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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.​

Seeking third party auditors! Email sierra@napagreen.org for full details!
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Have you been to Napa Green Certified @boeschenvineyards yet?
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Team Green outing today at the stunning @boeschenvineyards as we celebrate big things that we can’t wait to share with you! 🌿
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One of the main resistances to phasing out glyphosate is increased labor and equipment costs. However, the costs of herbicides and fertilizers have risen dramatically, so increased labor demands can be offset by reduced supply chain purchases. 

In addition, leaders like Grgich Hills Estate have shown that regenerative organic farming can be cost-effective. According to an analysis by Brotemarkle Davis & Co. LLP accounting firm, the average annual per acre cost of vineyard management in the Napa Valley is $14,800, with $3,800 in depreciation. At Grgich, they spend $11,000 per acre, with only $1,300 in depreciation due to the longer life of their vineyards. 

Learn from regional leaders about the practical costs, benefits, and ROI of herbicide-free, organic, and regenerative vineyard management.

Confirmed Speakers:
• Ivo Jeramaz, Grgich Hills
• Phil Coturri, Enterprise Vineyard Management & Winery Sixteen 600
• Brad Kurtz, Gloria Ferrer
• Brenae Royal, St. Supery
• Rebekah Wineburg, Quintessa

Register at the link in our bio.
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“Storytelling is key… and sustainability is the most important topic in wine.”

Thank you @elinmccoy for an incredible and insightful conversation with @napagreen members about the stories most likely to capture journalists attention.
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Thank you to all who attended our Future of Water Workshop yesterday at Napa Green Certified @silveroakcellars! 

Stay tuned for more from our luminary speakers @mimicasteel, @todmostero, @petergleick & our own @abrittain.
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Join us for a special roundtable workshop with award-winning journalist Elin McCoy, global wine critic for Bloomberg News and US editor for the podcast The Wine Conversation, with listeners in 95 countries. 

Elin will sit down with a small group of Napa Green members (max 25 guests) and share her insights on the types of stories and pitches most likely to engage the media. In particular, she’ll focus on stories related to sustainable winegrowing, climate action, and social equity. 

Elin will speak and answer questions for about an hour. Then we’ll break into small groups to develop a story pitch, and come back together to present and get Elin’s feedback and input. This is a rare opportunity to get ideas and inspiration from a leading wine journalist. Register at the link in our profile.
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Climate Action & Regenerative Agriculture! Our sixth pillar that encompasses all that we do at Napa Green. 🌼
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Hear from Winery Program Manager @love.dream.breathe about Energy Efficiency & Savings, one of our pillars of sustainable winegrowing leadership
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We want to sincerely thank everyone who donated either space, time or proceeds of bottles/food sold to Napa Green during Earth Month! We are a small non-profit that greatly relies on donations of these kinds and we’re so grateful for our supportive community. 

Let’s hear it for: 

📍@trefethenfamily 
📍@pineridgewine 
📍@cliffamily 
📍@neotempowines
📖 @karenmacneilco
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Social Justice, Equity & Inclusion. Perhaps our most important pillar of our six pillars of sustainability leadership. 

Thank you for the beautiful description @growresiliently!
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Register now at the link in our profile! 💦

May 23, 2024
Silver Oak Winery, Oakville
9:00 am - 12:15 pm

One of the most critical agricultural concerns with our changing climate, and more frequent & intense weather extremes, is precipitation and water availability. The good news is opportunities abound to optimize irrigation efficiency, and implement regenerative practices that improve soil health, water infiltration, and retention. 

Join us for The Future of Water, with highlights including a keynote from Peter Gleick, one of the world’s leading water experts, and Mimi Casteel, not only a viticulturist and winemaker, but also a forest ecologist with a vision for water resiliency.
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Join us for The Future of Water Workshop, to explore our water future, with highlights including a keynote from Peter Gleick, one of the world’s leading water experts (all guests will receive a copy of Peter’s most recent book, The Three Ages of Water) and Mimi Casteel, not only a viticulturist and winemaker, but also a forest ecologist with a vision for water resiliency.

Wine grape quality is closely tied to the right amount of water, at the right time. One of the most critical agricultural concerns with our changing climate, and more frequent & intense weather extremes, is precipitation and water availability. We’ve swung from historic drought to atmospheric rivers. Our community has huge swaths of unmanaged, unhealthy forests full of non-natives and overrun by firs, amplifying fire risk and undermining one of the most critical systems for groundwater recharge.

The good news is opportunities abound to optimize irrigation efficiency, and implement regenerative practices that improve soil health, water infiltration, and retention. A watershed coalition has also formed in Napa County to pilot and model creek & forest restoration for localized water resiliency and climate cooling. 

Come learn more on Thursday, May 23rd at 9:00am at @silveroakcellars.
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Sustainably sourced ingredients with Chef Sarah Heller 🌱 Purchase your tax deductible ticket to our Opus One x Napa Green dinner at the link in our profile!
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You’re invited.. 

Full details may be found at the link in our profile. Cheers!
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As we wrap up an amazing Earth Month, we want to thank you all for the support & for coming to see us at our events! 

Let’s keep the momentum going and remember that Earth Day is Every Day! 🌎
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