NAPA Mag Cover - full
Water - vine management

Monitoring vine health helps determine how much water is needed to feed the vines.

Water - irrigation

Drip irrigation is used to feed the vines additional water when needed.

Water - cover crop

Cover crops are used to help retain moisture in the soil.

Wise Water Use

IN DROUGHT CONDITIONS, CREATIVE WINEMAKERS APPLY SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS TO THE PRODUCTION OF AWARD-WINNING WINES

In agriculture, water is considered a precious resource, but in the face of another California drought, Napa Valley winemakers are finding creative and sustainable ways to adapt and continue to craft premium, concentrated wines with less of it.

Most recently, California experienced a drought between the years 2012 and 2016 and as of 2020 finds itself in a state of drought once again. But while these conditions may not be ideal, they’re far from a death sentence to vintners who discovered long ago that a lack of water can actually aid in the production of fine wines.

Unlike other crops, vines can not only survive, but thrive in drought conditions. In fact, until the creation of drip irrigation-a system that feeds the vines additional water when needed-vineyards in Napa Valley were historically dry-farmed, meaning the only water they received was from the year’s rainfall.

While most wineries now take advantage of irrigation technology, they are still typically limiting their water usage, whether it’s a drought year or not. Nick Bleecher, general manager and winemaker at Calistoga’s Jericho Canyon Vineyard, says, “We’re trying to use as little water as possible.”

When water isn’t readily available, the vines stress, growing roots deep down into the soils in search of a drink. As a result, the grapes in the clusters are smaller and yields are lower, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The smaller yields of the berries from moderately stressed vines are known to create extremely complex and concentrated wines, the kind that bring home top scores and reviews from the industry’s critics.

There is another major benefit to these water-saving practices: sustainability. Members of Napa Green, an organization that serves as a catalyst for growing certified sustainable businesses in the wine industry, have learned to employ specific viticulture practices meant to both mitigate water usage and store more water in the soil. In the end, it’s win-win. They are conserving water for a greener planet and at the same time cultivating high­ quality wine grapes.

Here are three ways that Napa Green win­eries farm sustainably in drought conditions.

IRRIGATION EVALUATIONS

One of the more effective strategies wineries use to conserve water is tracking irrigation usage with devices such as water sensors, soil moisture boxes and pressure readers. These help viticulturalists monitor vine health and determine precisely if, when and how much water the drip irrigation system should feed the vines. Adrienne Uboldi, vineyard and sustainability manager at Markham, says that giving the vines the amount of water they need when they need it “plays a big role in how we can be sustainable.”

Viticulturalists also frequently perform irrigation assessments, which check for common issues, such as excessive or low pressure, clogging, or leaking, all of which can not only waste water but also affect grape quality. “So much of sustainability is awareness, monitoring and maintenance,” says Anna Brittan, executive director of Napa Green.

CARBON FARMING

Another common conservation initiative is “carbon farming.” In simple terms, vintners look for ways to store or “sequester” more water in the soil. Carbon farming enables them to irrigate less during growing season while also improving soil health and increasing the overall resiliency of the vineyard.

“Enhancing soil’s water-holding capacity allows farmers to have more control over the fate of nutrients in the soil,” explains Dr. Miguel Garcia, a soil science expert for the Napa County Resource Conservation Dis­trict. “Better water and nutrient manage­ment allows farmers to better manage vine health and grape quality, which translates into better-quality wine.”

One way to do this is to grow cover crops between the vine rows and mow them to help retain moisture, says Uboldi. She also avoids tilling the soil, which can have nega­tive effects on soil quality.

Kirk Grace, director of California vine­yard operations at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, uses compost tea, made of compost and water, which is inserted into the drip irri­gation system and distributed to the vines.

“The simplest way to describe it is that I am making an electrolyte replacement drink for the vines,” says Grace. “We have a limited amount of irrigation water here, so the compost tea helps to buffer the stress that would be there because we can’t irrigate as much as we’d like to.”

LOOKING FORWARD-AND BACK

In anticipation of increasing drought conditions, win­eries are being extra-strategic when they replant vine­yards. Vine orientation, rootstock selection and grape variety choice can all play a role in making a vineyard more drought resilient, and some wineries are even planting experimental vineyards to test these different factors and plan for the future.

Yet while they look ahead, some are also taking a page out of the old playbook. The traditional practice of dry-farming is seeing a small resur­gence of interest throughout Napa Valley. Tod Mostero, director of viti­culture and winemaking for Dominus Estate, purposefully dry-farms the estate’s 137 acres in both Yountville and Oakville. “We dry-farm because we believe it’s the best way for us to grow quality grapes,” he says. “Vines are one of the crops that need the least amount of water.”

Whether the current drought ends sooner or later, the fact is that droughts will always be a recurring event in California. The continued conservation efforts by Napa Valley’s vintners are a major key in producing quality wines for a long time to come.

 

Better water and nutrient management allows farmers to better manage vine health and grape quality, which translates into better-quality wines

To learn more about Napa Green, visit napagreen.org.

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.​

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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Hear from @marisataylorwines about the importance of  water efficiency & savings and what we can all do to conserve this precious resource.
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Join us for a not to be missed dinner experience at @opusonewinery while supporting philanthropic efforts on behalf of climate action. 

An intimate group of 20 guests will be in attendance on the rotunda overlooking the estate vineyards. Chef Sarah Heller will prepare a four-course, locally-sourced dinner paired with Champagne Barons de Rothschild, Opalie de Château Coutet, and three vintages of Opus One wines. 

You will have the chance to share transformative conversations and form deep connections with industry leaders and change makers. 

Please find full invitation details at the link in our profile.
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Happy Earth Day Napa Valley! It’s an incredible joy to work with you all and see the forward progress being made all over this gorgeous place we call home. Thank you for caring, thank you for stepping up and thank you for making a difference!! 🌎💚
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Thanks to everyone who came out to @earthdaynapa and visited us at the @napagreen wine booth! 

 Cheers to @amici_cellars @cakebreadcellars @domainecarneros @handwrittenwines @robertmondavi and @whiterockvineyards for donating the certified sustainable wines to raise money for the Environmental Education Coalition of Napa County and helping make it a great event!
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We’re pouring some stellar Napa Green wines tomorrow at @earthdaynapa to include: 

@cakebreadcellars, @domainecarneros, @whiterockvineyards, @handwrittenwines, @amici_cellars & @robertmondavi!

Come by the booth! 🍷🌎
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What you can do in the vineyard & what you can do at home! 🌼🦋

#happyearthday #earthmonth #sustainability #biodiversity #pollinators #herbicidefree #napa #napavalley #cheers
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Come on by to @cliffamily! 💚🍴
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Come get involved this Earth Month! 🌎🌱

🌷 Earth Day Napa - Saturday, April 20th 11am -4pm at Oxbow Commons

🌷All Things Bottle Sustainability Workshop - Friday, April 26th at @pineridgewine from 9am -12:30pm. Registration is $20

🌷 All Things Bottle Sustainability Dinner! Friday, April 26th at @neotempowines with Karen MacNeil & Chef Dave Cruz! 

Message us directly or head to the link in our bio for info!
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