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Napa Green signs

The Napa Valley Vintners, trade group for the local wine industry, received the state’s highest environmental honor this week for its work turning Napa wineries green.

One of 10 recipients of the 2018 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Awards, the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) were lauded during a ceremony Wednesday night at the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Sacramento. The awards were first given in 1993 to recognize people and groups that have made strides in conservation benefiting California.

Michelle Novi, associate director of industry relations for the NVV, accepted the award alongside NVV President and CEO Linda Reiff and Bruce Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars.

Speaking Thursday, Novi said, “I think what last night kind of showed is that Napa Green really isn’t about what an individual winery is doing, but kind of what we can accomplish when we all work together and when the entire Napa Valley puts its mind to something there can be really meaningful results.”

Begun in the early 2000’s, the Napa Green program is split into two certifications, one land-specific and one tailored to wineries.

For land-use certification, participants create a farming plan based on requirements set by either the Napa County Resource Conservation District or Fish Friendly Farming. Working with either program partner, land owners’ plans are audited and certified once all requirements are met. Participants must then recertify every five years.

Winery owners follow a similar path with third-party auditing to see their facilities meet certain sustainability benchmarks to qualify for Napa Green. For wineries, recertification is required every three years.

According to Novi, 70 percent of the NVV’s eligible members currently participate in the program somehow. So far 46 members have been certified in both the winery and land-use programs.

Of Napa’s 45,000 vineyard acres, more than half are today certified through Napa Green. However, the land program extends beyond vineyards to include entire parcels, bringing the total certified acreage in Napa County to more than 80,000.

So far, at least 80 wineries have been Napa Green certified, making up a significant chunk of winery sustainability efforts statewide. “There are other certification programs, which we think are fantastic,” Novi said. “But I think it’s just kind of meaningful to know that out of all the wineries that are participating in some kind of certification program throughout the state, Napa Green accounts for 40 percent of that.”

Interest continues to grow, Novi added, with more wineries reaching out to enroll. The NVV has ambitions of 100 percent participation from all of its eligible members by the end of 2020.

Standing in the way for many of those remaining is an issue of size. “A lot of these wineries are pretty small and you have a small staff. Everybody kind of has to be a jack-of-all-trades and sometimes there just isn’t the bandwidth,” Novi said.

But, she noted, the NVV has brought on additional resources for members that need extra support to reach certification. “So there’s really no reason why a winery couldn’t become certified. We have someone on staff to help through every step of the process.”

Thus far, the group remains confident about hitting its 2020 goal, Novi said. “It would be fantastic to be able to say that the Napa Valley is one of, if not the, greenest wine regions in the world.”

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Wine Reporter / Copy Editor

Henry Lutz covers the local wine industry. He has been a reporter and copy editor for the Register since 2016.