Opus One

The Opus One Green Team, from left, back, Nathalie Jure Buckland, Daniela Krueger-Franco, Michael Silacci, Chris Lynch, Allie Russell, Mike Morrison, Angela Muscarella, Morgan Tageson, Jose Hernandez, Marina Acuna, Juana Odilia Casas, Inocencio Casas and Susan Mitchell.
Photo by Briana Forgie

Opus One Air Burner

Eloy Paniagua adds brush to the AirBurner BurnBoss.
Submitted Photo

The Climate Connection: One winery’s 'Greenprint'

It only takes a tiny scratch in a flute to allow bubbles to flow from Champagne. It takes just a few people to initiate change AND a village to make it so. There is a best-fit leader for any project or task.

The Orbital Org Chart at Opus One winery in Oakville illustrates this for our vineyard, winemaking and facility teams. The chart is a three-dimensional diagram traced on a yoga ball. Bounce the ball, read the name on top, and we can tell you what that person can do better than anyone else on our team.

It reinforces the fact that people are our greatest resource. We work together to fulfill the vision of our two founders, Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Their vision was that Opus One would be a classic red wine made from Bordeaux varieties, a wine shared with friends and family, and a place where people are stewards and leave Opus One better than they found it.

David Pearson, the former Opus One CEO, asked me in 2005, “What will we answer when our grandchildren ask, ‘What did you do to protect the planet from climate change?’”

Fast forward to the arrival of Chris Lynch, Opus One CEO, in 2020 and a focused effort to do our part to develop a “greenprint” for the planet. In early 2021 every Opus One employee participated in the creation of our 2030 Vision, an extension of our founders’ vision. There are five pillars, one of which is global sustainability. It has become our obsession. 

We have consistently looked for ways to save energy and water and minimize our carbon footprint. In 2001 we reduced irrigation volumes by 40 percent compared to past practices. We imposed very simple rules in the cellar, for example: push-broom solids, shovel solids, rinse and squeegee. Do not push solids with water! We stopped watering our one-acre grass berm and are working with a landscape architect to create a landscape that is more harmonious with Mother Nature. Although our efforts in the winery and vineyard have been validated through certification by Napa Green and Napa Green Vineyard, respectively, we know we are far from the perfect shade of green.

We have taken longer than usual to determine the rootstock, variety, clone, spacing and row orientation in a 12 1/2 acre block of the Napa River Parcel along Highway 29. It will be our blueprint for future plantings. We installed a row orientation trial with three rows per treatment running True North, Magnetic North, and True North plus four different degrees of orientation. 

We observed shading from one row to the next in the late afternoon at the hottest time of the day in early October. At that time of the year, any accessible water is in the deeper soil horizons and leaves are older and less efficient. We called this trial Panel Discussion, as we are debating the best row orientation to use. We will repeat the trial during the 2022 growing season.

In early 2018 we experimented with low smoke burn piles. We had not burned brush, nor used sulfur dust since 2003, because we no longer wanted to contribute to air pollution. However, low smoke burns provided us with the opportunity to create biochar by stopping the fire before the wood turned to ash. Davie Piña of Piña Vineyard Management purchased a Firebox by Air Burners in 2020, and we used it in spring 2020.

The biochar resembles black truffles from Perigord. Since we were burning wood from our To Kalon North vineyard, we named the biochar To Kalon Truffles. The black truffle has a symbiotic relationship with oak trees, facilitating the uptake of water and nutrients to the oak tree in exchange for sugars. Similarly, biochar facilitates the uptake of water and nutrients by the grapevine.

We have been discussing different ways to sequester carbon dioxide the past couple of years with Roger Boulton, UC Davis distinguished professor emeritus. Inspired by the efforts of Diana Snowden and Hailey Trefethen to compress carbon dioxide for reuse in other applications and industries, we will participate in a pilot program with Earthly Labs this vintage.

Earthly Labs can create dry ice or beverage-grade carbon dioxide. A small bucket of dry ice can be put on the top of a finished fermentation undergoing extended maceration, a technique used to polish rough tannins and increase the perception of concentration of wine post-fermentation as the skins remain in contact with the wine. The dry ice protects the lot from unwanted microbes and oxidation. It is a way to reuse carbon dioxide. Beverage-grade carbon dioxide can be reused by breweries.

It is important to move beyond recycling to reuse. We are exploring ways to remove labels from bottles used to serve guests. The bottles can be washed and refilled with a future vintage of wine.

But let’s be realistic — it is difficult to get folks to put items for recycling in the blue bin, food and materials in the compost bin, and waste in the trash bin. All too often people will contaminate the recycling bin with soiled materials, rendering plastic and aluminum cans unsuitable for recycling.

As Roger Boulton said to me at the Climate Change Leadership Summit in Porto, Portugal in 2019, “Until people wake up in the middle of the night thinking about climate change, nothing will be done to reverse it.”

It is time we woke up in the middle of the night.

Actions you can take

• Follow the countywide Climate Action Committee meetings to learn what’s on their agenda, or attend a city council or county supervisor meeting to let your voice be heard.

• Attend a Zoom forum for Board of Supervisor Candidates on April 14 at 6:30 p.m. hosted by Napa Climate NOW! and the Napa Housing Coalition. Hear how candidates will work on climate and housing issues. Register for the forum at napa.350bayarea.org/events.

Michael Silacci serves as president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and serves on the Napa County Housing Commission. He recently began his 22nd  year as winemaker at Opus One in Oakville.

Napa Climate NOW! is a local non-profit citizens’ group advocating for smart climate solutions based on the latest climate science, part of 350 Bay Area. Like, comment, and share our daily Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts @napaclimatenow or visit us at: http://napa.350bayarea.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.​

A live check in with @abrittain & @reyeswine.mw!
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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 napagreen.org. 

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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