As Colors Change, Keep Your Wine Green
Fall isn't the only season that'll arrive shortly — the other is harvest season, that oh-so-sweet time of the year when winemakers collect the grapes that they'll ferment to make everyone's favorite alcoholic beverage. As crush parties fill wineries throughout wine hotspots like Napa Valley, make sure to use some caution, because driving home a little tipsy isn't the only activity you should avoid at all costs. Not all vineyards abide by the same eco-standards, meaning that purchasing some wines might amount to supporting businesses unconcerned with the environment. Do some basic research whenever you purchase wine to avoid this problem, but in the meantime check out some of these top-notch eco-friendly wineries — and if you're looking for more wine advice, peruse Sierra magazine's guide to sustainable wines.
Frei Brothers Reserve, Healdsburg, Calif.
Frei Brothers produces its wine in three California locations: the Russian River Valley, the Alexander Valley, and the Dry Creek Valley. The winegrowers at Frei Brothers pride themselves on their environmental awareness, making it a central tenet of their business's philosophy. For every acre of land Frei Brothers uses to grow grapes, it designates an acre to be used as a wildlife habitat. The winery is also extremely efficient when it comes to water, capturing rainwater and reusing 80% of wastewater. Plus, when Frei Brothers had to expand, it transplanted 13 redwood trees rather than having them cut down.
Wrath Wines, Soledad, Calif.
You're skeptical about the eco-friendliness of a winery named Wrath Wines. That's fine — but take a look at their credentials. Located in Monterey Country, Wrath grows a variety of wines at its different vineyards. Nothing too unique, except that Wrath's viticultural assistant is Steve McIntyre, one of the founders of SIP. SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified wines go above and beyond USDA Organic certification guidelines, ensuring everything from fruit quality to water and energy conservation to community engagement. A wine coming from a SIP Certified winery is as eco-friendly as it gets, and Wrath is overseen by the man who founded SIP himself. Sounds like a slam dunk.
Hahn Family Wines, Soledad, Calif.
Hahn is another SIP Certified winery with a strong environmental resume. Hahn respects animal life to an extent that most wineries don't, allowing beneficial insects like lady bugs and beetles to enrich their vineyards while ensuring that no animal products are used in wine production. That's right: Although not all wines are vegan, Hahn's are. When tending to crops, Hahn also is on top of its game. The winery uses legumes in its mulches to improve soil nitrogen levels, opts for Stylet oils rather than sulfur when pesticides are necessary, and uses water pumps that efficiently control water while using UV light treatment to purify the water. Hahn also believes social equity is a part of the environmental puzzle, and accordingly provides workers with fair wages and full benefits.
Castoro Cellars, Templeton, Calif.
Castoro Cellars is heavily involved with the Central Coast Vineyard Team, which seeks to find farming methods that are environmentally safe, economically positive, and viticulturally sustainable, while improving the quality of grapes. One interesting technique Castoro Cellars uses to minimize weeds and fertilize crops is the use of pomace, the residue from semi-composted grape skins. The vineyard also releases predatory insects in order to curb the use of pesticides. Also SIP Certified, Castoro seeks to find the intersection between green winemaking processes and the production of quality wines.
--Image by iStockphoto/ChiyacatEric Brown is an editorial intern at Sierra. An Eagle Scout who has hiked in Denali National Park and kayaked down the Snake River, Eric thinks the world is worth saving, even if it has given him his fair share of sunburns. In the fall, he will be a senior at Northwestern University's Medill School, where he enjoys writing about music and editing for North by Northwestern.