Apr. 27th, 2012

Eco-Committed | 8 Ways Napa Valley is Raising the Bar

Over the past few years, the practice of sustainability has evolved from a noble concept to a full-on movement in the Napa Valley. Here are just some of the ways businesses in this leading wine region are stepping up their eco-commitment—improving wine quality and the way we all live.

1. The Napa Green Program

Developed by the Napa Valley Vintners as a model independent ecological land use and business practice plan, Napa Green offers two separate programs: Napa Green Certified Land and Napa Green Certified Winery. To become Napa Green, landowners including vintners, voluntarily adopt sustainable agriculture practices designed to enhance the watershed and restore the natural habitat, then undergo a rigorous review; while wineries implement a host of beneficial environmental practices that conserve water and energy, reduce waste, prevent pollution, and minimize their carbon footprint. Currently, around 45,000 total acres (roughly 10 percent of all acreage in Napa County) are enrolled in the program, with more than 19,000 acres certified and several thousand more in the process.

2. The LEED Certification System

Although the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification system is international in scope, it is fervently practiced in the Napa Valley where an increasing number of Napa wineries, hotels, and other businesses are LEED Certified. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED promotes sustainable building and development practices by applying specified rating systems to promote green design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions to a myriad of building projects. LEED assesses water, energy, waste, materials, and site and awards points that determine the property’s level of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, or the ultimate—Platinum.

3. Cork Recycling Program

Cuvaison Estate Winery has become an advocate for recycling natural cork—introducing “Put a Cork in It” boxes at wine events and restaurants across the country. Cork is biodegradable, renewable, energy efficient, sustainable, and 100 percent natural—so it’s ideal for recycling. As Cuvaison spreads the word, it’s collecting as many natural corks as possible and sending them on to Yemm & Hart, a recycling company that converts natural cork into self-sustaining, useful items. The Napa Valley Wine Train and Dominus Estate, are just two of the many area businesses turning its natural corks over to ReCORK America, a natural wine cork recycling program.

4. Eco-Friendly Packaging

Innovative packaging is making great strides in protecting the environment. Ca’Momi Wines has adapted Novembal’s Novatwist closure (made of recyclable materials) for some of its wines, making the sleek-looking bottles 100 percent recyclable. Trinchero Family Estates is using lightweight glass bottles to reduce the amount of fuel needed to transport its wines and reduce its total glass consumption. The region’s only LEED Platinum hotel, Bardessono, was built from salvaged trees. JT Wines’ portfolio includes wine bottled in eco-friendly, easy-to- chill, 100 percent aluminum bottles.

5. Hired “Hands” in the Vineyard

Many Napa Valley wineries are turning to wildlife for what it does naturally. Cakebread Cellars relies on bees to pollinate cover crops and other plants necessary to the vineyard’s eco-health; and raptors to swoop through twice a day when the grapes are ripening, to control unwanted birds. In lieu of pesticides, Artesa Vineyards and Winery and Domaine Carneros (the first certified organic sparkling winery in the United States), invite owls to hang out in owl boxes in their estate vineyards. Besides successfully relying on owls to control rodents in the vineyards, Boeschen Vineyards also uses predatory mites to deter undesirable mites on its vines. Sniffer dogs (trained golden retrievers) are called upon by Honig Vineyard & Winery to detect the female mealybug pheromone on its vines.

6. Solar Power Initiatives

Completely renewable, solar power has become the Napa Valley’s energy resource of choice. Peju’s 720 solar panels cover 10,000 square feet of its winery roof, and support 35 percent of the winery’s energy. Installed five years ago, the system has already paid for itself. Keenan Winery’s 41-kilowatt solar power system provides 100 percent of the winery and vineyard’s electrical needs and its labels now read “Solar Powered and Sustainably Farmed.” ZD Wines runs exclusively on solar power, and provides enough power to light 1,238 lightbulbs each year.

7. Creek Restoration Projects

Creek restoration regains ecological balance and protects a vineyard’s natural resources. Spottswoode Estate spearheaded an effort to restore the banks and bottom of Spring Creek, which runs along its border, with woven willow walls and rock weirs. Buena Vista, Domaine Chandon, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Sterling Vineyards joined forces to protect endangered California freshwater shrimp in Huichica Creek by restoring its riparian habitat with new vegetation and alternative farming systems. V. Sattui Winery is also involved in a cooperative effort to protect Carneros Creek, a home to steelhead trout.

8. Water Conservation

Bouchaine Vineyards is practicing a method similar to dry farming to enhance flavors and reduce water consumption, using less than 10 percent of the usual amount used to irrigate its vines. Stags’ Leap uses treated wastewater from the nearby town of Yountville and waters its vines at the roots via drip irrigation, sparing Yountville from dispensing its wastewater into the Napa River.
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