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Is Disaster Ahead for Malibu’s Burgeoning Wine Region?

on 19/08/14 at 8:35 am


indexIn recent months, there’s been a lot of excitement around the burgeoning wine scene in Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains. The Malibu Coast has just been approved for its own AVA (American Viticultural Area) by the U.S. government’s Tobacco and Tax Bureau — meaning that the wines coming out of the region are unique enough to deserve their own designation, and can use “Malibu Coast” on their labels.

But the hope that Malibu could become a serious wine region could be squashed by a change in the California Coastal Commission’s Land Use Plan for the Santa Monica Mountains. The changes, which were introduced in April by L.A. County Board of Supervisors Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, would ban all new vineyard plantings in the Malibu AVA zone and even require that many existing vineyards be ripped out.

The changes are set to go into effect pending a vote August 26.

On Friday, winegrowers in the region put out a statement objecting to the changes. It states that “vineyards planted without permits must now be removed, with no recourse for retroactive permitting,” and details a litany of grievances relating to the changes in the rules.

At issue is the conservation of the Santa Monica Mountains. But the winegrowers say the plan is misguided: “The scientific evidence presented at the Coastal Commission hearing was out of date and did not specifically address the effect of vineyards on the environment.”

The winegrowers believe they in particular have been treated unfairly in the process. For instance, “organic farms” will be allowed under the new rules, but organic vineyards will not. Also, equestrian facilities, which must also be permitted, will be allowed retroactive permitting, while vineyards will not — even though, they claim, equestrian facilities use more water, and vineyards actually help with erosion. They also say that most of the growers in the region use varying levels of sustainable, organic or biodynamic farming, and the pesticides used adhere to those principles, as well as following the appropriate guidelines established by the city, county, or state.