SACRAMENTO – Three wineries and one farming company that went green in recent years went last week to the state Capitol, where lawmakers praised their examples of sustainability for the California wine industry.
In a joint hearing Wednesday of the state Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Wine, the four companies, including two from Napa, were lauded with this year’s Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Awards for their work.
Doling out the awards before the committees, Allison Jordan, executive director of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, praised the companies and the state’s wine industry in general. “The dedication of our industry is truly remarkable,” Jordan said, “especially when you consider we’re the fourth-largest wine growing region in the world (in production).”
Accepting the Leader Award for Bogle Vineyards, winery vice president Ryan Bogle offered, “We always believed we were a green company.” But spurred by market data and suggestions from others in the industry, his family’s company decided a decade ago “to dig in and actually look at our sustainability efforts,” he said.
“One of our proudest achievements has taken place in the vineyards,” Bogle said, where the company has worked with the Lodi Winegrape Commission to implement the LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing, which are some of the most rigorous standards in the state. Today, more than 1,700 acres of the Bogle estate in Clarksburg in Yolo County are certified, he added.
The company also worked with its outside growers, offering a bonus of $25 per ton for grapes grown in vineyards that have also been certified, Bogle said. Since 2010, the company has paid out $2.8 million in such bonuses. “There’s costs associated with becoming certified under these programs,” he admitted. “So that’s not a burden that we wanted to put on our growers by themselves. We know what it costs for us to certify a ton of grapes and so we added that in and it’s just a cost of doing business.”
Chanel-owned St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery in Rutherford took the Environment Award as the winery best showcasing the environmental plusses of going green.
Accepting the award, winemaker Brooke Shenk said, “From the very beginning,” the Rutherford winery has farmed with sustainability in mind, “simply because it’s the right thing to do.”
In the past three years the winery has reduced its water usage by 50 percent, rerouting more than a million gallons of captured rainwater and reusable winery water back into irrigation ponds each year. Its solar panels have saved 923 tons of carbon dioxide, covering 80 percent of its electric bill.
Today, the winery is working to expand its solar generation, Shenk said. This year St. Supéry also introduced 1,800 sheep to its Dollarhide Estate Vineyard to cut back on its mowing.
The winery is a prominent champion for the Napa Green program, which offers participating Napa wineries and vineyards recognition for using sustainable practices. The local industry’s trade association, Napa Valley Vintners, also backs the program, with sights set on having all of its 500-plus member wineries enrolled by 2020. The group reported last year that more than half its members have so far enrolled.
Madelyn Ripken Kolber, director of sustainability and compliance at KG Vineyard Management, which won the Community Award, said that among the company’s efforts it had revamped its safety training matrix, translating everything into Urdu, the primary language used between KG’s foremen and crews.
The Lodi-based company helps growers work toward the same certification Bogle stresses. “We enjoy selling certified fruit to like-minded buyers,” Kolber said. “Economic viability is crucial in supporting our sustainable future.”
Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford went home with the Business Award, accepted by Cynthia Sharp, the winery’s office and green team manager. The award, “confirms we are making a difference in our vineyard and winery,” Sharp said, “and most importantly, helping us preserve the land for generations to come.”
In the past two years, the winery has diverted 92 percent of its waste and added the Napa Green logo to the back labels of its latest wines. Sharp pointed out that the Napa Green program calls for recertification every three years and for participants to bring about green change beyond their own footprints.
For the latter, Cakebread and St. Supéry sought last year to partner with neighbor Opus One on a shuttle for employees coming from Napa. But after a two-week trial period the shuttle was called off due to lack of employee participation.
Closing out the hearing, Jordan offered an optimistic progress report for the industry, noting that today more than 75 percent of California wine is made in certified sustainable wineries, while a third of wine grape acreage is certified under one or another sustainability programs.
“It gets me kind of a knot in my throat,” Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Wine, said to the winners. “Because I’m thinking, my father, who farmed walnuts, would have never thought of all these great things that you are all doing. So I take my hat off to you.”
State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, who co-chairs the Senate select committee with state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, concluded, “It is not easy to farm in California. You have been able to show how to lead the way.”