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.​

Napa Green & Premiere Napa Valley 💚

Thank you for creating such a beautiful event @wheelerfarmswinery! 

Incredible offerings from Napa Green Certified wineries @aowinery, @chandonusa, @grgichhills, @inglenook1879, @rombauervineyards, @spottswoodewinery, @trefethenfamily, @troisnoixwine & @stsupery!! 

Cheers to @premierenapa!
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The whole team is here and some amazing friends are joining us like @spottswoodewinery, @accendocellars, @aowinery, @stsupery, @rombauervineyards, @chandonusa, @troisnoixwine, @trefethenfamily, @matthiasson_wine & @grgichhills! 

Our first @premierenapa event kicks off at 4pm today at @wheelerfarmswinery!! 🍷🎉
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Grazing in the vineyards with a big assist from Cup the Sheep Dog! 

We’ll see you at our event in partnership with @napa_valley_grapegrowers on Feb 27th at @thecastello! Link in bio for registration. 

#welovedogs #sheepdog #sheepfarming #grazing #vineyards #napa #napavalley #regenerativeagriculture #soilhealthmatters
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Sign up for the Grazing Workshop on Tuesday, Feb 27th at @thecastello at the link in our profile. 

@napa_valley_grapegrowers @perennialgrazing
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Add the Napa Green logo to your back label! 

Find the link in our profile or email megan@napagreen.org. Happy bottling season!
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Not just talking the talk but walking the walk is very important to us. One way we do that is by providing our members with as many tools and resources as possible. Here’s what’s coming up: 

1. Weed Management Equipment & Tools for herbicide-free farming - Thurs, Feb 15th at @inglenook1879 at 9:00am. 

2. Napa Green Premiere Open House for the Wine Trade - Thurs, Feb 22nd at @wheelerfarmswinery at 4:00pm. 

3. California Small Farms Conference - Thurs, Feb 25th with @mimicasteel & Ben Mackie at 3:00pm. 

4. Grazing for Vineyard Health & Fire Resilience - Tues, Feb 27th at @thecastello at 9:00am. 

Find all details and registration on napagreen.org under the Connect with Us tab or just head to the link in our profile. We’ll see you all soon.
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📣 February Events! 

www.napagreen.org ➡️ Connect with us ➡️ Events & Workshops! 

Or head the link in our profile to find it all & how to register with one click. See you all at an event soon.
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Join us for a Grazing for Vineyard Health & Fire Resilience Field Day in partnership with @napa_valley_grapegrowers. During this February 27th event we’ll discuss ways to best utilize sheep in the vineyard and employ grazing animals for woodland management, addressing both fire fuel reduction and post fire recovery. Don’t miss this opportunity to delve into regenerative practices for your vineyard and beyond! 

Find the link in our profile to register.

📸: @sarahannerisk
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History, sustainability & fine wine at Napa Green Certified @schramsberg! 🥂

#wine #sparklingwine #schramsberg #napa #napavalley #winecave #winecollector #winelover #sustainability #organicvineyard
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🍷Wine Trade! Register for our Premiere Napa Valley event on Feb 22nd at the link in our profile!🍷
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Apply for a grant! Applications can be found at the link in our bio. 

#sustainability #climateaction #winebusiness #wineindustry #napa #napavalley #grantapplications #napawinery
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📣 Announcing our first ever NVV Premiere Event! 📣

Thursday, Feb 22nd from 4pm-6pm at @wheelerfarmswinery. Register at the link in our profile!
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Providing resources, tools and education for our members is core to what we do. Come see us at a February event! 

Register at the link in our profile. We’ll see you there!
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Weed Management Event at @inglenook1879 on Thursday, Feb 15th from 9:00am - 12:00pm. Link in profile to register. 

Por favor, mira hasta el final para ver el mensaje en español.
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Save these dates! 3 great events coming your way in February. 

Find info and registration at the link in our bio or at our website: napagreen.org under Connect with us - Events & Workshops!
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