The Napa Valley Register continued to do the type of reporting that’s of critical importance to the industry.
Yesterday they ran an article about Napa’s board of supervisors and their continued struggle to define what agriculture is and how the valley wants to grow over time. I’ve written about quite a bit of the history in my page about Napa Valley, but a quick reminder. For about a hundred years now, there has been a push and pull in Napa Valley between growers and vintners. Growers generally want less traffic, less commercial buildings and of course, enough water to grow crops. Vintners want those things, but they have the added issue of selling wine, so they’d like the ability to hold large scale marketing events, largely whenever they please. Tasting by appointment only? That makes selling wine harder? The main road through St Helena being only a single lane, with people parking off it and stop lights everywhere? Makes selling wine harder. The lack of large scale hotel development? Makes selling wine harder. The lack of BART (it’s our version of the Metro, or Subway in the San Francisco Bay Area) to downtown Napa? Makes selling wine harder.
The rules tend to ebb and flow in small ways as the county board of supervisors itself changes hands from conservatives to liberals. In many ways, it might remind you of the health care debate happening currently in Washington, it’s every bit as contentious and often insane.
That being said, it’s different than Washington in one single and incredibly important way: the two sides talk to each other. Both sides believe the other is valuable and that they have ideas which are to be expected. It hasn’t always been that way, but Napa Valley has settled into a new normal, a sort of balance exists between growers and vintners. They still don’t especially like each other, but they understand how important each aspect of the wine industry is.
Where this goes from here? Nobody knows