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.​

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: 

📖 @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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