The snow-covered Dunn Vineyards winery on Howell Mountain northeast of St. Helena in February 2023.
Courtesy of Randy Dunn

Water use still major concern, despite historic rainfall

ST. HELENA — While the recent atmospheric rivers may have brought some relief to drought-ridden California, a leading water expert explained why the months of deluge will not alleviate the larger groundwater depletion in the state.

The 2023 Napa RISE Climate and Wine Symposium, hosted by the nonprofit Napa Green, kicked off Wednesday. Six days of events will take place during April at Charles Krug Winery with a series of discussions from environmental leaders and industry experts and professionals to discuss the sustainability efforts in Napa Valley.

Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist and global futures professor at Arizona State University and former senior water scientist at NASA’s jet propulsion lab, spoke about California’s groundwater use and warned wine industry representatives in attendance that just because the state looks to be moving out of drought territory, groundwater conservation should still be a priority.

Famiglietti develops computer models and uses satellites to track the changes of freshwater availability on the planet. He has focused his decades of research on groundwater depletion.

Right now, he said Napa Valley is doing “quite well.” But he warned that the wet period is “only temporary,” and wet periods in California are almost always followed by long dry periods, which lead to water scarcity.

“It’s the fact that we use more water than we have available on an annual renewable basis,” said Famiglietti.

A key to solving this problem, he said, is finding solutions to increase water storage in surface water reservoirs like rivers and lakes, and aquifer recharge, which is a natural or manmade process of replenishing groundwater.

While Famiglietti said he hopes the state-mandated plans will lead California toward a path of overall water sustainability, he said he is hopeful that the industry will also work to find innovative ways to reduce groundwater use. Napa County’s 20-year plan to manage the local subbasin that sustains homes, the environment and Napa’s famed wineries and vineyards was approved in January.

“I look to industry because they can act independently,” he said. “Wineries are intergenerational. Groundwater is intergenerational. That’s a mutual interest right there.”

Earlier in the morning, British wine writer and Master of Wine Jancis Robinson gave stressed the importance of sustainable industry practices, not just for environmental and economical reasons, but also as a path to opening up the world of wine to younger consumers, who tend to be environmentally conscious.

Robinson noted that current packaging, production and transportation of glass bottles account for 40% of winery carbon emissions, and offered ideas for the industry to reduce its carbon footprint, by opting to use sustainable and lighter-weight bottles and packaging to ship inventory.

“It really is high time that we break the connection between heavy glass and wine quality, which we know is completely spurious — there is absolutely no connection between heavy glass and wine quality,” she said.

She noted that Napa wineries have a great opportunity to share this information.

“In Napa, you have a brilliant opportunity to speak to consumers — and quite well-heeled consumers at that — who might be the ones who might be tempted to be buying the heavy bottles in your tasting rooms,” Robinson said. “You have thousands of influencers, opinion-formers coming into the valley every year.”

Representatives from many other wineries spoke about their efforts to increase sustainability at their respective wineries, and about successful strategies they have implemented. Representatives included Peter Mondavi of Charles Krug, Remi Cohen and Stacey Ellis from Domaine Carneros, Emily Kern of Treasury Wine Estates, Erica Löfving formerly of Vintage Wine Estates, Matt Crafton of Chateau Montelena Winery, and Jason Moulton of Whitehall Lane Winery.

Napa Green Executive Director Anna Brittain said her group is doing this “because of just how truly dedicated we are to accelerating sustainability of climate action in the wine industry.”

“What we do here gets noticed and inspires broader global change, and the onus is on us to take advantage of that,” she said.

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.​

Seeking third party auditors! Email sierra@napagreen.org for full details!
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Have you been to Napa Green Certified @boeschenvineyards yet?
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Team Green outing today at the stunning @boeschenvineyards as we celebrate big things that we can’t wait to share with you! 🌿
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One of the main resistances to phasing out glyphosate is increased labor and equipment costs. However, the costs of herbicides and fertilizers have risen dramatically, so increased labor demands can be offset by reduced supply chain purchases. 

In addition, leaders like Grgich Hills Estate have shown that regenerative organic farming can be cost-effective. According to an analysis by Brotemarkle Davis & Co. LLP accounting firm, the average annual per acre cost of vineyard management in the Napa Valley is $14,800, with $3,800 in depreciation. At Grgich, they spend $11,000 per acre, with only $1,300 in depreciation due to the longer life of their vineyards. 

Learn from regional leaders about the practical costs, benefits, and ROI of herbicide-free, organic, and regenerative vineyard management.

Confirmed Speakers:
• Ivo Jeramaz, Grgich Hills
• Phil Coturri, Enterprise Vineyard Management & Winery Sixteen 600
• Brad Kurtz, Gloria Ferrer
• Brenae Royal, St. Supery
• Rebekah Wineburg, Quintessa

Register at the link in our bio.
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“Storytelling is key… and sustainability is the most important topic in wine.”

Thank you @elinmccoy for an incredible and insightful conversation with @napagreen members about the stories most likely to capture journalists attention.
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Thank you to all who attended our Future of Water Workshop yesterday at Napa Green Certified @silveroakcellars! 

Stay tuned for more from our luminary speakers @mimicasteel, @todmostero, @petergleick & our own @abrittain.
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Join us for a special roundtable workshop with award-winning journalist Elin McCoy, global wine critic for Bloomberg News and US editor for the podcast The Wine Conversation, with listeners in 95 countries. 

Elin will sit down with a small group of Napa Green members (max 25 guests) and share her insights on the types of stories and pitches most likely to engage the media. In particular, she’ll focus on stories related to sustainable winegrowing, climate action, and social equity. 

Elin will speak and answer questions for about an hour. Then we’ll break into small groups to develop a story pitch, and come back together to present and get Elin’s feedback and input. This is a rare opportunity to get ideas and inspiration from a leading wine journalist. Register at the link in our profile.
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Climate Action & Regenerative Agriculture! Our sixth pillar that encompasses all that we do at Napa Green. 🌼
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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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