The Low Down On Green Living
July 28th, 2009
It’s still summer, the perfect time to picnic, enjoy the wonderful weather, your homegrown tomatoes and a sustainable wine. Wineries are getting back to their roots as well as adding some new technology to produce not only fantastic wines, but in a way that reduces their carbon footprint and environmental impact. California wines are dominating the sustainable wine business and they are employing a lot of techniques to do so, and it’s not just about producing an organic or biodynamic wine. There’s a growing list of participants in the Sustainable Wine Growing Program and you’ll be pleased to find that some of your favorites are on that list. As you might suspect, not only do sustainable growing and business practices save the wineries money, but they’re also producing great wines.
Mendocino Wine Co in Ukiah, CA is a personal favorite with a huge quiver of great wines. They are a well-rounded example of what all vineyards should be shooting for - carbon neutrality, renewable energy, organic grapes, and more. Their Parducci label of wines is their green poster child and is the Nation’s first carbon neutral winery. The locally owned winery operates under the mission of: respect for the environment, sustaining community and family, and a creative approach to business. They’ve achieved carbon neutrality through a combination of solar power and carbon offsets. Their solar system provides 25% of all their energy needs, with plans to add more panels, and the offset the rest of their emissions with 3 Phases Energy, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Native Energy.
On top of their carbon neutrality, the locally owned winery sources their grapes from local families. Ninety percent of their grapes come from within 12 miles of the winery. Sourcing from local families not only boosts the local economy, but also helps produce better wine. These local farmers all work in conjunction with each other and the winery to produce a quality product. Parducci is also reducing their impact through environmentally friendly packaging and printing. Their stationary, labels, brochures and packaging are printed on 100% recycled post-consumer paper from New Leaf and tree-free paper from Kenaf. The winery is also on track to produce a more sustainable grape without the use of chemicals, which are either organic or biodynamic.
Honig Vineyard & Winery, based in Rutherford, CA, is another sustainable winery that uses both natural and more modern techniques to produce a sustainable wine. Their use of solar power is quite impressive and and will save the winery $42,000 a year through the energy it produces. Honig’s ‘Electricity Farm’ consists of 819 Sanyo 200-watt modules that are mounted on the ground and generate plenty of power for the winery, including cooling and bottling. The expense for the solar system was really an investment in themselves. Coupled with tax credits and credits from PG&E, the company will pay off the system in 10 years. As Michael Honig, owner of of the winery & vineyard says, “We used to rent our power. Now we’re on our way to owning it.”
Honig also employs natural and sustainable growing techniques to eliminate the use of chemicals and pesticides. They’ve pumped up the use of natural bug fighting machines like birds and bats by installing hawk perches, barn owl boxes, blue bird boxes, and bat boxes. The birds have become an integral part of the vineyard because they eat a ton of insects and eliminate the need for other toxic alternatives. Honig also employs Sniffer Dogs, which are trained golden retrievers that detect the mealybug, an invasive species that first appeared in Southern California a decade ago. Honig has ambitious plans to be one of the greenest wineries in the world and is well on their way to achieving that.
DeLoach Vineyards, in Santa Rosa, is a certified organic winery also known for its biodynamic wines. They achieved organic certification in 2008 by the California Certified Organic Farmers and are on their way to converting their 17 acres of the vineyard to biodynamic. This involves the use of cover crops, the application of biodynamic specific preparations and composts, and the maintenance of biodiversity within the estate. On the vineyard, they have chickens, koi fish, a thriving bee hive, and a diverse vegetable and herb garden that includes the medicinal plants for use in compost preparations such as yarrow, chamomile and dandelion.
DeLoach also owns and distributes French Rabbit wines, which are sold in Tetra Pak containers and imported into the US from France. Since 70% of the cost of wine is the production, bottle, and shipping, it saves to reduce those costs, which is why wineries like DeLoach are using Tetra Pak containers. Lisa Heisinger, the GM of DeLoach, says “It takes 28 more trucks to deliver the same volume of bottled wine as it does wine packaged in Tetra Pak.” Cost reduction is a huge benefit, but also the reduction of carbon emissions associated with producing and delivering the wine. Some wine enthusiasts are wary of the light-weight packaging, but in reality Tetra Pak containers don’t affect the quality of the wine at all - in fact they minimize bottle failure that occurs in 1-3 percent of wines with cork bottle stoppers. While Tetra Pak containers are not widely recycled here in the US, more and more recyclers are taking them; read here to learn how.
More and more wineries are improving their sustainability practices out of respect for the environment as well as good business practices. We all know that sustainability is not only a way to reduce our environmental impact but also a way to help sustain and grow a business. Check out this list of including participants in the Sustainable Wine Growing Program and see if your favorite winery is included.
With credit to Greenbiz.com
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