Green Medal Video

Watch the Green Medal Award Winning Wineries Video

How Four Green Medal Award Winning Wineries and Vineyards Are Ramping Up Sustainability Efforts

Clif Family – Pisoni Family – J. Lohr – and Bonterra

Now in their sixth year, the California Green Medal Awards recognize the leadership of wineries and vineyards that are committed to sustainability. 

Recipients of the 2020 awards didn’t make it to State Capital in Sacramento for the traditional ceremony with the California Department of Food and Agriculture because of the Covid-19 situation, but the video recognizing California 2020 Green Medal Award winning wineries and vineyards is available here and embedded below. 

This year’s awards come at a time that extreme weather events, including wildfires, are bringing increased attention to the need for a broader dialogue on climate change and sustainability.

All four wineries and vineyards recognized in 2020 were affected, one way or another, by severe weather events. 2020 was a challenging vintage.

At Clif Family in Napa Valley, October’s Glass Fire burned orchards, vineyards, and gardens, but spared the structures. One of the wineries where Clif custom crushes on the Silverado Trail in Calistoga was extensively damaged.

Pisoni Family Vineyards farms high-end grapes at three properties in the San Lucia Highlands. At one point, Mark Pisoni was working with Cal Fire and his team deploying bulldozers and backhoes and shovels, worried the River Fire could burn down the ranch. 

“Anybody who’s a doubter (about climate change) – all they have to do is spend a little time here in California,” J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines chief executive Steve Lohr said.

All of these wineries focus on energy efficiency, water use efficiency, soil and nutrient management, pest management, biodiversity and wildlife conservation. They participate in sustainable certification programs such as the Certified California Sustinable Winegrowing program. For each, sustainability involoves an ongoing process of evaluation and improvement.  

Four Approaches to Sustainability 

How many gallons of water make a gallon of wine?

At its Paso Robles winery, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines reduced the amount of water needed to make one gallon of wine from 3.5 to 1.3 gallons. Not that many wineries measure how much water they use per gallon of wine they make, let alone know they’ve cut it in less than half. 

J. Lohr is a leader in backing research and innovation that’s shared with the industry, contributing to University programs, supporting the American Vineyard Foundation, National Grape & Wine Initiative, and more. Winemaker Kristen Barnhisel was last year’s ASEV President.

A 16-member sustainability committee guides company efforts.

Groundwater is a major concern in the Paso Robles area. J. Lohr was instrumental in several water efficiency initiatives: an early adopter of Tule Technologies’ irrigation sensors; early to use Lyve System bioreactor technology to recycle wastewater. J Lohr is leading an effort to pipe recycled water from the City of Paso Robles, blending it with fresh water to irrigate vineyards.

The winery’s 756 KW solar system in Paso Robles came on-line in 2008, where it supplies 65 percent of electric needs. At the new Greenfield winery, a 920 KW system meets nearly all energy needs.

J Lohr has supported some 600 charitable organizations, including a partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation giving free mammograms to women in need across the country, to name one. 

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines received the Leader Award, “given to the vineyard or winery that excels in the three “E’s” of sustainability—Environmentally sound, socially Equitable and Economically viable practices.” 

“We need everybody to play their part, using less energy, and having fewer emissions,” Steve Lohr told WBM.

Community Service Days

From the vineyard to the tasting room, sustainability is a key part of overall planning, and is “integrated into everything that we do at Clif family,” general manager Linzi Gay said. The sister company to Clif Bar & Company emphasizes sustainable food and farming across all of its properties.

Clif farms 90 certified organic acres of grapes and is part of the Napa Green program.

Clif recently transitioned its entire line of artisan food products to organic, most recently a soon to be released line of chocolates. Last year, the winery partnered with Clif Bar to launch a solar grown honey program. 

The winery closes for business for one day each year for company community service. In 2019, the staff served 950 hours, doubling the number of community service hours served in 2018. Because of physical distancing requirements in 2020, it’s harder to get out to volunteer but community service is a continued commitment in 2021 and beyond, as is supporting local nonprofits and donating to programs helping the community.

 “We’re always setting new goals. When we achieve those, we look at what we can do next,” Gay said. “That’s the commitment we all need to have.”

Clif Family received the Community Award, given to “a Good Neighbor & Employer using innovative practices enhancing relations with employees, neighbors and/or communities.    

Farming for Biodiversity

At Pisoni Family Vineyards, sustainability is about best farming practices drawn from conventional, natural, organic, and biodynamic approaches. It’s a small operation that invests in overall ecosystem management. 

In 2017 Pisoni developed an insectary garden at its estate vineyard. 1.5 acres were taken out of production and dedicated to enhancing biodiversity and to pest management. Native plants bloom year-round to ensure habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators and there’s a small orchard with 40 different fruiting trees, along with an apiary.

Mark Pisoni is registered on the Monterey County beekeeper list and keeping honey bees is a favorite hobby. He spends a lot of time picking up bees from houses in the community that don’t want them, bringing them to his ranch.

Employees each receive monthly produce bags with fruits and vegetables and a bottle of wine or a jar of honey. Everything comes from Pisoni’s vineyards and vegetable ranches.

The company supports the fight against breast cancer with Lucy rosé, which has raised more than $100k since inception. Pisoni has hosted students from the Farms Leadership Program, Auburn University and the program Olinga in hopes of inspiring future agriculturalists.

Mark Pisoni is a big fan of the SIP certified sustainable program.

“Growers need to pay more attention to their ranches, Mark Pisoni said. “I feel pretty confident that what we’re doing is good long term for our planet.”

Pisoni Family Vineyards received the Business Award, “given to the vineyard or winery that best demonstrates Smart Business through efficiencies, cost savings and innovation from implementing sustainable practices.”

Declaring a Climate Emergency 

“We recognize we can no longer continue with business as usual in a climate that’s anything but usual,” Jessica Baum, the Director of Sustainability and Regenerative Development for Fetzer Vineyards and Bonterra said. “We have to do everything we can to move the needle office as quickly as we can.’

Climate change isn’t just threatening biodiversity, soil health or places that are far away, she said. “It’s actively threatening our business as we see with wildfires in our backyard. It’s up to businesses to say, ‘this is not business as usual.’”

Last month, Bonterra’s sister winery declared a climate emergency

That the words “regenerative development and sustainability” are in Baum’s job title makes a statement about going beyond the status quo to regenerate and rejuvenate, that sustainability is no longer enough.

Bonterra, the leading brand made with organic grapes, represents more than 900 acres and farms regeneratively to ensure soil gets more, not less healthy over time, with a more biodiverse microbiome. The soils program has been a major emphasis. The winery is working to create systems and programs to verify the winery is drawing down carbon through regenerative practices.

Bonterra recently converted more estate vineyards to biodynamic certification and now farms 400 acres biodynamically. In terms of vineyards planted in the U.S., that’s second only to King Estate in Oregon, where 1,033 acres are biodynamically farmed.

Bonterra received the Environment Award, “given to the vineyard or winery that best demonstrates Environmental Stewardship through maximized environmental benefits from implementing sustainable practices.” 


Previous Green Medal Award Winners

2019: Silver Oak Cellars – Scheid Family Wines – Smith Family Wines – Domaine Carneros

2018: Bogle Vineyards – St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery – KG Vineyard Management – Cakebread Cellars

2017: Francis Ford Coppola Winery – Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery – St. Francis Winery & Vineyards – Monterey Pacific, Inc.

2016: Jackson Family Wines – Halter Ranch Vineyard – Tablas Creek Vineyard – McManis Family Vineyards

2015: Fetzer Vineyards – Benziger Family Winery – Nord Vineyard Services – Trinchero Family Estates

Making the commitment to third party certification takes time and effort, but it is worth it to demonstrate our commitment to the community and to protect our watershed, our land and the air we breathe.​

A live check in with @abrittain &!
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🌿 Did you know that less than 3% of philanthropic donations go to environmental work? 

Please consider donating to Napa Green this giving season with one of several ways at any level! 

Head to the link in our bio for details!
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With gratitude and joy, we wish you a beautiful day & start to the holiday season from all of us at Team Green! 

- Ben, Meghan, Anna, Marissa, Sierra & Megan
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‘If not here, where? If not now, when?’ 

“The onus is on us as a world class wine growing region to be leaders in sustainability & climate action.” 

- Executive Director of Napa Green, Anna Brittain
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It’s been a big week at Napa Green and we want to take a moment to raise a glass to salute you all. 

We are overjoyed to see so much support and invigorated interest in our mission towards sustainable practices and regenerative agriculture in the wine industry. 

We have many more details, paired with educational & financial resources that are already up and rolling on our website. We will continue to share them all, one by one and in great detail here on socials as well. 

For now please plan on joining us at our upcoming Town Hall meeting on Dec 7th at @stsupery. You can find more details at 

Cheers and Happy Friday Napa Valley. We are so proud to be a part of this amazing community!
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⚠️ Important Announcement 

Napa Green becomes the first sustainable wine growing certification to require the phaseout of Round Up. 

Please find the link in our bio for the full press release and full suite of info & grower resources. 

Join us on December 7th for our Napa Green Town Hall at @stsupery.
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Don’t miss the awe-inspiring @nikki_silvestri at @dominusestatewinery on Nov 30th!
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You’re invited to join us for a very special day at @dominusestatewinery on November 30th. 

We’ll be briefly interviewing our speaker @nikki_silvestri right here on Instagram today at 2:00pm PST to hear more about what to expect at this event. See you then.
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Curious to learn more? Join us at @dominusestatewinery on November 30th for a rare event and luncheon. Link in bio for details.
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GREEN is the new black this season!! 

Head to the link in our bio now and get your shirts, help a good cause and be an honorary part of Team Green this season! 💚
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Let’s hear it for our Executive Director of Napa Green, the incomparable Anna Brittain for being named a 2023 Wine Industry Leader by @winebusinessmonthly!! 

In their Sustainability Stewards section (which we love to see) we find Anna named in good company with inspired fellow leaders! 

Head to our stories or the link in our bio for free access to the full November issue. 

Cheers to the great work of our visionary Director Anna Brittain!!
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Drink Green this Halloween! 💚
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Sierra is our Soil & Climate Specialist at Napa Green and her ask this year is that everyone consider donating to our small but mighty Team Green for Giving Season! 

Here is more from @regenwithsierra: 

“🎃 Happy Halloween Eve everyone! Today is my birthday, and I would be beyond thrilled if you would consider a donation to @napagreen to support a nonprofit focused on climate action in the wine industry 🍷🍾

@napagreen has the leading set of standards for sustainable practices, from soil to bottle. I am most proud of the work we do with winegrape growers to adopt regenerative agricultural practices in their vineyards. 

Please consider supporting us in our mission!  Click the link in bio for more! “
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Thank you for having us @visitnapavalley! We had a great time talking to visitors about the many sustainability practices our Napa Green wineries and vineyards employ! 

Stop into the Visit Napa Valley Visitor Center in Napa to learn more!
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