The California wine industry traces its beginnings not to Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley, but rather to Southern California.
Long before the North Coast region emerged as a worldwide wine leader, wineries dotted the landscape in Los Angeles and the area today known as the Inland Empire. Today, only a handful of wineries remain in the Southland, the others long-ago victims of urban sprawl.
Several years ago, a mini renaissance of sorts began as a handful of people planted vineyards in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Recently, however, that trend came under scrutiny. Ultimately, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to prohibit the planting of new vineyards within the Santa Monica Mountains Local Coastal Program.
Existing vineyards will be allowed to stay. Only new plantings have been banned.
In the end, the group that could best be described as “future winemakers” lost out to a side that included Santa Monica Mountains residents, horse owners and environmentalists.
On the “con” side, one hiker who attended the Board of Supervisors hearing called the existing vineyards “unsightly.” Environmentalists spoke about the loss of chaparral plants and the practice of terracing hillsides for vineyard planting. And, of course, there was talk about the amount of water that a vineyard requires — a concern magnified by California’s ongoing drought.
The vineyard proponents didn’t have a chance.
So, the Los Angeles area’s mini wine renaissance will remain just that — mini. At least for the time being.
One vintner said that the ruling could be challenged in court. We’ll keep you posted.