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Roots of Peace Plants Seed of Renewal in War-Ravaged Lands

Jeff Morgan
Posted: July 10, 1999

Some prominent California vintners are taking part in an effort to replace land mines with grapevines in Croatia. Robert Mondavi, Mike Grgich and Eric Wente, along with Beringer Wine Estates, have joined forces to raise funds for Roots of Peace, a San Francisco-based organization working to clear minefields throughout the world and return them to workable agricultural lands.

Grgich, founder of Grgich Hills Cellar in Napa Valley, and his nephew and winemaker, Ivo Jeramaz, were instrumental in focusing on Croatia as the place to start. "We were called to help because we are from Croatia, a wine region where there are still many mines left from the war between the Croats and Serbs," said Croatian-born Jeramaz. Grgich, who moved to the United States from Croatia 45 years ago, now also owns a winery and vineyard in his native land.

A minefield in northern Croatia has been designated for mine-sweeping and, after it is cleared, local citizens will plant grapevines there. "We are acting as advisors and sponsors," said Jeramaz, noting that the cost of removing the mines can range from $300 to $1,000 each.

To help pay for this, the vintners raised $20,000 through a gala benefit hosted by Mondavi at his Napa Valley winery in May. About 100 vintners and friends attended, along with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Ambassador William Leurs, president of the United Nations Association USA; and actor Armand Assante.

So far, Roots of Peace, founded by Heidi Kuhn in September 1997, has raised about $32,000 to help tackle the vast problem. "There are 110 million land mines under the soil throughout the world," noted Kuhn, who serves as executive director. She is working with Adopt-A-Minefield, founded by the United Nations Association of the USA to return mined areas to safe, productive use. "As the program expands, it can go to many areas," suggested Kuhn.

For more information on Roots of Peace, call (415) 458-8885; fax (415) 258-9300; or send e-mail to hkuhn@newslink-intl.com.

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