What do we want to protect?

Our favorite castle proprietor, Daryl Sattui, tells us that if a proposed land use initiative were to pass "it will spell the end of new vineyards in the hillsides and begin the demise of the Napa Valley wine industry. Existing wineries will find it difficult or impossible to expand production as the valley floor is mostly planted. New wineries won't find grapes" ("Adamantly opposed to watershed initiative," Sept. 19).

There is no obvious, or stated, reason why perpetual increases in the number of Napa wineries, or the volume of Napa wine production, is necessary to prevent the demise of the Napa Valley wine industry. Famous wine industries in other countries have persisted for hundreds of years without steadily increasing production or devoting increasing territory to new vineyards. Which ones have died because they did not continuously increase vineyard development?

At some point, Napa will have or already has, sufficient installed winemaking capacity to vinify all the grapes currently produced here. The attractiveness, reputation, and prices of Napa wines are not at all dependent on their volume being increased through the development of new vineyards.

Daryl tells us that "if ag does not thrive here the alternative is housing," but he does not tell us why ag cannot thrive at its present level of development. Nobody, but a real estate developer, wants to see a vineyard pulled out for housing development. But how would the risk of such vineyard destruction increase if new vineyard development was to be limited? Vineyard land is protected from development and would only become more valuable if new vineyard development was constrained.

Unless there is some, as yet unstated, reason why the wine industry cannot continue to thrive, absent development of new vineyards where none presently exist, then the question is what do we want to protect?

The existing, world renown of Napa Valley wines or the opportunity to increase the number of new wineries, with attendant traffic and other impacts on the quality of life here?

There may be reasons that some people believe Napa Valley vineyards must continue to increase, and new wineries must be built, to prevent the "demise of the Napa Valley wine industry." If there are such reasons, they will be heard. If the reasons are not forthcoming, then perhaps the initiative is not as portentous as we are told it is.

Ross Workman