Climate positive (carbon negative) goals in Napa and Sonoma vineyards

How Napa And Sonoma Vineyards Are Going Beyond Sustainability To Embrace Climate Positive Goals

California wineries have long been leaders in environmentally friendly practices, because they recognized early on that wine grapes are one of the most susceptible crops to global warming. Indeed by 2019, 99% of Sonoma County vineyards were certified sustainable and 94% of Napa vineyards and wineries achieved certification under the Napa Green program. However, now both counties have established even more aggressive goals to reduce their carbon footprint and become climate positive – which is beyond carbon neutral, with negative emission reductions.


The sustainability certifications the vineyards achieved focused on efforts to improve the environment, employee working conditions, and economics – also referred to as planet, people and profits. Certifications were provided by third-party organization such as California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, Napa Green, and Fish Friendly Farming. However with so much progress, sustainability has become a new baseline for moving forward.

“Any continued actions we can take to reduce energy use in the vineyard and wineries will help to reduce our carbon footprint,” reports Anna Brittain, Executive Director for Napa Green. With this in mind, Napa Green has set a goal to work with certified growers to become carbon neutral within six years (2027), and carbon negative, or climate positive, within nine years (2030). 

Sonoma County has also adopted a similar program called the Climate Adaption Certification Program. “We launched this program in 2020,” states Karissa Kruse, President of Sonoma County Winegrowers, and are working with local vineyards to administer best practices to maximize the sequestration of carbon emissions.” Some of these practices include reduced tilling of the soil, as well as planting more native shrubs around vineyards.

These efforts couldn’t come sooner, because the recent UN Climate Report has confirmed that global warming of 1.5°C to 2°C will occur as soon as 2040 if the world doesn’t take actions to reduce carbon (CO2) emissions soon. The results of global warming have already been witnessed in the increase in severe weather patterns such as wildfires, floods, and extreme frost/heat events that negatively impact agriculture. According to the EPA, the most effective way to reduce CO2 is to reduce fossil fuel consumption. It is also possible to sequester CO2 in the earth by planting more trees, plants, and cover crops.


Several studies have been conducted on the carbon footprint of the global wine industry, and it turns out that farming of vineyards produces very little CO2 and other greenhouse gases. One study assumed that fertilizers used in the vineyard would be a big contributor, but compared to other agriculture, vineyards use very little fertilizer. Indeed, according to Kruse, “In California, all of agriculture, including livestock operations, produces only 8% of the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

Instead it is the transportation of wine that is the biggest culprit, as well as gas-operated tractors in the vineyard and energy use in the winery. According to a 2021 Italian wine study, the main contributors of greenhouse gas emissions for wine are: the glass bottle (29%), electricity in the winery (14%), transport and distribution of wine to the consumer (13%), heat used in the winery (9%) and fossil fuels used in vineyard (8%).

Because of this, efforts in the vineyard are focusing on reducing the number of passes a tractor must make through the vines, as well as adopting regenerative farming practices that include less tilling of the soil. This will not only reduce fossil fuels used in the vineyard, but the cover crop will allow vineyards to sequester carbon. In this way, vineyards represent “low hanging fruit” to become carbon negative, or climate positive.

Efforts to reduce energy usage in the winery are also underway, but will take more time. “Doing a full-scale carbon footprint inventory for a winery is very complicated,” states Brittan, “but we have some wineries who are also working on this. They are focusing on reducing bottle weight and other packaging modification, as well as installing solar, tracking waste, and implementing other energy and water saving mechanisms.”


Individual wineries in Napa and Sonoma are also taking other actions towards becoming climate positive. Joe Nielsen, Director of Winemaking at Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma County has decided to convert their vineyards from certified sustainable to organic. “We decided to bring in sheep to eat the weeds in the vineyard to reduce the number of times the tractor has to pass through the vines to spray herbicides ,” he said. “We are also investigating the use of electronic tractors, rather than gas powered ones.”

At Quintessa Winery in Napa Valley, they have just become certified in both Organic and Biodynamic vineyard operations. “We have been certified sustainable for many years,” reports Rebekah Wineburg, Quintessa Winemaker. “But this year we completed the formal 3-year certification process with CCOF and Demeter. We also have a philosophy to maintain as many of the native oaks and shrubs as possible to sequester carbon.”

Other wineries are making positive efforts to reduce water usage and the energy associated with pumping it into the vineyards and winery operations. Hope Goldie, Winemaker at Darioush in Napa Valley states, “We are reducing leaf removal in the vineyards and using micro emitters below the canopy to spray as minimal amount of water as possible, but still help the vines stay healthy and survive the drought.”

At Chandon Napa Valley, they are also reducing water by converting all of their landscaping to drought tolerant plants. “For the next two years we are embarking on a huge renovation to our grounds and the winery to reduce our water and energy usage,” states Pauline Lhote, Winemaking Director at Chandon. “Our company has also been working to reduce the weight of our bottles, which is one of the biggest contributors to wine’s carbon footprint. So far we have managed to reduce it by 25%, which means less weight in transportation to customers and therefore less use of fossil fuels.”

Two of the largest wineries in Napa and Sonoma have set aggressive goals to become climate positive. Jackson Family Wines, owners of Kendall-Jackson, Cardinale, La Crema and many other brands has just set a goal to cut their carbon footprint in half by 2030 and become climate positive by 2050. Treasury Wine Estates, owner of Beringer, Chateau St. Jean and many other brands has set a corporate goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.

Other Napa/Sonoma vineyards and wineries that have made progress towards climate positive goals include Benziger, Dutton Ranch, Spottswoode, Larkmead, Cakebread, Raymond, Chimney Rock, and Protector Cellars, amongst others.

ABOUT Liz Thach, MW

I am a freelance wine writer, wine market expert, researcher, educator and consultant based in Napa and Sonoma, California. As an award-winning author and educator, I specialize in wine business strategy, marketing, leadership/executive development, and wine lifestyle. My passion is wine, and I have visited most of the major wine regions of the world and more than 50 countries. My publications number over 200 articles and 9 books, including Call of the VineBest Practices in Global Wine Tourism and Luxury Wine Marketing. I completed my Ph.D. at Texas A&M University in Human Resources, and became a Master of Wine (MW) in May 2011, after passing the most rigorous wine exam in the world. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, golf, reading, and wine dinners with family and friends, as well as serving on several non-profit wine boards and being a wine judge.

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.​

Economic benefits & ROI of workshops: In a time of changing consumer trends, we want you think of us as extended members of your team. We are here to help share information of ways to not only increase your sustainability but also share with you how these things bring with them ROI, decrease in cost, consumer approval & many other economic benefits. 

Join us at our All Things Bottle Sustainability Workshop to hear from our panel of experts. Registration is $20 and the link can be found in our profile. Cheers!
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📣 Don’t miss these events! 

April 26th - All Things Bottle Sustainability, Pine Ridge Vineyards, 9:00am.

May 23rd - The Future of Water Workshop, 9:00am. 

On April 26 we have 12+ speakers covering all aspects of climate smart glass and packaging. Digging in on the truly most sustainable recyclable/compostable/reusable options, with some product show and tell. 

On May 23 we have keynotes from two incredible speakers and internationally renowned experts: Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute and author of The Three Ages of Water, and Mimi Casteel, vineyard manager at Hope Well Wine and forest ecologist. 

Register now!
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Join us for a dinner that brilliantly combines luxury and sustainability with Vintner Kia Behnia, acclaimed Chef Dave Cruz and The Wine Bible Author, Karen MacNeil! 

This event will help Napa Green raise much needed funding to keep our non profit thriving. For more info head to the link in our bio or email!
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We invite you join us at a very special wine dinner with @karenmacneilco, Chef Dave Cruz and @neotempowines to raise funds for climate action in the wine industry. 

For further details please go to the link in our profile or email 

We hope to see you there. Cheers!
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Happy Earth Month! While our members celebrate the Earth every day of the year, this month is a great time to showcase those sustainability practices and tell consumers what you do to be green! Be sure to tag @napagreen in your posts, join us @earthdaynapa, and reach out for more ways to get involved!
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Meghan brings her passion for wine and sustainability together in her role as @napagreen’s social media manager. She is both a Vintner and Certified Sommelier and helps our members share their sustainability stories, emphasizing how caring for nature and community elevates both quality and guest experience. 

Thanks for your unwavering passion and dedication @mvino1!
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Join the @napagreen team this earth month at events around the valley at @cliffamily @earthdaynapa @silveroakcellars and more.

We look forward to talking (and drinking) sustainability with you!
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Say hi to @marisataylorwines, our Winery & Climate Specialist. Marisa has supported sustainable farming and green practices from vineyard to cellar and across all winemaking operations and continues to leverage her expertise to help wineries become climate action champions. 

Thanks for all you do!
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Last week we had a great climate smart burn and alternatives demonstration @gloriaferrerwinery where attendees learned techniques for a conservation/low-smoke burn with demonstrations from @thecleanburncompany and @napa.char. 

Additionally, speakers from @naparcd and Treasury Wine Estates presented the results from a recent vineyard biochar application research project. 

Learn more on our website.
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Have you met Sierra, our Climate & Soil Specialist? Sierra works tirelessly to advance climate resiliency in the Napa Valley by collaborating with growers to realize their climate action aspirations. 

Say hi to @growresiliently next time you see her in the field. Thanks for all that you do, Sierra!
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On average 40-60% of a vineyard and winery’s carbon footprint is from packaging and distribution alone. Join us to explore climate smart, sustainable glass, closures, the future of reusable glass, alternative packaging. Hear case studies. Learn what is truly recyclable, and new opportunities to recycle film wrap and label backing. Since 2020, climate smart marketed CPG products have doubled in sales to $3.4 billion. Wine bottles and packaging can be leveraged to meet rising consumer demand for climate smart products.

Get tickets to this workshop @pineridgewine to hear from @napagreen @consciouscontainer @revinobottles @keystonecapsules @cork_supply @neotempowines @estal_packaging @uppervalleydisposal @naparecycling and more!
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You may have seen Megan, our Winery Program Manager, out and about sporting her @napagreen shirt and talking about green practices. Utilizing her background in hospitality, sustainability and engineering she is dedicated in guiding businesses toward a more sustainable future. 

Thanks for all you do @love.dream.breathe!
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Join us for All Things Bottle Sustainability on Friday, April 26th. Link in bio to register!
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Cheers to @abrittain! Anna has worked locally, nationally and internationally on environmental management, including leading @napagreen and @naparise to the forefront of the wine industry climate action movement. 

Keep an eye out for her with our unofficial mascot, Lily, sharing our best practices, facilitating action and growing resilience in our industry and community. 

Thank you for all you do!
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