative organizer Mike Hackett got a cold call from NVV government relations director Rex Stults who said he wanted to discuss possible collaboration. Hackett says he was skeptical about the overture, but says Stults reached out to him because polls revealed the measure would likely pass.
"That really shook them up," he says.
A small group from the NVV, which included former board chair Michael Honig, met over lunch with Hackett and his co-organizer Jim Wilson.
"It was cordial," says Hackett.
The group continued to meet over the next seven months and agreed to compromise on the proposed streamside setbacks and settled on the 795-acre cap. This unlikely meeting between wine industry and environmental activists bore fruit. In September, the NVV board voted unanimously to support the initiative. The Napa County Board of Supervisors praised the bipartisan compromise.
But the good feelings didn't last long.
When the greater membership of the 500-member NVV and Napa's other wine and agriculture industry groups learned of the proposed legislation the two sides hammered out, the pushback was loud and often vitriolic, says Honig.
"I was surprised how angry people got," he says. "When the board saw what the pushback was, they got nervous."
A few weeks later, the NVV board voted to suspend its support for the very legislation it helped write. On Jan. 11, the board voted unanimously to oppose the initiative. In a statement, the organization said its opposition is based on the sentiments of a majority of its members and their belief that the initiative is "legally uncertain" and fear of "unintended consequences for agriculture if it becomes law."
"The NVV believes the initiative is not the proper way to further the goal of protecting Napa County's woodlands and watershed," the statement said.
Napa Valley Vintners communications director Patsy McGaughy would not provide further explanation or say what is the proper way to protect woodland and watershed areas. Stults would not comment. It's not clear whether the NVV will actively campaign against the initiative.
As the compromise heads to the polls, a group of winemakers, some of whom are members of the NVV, are banding together in support of the initiative. Among them is famed vintner and NVV member Warren Winiarski.
In 1976, a bottle of Winiarski's first vintage of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon placed first among French and California red wines at the legendary Judgment of Paris tasting. But in his support for the ballot initiative, Winiarski recalls another key date in the Napa Valley.
"This initiative will support the work I was involved in back in 1968," he says, referring to the creation of the county's historic agricultural preserve, an ordinance widely touted for keeping housing development pressure at bay and allowing the wine industry to thrive. "It's strengthening something that needs strengthening."
The agricultural preserve marks it 50th anniversary this year, an event both sides of the debate are citing to make their case.
Winiarski and his winemaker allies say now Napa Valley needs protection from wineries and vineyards which they say are exploiting their status in the agricultural preserve at the expense of water quality, biodiversity and the carbon capturing potential of trees.
Were the initiative to fail, says Winiarski, "it would have quite a negative impact on the totality of what this valley is about."
Winemaker Randy Dunn, who is not a NVV member, is also joining the effort in support of the initiative.
"We've got to save what we've got left," he says, rejecting the charge that the initiative is anti-agriculture.
"Some people are dumb enough to think if we don't keep planting grapes we'll end up like Santa Clara County. It's not going to make any winemakers go bankrupt."
Hackett says that while the wine industry is divided, he believes support for the measure is strong.
"We have wide community support, and we're going to win this."
In spite of his advisory status on the NVV board, which is now chaired by Opus One Winery CEO David Pearson, Honig says he's going to vote for the initiative. While he says many of his winemaker colleagues have legitimate concerns about it, he doesn't think it will have the devastating impact some critics fear, and there are more pressing issues to be concerned with.
"This [issue] is just a blip," he says.
He says his goal in reaching out to the authors of the initiative was to improve on the 2016 version and make it more palatable to the wine industry since it was headed for the ballot again.
"I believe we achieved that," he says. "I'm not frustrated with the product, but I'm frustrated with all the angst within my industry."
But now it's up to voters.
"That's what democracy is about," says Honig.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"A timely cautionary tale..."

                                      New review from:  Booklist                                                                                         
Napa at Last Light: America's Eden in an Age of Calamity.
Conaway, James (Author)
Mar 2018. 352 p. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, $26. (9781501128455). 641.2.
At the time of this review, wildfire is spreading across the Napa Valley in California, burning homes, businesses, and vineyards and killing record numbers of people. Such wildfire is an important thread in this third book in Conaway’s trilogy about the history and development of the famous wine region (Napa: The Story of an American Eden, 2002; The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley, 2003). Conaway tells a tragic story of conflicts between old residents and new; the rich and the filthy rich; and environmentalists and corporate profiteers. Among the victims are the land; the old, comfortable way of life; the quality of the wine; and the dreams of many to own their own vineyards. In each story, readers see the varied, fragile landscape and discover that Napa’s old governance, which used to protect the land, capitulates to demands for increasing production of expensive wines. As a timely cautionary tale, revealing what may soon happen to our nation and world, this will interest readers nationally.

— Rick Roche

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The oak initiative having risen from the dead...

Napa County will announce tomorrow whether or not to verify the 7,000-plus new signatures gathered to further protect the valley's watershed.                                  

                                By Kathy O'Leary
    Verification is expected. Then the county counsel will decide whether or not to advise putting the oak woodlands initiative on the ballot. Last time it was vetted by an outside law firm paid with taxpayer money and then disallowed on a technicality.
    This time it is expected to go on the ballot to, among other things, prevent an outright mutiny by the community.  Meanwhile the Napa Valley Vintners Association has flopped between supporters of the initiative's aims, and those who oppose any meaningful environmental restraint on business.
    The schism pits some of the oldest and most respected vintners against more recent arrivals devoted to increased building and sales at any cost.
    The former also fears that the NVVA will lose its long-standing place as the valley's leading voice, with good reason. The more reactionary Winegrowers of Napa County, the Grapegrowers and lately the Farm Bureau all now favor development in the name of "farming," and seem to have forgotten that "watershed" means just that - a place for gathering of good, plentiful water for growing things.
    The fact is that environmentally-minded vintners should split and form their own organization, both for the good will it imparts to their wine, and because they will be seen as inheritors of civic scripture that says agriculture in Napa Valley is the highest and best use of the land. Watersheds need trees, not more wineries, support structures, roads, power lines and, yes, even vineyards at the expense of all else.

     Below is an excerpt from the summary by Napa Vision 2050:
    Our North Bay communities have been disastrously visited by nature's wrath. Ironically, permissive county supervision and aggressive marketing have transformed the treasured semi-rural North Bay character, in a different way, even more than the catastrophic fires.
    Within memory, Napa and Sonoma rural roads were quiet and uncrowded. The few score wineries offered free tastings. The "wine country" was known as the Redwood Empire. Rusticity was genuine, not manufactured.
    Now Napa and Sonoma have a thousand wineries. Ten million visitors a year clog our rural roads. The commitment to agriculture as the "highest and best use of the land" is a memory smothered by event centers, gift shops, and film festivals. Locals' frequent complaints in newspapers about excessive tourism go unheeded. With county administrations friendly towards development, it is left to citizens' initiatives to enact even modest measures, like limits on helicopter flights and woodland harvesting, in these supposedly rural regions.
    Keeping the county’s semi-rural identity and respect for locals’ quality of life in mind, Napa Vision 2050 supports two propositions on the June ballot. The Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative protects our water supply and hillsides. The Private Heliport Initiative safeguards our peace and quiet. Without them, NV2050 sees the county spinning even further from its agricultural heritage, into a theme-park playground for the affluent.
    Napa’s planning commissioners and supervisors have led us down this crowded highway. In the last three years the county approved 58 new wineries and major modifications to existing ones. The permits typically also allow increased production, events, and visitors.

  In the weeks ahead Napa's vaunted vintners will reveal what they really believe is the highest and best use of the land. Consumers will evaluate more closely the environmental destruction wrought by individual labels on the shelves, and responsible wine writers should help them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Best Napa fire photo, hands down

                                               Faith D'Aluisio

Friday, January 12, 2018

Say what?


     What is it exactly that Napa's vintners have against preserving trees? No one seems to know, and that includes the vintners themselves. Just look at the reasoning, or what passes for it.
     The answer's at the bottom.
Napa Valley Vintners


To: Winery Principals
From: NVV Board of Directors
Subject: NVV Board Takes Position on Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018
Date: January 11, 2018
Following several months of gathering member input, including a January 4 study session attended by more than 80 vintners and a meeting of our Industry Issues Committee, the NVV Board of Directors today voted unanimously to oppose the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018.
The board made the decision for the following reasons:
  • The initiative, as written, is legally uncertain. The board believes there may be unintended consequences for agriculture if it becomes law.
  • The fires have reminded us of the delicacy of our environment and there is ambiguity as to how the oaks that were burned or damaged by them would factor into the initiative.
  • The majority of input the board received from members conveyed opposition.
The board also noted there are a number of members who are in favor of the initiative and it recognizes the diversity of member opinion. However, for all the reasons stated above, it is appropriate to oppose it.
In addition to today’s vote, the NVV is prepared to put resources toward an opposition campaign and formed a task force that will meet immediately to help determine its involvement.
The board confirmed the NVV’s mission to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley and remains committed to advocating for the local wine industry while preserving the Napa Valley for future generations. 
                  They want to be free to build (i.e. develop). And, by the way, preserving Napa Valley for generations means saving the hillsides as well.
           And, by the way, the vote was not unanimous. So what should right-minded vintners - and there are plenty - do?
           Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Sierra Club jumps into the Napa fight - again

Sierra Club Endorses 2018 Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative

By Chris Benz, Chair, Sierra Club Napa Group
Sierra Club has endorsed a ballot initiative to improve protections for Napa County’s watershed and oak woodlands. Voters will face the initiative in June, and, if passed, it will be a historic, precedent-setting measure that will set a limit on how many acres of oak woodlands can be permanently removed.
The Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018 focuses on land zoned for “Agriculture, Watershed, and Open Space,” which makes up the hillsides to the east and west as well as the southern Carneros region of Napa County. The eastern hillsides are a critical watershed area, where the county’s five domestic water reservoirs are located. The water flow from the hillsides is essential to feeding the streams and groundwater of the Napa Valley floor, supplying the needs of farms, residents and wildlife.
Napa residents and environmental groups have long been concerned about increasing development in the hillsides (primarily for vineyards) resulting in the loss of native oak woodlands—which provide vital eco-services such as carbon storage, native habitat, and soil stabilization—and the diversion of groundwater from rural residents and native habitat. This concern intensified with the County’s approval in December 2016 of the 209-acre Walt Ranch Vineyard Development, which will cut down 14,000 trees and sink new wells. (Sierra Club Napa Group is currently in litigation over the Walt Ranch Environmental Impact Report.)
In 2015, Napa residents led by Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett formed a committee to develop this initiative to protect the watersheds and woodlands. Though they collected enough signatures, an election code technicality kept it off the 2016 ballot. A partnership of leaders of the Napa Valley Vintners retooled the initiative for the 2018 ballot to include clearly defined protections and to align with the Napa County General Plan’s vineyard development allowances. These protections include increasing riparian buffer zones of native vegetation surrounding wetlands and streams in the watershed and requiring that three oak trees be replanted or preserved for every one removed. Napa Group Executive Committee members helped collect signatures for the initiative and will be active supporters during the campaign.
Sierra Club Napa Group salutes Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett (longtime members) and the leadership of the Napa Valley Vintners for building on Napa’s legacy of protecting rural lands that began 50 years ago with the creation of our Agricultural Preserve.
As global warming and its consequences wreak more havoc in our local environment, we recognize the critical need to keep our woodlands and watersheds healthy and fully functioning. The Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018 will help achieve that goal.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Heels of the hanged

        Poets say it best, sometimes ahead of the fact.
                From W.S. Merwin's Presidents, circa 1970:

                The president of shame has his own flag
                the president of lies quotes the voice
                of God
                at last counted
                the president of loyalty recommends
                blindness to the blind
                oh oh
                applause like the heels of the hanged


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Adios cabernet and pinot?

                           Have a glass of global warming 
Harvard University
Peter Reuell

A changing climate, changing wine
To adapt to warmer temperatures, winemakers may have to plant lesser known grape varieties, study suggests
A new Harvard study suggests that, though vineyards might be able to counteract some of the effects of climate change by planting lesser-known grape varieties, scientists and vintners need to better understand the wide diversity of grapes and their adaptions to different climates.
Nature Climate Change

    Cambridge, MA (January 2018) — If you want to buy good wine, Elizabeth Wolkovich says stop looking at labels and listen to your taste buds.
     An Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Wolkovich is among the co-authors of a new study, which suggests that, though vineyards might be able to counteract some of the effects of climate change by planting lesser-known grape varieties, scientists and vintners need to better understand the wide diversity of grapes and their adaptions to different climates. The study is described in a January 2 paper in Nature Climate Change.
    “It’s going to be very hard, given the amount of warming we’ve already committed to...for many regions to continue growing the exact varieties they’ve grown in the past,” Wolkovich said. “But what we’re interested in talking about is how much more diversity of grape varieties do we have, and could we potentially be using that diversity to adapt to climate change.
    “The Old World has a huge diversity of winegrapes – there are over planted 1,000 varieties – and some of them are better adapted to hotter climates and have higher drought tolerance than the 12 varieties now making up over 80% of the wine market in many countries,” she continued. “We should be studying and exploring these varieties to prepare for climate change.”
    Unfortunately, Wolkovich said, convincing wine producers to try different grape varieties is difficult at best, and the reason often comes down to the current concept of terroir.
    Terroir is the notion that a wine’s flavor is a reflection of where, which and how the grapes were grown. Thus, as currently understood, only certain traditional or existing varieties are part of each terroir, leaving little room for change.
    “There’s a real issue in the premier wine-growing regions that historical terroir is what makes great wine, and if you acknowledge in any way that you have climate change, you acknowledge that your terroir is changing,” Wolkovich said. “So in many of those regions there is not much of an appetite to talk about changing varieties.”
    But even if that appetite existed, Wolkovich said, researchers don’t yet have enough data to say whether other varieties would be able to adapt to climate change.
    “Part of what this paper sets up is the question of how much more do we need to know if we want to understand whether there is enough diversity in this crop to adapt wine regions to climate change in place,” said Ignacio Morales-Castilla, a co-author of the study and Fellow at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University who investigates which winegrape varieties will adequately mature where under climate change. “Right now we know we have this diversity, but we have little information on how to use it. One of our other suggestions is for growers to start setting aside parts of vineyards to grow some other varieties to see which ones are working.”
    But even if researchers came to the table armed with information about grape diversity, Wolkovich said the industry – both in the traditional winegrowing centers of Europe and around the world – still faces hurdles when it comes to making changes.
    In Europe, she said, growers have the advantage of tremendous diversity. They have more than 1,000 grape varieties to choose from, research repositories such as INRA’s Domaine de Vassal that study this diversity, and expertise in how to grow different varieties. Yet strict labeling laws have created restrictions on their ability to take advantage of this diversity.
    For example, just three varieties of grapes can be labeled as Champagne or four for Burgundy. Similar restrictions have been enacted in many European regions– all of which force growers to focus on a small handful of grape varieties.
    “The more you are locked into what you have to grow, the less room you have to adapt to climate change,” Wolkovich said. “So there’s this big pool of knowledge, and massive diversity, growers have maintained an amazing amount of genetic and climactic response diversity...but if they changed those laws in any way in relation to climate change, that’s acknowledging that the terroir of the region is changing, and many growers don’t want to do that.”
    New World winegrowers, meanwhile, must grapple with the opposite problem – while there are few, if any, restrictions on which grape varieties may be grown in a given region, growers have little experience with the diverse – and potentially more climate change adaptable – varieties of grapes found in Europe.
Just 12 varieties account for more than 80 percent of the grapes grown in Australian vineyards, Wolkovich said, more than 75% percent of all the grapes grown in China are Cabernet Sauvignon – and the chief reason why has to do with consumers.
    “They have all the freedom in the world to import new varieties and think about how to make great wines from a grape variety you’ve never heard of, but they’re not doing it because the consumer hasn’t heard of it,” Wolkovich said. “In Europe, people do blend wines...but in the New World, we’ve gotten really focused on specific varieties: ‘I want a bottle of Pinot Noir,’ or ‘I want a bottle of Cabernet.’
    “We’ve been taught to recognize the varieties we think we like,” she said. “People buy Pinot even though it can taste totally different depending on where it’s grown. It might taste absolutely awful from certain regions, but if you think you like Pinot, you’re only buying that.”
    As Wolkovich sees it, wine producers now face a choice: proactively experiment with new varieties, or risk suffering the negative consequences of climate change.
    “With continued climate change, certain varieties in certain regions will start to fail – that’s my expectation,” she said. “The solution we’re offering is how do you start thinking of varietal diversity. Maybe the grapes grown widely today were the ones that are easiest to grow and tasted the best in historical climates, but I think we’re missing a lot of great grapes better suited for the future.”