As we celebrate Earth Day we need to remember that sustainable winegrowing is important to winemakers and vineyards throughout California. The Wine Institute has developed their sustainable winegrowing program and region after region have incorporated this program into their practices.
On April 20 the California Green Medal: Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Awards were announced and recipients were honored at a lunch reception and ceremony in Sacramento. The California Green Medal, developed to showcase leading wineries and vineyards committed to sustainability, is presented by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, the California Association of Winegrape Growers, Wine Institute, Lodi Winegrape Commission, Napa Valley Vintners, Sonoma County Winegrowers and The Vineyard Team. Many association partners also helped to promote the awards which were selected by a panel of wine and sustainability experts.
Awardees of the four 2016 Green Medals are:
The Leader Award is given to the vineyard or winery that excels in all “3 E’s” of Sustainability—Environmentally sound, socially Equitable and Economically viable. The winner, Jackson Family Wines, has been a sustainability innovator and an early adopter of healthy land management practices since the winery’s founding in 1982, with more recent actions guided by a company-wide sustainability strategy and a comprehensive audit of environmental impacts in 2008. Incorporating triple bottom-line sustainability principles across all aspects of their business, the company deployed solar arrays at eight wineries and collaborated with Tesla to reduce energy demand and increase grid reliability, utilized industry-first water conservation technologies, introduced human resource initiatives to improve employees’ well-being, paid a price premium for certified sustainable winegrapes and led voluntary drought initiatives.
The Environment Award is given to the vineyard or winery that best demonstrates Environmental Stewardship through maximized environmental benefits from implementing sustainable practices. The winner is Halter Ranch Vineyard. The environmental stewardship commitment by Halter Ranch Vineyard owner Hansjörg Wyss is demonstrated by the decision to preserve 1,700 acres of the Halter Ranch property with 18% planted to vineyards that work in harmony with the undeveloped acres to provide habitat, wildlife corridors and biodiversity. The winery also works with the Wyss Foundation to help local communities and partners conserve millions of acres. Halter Ranch conserves water, resulting in over a 50% reduction in irrigation; captures rain and winery water bringing over two million gallons back to irrigation ponds; and farms 281 acres of vines without removing oak trees or displacing existing wildlife and plant life.
The Community Award is given to the vineyard or winery that is a Good Neighbor & Employer using the most innovative practices that enhance relations with employees, neighbors and/or communities. The winner is Tablas Creek Vineyard. Since its establishment in 1989, Tablas Creek has been a trendsetter for its wine region, actively involved in the Paso Robles community through the local winery association and by hosting workshops to share sustainability practices. The winery has partnered with organizations such as charities, the local animal shelter, arts and youth sports organizations and has donated more than $100,000 to support local youth and arts programs since 2002. Tablas Creek promotes productivity and job satisfaction by compensating employees with fully funded medical, dental and vision benefits, employer-matching 401k plans, educational support, wine shares and annual profit-sharing bonuses to both part-time and full-time employees. The staff is encouraged to continue education.
The Business Award is given to the vineyard or winery that best demonstrates Smart Business through efficiencies, cost savings and innovation from implementing sustainable practices. The winner is McManis Family Vineyards. With a focus on constant improvement of practices and adoption of the latest farming and winemaking technologies, McManis Family Vineyards’ water use efficiency measures in the vineyard include the use of soil moisture sensors, flow meters and distribution uniformity tests; while their winery recycles water and averages one gallon of water to produce one gallon of wine. Sustainable practices have also decreased energy use, diesel use and tractor work and limited the impact on soil. Making sustainability a core part of their business strategy has not only benefited the environment, surrounding community and employee retention, but has streamlined processes in the vineyard, winery and office, resulting in economic gains that help ensure a thriving business for future generations.
"The awards program provides an exciting opportunity for California growers and vintners to be recognized for their hard work and dedication to sustainability," said Allison Jordan, CSWA Executive Director. “The challenge was selecting four winners from the stellar applications we received from vineyards and wineries of all sizes from throughout California. The committee and judging panel were impressed by the breadth and depth of sustainable practices being used to conserve water and energy, maintain healthy soil, protect air and water quality, preserve wildlife habitat, and enhance relations with employees and communities, all while improving the economic vitality of vineyards and wineries.”
The second annual California Green Medal was judged by a panel of wine and sustainability experts. They include: Karen Block, Industrial Relations Manager, Viticulture & Enology, UC Davis; Hunter Francis, Director/Founder, Center for Sustainability in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; Allison Jordan, Executive Director, California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance; Camron King, President, Lodi Winegrape Commission; Karissa Kruse, President, Sonoma County Winegrowers; Kelli McCune, Senior Project Manager, Sustainable Conservation; Michelle Novi, Industry Relations Manager, Napa Valley Vintners; Cyril Penn, Editor in Chief, Wine Business Monthly; and Beth Vukmanic Lopez, SIP Certification Manager, The Vineyard Team.
Exclusive Media Sponsor – Wine Business Monthly
Platinum Sponsor – Nomacorc
Silver Sponsors – CC Wine Caves, Farm Credit Alliance, Marin Clean Energy, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, SureHarvest
Bronze Sponsor – Ag Unlimited, Preserva Products, Ltd.
Partnering organizations include the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association, California Green Business Program, Fish Friendly Farming, Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, Napa County Resource Conservation District, Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, Russian River Valley Winegrowers, Temecula Valley Winegrowers, and Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley.
For more information: http://www.greenmedal.org
Accepting the 2016 California Green Medal Awards were: (L-R) Lucas Pope of Halter Ranch Vineyard; Katie Jackson of Jackson Family Wines; Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard; and Dirk Heuvel of McManis Family Vineyards