Going Net-Positive: A Sustainable Vineyard

December 28, 2015

Winemaking is a delicate affair that requires the utmost respect for natural processes. The slightest chemical imbalance resulting from micro missteps in growing, harvesting or fermentation, can greatly effect the quality of the final product. To go about the task of creating a fine wine in a sustainable manner, then, is quite a feat.

FetzerPanels

Solar array on Fetzer Vineyards’ administration building

At Fetzer Vineyards, grapes are grown green, even the red ones. In 1999 Fetzer became the first winery in California to operate on 100% renewable energy. And, with 75,000 square feet of solar paneling, they have been producing 80% of that renewable energy themselves since 2006. They are the largest producer of CCOF* certified organic wine grapes and have accomplished Zero Waste certification through composting, recycling and coordinated efforts with vendors to prevent waste creation.

5. Sheep in Vineyards

Sheep graze on all of Fetzer Vineyards’ 960 acres of organic vineyards each year to manage weeds, cut cover crops and enhance soil health

The vineyard has been reaching to the highest standards in grape growing since their first vintage wine in 1968. They have been committed to transparency, as well, and were the first winery to report their greenhouse gas emissions in the Climate Registry in 2005.

All this work has earned Fetzer Vineyards B Corporation status. But their goal is not just net-zero impact, it is net-positive. By using regenerative planting and harvesting practices, rather than pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, the vineyards are cultivated to support surrounding ecosystems and enhance biodiversity.

Fetzer’s Director of Regenerative Development, Josh Prigge, credits much of the organization’s success to its employees. In an interview with the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance he noted that it was the employees who suggested waste audits for each department in the winery, and who came up with the idea to sell yeast residue, called lees, rather than put it into the waste stream. In a win for environmentalism, the sale of lees earned Feltzer Vineyards $48,000 in 2014.

2. Employee Garden

The Fetzer Employee Garden, where more than 30 Fetzer employees grow their own food

The efforts of the Fetzer Vineyward team have also won them the first Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Award for their accomplishments regarding environmental soundness, social equity and economic viability. If you’re turning grape juice to wine, this sustainable vineyard is a great model for success.

-Aidan Kelly

Photo/Interview Credit: Fetzer Vineyards

* California Certified Organic Farmers https://www.ccof.org/ccof

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