Larkmead Cab

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Larkmead Vineyards in Napa Valley.
Photograph by Brian Flaherty

Dan Petroski

Dan Petroski has responded to climate change by implementing sustainable practices in Larkmead's vineyards and winery.
Photograph by Brian Flaherty

Bee hives

Beehives, used for creating yeast.
Photograph by Brian Flaherty

Weather monitring

A weather monitoring device tracks temperature and precipitation in real time.
Photograph by Brian Flaherty

How Premier Wine Regions Are Adapting to Climate Change

Two years ago, Boris Champy left his role as estate manager for Clos des Lambrays, an esteemed Grand Cru in Burgundy’s Morey-Saint-Denis village of Côte de Nuits, to take an entrepreneurial turn in the hills above the town of Beaune.

Six-hundred feet above the center of Burgundy, Champy knew he could grow vines in Hautes-Côtes, an area that may not have the prestige of Côte de Nuits, but is cooler, giving him an edge as the climate changes and Burgundy warms.

As with most agricultural crops, vineyards around the world are experiencing the effects of climate change right now. In Burgundy—home to revered, collectible wines such as Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Domaine Leflaive, and Comte Georges de Vogüé —heat waves, drought, and frost in the past few years have caused some top estates to cut back on volume, giving Champy’s wines—from a less renowned region—a chance to get attention.

“I hope consumers buy my wines because they like them, because the wines are good, but I also know the supply in Burgundy is very short and the supply is short because of climate change,” Champy says.

Producers globally are working to ensure the quality of their wines as climate change sparks shifts in rainfall levels, temperature, and harvest dates. In premier wine regions of the world—Burgundy, Champagne, and Bordeaux in France; Tuscany and Piedmont in Italy; Napa Valley in California—reputations, and the big sums these wines can command, are at stake.

But there is no singular solution.

Winemakers such as Champy are moving to higher ground, but he is also growing Gamay and Aligoté—varieties that are sanctioned within Burgundy, but are far less common. Experimenting with grape varieties that could potentially thrive in warmer climates while producing comparatively great wine is a route some wine regions are taking to adapt (see sidebar).

In Napa Valley, Dan Petroski, the winemaker at Larkmead Vineyards, monitors annual weather patterns. A few years ago he determined that a combination of newly planted vines, a stylistic choice to reduce sugar (and ultimately alcohol) levels, and increasingly hot days, meant he was picking grapes about three weeks earlier than when he started working at the winery in 2006.

One way Petroski has responded to climate change has been to implement sustainable practices in Larkmead’s vineyards and winery, such as increasingly incorporating no-till farming—a process that restores soil and reduces the release of carbon—and reducing water use in the cellar. There are also beehives on the property and solar panels on the winery roof. The land and winery are each certified by Napa Green, a nonprofit providing third-party certification of sustainable winemaking and grape-growing in the valley.

These efforts will help slow the effects of climate change, but they won’t vanquish the hotter, drier days in Napa.

Near the city of Calistoga, where Larkmead sits, Petroski is planting a 3-acre plot with an array of grape varieties beyond the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, that dominate his ethereal wines today. He’s testing out Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Chenin Blanc—which grew in the vineyards years ago—and Mediterranean varieties such as Touriga Nacional from Portugal and Tempranillo from Spain.

“The last thing we can do under these conditions is wait it out—if we wait it out until 2040 to plant these things, we’re going to be in trouble,” Petroski says.

But Rodrigo Soto, estate manager at Quintessa, located on 280 acres on the eastern edge of Napa Valley’s Rutherford region, south of Calistoga, believes focusing on different grape varieties as a solution ignores the potential for plants to adapt. Instead of seeking out new plants, or new places, Quintessa, which makes deeply layered Bordeaux blends from its biodynamically farmed property, is exploring how it can change its vineyard practices to adapt to the changing environment and the changing needs of the vines.

“We have a close relationship with our estate—we don’t buy grapes, we work with the grapes that we grow,” Soto says. “When you think like that, you realize you need to make it work.”

One way Quintessa adapts to a searing-hot season is through vineyard management techniques, such as shifting the canopy of leaves growing on its vines. Leaving lateral sprouts to grow instead of cutting them back allows for extra shade on the grape clusters, says Rebekah Wineburg, Quintessa’s winemaker. When it comes time to replant, the winery may consider grafting vines onto rootstocks that may be more adaptable to the expected changes in climate.

To those who ask, will a warming climate spell ruin for the world’s best wines? Adrian Bridge, CEO of major Portuguese wine producer Fladgate Partnership, demurs.

Consider that growing heat in Bordeaux, for example, gives Cabernet Sauvignon a better chance at reaching full ripeness, he says. “Maybe the best Bordeaux are the ones to come rather than ones that have been.”

To Champy, all options for dealing with climate change should be considered.“You work with temperature, you work with things living in the soil, with your roots, and for me, it’s what Darwin says—it’s not the strongest or the smartest (who survive), it’s the most adaptable,” he says. Above all, “we have to become better farmers.”

This article appeared in the September 2021 issue of Penta magazine

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.​

Napa Green & Premiere Napa Valley 💚

Thank you for creating such a beautiful event @wheelerfarmswinery! 

Incredible offerings from Napa Green Certified wineries @aowinery, @chandonusa, @grgichhills, @inglenook1879, @rombauervineyards, @spottswoodewinery, @trefethenfamily, @troisnoixwine & @stsupery!! 

Cheers to @premierenapa!
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The whole team is here and some amazing friends are joining us like @spottswoodewinery, @accendocellars, @aowinery, @stsupery, @rombauervineyards, @chandonusa, @troisnoixwine, @trefethenfamily, @matthiasson_wine & @grgichhills! 

Our first @premierenapa event kicks off at 4pm today at @wheelerfarmswinery!! 🍷🎉
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Grazing in the vineyards with a big assist from Cup the Sheep Dog! 

We’ll see you at our event in partnership with @napa_valley_grapegrowers on Feb 27th at @thecastello! Link in bio for registration. 

#welovedogs #sheepdog #sheepfarming #grazing #vineyards #napa #napavalley #regenerativeagriculture #soilhealthmatters
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Sign up for the Grazing Workshop on Tuesday, Feb 27th at @thecastello at the link in our profile. 

@napa_valley_grapegrowers @perennialgrazing
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Add the Napa Green logo to your back label! 

Find the link in our profile or email megan@napagreen.org. Happy bottling season!
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Not just talking the talk but walking the walk is very important to us. One way we do that is by providing our members with as many tools and resources as possible. Here’s what’s coming up: 

1. Weed Management Equipment & Tools for herbicide-free farming - Thurs, Feb 15th at @inglenook1879 at 9:00am. 

2. Napa Green Premiere Open House for the Wine Trade - Thurs, Feb 22nd at @wheelerfarmswinery at 4:00pm. 

3. California Small Farms Conference - Thurs, Feb 25th with @mimicasteel & Ben Mackie at 3:00pm. 

4. Grazing for Vineyard Health & Fire Resilience - Tues, Feb 27th at @thecastello at 9:00am. 

Find all details and registration on napagreen.org under the Connect with Us tab or just head to the link in our profile. We’ll see you all soon.
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📣 February Events! 

www.napagreen.org ➡️ Connect with us ➡️ Events & Workshops! 

Or head the link in our profile to find it all & how to register with one click. See you all at an event soon.
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Join us for a Grazing for Vineyard Health & Fire Resilience Field Day in partnership with @napa_valley_grapegrowers. During this February 27th event we’ll discuss ways to best utilize sheep in the vineyard and employ grazing animals for woodland management, addressing both fire fuel reduction and post fire recovery. Don’t miss this opportunity to delve into regenerative practices for your vineyard and beyond! 

Find the link in our profile to register.

📸: @sarahannerisk
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History, sustainability & fine wine at Napa Green Certified @schramsberg! 🥂

#wine #sparklingwine #schramsberg #napa #napavalley #winecave #winecollector #winelover #sustainability #organicvineyard
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🍷Wine Trade! Register for our Premiere Napa Valley event on Feb 22nd at the link in our profile!🍷
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Apply for a grant! Applications can be found at the link in our bio. 

#sustainability #climateaction #winebusiness #wineindustry #napa #napavalley #grantapplications #napawinery
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📣 Announcing our first ever NVV Premiere Event! 📣

Thursday, Feb 22nd from 4pm-6pm at @wheelerfarmswinery. Register at the link in our profile!
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Providing resources, tools and education for our members is core to what we do. Come see us at a February event! 

Register at the link in our profile. We’ll see you there!
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Weed Management Event at @inglenook1879 on Thursday, Feb 15th from 9:00am - 12:00pm. Link in profile to register. 

Por favor, mira hasta el final para ver el mensaje en español.
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Save these dates! 3 great events coming your way in February. 

Find info and registration at the link in our bio or at our website: napagreen.org under Connect with us - Events & Workshops!
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