A Trumpian Approach to Dismantling the Napa Wine Industry

It reminds me of the proposed Trump Tax Reform Proposal working its way around Washington, DC.

The Napa Valley Oak Woodlands Initiative, now having signatures gathered for its placement on the June 2018 Napa County ballot, will provide a heavy-handed solution to a problem that does not exist. In an age when income and wealth inequality is at near historic highs, are the wealthiest and most powerful 1% in such dire straights that we need to give them huge tax reductions?

Likewise, due to well regulated and enlightened stewardship of Napa Valley’s water supply and watershed we have some of the cleanest water resources in the state. Do we really need to “protect it” by imposing perversely onerous and reckless restrictions and regulations on vineyard development in vast swaths of Napa Valley?

Both actions are reckless on their face. However, they make a great deal of sense if you look at the real agenda informing both the Trump Tax Reform and the coming Napa Valley Oak Woodlands initiative.

Tax cuts for the wealthiest among us are not the end game. The endgame is forcing draconian cuts in welfare and social service spending due to the massive debt racked up by the deficit caused by the tax cuts.

Likewise, the Napa Oak Woodlands Initiative has as its ultimate goal not total restrictions on cultivating grapes anywhere other than on the Napa Valley floor, though this will be the result of the Oak Woodlands Initiative. Rather, the goal of this coming ballot initiative is to roll back the sales and marketing of Napa Valley wine in Napa Valley. Ultimately, the folks behind the Oak Woodland Initiative will guide Napa locals to a place where they will support the elimination of winery visitation and redefine “agriculture” so that it has no marketing and sales component to it. It’s a radical agenda that isn’t mentioned in the Initiative currently being shown to petition signers throughout Napa Valley. 

The coming Napa Valley Woodlands Initiative is downright Trumpian in its needlessness and its duplicitousness.

How do we know the coming ballot initiative is a first step toward rolling back the Napa Valley wine industry? Just look at the words of its most prominent backers.

Mike Hacket, who put his name on the Ballot Initiative, stood in front of the members of the Napa County Agricultural Advisory Committee and a packed room and let loose with his vision of what he thinks Napa County ought to impose upon wineries located here:

“Mandate Marketing and Sales into the Cities”.

Let me translate that: Stop visitation at wineries. Stop events at wineries. Roll back the process of conducting direct to consumer sales. Roll back the Napa Valley wine industry. Eliminate jobs in Napa County.

Meanwhile, Jim Wilson, the other backer of the Ballot Initiative, imagined Napa Valley being designated a “national treasure” in the same way that the town of Mendocino was so designated. Writing on the Soda Canyon Road website, Wilson explained what this meant for the town of Mendocino:

“A group of residents got together and petitioned to have it put on the National Registry of Historical Places effectively freezing it as it was in 1971. Not long after neighbors petitioned the State to make the surrounding property on the headlands a State Park. They got that too….You can’t build. There’s no municipal water district. Just wells on individual lots. They only have a sewer district and what they call the Historical Review Board. That board has immense power and it’s said they don’t cave to developers. There’s nothing to develop but occasionally a merchant wants to hang a sign or change the color. They won’t won’t get a variance.”

Let me translate that for you: Stop Napa Valley in its tracks. No more building of any kind. No more wineries, no new signs.

Finally, consider the primary organization that is backing the Ballot Initiative, Napa Vision 2050. They state up front the following:

“Napa Vision 2050 supports a return to the strong, sane protections of the original definition:  Agriculture is the growing of crops, trees, and livestock.”

Let me translate once again: wineries ought not to be allowed to sell or market wine at facilities that process wine. Part of the County’s definition of agriculture, a critical part of its guiding policies, is that in Napa Valley, agricultural pursuits (like wineries) must include the ability to sell and market their products. This pronouncement is the foundation of our wineries’ ability to sell directly to the consumer and support thousands of jobs and millions in economic activity. If the definition in Napa County is reduced to “the growing of crops, trees and livestock” then any and all kinds of marketing and sales activities may be banned.

You don’t hear President Trump talk about the end game of tax cuts. That’s because the there is very little support for significant cuts in Social Security, Medicare, School lunch support and other programs aimed at creating a safety net for those outside the 1%.

Likewise, you won’t hear proponents of the coming Napa Valley Oak Woodlands Initiative talking about rolling back an economy sustained by winemaking and wine sales because they know the resulting loss of jobs won’t sit well with those they want to convince their agenda is pristine. 

That agenda is not pristine.


Posted In: Napa Valley


4 Responses

  1. Tom Chiarella - November 21, 2017

    Tom, If you haven’t already, I wish you would submit this post to the Napa Valley Register. Exposing this ill-conceived radical agenda is of upmost importance.

  2. Eric Murray - November 27, 2017

    I just read the Napa County Watershed and Oak Protection Initiative, and nowhere does it say or imply the need to reduce or eliminate winery visitation–not even close. It establishes reasonable protections for oak woodlands and riparian habitats, whose longterm health are crucial to healthy watersheds, clean water, removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, prevent flooding and are essential to the natural beauty and health of Napa Valley which makes it the desirable place to live and visit that we all cherish. This measure has widespread support amongst vintners, growers and citizens of the area. It’s your shrill misrepresentation of the Initiative that seems rather Trumpian.

    • Tom Wark - November 27, 2017

      Eric…Can you show me where the initiative identifies the threats that exist to the watershed? In other words, what problem is being addressed with this initiative?

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