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Teetotalers Learning To Live with Wineries

November 18, 1985

ANGWIN, Calif. (AP) _ The teetotalers at a Seventh Day Adventist college nestled among the evergreens on Howell Mountain are trying to adjust to new neighbors: two wineries that have cleared trees to plant grapes.

One winery is planning its first bottling after the Adventists’ attempt to stop it ended in what Pacific Union College Vice President Herbert Ford called ″abysmal defeat.″

The other is planting grapes as Ford and others consider whether to mount a last-ditch effort to protect their mountaintop sanctuary.

″It would appear to us that we’ve got enough wineries and vineyards to let everybody get all the wine they would want,″ said Ford. ″Why do we really have to sacrifice a beautiful mountaintop?″

Because, say winemakers, the rolling mountaintop’s soil is even better for grapes than land below in the wine-rich Napa Valley.

Besides, says Woltner Estates winemaker Ted Lemon, ″It’s a free country. It’s important that people be allowed to do what they want to and you have to work out a compromise.″

For now, the compromise is a jittery truce.

″We want to be friends with everybody,″ Ford said. ″We don’t think there are any bad people, just good people with bad ideas.″

Pacific Union College shared the mountaintop with wine grapes for more than 40 years before economic pressures killed the wineries in the 1950s. Forest overtook former vineyards.

Over the years, the one-time resort became dominated by the 1,400-student college. Today, Ford said, more than 75 percent of the 3,000 residents are Adventist. Virtually all the town’s businesses are owned by the college or church members.

Adventists observe the Sabbath on Saturdays and have strict rules against alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.

But Ford and other local Adventist officials insist it’s the school’s natural setting, not the temptation of alcohol, that concerns them.

″We don’t see the start of a winery as any greater threat than the liquor store in St. Helena (eight miles away),″ said Ford.

In June, the Adventists petitioned the Napa County Board of Supervisors to stop wine production by Woltner Estates, a French firm that had planted a new vineyard on the site of a 100-year-old winery that fell into disuse in the 1950s. The supervisors unanimously supported the winery.

The Adventists’ petitions addressed forest destruction, fears that the winery would sap the area’s meager water supply and cause erosion and worries about tourists creating traffic hazards.

But Lemon says Woltner Estates won’t admit the public for tasting or tours. The vineyard’s water comes from its own rain-catching reservoir, not from wells, he said. And grass has been planted between rows to prevent erosion.

″We have the feeling we were misunderstood,″ he said.

In the other project, crews have cleared 90 acres of forest across a road from the edge of the campus’ 2,000 acres of wooded land to reclaim the old Liparita winery.

Although Ford says no plans have been made, winery supervisor Reggie McConnell said he expects the Adventists will take action when the vineyard owners apply for alcohol sales licenses and the like.

″These people up here are going to fight it tooth and nail,″ he said. ″It’s something they really don’t want up here.″

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