Sam and Vicki Sebastiani
Viansa Winery
Sonoma, California

When the Sebastianis purchased property in southern Sonoma County as a site for their proposed Viansa Winery, which included diked former baylands, they wanted not only to produce superior varietal wines but to leave the Earth in as good or better condition than they found it. They found an opportunity to do so by restoring a 90-acre wetland on their property. The restoration required a two-year process overcoming regulatory and permitting hurdles. Ironically, they were required to provide compensatory mitigation for a containment dike to prevent flooding of an adjacent landowner, at a cost of $50,000. In the first year after the restoration plan was implemented, 1993, bird counts on the marsh suggested that the restoration was a success. In one survey alone, more than 6,500 waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, and wading birds were documented using the Viansa wetlands. These numbers doubled in 1994 and included the federally endangered California clapper rail and the California state-listed tri-colored blackbird and black rail.

High on a hill, where the Viansa Winery overlooks the marsh, Sam and Vicki built a stone fountain supporting a sculpture of a pair of ducks taking wing. The fountain itself entombs a tide gate that was removed when the Viansa Wetland was restored. The symbolism is striking and appropriate. This gate, which enabled the draining of the former marsh for agricultural production, now supports a sculpture that celebrates the return of the marsh and its resident and visiting water birds.

— Thomas G. Yocom, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency