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by Cyril Penn | March 3, 2014 | 12:19 PM

A long-planned project to help mitigate negative effects of land development around Sacramento-San Joaquin by converting 1,200 acres of farmland into tidal wetlands is a very good thing but would have an unforeseen consequence: eliminating a 14-acre Carignane vineyard that was planted in the 1880’s.

The historic 14-acre vineyard and the wetlands created by the project could co-exist relatively easily, however, if an entrenched bureaucracy is convinced that they should. The project is being implemented collaboratively by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), the CALFED Bay-Delta Program (CALFED), the California State Coastal Conservancy (Conservancy) and the City of Oakley.

A Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Dutch Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Project in Oakley is available online for public comment and the 45-day comment period ends Friday – it offers an opportunity to comment on the Dutch Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Project as well as the Historical Vineyard Preservation efforts. All responses will go directly to the state.

A website with information about the vineyard, an electronic letter, and pictures of the vineyard can be found at

When winemaker Matt Cline realized the wetlands restoration project in Oakley was threatening the Emerson Carignane vineyard he’d worked with for more than 25 years, he started writing letters. After meeting with various officials, Cline was able to get the Supplemental EIR instated for the project.

Cline notes that the 14-acre vineyard on the Emerson Parcel consists of ancient 100-year-old vines that produce unique and valuable Carignane grapes, and that plantings of Carignane are diminishing, in part because it grows and best flourishes in Contra Costa County where vineyards have given way to housing. Carignane once represented 30 percent of all red winegrapes in California.

Cline believes the vineyard would be easy to save given its location within the project. It sits on high ground and could be a focal point, as a Marsh Creek Regional Trail will run right along it. Saving it will require the project to obtain additional cubic yards of dirt. “I’m sure it’s a money issue,” Cline said, “But what’s an historic 14-acre vineyard worth?”

Here is the link to the Supplemental EIR for the Dutch Slough Salt Marsh Restoration Project:

And this is a link to a recent article that touches on one of the many issues that the loss of this vineyard represents:

Here's a link to a form for sending comments via

“I’m hopeful,” Cline told ”This vineyard is totally sustainable. It’s something we need to study instead of destroy.”

Here's an example of a letter, this one written by recently retired UC Davis Department of Viticuture and Enology professor Jim Wolpert

Dear Ms Finfrock,

I write on behalf of the effort to save the Lucchesi (Emerson) Vineyard. I was a faculty member and viticulture specialist at the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis for almost 30 years. I appreciate the value of old vineyards, as I was one of the originators of the Zinfandel Heritage Vineyard Project, a joint collaboration between UC and the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP). We became involved in that project due to the risk of losing the old vine Zinfandel vineyards throughout California. Identification and increased awareness of these old vineyards was ZAP's main goal, while ours was the effort to understand whether they represented unique genetic material, that is, in terms of their wine quality. Our research showed that there were, in fact, unique characteristics that were worth saving.

Unfortunately, not all vineyards could be saved and some cases we arrived just days before the bulldozer. In fact, two of the three vineyards in our research from Southern California (Cucumonga area) were subsequently lost to development. As Don Galleano, owner of Galleano Vineyards, said well, "If these vineyards were buildings the state would slap a National Historical Landmark plaque on it and you wouldn't be able to touch it, but a vineyard of the same age has no value in their eyes."

I would argue that these old vineyards DO have value, as a link to our past as few other rural features do, with the possible exception of covered bridges. Would CalTrans remove a covered bridge like the one at the link below? I don't think they would.,_Stanislaus_River,_California.jpg

I urge you to carve out a 1% exception to your Delta restoration plan and retain the Lucchesi Vineyard for as long as it can live. It is as vital to the history of California as the missions and with just as fascinating a story to tell.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Best regards,

Jim Wolpert
Viticulture Extension Specialist Emeritus
University of California


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