Land Trust of Napa County Buys Disputed Vineyard Site

Land Trust of Napa County will buy the Walt Ranch, ending a 17-year battle over putting vineyards on the property.

Walt Ranch owner Craig and Kathryn Walt Hall are donating about 25% of the property's 2,300 acres, and the Land Trust is raising funds to buy the remaining share.  The donation “is one of the largest gifts that the land trust has ever received,” Land Trust CEO Doug Parker said.

The Halls, who own Hall Wines in St. Helena and Walt Wines in Sonoma County, purchased the ranch in Napa's Atlas Peak area for $8 million in 2005.  Craig Hall is a real estate tycoon, and Kathryn Hall is the former U.S. ambassador to Austria.  When they applied for permis to plant a vineyard on the ranch, they triggered protests from environmental groups who argued planting grape vines there would endanger animal habitats, cause excessive removal of trees and deplete the area's water supply.