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Mendocino County Today: February 6, 2012

THE HOPI Indians would appreciate Mendocino County's cliff-dwelling vineyards, especially the one near Navarro called Rhys Vineyards, which is planted on the steepest hillside we're aware of where a vineyard has been attempted. Mendocino County has no grading ordinance. A grading ordinance has been discussed here for a quarter century but never adopted. Sonoma County, where the wine industry also runs the private economy, has put hillside and hilltop vineyards on hold. Despite a big downturn in the quality booze biz, vineyards continue to be planted will-nilly in areas likely to severely erode or collapse. Sonoma County wants a freeze on hillside plantings until their overall environmental impact can be fully considered.

SELF-INFLICTED deaths in Mendocino County were 2.5 times the state rate in 2009, reports Linda Williams of the Willits News. That year 22 county residents died from self inflicted injuries. In addition to these deaths, there were 43 persons hospitalized and an additional 167 who were treated and released in emergency rooms, presumably for trying to end their lives. Ms. Williams reports that the Willits Unified School District Healthy Kids Survey conducted in the 2009 to 2010 school year 29% of seventh graders, 20% of ninth graders and 23% of 11th graders admitted to seriously considering attempting suicide in the past 12 months. In the same survey 33% of all seventh graders admitted feeling sad or hopeless.

OPINION as to the effectiveness of the Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission was rather stridently divided when the group met at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center last Wednesday. The hearing was hosted by the California Department of Agriculture but the Commission's dubious work is mostly funded by local growers and wineries. “The Commission has been hard at work for its members and hopes to continue in the future,” said Executive Director Megan Metz, as she described the “huge success” of Taste of Mendocino in San Francisco, basically a free booze-for-Frisco event at Fort Mason last year. Arnaud Weyrich of Roederer Estates and Scharffenberger Cellars in Philo says the French-owned enterprises pay $21,000 in fees annually to the commission. “I believe the commission has not been effective and not a good return on the investment,” Weyrich said, explaining that the Commission has diluted support and funds for small yet strong local groups in Anderson Valley and the other 11 regions of the county. Asked if the newest leadership has improved the Commission's effectiveness, Weyrich said he could only “speak to the past, not the future.” But George Lee, a member of the Yorkville Highlands Growers Association, said all but one of the 21 vineyards and 10 wineries in the Association supported the commission. “A vote is the only fair way to learn whether the people paying the taxes are in favor of the Commission,” said Mary Elke, who said she began growing apples in Anderson Valley in 1978 and now grows grapes. The dispute seems to be headed for a secret vote because growers fear wineries might not buy their grapes if they don't like the way the growers vote. According to the commission's website, it represents 91 wineries and 343 grape growers in Mendocino County.

STATE LAWMAKERS have killed AB 1017 which  would have decreased penalties for growing marijuana, or at least allowed DAs some discretion on how pot growers were charged. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), blamed the federal crackdown on the state's medical marijuana industry for the defeat. Ammiano’s legislation, AB 1017, would have changed marijuana cultivation from a mandatory felony to a so-called wobbler offense, giving district attorneys the option of charging it as a misdemeanor or a felony. That approach is favored by the DA's of both Mendocino and Humboldt counties, but apparently frowned on elsewhere.

LAST THURSDAY, Lake Mendocino was stocked with 30,000 rainbow trout for the first time in history. The trout are from the Darrah Springs Hatchery east of Redding, which raises about 800,000 fish a year to be planted in Northern California.

HERRON SPENCE, a 17-year old Ukiah High School senior, was crowned “Miss Mendocino 2012” last Saturday at the Ukiah High campus ceremony and will receive $5,000 in scholarship money. Anderson Valley contestant Olivia Allen was awarded first runner-up. Olivia’s flawless but somewhat dour performance of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from Phantom of the Opera wasn’t nearly as perky as Ms. Spence’s “original monologue,” “From the Mouths of Babes” where she cheerfully extolled the wisdom of eight-year olds, a hackneyed theme she probably got from the Warm Wonderfuls at Ukiah High which the perky Ms. Spence delivered well. As first runner-up, Olivia Allen received $3,700 in scholarships and as a bonus she will be spared a year of perky Miss Mendo promotional appearances at Ukiah auto shows and rotary club meetings which Miss Spence seems much more suited to.

HILLSIDE VINEYARDS get steeper and steeper

While prices get cheaper and cheaper

How steep can you go

If the grapes that you grow

Only dig you in deeper and deeper?


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