Justin Vineyard and Winery was purchased by the Wonderful Company in 2010 from the original owners Justin and Deborah Baldwin. Justin was arguably one of the most important and recognizable wineries in California at the time of the purchase. The Paso Robles winery produced around 50,000 cases of wine per year and was closely identified with their Isosceles red blend.
The Wonderful company is owned by Lynda and Stewart Resnick. The Resnicks are billionaires who control many agribusinesses in the California central valley. They are most commonly known for owning the pomegranate juice Pom Wonderful and Fiji water, but they have vast agricultural holdings. The company they own is no stranger to controversy. They have been accused of diverting scarce water to help them further their business interests. The business was also sued for not fully paying the company they hired to clear-cut another stand of oaks in Paso Robles in 2011.
The most recent upset revolved around the county's approval for Justin to build a multi-million-gallon water storage facility. Paso locals were concerned about how the facility would impact neighboring properties during the extended drought. Upon further investigation, locals became even more outraged. Not only was Justin going to build the water facility, but they were clear cutting an estimated 100 acres of native oak trees to plant more vines.
The blowback from this discovery was too much for Justin's owners to take. Restaurants began removing Justin's wines from their wine lists and other boycotts were getting a lot of media attention. The local planning commission also sited Justin for violating their permit. They determined that Justin's clear-cutting could lead to soil erosion due to the slope of the now barren hills.
In order to squelch the growing animosity towards the Justin brand, the owners decided to cry, uncle! They issued a statement apologizing for what had happened and offered a few concrete steps to try to repair the damage.
- Donate the 380-acre piece of land
- Plant 5,000 new oak trees in Paso Robles on land they already own
- Mitigate any erosion on the hills
- Abandon the planned water storage facility
We will continue to watch this situation as it develops. If the Resnicks follow through and take genuine steps to repair the damage, should they be forgiven? That's up to you to decide.
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