Saturday, August 11, 2012

Trolling for a Vibrant Future

Ecological Innovators  in the Wine Industry

“We started out with a goal, and every hurdle was an opportunity to find a creative solution." Greg Allen, winemaker, President of Dolce late-harvest wines.  Far Niente solar pontoon & land displays can output  477 KW at peak hours

In 2012 each of us and all of us together face an energy crisis: not enough fossil fuels, too much CO2 and other pollutants, territoriality of resources, disputes or pipelines crossing national boundaries, and relegation of ecosystem vibrancy and expectation of future top quality life conditions to back burners, while profit and development run away with our treasures.

 A persistent theme for all posts for this site is that in a crisis such as the one we confront now, no one can claim to be an innocent bystander, or in a closet creating insights, or helpless or in search of a narrow domain-defined excellence while the world runs downhill. Each of us needs to carefully consider ecological responsibilities and capabilities and opportunities.  In 2010, according to  the California Wine Institute, there were 3,364 wineries in California and 7,826 wineries in the US.

Reports differ regarding the global impact of the wine industry on the environment, but if we take one example and multiply, we can see that each winery impacts the total significantly. Rodney Strong Vineyards calculated that six years after installing their solar system  they reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 2904 tons. If we multiply this by 3364, which will exaggerate in some cases and under-report in others, but just for an idea, we get almost 10 million tons of CO2.

While almost all previous posts use the quality of wine produced (rated 95 or above) as the gatekeeper for further discusion, in this post that gate is down, as any of us can learn from models. This post highlights pioneers and innovators in California's wine industry with a focus on energy.The difference between being a pioneer and becoming an innovator is a matter of time, timing, and more. Innovators change their cultures; pioneers are the first of a kind; they carve the way for innovators to change the rest. Steve Jobs was a pioneer as well as an innovator, as these are not mutually exclusive categories.

In this post I celebrate ecological sustainability innovators and pioneers in the wine industry who are setting benchmarks, showing the rest of us what needs to be done, providing models, and in so many ways, shining light on the way to sustaining, restoring, and creating a vibrant future. Some are local, some not, but in an age of globalization, the lines blur. Perhaps the only one to hold fast is Buy Local. Local  is not well defined: It may mean buying US produced products, or products grown or manufactured in a radius of less than 25 miles, or whatever, but for sure, local  for Santa Barbara residents excludes Champagne and Triple Creme cheese from France.

California Pioneers

Far Niente (photo above) is a pioneer for creating solutions to a classic California challenges: lack of land.
Their $4.2 million dollar solar power array exemplifies the innovative profile of California’s wine industry. The irrigation pond pontoon solution freed up 1.5 acres of Cabernet vineyard while reducing evaporation. Read more about how Far Niente financed this project

Rodney Strong Vineyards is a pioneer in the area of comprehensive ecological winery practices. This winery became the first carbon-neutral winery in Sonoma County. Reported data indicate that six years after installation of their solar system, which generates power close to twice that of Far Niente (766 kW, 80,000 sq ft.), they reduced carbon dioxide emissions of 2904 tons over what would have been generated using fossil fuels to power their operations. In 2010, Rodney Strong vineyard practices were officially certified by the California Sustainable Winegrower’s Alliance.

Wildlife Protection
Wildlife Protection: corridors, habitat restoration, green open spaces

Environmental Health
Continuous monitoring of ecosystem health and adaptation to emerging needs

Soil Conservation
Soil Restoration, Conservation, Preservation: cover crops, minimum tillage, composting

 Fish-friendly Farming

 Solar Power Program
Energy Conservation
Certified Sustainable Vineyards and Winery 

Local Innovators/Pioneers

Alma Rosa is indisputably a pioneer for our region. Richard Sanford has been committed to quality and sustainabillty since he arrived here more than 40 years ago. He and his wife Thekla have devoted their lives to creating top quality wines that are produced ecologically.

Foxen is one of the first wineries in our area to develop a solar array capable of powering the winery (completed in 2009).
 Foxen has ecological credentials and also produces top quality wines, rated 95 or above by the top-tier raters. (e.g., 95 Points- 2009 FOXEN Syrah, Tinaquaic Vineyard)