We have partnered with Saturas and UC Davis in trialing miniature stem water potential sensors in our vines. These sensors monitor when the vines are showing water stress, and relay the information to a mobile app. Once out of the R&D stage, these sensors will indicate when we need to irrigate our vines, allowing us to potentially reduce our water use and implement “deficit irrigation” more accurately, leading to improvement in fruit quality.
Where Have All the Flowers Gone
Each of our estate vineyards is surrounded by a bevy of roses. We sow insect-friendly cover crops in the vine rows at Georganne. At other sites, like Meredith, we plant mixed flower borders to attract beneficial insects that help with natural pest control.
That's a Tall Drink of Water
The water here at our winery in Sebastopol is extremely pure and delicious. Drawn from a deep well, it is filtered to remove excess iron and magnesium. This allows us to generate ozone in the water used to sanitize our winemaking equipment and even our barrels. Ozone breaks down into C02 and more water -- it's hard to get more natural than that! Next the water is sanitized by ultraviolet light. These steps have allowed us to stop purchasing bottled water. In fact, each of our employees, harvest interns and even shareholders have been issued a refillable, recyclable water bottle .
Put a Cork in It!
We are committed to the use of natural cork. This product is traditionally harvested in a renewable manner, once every seven years. Corks, unlike threaded closures that contain both metal and plastic, are easily recycled. Although plastic corks look solid, they are highly permeable, often accelerating oxidation. Neither of these alternative closures allow for the long-term bottle aging so beneficial to the development of all of our wines.In May 2011, the Sommelier Society of America endorsed natural cork as the preferred closure for wine.
You Light Up My Life
Our entire winery production facility is outfitted with the very efficient high bay style of fluorescent light fixtures. They put out great, even light and conserve about 50% of the power consumed by the standard fluorescent, sodium or metal halide fixtures common to our industry.
Caught in the Act
My husband, Ken, catches gophers the old-fashioned way, by trapping them. This way, no poisons are used that might harm domestic pets or birds of prey. We also enlist the services of barn owls. Nesting boxes at each vineyard provide homes to hungry babies whose parents hunt rodents nightly to feed them. High perches located at key sites attract hawks to help with this endless job.
We are in the midst of a winery expansion project, adding more office and warehouse space along with a new barrel fermentation room dedicated to our growing Sauvignon Blanc production. With the additional roof surface, we now boast a total of 634 photovoltaic panels and our solar capacity has been increased to 142 kilowatts.
A River Runs Through It
During construction of our new winery facility, we were delighted to discover that most of our parking lot could be paved with "permeable" concrete. This porous material allows rainwater to flow naturally into the soil below, replenishing ground water while eliminating excessive runoff and erosion.
Our extended family here at the winery has always been ardent cat lovers. Our outdoor greeter, Chloe, and a troop of rescue felines defend our building perimeter and vineyard. To our delight, they haul in a trophy catch of mice, rats and gophers each day.
It's a Must
All of the green waste we produce in wine production is recycled back into our estate vineyards. Grape stems are used for winter erosion control by forming dams that slow down fast-moving rainwater. Grape skins are composted with our neighbors' mushroom-growing byproduct and applied as a dynamic natural fertilizer.
The Second Time Around
Our vineyard trellis is supported by end posts constructed from upset tubing formerly used as oil well drill pipes. The highway posts we use to support the modern vertical system are made from recycled car bodies. All of this metal will finally rust and return to earth, unlike the creosote-coated wood used in days past.
We're In Hot Water
The Fungus Among Us
Here Comes the Sun!
In July 2010, it was a thrill to fire up our expanded solar system. Our south-facing roof now boasts nearly 600 photovoltaic modules. This new capacity of 131 kW should bring our winery close to 100% solar electric power. We are proud to be part of both the California Solar Initiative and the Federal Renewable Energy Program.
The Ties that Bind
A decade ago, we used green plastic tape to tie the canes to the fruiting wire in our vineyards each season. We then progressed to natural sisal twine for this job. Our most recent upgrade, in 2009, was to convert to the use of fully biodegradable twist ties. An added bonus has been that these are easier for our workers to apply.
Our Feathered Friends
To deter wild birds from damaging precious grapes, our vineyards are fully netted prior to veraison. This natural method prevents access by these critters without harming them. In addition, the clips that hold the netting in place are made from biodegradable cornstarch.
Since 2003, our release mailings have been printed by O'Dell Printing, on Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FSC) mill paper, using soy inks. The FSC designation is a guarantee that our printer follows green practices and the paper we use is produced from sustainable forests, recycled sources or a combination of both.
Hey, Lighten Up!
Beginning with the 2008 vintage of our Sauvignon Blanc, we were able to reduce the weight of this bottle by ten percent. Instead of a heavier French mold, we found a Mexican company that had developed a bottle identical in shape and appearance, but using less glass.