In 1888, Anthony Truchard II’s great, great grandfather moved from Lyon, France to the outskirts of Houston, Texas to start a winery. Though his efforts were ultimately stymied by Prohibition, a vision had already begun to take shape for future generations of his family.
Chateau Montelena Winery is a stone building nearly 130 years old. But that doesn’t stop winemaker Matt Crafton and members of their leadership team from implementing cutting edge technologies that save energy, water and money while maintaining the integrity of this historic building.
Most wineries don’t pursue sustainability certification for marketing purposes. But, an increasing number of studies shows both consumers and trade value environmental stewardship and use this information in their wine purchasing and sales decisions.
Bruce Cakebread and Cakebread Cellars are championing water conservation with their new green parking lot – native trees, drought tolerant grasses and flowers, permeable pavement and bio-swales that capture and filter water and recharge groundwater.
Restoration of the Napa River is a testimony to the power of public-private partnerships in revitalizing the health of waterways and riparian lands. More than 70 property owners are contributing to four ongoing collaborative projects from Oak Knoll to just south of Calistoga, along the main stem of the Napa River.
The Rutherford Reach restoration project has been lauded for rapid accomplishments achieved through private commitment and public partnership. The statistics are notable: This project alone achieved more than 80 percent of the mandated TMDL reduction target for the Napa River watershed due to channel incision and bank erosion.
The 9.5 mile Oakville to Oak Knoll (OVOK) Napa River restoration project flows immediately south of the Rutherford Reach restoration. More than 30 landowners are voluntarily participating in this collaborative effort, and like the Rutherford Reach, they are helping fund the long-term monitoring and maintenance of the project.
The California Land Stewardship Institute (CLSI) is working with landowners on a restoration plan for a 5.3 mile stretch of the upper Napa River just downstream from Calistoga. This stretch of the river is highly entrenched, with vertical 20-25 ft. banks, actively eroding and threatening collapse.
It’s hard to imagine getting fired up about tank and bottling line cleaning. But Eric Lyman, winemaker for Judd’s Hill, is genuinely excited about a new biodegradable cleaning product developed specifically for the wine industry: Destainex LF.
As one of the original members of both the Napa Green Certified Land and Winery programs, St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery recognizes that sustainability is a path, not a destination. One of their key discoveries on the path to improvement is that day-to-day awareness and staff empowerment are critical.
The Napa County Resource Conservation District (RCD) received grant funding to assist growers with low- to no-cost services that improve vineyard irrigation efficiency and scheduling. These include a comprehensive “Irrigation Toolbox” and the “Mobile Irrigation Lab” (a core component of the Toolbox).
Tule Technologies and Ranch Systems provide tools to vintners to measure Actual Evapotranspiration, vine stress and wirelessly provide vineyard data that can be linked to automated irrigation. Pine Ridge Vineyards and Chateau Montelena Winery were early adopters of these technologies and they are impressed with the results.
Looking for some new ideas to improve water efficiency, and simultaneously save energy? Here are a few examples of what some Napa Green wineries are doing to baseline and track water use to inform decision making; engage staff through “Blue Teams;” and set ambitious and inspiring goals like becoming the first Living Building Challenge certified winery.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars has been Napa Green Certified from Soil to Bottle for over a
decade. As a part of their commitment to continuing improvement, they have established
a cross-departmental “Green Team” to engage and empower employees.
Honig Vineyard & Winery has spent the past ten years investing in energy conservation and renewable energy, and it all started with a PG&E energy audit. As a result of the initial audit, which included an assessment of their existing energy use and recommendations for upgrades, Michael Honig and his team changed out all of the old lighting for the highest efficiency lighting with a no-brainer payback period.
ZD Wines, a family-owned winery operated by the 2nd and 3rd generations of the deLeuze family, is celebrating 50 years in the Napa Valley. They are a perfect case study of how embracing sustainability can support production of great tasting, world-class wines.
Energy efficiency is a core priority for Napa Green Wineries, both for conservation and cost-savings. Maximizing efficiency is especially important when considering the installation of solar renewable energy. As we say, “We don’t want to solarize inefficiencies.” The more efficient the operation, the smaller the scale and footprint of the solar array, reducing the price tag.
Electric vehicles (EV) are growing in popularity, making a winery’s decision to install EV charging stations not only a sound environmental investment but an opportunity to attract eco-conscious consumers. Wineries with EV charging stations are hearing the same story: A guest was in need of a charge, found that the nearest station was at a winery and decided to stop in for a taste while plugged in.
As part of Down to Earth Month, the NVV is promoting the Napa Commute Challenge and exploring what our members are doing to incentivize the use of alternative transportation to and from work. Cakebread Cellars, St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery and Opus One have promoted the use of alternative transportation for some time, and are now looking toward the future.
Biochar is a form of charcoal that is being tested as a soil amendment in several vineyards throughout Napa County as growers look to improve soil health, increase carbon capture and reduce nutrient inputs. Among those exploring the use of biochar are Cakebread Cellars, Spring Mountain Vineyard and the Napa Resource Conservation District (RCD), which manages an experimental vineyard in Carneros.
April is a time of growth – when plants move from dormancy to bloom and the Napa Valley’s landscapes are lush and green, with the rivers and streams full from early spring rains. During April, we also celebrate Down to Earth month, making it a great time to think about soil health and how to manage property using “Carbon Farming.”
Throughout our history, vintners in the Napa Valley have set the highest industry standard of land use and management designed to preserve our agricultural heritage and way of life. Building on our history of stewardship, vintners continue to demonstrate leadership through programs like Napa Green, which provides the opportunity for comprehensive sustainability certification in both the vineyard and winery.
When discussing reduced herbicide use or organic farming, a common argument made is that more tractor passes are required, which increases emissions and the carbon footprint of vineyard operations. However, that no longer has to be the case as electric tractors are entering the market that are competitive with, or even outcompete, conventional tractors.
Trinchero Family Estates was recently awarded the premier California Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Award Green Medal for their company-wide business leadership, recognizing a history of smart resource use going back nearly 70 years. When the Trinchero family purchased the Sutter Home winery in 1948 they began a tradition of recycling that included purchasing, washing and reusing bottles from neighboring wineries.
By definition, sustainability rests on three pillars – People, Planet, and Prosperity. All too often sustainability is simply equated with environmental stewardship, when in fact core to sustainability is the recognition that you cannot have environmental or economic sustainability without social sustainability.