Inspiring Eco-Friendly Winemaking Practices

A look at the many ways in which today's wineries are going "green"

Options abound when it comes to "going green" for Earth Day (April 22nd), or any day, for that matter. On the plate, in the kitchen, and of course, in the glass — there is no shortage of opportunities for food-focused "ecophiles" to adopt environmentally friendly practices in their everyday lives. 

It can be something as simple as supporting a "green" business — an endeavor that the winemaking world has made easy to swallow. From California and Oregon to Arizona and New York, the U.S. boasts an outstanding number of top-notch eco-friendly vineyards. Sustainable farming, using renewable energy and packaging, and waste reduction are among the many practices today's wineries have adopted to support the environment. Read on to learn more about some wineries making a positive impact on the world.  


Growing "Greener" Vineyards

How a winery grows and maintains its vineyard is an essential part of its commitment to being eco-friendly. Frog's Leap Winery, in Rutherford, Calif., employs dry farming (a technique used to conserve water) in addition to planting cover crops that give off natural nutrients to promote soil growth.


Natural Weed & Pest Control

When it comes to controlling weeds and pests inherently found on a vineyard, several wineries are looking to "greener" methods for inspiration. Arizona's Kief-Joshua Vineyards lets Baby Doll sheep graze on the vineyards to decrease the use of pesticides and promote biodiversity. They have also placed nesting boxes and birdhouses around the vineyard to patrol for rodents. It's a technique also employed by "green" wine trailblazer Paul Dolan Vineyards, who in another clever innovation, uses the manure from mobile chicken coops as fertilizer.


Waste Not

When it comes to making eco-friendly wine, recycling takes on a whole new meaning. At Napa Valley's Cakebread Cellars everything from the wine bottles, corks, and capsules to the winery's office materials are recycled. But it doesn't stop there — at the top of their priority list is practicing water conservation by monitoring and measuring all of their water sources. Red Tail Ridge Winery, in New York's Finger Lakes, minimizes water waste thanks to drainage tile that facilitates water collection, as well as an on-site irrigation pond.


Sourcing Renewable Energy

Red Tail Ridge's commitment to conservation and energy efficiency also includes a geothermal heating and cooling system that uses the earth's temperature to regulate the winery's fermentation tanks. But there is perhaps no better champion of such conservation practices than Medocino's Fetzer Vineyards. Among its many accomplishments — including reducing its landfill waster by 96% since 1900 — it has the distinction of being the first winery to power its operations solely with renewable energy, from wind and geothermal to one of the industry's largest solar installations.

Eco-Friendly Architecture

Naturally, environmentally conscious practices are often also incorporated into the design of the facilities themselves. Stoller Vineyards can certainly speak to this — the Oregon winery was the first in the U.S. to be named LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold-certified. As can Santa Rita Hills' Alma Rosa, a leader in the eco-friendly winemaking sector for its energy conservation and packaging practices (they use a standard bottle mold to reduce waste), they also boast a winery built using local and recycled materials. Similarly, Napa Valley's Gargiulo Vineyards has an on-site tasting room that was constructed almost entirely from recycled products.


"Green" Packaging

No, not the tinted bottles commonly used for white wines. In an effort to "green" their packaging, California's Benziger Family Winery incorporates several innovations. In addition to using recycled materials to form its lightweight glass bottles (to help reduce the winery's carbon footprint), the wines are sealed using natural cork which is the type of stopper material with the lowest impact. Another California winery, French rabbit, has taken an entirely different approach — forgoing glass bottling entirely. Instead, they have opted to package their wines in eco-friendly Tetra-Prisma cartons which can be recycled to create a variety of new paper products.


What Carbon Footprint?

The awareness and management of one's carbon footprint is integral to the operation of an environmentally friendly winery. Mendocino's Parducci Wine Cellars are certainly proponents of such a philosophy — their achievement in becoming the country's first carbon neutral winery is no doubt a testament to their "everyday is Earth Day" attitude. How did they accomplish such a feat? By reducing the winery's total emissions where possible and then investing in carbon credits with eco-conscious practices — employing natural farming techniques, using renewable energy, and practicing waste reduction, just to name a few.

Click here for all of our Earth Day coverage.

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