Tuesday, December 27, 2005

And now, from the "Wine and Bears Just Don't Mix" files and Yahoo! News...

Sudiegirl sez: Ya know, this reminds me of a happy Dawson family vacation story when Ruthi and I were wee sprites. We were driving through Yellowstone (as opposed to Jellystone), and someone announced through the PA system, “Would the car with Iowa license plates please refrain from feeding Oreos to the bears?”

My mom said, “Oh, someone else from Iowa is here!”

My father replied, “No dear, those are our precious angels in the back.”

Needless to say, we got busted. So read on, and I’ll do what I do. Proceed, y’all!

Grape-Eating Bears Are Trouble for Wineries
Mon Dec 26, 8:26 PM ET
Grape-munching bears have caused bunches of trouble in Northern California wine country. (Do they create these puns on purpose? They’re worse than ME!)

Some winery owners have summoned authorities to trap and shoot black bears — as well as wild pigs, deer, turkeys and mountain lions — that plundered their vineyards. The killings have sparked debate over the future of wildlife in the nation's most famous wine-growing region. (Well, if Francis Ford Coppola still has his winery up there, why doesn’t he do some kind of “Godfather” – type staged killing to send the bears a little message? I mean, what’s a horse head when it’s preserving the greater good?)

"Certainly for areas like Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties, vineyards are our largest group that is requesting depredation permits," said Eric Larson, deputy regional manager for the California Department of Fish and Game. (Depreciation permits? I dig that concept. Maybe I can file for one of those because I can’t fit into my skinny jeans anymore.)

With premium Cabernet grapes that can be produced only in mountainous regions selling for $5,000 to $7,000 a ton, vineyards have sprouted on slopes and ridgetops where animals make their homes. The state is required to issue extermination permits if property owners show evidence of damage caused by wildlife, Larson said. (So if some Hollyweird type has a party and someone breaks their antique Louis the whatever armchair, they can file an extermination permit and shoot whoever did it? Interesting concept, huh?)

Earlier this year, animal control officers caught and killed four black bears — two males and two females — at the Aetna Springs Vineyard in the rugged Pope Valley. Winery owner Paul Maroon said he had tried scaring off the bears, but resorted to getting rid of them for good because he feared they might hurt his field workers. (Whoa! Concern for the FIELDWORKERS? I’m in shock!)

"They damage the fences on a daily basis almost faster than we can repair them," Maroon said. "The damaged fences allow the deer to enter. The bear eat the grapes, as do the deer, and they both damage the vines, sometimes killing ... old vines." (Well, do the bears eat the deer? Does the cheese then stand alone?)

But some of Maroon's neighbors are outraged by the trappings. Ann Curtis, who runs a golf course down the road from the winery, called the controversy "wine for blood, life versus profit." (NO BLOOD FOR MERLOT!)

"To come into a wildlife area and then kill off the wildlife is wrong," said Curtis, who has lived in Pope Valley for 34 years. "I don't see much difference between throwing a sandwich out the window for bears in Yosemite (National) Park and inviting them to dinner here by putting grapes out for them to eat." (She does have a point…then again, I’m just a follower and have no mind of my own, y’know?)

Jerre Sears, owner of Black Sears Vineyards on Napa County's Howell Mountain, said all the growers he knows on the 1,800-foot peak shrug off the grapes they lose to bears and other wildlife as a kind of tax for doing business in hillside territory. (That’s logical to think so. Plus, are you going to argue with a black bear that weighs four times as much as you do, and can crush you with his jaws? I’m not…not even if I’m drunk.)

"We've had our vineyard for 20 years and we've had a bear in our vineyard every year," Sears said. "We feel it's just part of life, of nature, so we share." (I hear “The Circle of Life” playing in the background…thanks, Elton!)

Sudiegirl’s final opinion?
Well, I don’t think you’ll find this much trouble with REAL QUALITY WINES like Thunderbird, Night Train, or Boone’s Farm Strawberry…

Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle

PS: Images from www.toontracker.com, http://vegalleries.com, and