An aerial view of the Cakebread Winery in Rutherford. Cakebread was one of the earliest wineries to receive a Napa Green certification, according to president Bruce Cakebread. - Rocco Ceselin

Napa's wine industry to boost environmental sustainability

Napa Green has long been ahead of its time.

In recent years, in tune with scientific revelations around climate change and technology, global agriculture has increasingly turned an eye towards sustainability. Farmers and producers have pushed to cut back use of harmful pesticides, conserve water and electricity and practice stewardship of their land. Those are all pillars of Napa Green’s sustainability certification program, the earliest iteration of which formed in the early 2000s.

It was a time on the cusp of the environmentalism movement. Early Napa Green members were specifically concerned with the health of the Napa River watershed, according to Michelle Novi, who oversees Napa Green in partnership with the Napa Valley Vintners, which has taken the program “under its wing”.

“It was a group of industry stakeholders, environmental groups like the Sierra Club, local regulators, and those at the state and federal level as well,” Novi said. The applications of the program grew from there.

“Everyone saw it was an opportunity to develop something that could benefit the health of the valley. And that’s exactly what it’s done,” Novi added.

The Vintners, too, saw Napa Green’s potential. In a county like Napa, which has long emphasized land stewardship, the program was not only in keeping with trend, but tradition.

Feeling they had the resources available to grow Napa Green to the full of its potential, the Vintners became what Novi calls “champions-in-chief” of the program. In 2015, the group announced their 2020 initiative: partnering with Napa Green, they’d work to certify 100 percent of their eligible members by the end of this coming year.

Eligibility is fairly straightforward, Novi said: it includes all member wineries, and winegrowers with more than 5 acres of vineyard land. At the time of the announcement, less than a third of were certified. Today, the number is something close to 80 percent — not quite a goal yet met, but progress that Director of Industry Relations Rex Stults calls “massive strides.”

As the initiative approaches its final year, Napa Green is looking ahead and considering what is still to come, Novi said.

Expansion, for one thing. Program Coordinator Anna Brittain said Napa Green’s emphasis on winery certification is already a departure from the agriculture-only focus of most wine grapegrowing sustainability programs. Napa County currently accounts for 40 percent of certified sustainable wineries statewide, Brittain said. She thinks the program could reach further.

“We want to encourage more of the hospitality industry at large to be sustainable,” Brittain said. “We’re exploring the idea of helping facilitate certification for hotels, restaurants and (wine-related) events as well.”

The certification process for wineries is fairly extensive, taking into account everything from water and energy used in winemaking, landscaping, waste reduction and proper disposal of batteries and light bulbs. Just as that could be seen as challenging for the hospitality industry today, certification was a serious undertaking for many of the valley’s wineries when the program began, according to Bruce Cakebread, president of Cakebread Cellars. But, he said, it’s all about mindset.

Cakebread Cellars received its winery certification from Napa Green in 2008, making it one of the program’s earliest adapters.

“Go back 10, 15 years ago — things were really different than what we see today.” Cakebread said, citing recycling as an example. Cakebread Cellars doubled its recycling efforts from 48 percent of its total waste to 93 percent under Napa Green.

“In the early days, just getting that behavior change was kind of the thing everyone had to focus on,” Cakebread added.

Cakebread Cellars has used the idea of behavioral to implement sustainable practices elsewhere in its business model. Many, like usage of LED lights, are both environmentally and budget friendly—a trend that’s helped membership along, according to Cakebread.

Brittain pointed to incoming 2020 deadlines for new vineyard wastewater management requirements. Napa Green will be the easiest way for growers to achieve compliance, she said, and the program could serve as a similar vehicle toward compliance for wineries one day. On a broader scale, Novi added, sustainable wine grapegrowing practices will mean resiliency in the face of climate change.

Their progress hasn’t gone unnoticed; last November, the Vintners won the state’s top environmental award for their work with Napa Green. Cakebread, for his part, said he’s just as excited by what’s ahead of Napa Green as he is by what’s behind it.

“We’ve been through this for 10 or 12 years now. We’ve gotten this far: where do we want to take it?” he said. “I have no idea where that is, but as people come up with ideas and how to measure our impact — that’ll be pretty exciting.”

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.​

A live check in with @abrittain &!
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🌿 Did you know that less than 3% of philanthropic donations go to environmental work? 

Please consider donating to Napa Green this giving season with one of several ways at any level! 

Head to the link in our bio for details!
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With gratitude and joy, we wish you a beautiful day & start to the holiday season from all of us at Team Green! 

- Ben, Meghan, Anna, Marissa, Sierra & Megan
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‘If not here, where? If not now, when?’ 

“The onus is on us as a world class wine growing region to be leaders in sustainability & climate action.” 

- Executive Director of Napa Green, Anna Brittain
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It’s been a big week at Napa Green and we want to take a moment to raise a glass to salute you all. 

We are overjoyed to see so much support and invigorated interest in our mission towards sustainable practices and regenerative agriculture in the wine industry. 

We have many more details, paired with educational & financial resources that are already up and rolling on our website. We will continue to share them all, one by one and in great detail here on socials as well. 

For now please plan on joining us at our upcoming Town Hall meeting on Dec 7th at @stsupery. You can find more details at 

Cheers and Happy Friday Napa Valley. We are so proud to be a part of this amazing community!
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⚠️ Important Announcement 

Napa Green becomes the first sustainable wine growing certification to require the phaseout of Round Up. 

Please find the link in our bio for the full press release and full suite of info & grower resources. 

Join us on December 7th for our Napa Green Town Hall at @stsupery.
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Don’t miss the awe-inspiring @nikki_silvestri at @dominusestatewinery on Nov 30th!
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You’re invited to join us for a very special day at @dominusestatewinery on November 30th. 

We’ll be briefly interviewing our speaker @nikki_silvestri right here on Instagram today at 2:00pm PST to hear more about what to expect at this event. See you then.
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Curious to learn more? Join us at @dominusestatewinery on November 30th for a rare event and luncheon. Link in bio for details.
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GREEN is the new black this season!! 

Head to the link in our bio now and get your shirts, help a good cause and be an honorary part of Team Green this season! 💚
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Let’s hear it for our Executive Director of Napa Green, the incomparable Anna Brittain for being named a 2023 Wine Industry Leader by @winebusinessmonthly!! 

In their Sustainability Stewards section (which we love to see) we find Anna named in good company with inspired fellow leaders! 

Head to our stories or the link in our bio for free access to the full November issue. 

Cheers to the great work of our visionary Director Anna Brittain!!
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Drink Green this Halloween! 💚
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Sierra is our Soil & Climate Specialist at Napa Green and her ask this year is that everyone consider donating to our small but mighty Team Green for Giving Season! 

Here is more from @regenwithsierra: 

“🎃 Happy Halloween Eve everyone! Today is my birthday, and I would be beyond thrilled if you would consider a donation to @napagreen to support a nonprofit focused on climate action in the wine industry 🍷🍾

@napagreen has the leading set of standards for sustainable practices, from soil to bottle. I am most proud of the work we do with winegrape growers to adopt regenerative agricultural practices in their vineyards. 

Please consider supporting us in our mission!  Click the link in bio for more! “
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Thank you for having us @visitnapavalley! We had a great time talking to visitors about the many sustainability practices our Napa Green wineries and vineyards employ! 

Stop into the Visit Napa Valley Visitor Center in Napa to learn more!
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