As most people know by now, a very tiny but vocal and bitter minority of opponents and a Kafkaesque California regulatory environment has driven filmmaker George Lucas's latest project out of Marin County and perhaps California.

But, of course, something like this could never happen to the North Coast wine industry, which today is the principal driver behind a world-class lifestyle and key underpinning of the regional and statewide economy present and future.[poll id="8"]

Or could it? The answer is, unfortunately, just watch.

Local, regional and state regulators have demonstrated an uncanny ability to drive away business across a broad variety of industries. For wine, they could do the same, whether with new rules on water, frost protection, hillside vineyards or open space and on and on.

And especially critical right now is that the North Coast and California wine industry -- facing an immediate shortage of wine grapes that could persist for years -- need cooperation from regulatory agencies so the region and state can maintain their competitive advantage with new plantings.

[poll id="15"]

This NBBJ Pulse Poll runs through May 1.

At the Business Journal's 12th annual Wine Industry Conference last week, one expert forecast that California will need an additional 15,000 acres of new vineyards annually to meet an expected 3.5 percent growth in sales.

But at the very moment this vital North Coast sector needs to expand, regulators are clamping down. Sonoma County, for instance, having received a number of new requests for hillside vineyards, reacted with a temporary ban. One has to ask: Why is it that regulatory agencies don't think about updating decade-old rules until someone asks that they be applied?

The best thing that could happen is that the industry's need for new vineyards becomes an opportunity for local, regional and governments to cooperate with the private sector to ensure we don't lose our competitive advantage to other states and places around the world. The wine industry has the talent and resources to meet this challenge if a way can be found. And that applies as well to more demand for processing and storage capacity.

One hears a lot of talk about public-private partnerships and upstream planning. Here's an opportunity to apply it....Brad Bollinger is editor and associate publisher of the North Bay Business Journal. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or