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By September 2, 2014 1 Comments Read More →

The Demand for Sustainability Resonates with the Wine Industry

Matthew Crafton

Matthew Crafton

Sustainability in vineyard operations and wine making is nothing new. For many wineries it has been an integrated, albeit unspoken, part of their operating philosophies for years, but the growing awareness and demand for sustainability from consumers has created new challenges and opportunities for wineries.

“We’ve noticed that the demand for sustainable solutions has increased substantially over the years and many industry suppliers have stepped up to address that demand with new, innovative solutions,” says George Christie, President of Wine Industry Network. “That’s why we decided to devote one of this year’s educational sessions at our North Coast Wine Industry Expo (NCWIE) to sustainability certification and we’ve put together an expert panel with a broad range of perspectives and experience.”

One of the speakers at NCWIE will be winemaker Matthew Crafton of Chateau Montelena Winery, who oversaw Montelena’s certification with the Napa Green Land Program in 2014 and their Napa Green Certified Winery accreditation in 2010.

“Sustainability practices are good business practices,” says Crafton, “and they’ve been adopted into the Montelena ideology for decades, so it made sense for us to get recognition for our efforts.”

There are many different sustainability certification options for wineries, but at Montelena, they found that the Napa Green program was the best fit for their goals. “We didn’t want a program that was one-size-fits-all,” explains Crafton, “and sometimes the certification guidelines were not very winery specific, but with Napa Green we got to share our experiences, be part of sustainability innovation, and get credit for it.”

Napa Green is a best practices program for sustainable wine-growing and  wine making developed by the Napa Valley Vintners and Grapegrowers in partnership with Fish Friendly Farming, National Marine Fisheries Service and the Napa County Departments of Agriculture and of Environmental Management among others.

Working together and sharing knowledge is part of the wine industry culture, and an important part of the innovation of sustainable practices for Napa Green. “Sometimes industry suppliers contact us with their new products, and we encourage them to work with the wineries to establish strong case studies that we can incorporate into the Napa Green best practices,” says Patsy McGaughy, Communications Director at Napa Vintners.

Napa Green Certified Land has existed for 10 years, and over a third of all Napa vineyards are certified. The Napa Green Certified Winery program was established in 2008 and has 37 certified wineries with 15 more pending certification in the coming months. While the goal is to have as many wineries certified as possible, the rigorousness of the third party certification process limits participation. “The sustainability mindset is there,” says McGaughy, “but it is necessary for the wineries to dedicate staff time to go through the certification process – time that they may not have.”

Despite the extra work, Crafton found his experience with the Napa Green certification process rewarding, “our team members jumped on board and took ownership of projects, and we built strong relationships with vendors as we figured out how to become more efficient.”

NCWIE-Session6_Sustainability

“Sustainable Certification: Newest Techniques and Benefits of Compliance” December 4. 2014, Sonoma County Fairgrounds

Despite the extra work, Crafton found his experience with the Napa Green certification process rewarding, “our team members jumped on board and took ownership of projects, and we built strong relationships with vendors as we figured out how to become more efficient.”

Sustainability efforts not only benefit a winery  by creating efficiencies, but they also provide great branding opportunities. Last year, on direction from their membership, Napa Green launched a logo that certified wineries can use on their labels to show their sustainable values, and several wineries have already put on their bottles.

In addition to Matthew Crafton, the NCWIE seminar on Sustainability Certification will feature Allison Jordan, vice president of environmental affairs at the Wine Institute, John Garn, Founder of ViewCraft, Karissa Kruse, President of Sonoma County Winegrowers, and will be moderated by Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar.

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