This year, Eco News Network had the opportunity of attending the Newport Mansions Food & Wine Festival where we met sustainable winemakers, olive oil producers, caterers, and restaurants from all over the country and the world. We will be highlighting these companies and their products ongoing, so be sure to visit our site daily to learn more and see what fancies your palate.
Alexander Valley Vineyards:
Committed to the Environment for Over 30 Years
A family‐owned and operated winery located in the heart of Sonoma’s Alexander Valley, the vineyard sits on the historic property originally settled in the 19th century by Cyrus Alexander, the valley’s namesake.
Today the vineyard is owned and operated by the fourth generation of the Wetzel family on the property purchased by their grandparents in 1962 from the heirs of Cyrus Alexander. Alexander Valley Vineyards (AVV) is one of only 14 wineries recognized as a certified Sonoma Green Business by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for their green practices. AVV’s vineyard practices were initially recognized by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance in March 2006.
The certification applauds AVV as an environmental leader that conserves resources, minimizes waste, and prevents pollution, according to environmental officials with Sonoma County who reviewed the winery’s achievements for two years before awarding the certification.
Harry Wetzel, assistant winemaker and family partner at AVV credits county leaders with taking steps that make it easier for businesses to improve their environmental practices in Sonoma County. He particularly noted that the county has helped businesses recycle; resulting in a 60 percent reduction in waste from AVV since he was a child growing up on the property.
The certifications and recognition aside though, AVV has been instituting environmental initiatives for over 30 years. Early on, the Wetzel Family composted winery waste, practiced irrigation management and planted cover crops in the vineyards to minimize the use of pesticides and control erosion. Founders Hank and Linda Wetzel’s motto was “Sustainability is about using less and having more.”
In addition to ecologically-sound farming practice the winery is equipped with solar panels and features 25,000 square feed of naturally cooled caves. Harry Wetzel says, “Minimizing our impact on the environment is not only good for us, but it’s healthy for everything around us as well.”
The winery also uses cover crops pennywise including oats, barley, vetch and peas between the rows of vines to counteract erosion and absorb water after storms. Pea flowers also attract good insects, such as ladybugs, which in turn help to control damaging leafhoppers and vetch fixes nitrogen in the soil, adding nutrients and reducing the need for fertilizers according to AVV Vineyard Manager, Mark Houser.
The winery also composts and reuses their pomace, which is the seeds, stems, and skins left after crush as fertilizer. “It’s being a good steward of the land,” Houser says. “If you treat it right, it will be good to you in return.”
And so it has. For 35 years, the Wetzel Family has been producing an array of estate wines that reflect the unique character of the property and the people behind the AVV story. At the recent Newport Mansions Food & Wine Festival, Eco News Network had the opportunity to taste AVV’s 2010 Organic Gewurz, a wine readily available to consumers that has a very pleasant light, fruity, fresh taste.
“When people ask why we would go to all this effort, the reason I most often give is that we live here,” Wetzel adds. “We don’t want to be spraying toxic pesticides, or wasting water and electricity like there is a limitless supply or ruining the land by letting it erode. All of that would defeat the purpose of living in such a wonderful area.”
You can learn more about Alexander Valley Vineyards sustainable wine growing practices at http://www.avvwine.com/.