Eileen Crane, founding winemaker and CEO emeritus of Domaine Carneros. Submitted photo
Since its founding in 1987, Domaine Carneros has made sustainability a priority. Founding winemaker and CEO emeritus Eileen Crane has made sure that the winery lives as lightly on the land as possible while producing top quality grapes and wine. Indeed, she believes that growing grapes and making wine sustainably actually makes better wine. She has led the winery to be on the cutting edge of numerous green, renewable, and climate-sensitive programs.
In recognition of these efforts, Crane and Domaine Carneros have been named as the Napa Climate NOW! 2020 Climate Champion in the Business category.
Design for Environment
The company’s commitment to sustainability started in the beginning with the facility design phase. The production facility was built partly into the hillside to provide natural insulation and designed to make extensive use of skylights for lighting, and night cooling systems to save energy. Plumbing and irrigation were planned to reclaim and reuse two-thirds of the water. The cellar was designed and constructed to take advantage of gravity flow for wine movement.
In 2003, Domaine Carneros installed the largest solar collection system of any winery in the world. Back at a time when solar power was still largely viewed in the business sector as a hippie eccentricity, it captured enough energy to power 230 homes for a year (as measured in 2017).
Crane recalled, “I went to a conference where Paul Dolan (then from Fetzer) touted four solar panels on their office building. That got me thinking, we have so much sunshine here, it seems so logical. I work for a French company, so I went to them with the idea, and they said, ‘We’ve already looked at that and it’s not going to work.’ I said, “Yeah, but you’re in Northern France — we’re in sunny California!’ And they agreed.”
As word spread about Domaine Carneros’ solar installation, Crane received numerous calls from wineries and other businesses looking to go solar. Domaine Carneros became a model, freely offering assistance and practical advice. Work is now underway on a solar microgrid, to be completed in early 2021, which will supply Domaine Carneros with 75% of its energy needs and allow it to be self-sustaining during power outages.
Organic waste, when buried in landfills, is one of the largest sources of climate pollutants, primarily methane and carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. It is also an opportunity lost, since such wastes when properly managed on-site can produce healthy compost that can be recycled back into the soil, closing the loop and helping to sequester carbon.
In response, Domaine Carneros has been a strong advocate for composting. Its composting program, combined with programs for recycling and reuse, together divert more than 90% of its solid waste from landfills. The vineyards are farmed sustainably, with agricultural waste being recycled as mulch or feed for local cattle. Waste corks are repurposed into yoga mats, cork floors and shoe inserts, and proceeds go towards planting more cork trees in sustainably managed forests. Cardboard boxes and inserts are reused for in-house purposes, saving an average of $75,000 per year.
A crucial component of any effective sustainability policy is involvement and buy-in from all of the employees. At Domaine Carneros, employee hiring is guided by principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, and its staff covers the spectrum in age, race, gender, and orientation.
For many years, Crane has managed the business based on principles of “open-book management,” in which all employees are encouraged and rewarded in having a say in the operations of the company.
“Some of the best green ideas have come from employees,” Crane said. The composting program, converting grape waste to cattle feed and the waste cork and cardboard programs were all suggested and carried out by employees.
Crane retired in late 2020, and Remi Cohen has capably stepped into the role of CEO. A 20-year veteran of the local wine business, with experience at the helm of other Carneros properties, Cohen is keenly focused on furthering the winery’s commitment to sustainability.
Domaine Carneros is certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, Bay Area Green, Fish Friendly Farming and Napa Green Land & Winery.
Long recognized for its conservation efforts, Domaine Carneros received the 2019 California Green Medal Business Award and the Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Award for “demonstrating smart business through efficiencies, and innovation from implementing sustainable practices.”
“Napa Climate NOW! is pleased to name Domaine Carneros a 2020 Climate Champion,” said Dave Kearney-Brown, chairperson of county-wide climate non-profit. “Its deep commitment to sustainability, and a broad range of initiatives— all of which help lower its carbon footprint — make Domaine Carneros an exemplary business and a climate champion in the region.”
Congratulations and thanks to Eileen Crane and Domaine Carneros for their visionary leadership in the wine industry.
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