The Greening of California Wine Country
July 17, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO – Consumers consider a number of things in purchasing wine such as occasion, taste, color, varietal/type, price, familiarity, recommendation from a trusted source, and whether it matches what they are eating. Add to this mix the demand for products with environmental and social attributes. Research indicates that this is an important consideration for a significant segment of the consuming public.

According to a Roper-Starch Green Gauge report, 46 percent of the population is concerned about the environment and would purchase “green” products over others if it didn’t require much effort.1 Other research from the Natural Marketing Institute2 says that just over “70 percent of consumers indicate that knowing a company is mindful of their impact on the environment and society makes them more likely to buy their products or services, and 50 percent state it makes them more likely to buy their stock.” It is no small surprise that increasing numbers of businesses are building sustainability into their company philosophies and producing products that appeal to “green buying” customers.

Responding to the growing environmental preferences of consumers, California’s vintners and winegrowers joined together in 2002 to introduce a statewide Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices – a best management practices guide and self- evaluation tool that covers all aspects of winegrape growing and winemaking from the ground to the glass. The Code includes methods for reducing water and energy use, minimizing pesticide use, building healthy soil, protecting air and water quality, recycling natural resources, preserving surrounding habitat, assuring the well-being of employees, communicating with neighbors about vineyard and winery operations, and more.

To date, more than 1,700 California vintners and growers have evaluated their operations to expand their sustainable practices, representing 65% of California’s wine production and 70% of its acreage. The effort is the first time an entire industry sector has scientifically documented their level of sustainability, and numerous awards have been given to the program, including the GEELA award, the Governor’s top environmental recognition. See www.sustainablewinegrowing.org for the California wine community’s 2009 Sustainability Report Progress Report, which documents this statewide initiative.

Nothing illustrates the California wine community’s commitment to being a global leader in sustainability better than the many on-the-ground examples from the state’s diverse winegrowing regions.

LAKE COUNTY

Diverse and beautiful rural landscapes surround the Lake County winegrowers in the North Coast. The area’s cool mountain climate is unfavorable to many pests and diseases that trouble other growing regions. This natural advantage has helped reinforce the commitment of winegrape growers to preserve the land and other natural resources. Lake County winegrowers were among the first to embrace the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices when it was introduced in 2002, and over 70 percent of the growers have participated in sustainability workshops. The county’s winegrowers continue to support a year-round education program to expand sustainable winegrowing and other high quality wine production methods.

Several of Lake County’s wineries are building a sustainable future. Cougar’s Leap Winery has built its facility entirely off the power grid, using photovoltaic and ground source cooling to power the winery. Six Sigma Winery donated a conservation easement when it originally acquired the property and established vineyards integrated with native vegetation and wildlife corridors to preserve natural habitat for deer, bobcat, and other animals that grace the area.

LODI

Wine consumers will be able to express their support of sustainability when California’s first set of certified sustainable-grown wines reach the market. The “Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing” is an innovative program building upon Lodi’s long-standing leadership in environmentally friendly farming. Participating growers believe the program will lead to higher quality wines from the Lodi appellation. In the first year, 2005, 1,400 acres were certified under the program, and more acres have continued to be certified and audited. “Lodi Rules” wines will be distinguished by the red “Lodi Rules” logo on the label.

NAPA VALLEY

Over the past few years, Napa Valley vintners and growers have worked together to develop a voluntary program called Napa Green, which enhances the watershed and restores habitat through a comprehensive set of sustainable agriculture practices. Currently there are 45,000 acres enrolled in the program, which looks at not only vineyard or farmed land, but also the roads, buildings, stream set-backs and non-farmed land of the grower/farmer. This year the program is being expanded to develop a code of sustainable and green practices for use throughout the winemaking process. The Code will help demonstrate to regulators, distributors and consumers that certified wineries are implementing sustainable practices and protecting the environmental quality of the Napa Valley region.

There are about 60 Napa Valley wineries, ranging from large to small vineyards, currently participating in the program, including Beringer Vineyards, Saintsbury, Peju Province, Trinchero Family Estates and Larkmead Vineyards.

PASO ROBLES

Paso Robles Wine Country, located along California’s Central Coast, has many leading examples of sustainable farming programs. Visitors can find certified organic vineyards at Tablas Creek, solar energy panels at L’Aventure, and use of biodiesel fuel at Halter Ranch Vineyard. Pipestone Vineyards established and manages its organic vineyards using principles of feng shui. Native grasses, wild sage and rosemary flourish between vine rows at Adelaida Cellars. Robert Hall Vineyards uses aggressive deficit irrigation practices in the vineyards to conserve water and develop concentrated flavor and color in the wines. Five Rivers Winery uses several environmental practices, including energy efficient tanks that handle both heating and cooling, recycled building materials and rocks from local quarries, and a night air-cooling system to minimize cooling costs. These are

just a few of the methods that have become a way of life for the region’s sustainable farming vision in Paso Robles.

SONOMA COUNTY

Sonoma County is among the leaders in sustainable winegrowing. As a longtime agricultural region, the county has a close connection to the land and a long history of environmental stewardship. Nearly 400 Sonoma County wineries and grapegrowers participate in the statewide Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices, a voluntary self- assessment designed to ensure proper care of the land. Pesticide use in Sonoma County has decreased every year since 1997, while grape acreage during that period has increased by more than 50 percent! Numerous wineries, such as Quivira, Peter Michael Winery, Davis Bynum and Benziger Family Winery, use a combination of integrated pest management, soil and water conservation, fish-friendly farming and other environmental practices to guarantee that Sonoma County’s land and vineyards will remain healthy and sustainable now and far into the future.