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Codorniu’s Sonoma plans opposed by monastic order

Three environmental organisations and a monastic community are suing Codorniu's US subsidiary and the state of California over a new vineyard in Sonoma.

Friends of the Gualala River protest at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors (pic: gualalariver.org)

Starcross Community
, a monastic order adjacent to the property, opposes plans by Artesa Vineyards – a subsidiary of Spain’s Codorniu wine company – to clear about 70 hectares of second-growth forest and former orchard land to grow Chardonnay and Pinot noir.

Planned for more than a decade and under state review since 2009, the project was approved by California forestry officials in May. Starcross is the latest to have filed a lawsuit in Sonoma County Superior Court citing potential violations of county noise statutes.

Friends of the Gualala River, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity are also challenging the project.

Artesa spokeperson Sam Singer said there had been a ‘miscommunication’.

‘Artesa won approval by the state because the plans are not only environmentally sound, but sensitive to the historic agricultural history of the town.’

However Tolbert McCarroll, a member of Starcross, told Decanter.com, ‘There is no miscommunication. We attempted to get some written enforcable understanding which would ensure we’d continue to have a peaceful and quiet environment essential to the order of our monastic community, and we were never able to accomplish this. This has been going on since 2004.’

The opponents of the project claim California’s state forestry agency failed to properly assess the project’s impact on water quality and wildlife, and that alternatives were not adequately addressed in the state’s review.

A spokesman for the agency said its process was ‘thorough and deliberative.’

Officials said Artesa had substantially modified its proposal, downsizing the project by 19 acres (7.6ha) of vineyard and setting aside more land to protect rare plants, wildlife habitat and archeological sites while adding measures to address noise and other concerns.

A coalition of Native American tribes including the Kashia Pomo is also said to be considering legal action over concerns about damage to archaeological resources in the area.

Written by David Furer

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