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Credit: Napa Green / Facebook.com

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Credit: Napa Green / Facebook.com

Napa Green: How One Sustainability Program Is Working to Save Napa Valley

In 1998, California’s Napa Valley was grappling with an unpleasant reality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Napa River was impaired by so much sediment and pesticides, the salmon and trout were dying. In response, Napa Valley Vintners, a nonprofit trade organization of area wine producers, banded together to implement standards and guidelines to protect the local ecosystem — establishing a fish-friendly program to eliminate harmful pesticides, manage erosion, and restore the rivers back to their previous health.

It wasn’t enough.

At the same time, a growing body of science surrounding climate change made it clear that unless changes were made sooner than later, the wine industry could be facing a future in which no one could grow grapes at all. In a place like Napa Valley, where 90 percent of the wineries are family-owned, this was an especially devastating possibility. Generations of hard work and tradition were at risk of being lost. Something had to be done. The Napa Valley Vintners may not have been able to change the rest of the world, but they did have the power to alter their own practices.

Over the next few years, the organization researched best practices and established a program that would eventually come to be known as Napa Green. The program offers two certifications. One is awarded to vineyards that demonstrate a focus on practices like managing erosion, reducing and eliminating harmful inputs, conserving water, and contributing to the health of the Napa River watershed. The other certification is for the practices of wineries themselves, including waste prevention, efficiency with energy and water, reduction of carbon footprint, and social equity.

Between the two certifications, Napa Green works with individual wineries and vineyards to develop customized plans for sustainability all the way from soil to bottle. The program is not one size fits all. Instead, it takes into account participants’ current practices in order to set ambitious yet tangible goals for improvement. Participants in the program are constantly pushed for advancement. In order to maintain their certifications, vineyards and wineries must be re-evaluated every three years and demonstrate improvement over past metrics.

Since the program’s inception in 2004, 657 Napa wineries and vineyards have obtained Napa Green certifications, covering more than 80 percent of Napa’s vineyard acreage. And participating wineries have discovered that preserving the environment pays off in more ways than one; collectively, the wineries have saved over 12,600,000 gallons of water and more than 4,125,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, resulting in almost $1 million in electricity savings.

According to Anna Brittain, executive director of Napa Green, members do not have to obtain both certifications to participate. Despite this, Emma Swain, CEO of St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery, says she was eager to pursue both certifications to do her part to ensure the long-term vitality of both the environment and the wine industry. “Operating a sustainable business for future generations is not enough. It is essential to continuously improve and expand our commitment for the future of our company and our planet,” she says.

For St. Supéry, improving on energy usage has included small changes like switching to more efficient light bulbs, as well as major changes like converting to solar energy. The estate is also aggressive about conserving and recycling water.

Dan Petroski is the winemaker at Larkmead Vineyards and one of the early adopters of Napa Green. He believes good environmental practices aren’t just important to the planet; they are also key to wine quality. “I love old-vine wines and wines that come from 40-, 50-, 60-year-old vines. They have such complex notes and flavors and chemistries and textures,” he says. Petroski is emphatic that winemakers can’t cultivate their vines for that kind of longevity if they don’t take care of their land.

Larkmead Vineyards is its own little ecosystem. Its water comes from wells on the property, and the water it uses to clean its equipment gets recycled in the vineyard. Anything Petroski puts into the ground finds its way into the water and eventually becomes part of the vines themselves. He says the key to longevity for grape growers is recognizing this and taking baby steps, like participating in Napa Green and practicing organic farming. He maintains that extending the life of vines will not only return winery owners’ investments, but will allow customers to enjoy their favorite wines for years to come.

Swain echoes Petroski’s sentiments.“We didn’t get to climate change overnight,” she says, “so we can’t flip the switch on turning it back. The more people that start the continual process of improvement, the better we are.”

Kristina King, director of consumer experience and office manager at Kenefick Ranch, another Napa Green participant, says Kenefick Ranch believes the key to long-term farming is having the best soil possible. This is important in the vineyard but also in the surrounding area, as the chemicals used in one vineyard eventually find their way to neighboring rivers and farms. When more vineyards participate in sustainable practices, it benefits the community as a whole, she says.

Brittain says it’s important to recognize that it isn’t just the wine industry that needs to be more mindful of the environment. She contends much of the responsibility for sustainability lies with consumers. “One of the biggest things people can do to take care of the environment is to use their purchasing power to support conscientious, responsible businesses that participate in programs like Napa Green,” she says.

In the end, for the vineyards and wineries, it’s about leaving the planet a little better than they found it. “If we can make great wine that makes people happy and take care of the environment at the same time, you gotta feel good about that,” Swain says.

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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