The times they are a changing…along the Wine Road with the significant reduction in their environmental impact. The waste accumulated preparing for and during its three annual events—Winter Wineland, Barrel Tasting, and A Wine and Food Affair—amounted to over 100k plastic bottles and 80k printed invitations, but since 2008 it has been reduced to zero!
Starting on November 1, 2008 with Wine and Food Affair, the organization implemented the following waste reduction program in an effort to minimize the use of plastic and paper. First, it reduced plastics consumption by providing Calistoga drinking water from refillable, large format water containers where guests can dispense water directly into their reusable wine glass included in the ticket price. “We’re looking at our surroundings and trying to see ways that we can make sure our environmental impact is positive. Our members are longtime stewards of this land and we feel our events should reflect their ideologies and our shared belief in conservation,” says Beth Costa, Executive Director, Wine Road Northern Sonoma County. These water containers are reusable and will be returned to Calistoga at the close of the event, reducing its refuse by over 100k plastic water bottles per year.
To reduce paper consumption, Wine Road no longer prints and mails special event invitations to its database which has significantly reduce the amount of paper consumed in sending out print invitations. Instead, it uses its web site and various online avenues to contact its guest’s, soliciting attendees and responses through e-invitations. It also no longer prints and mails tickets to its events throughout the year; guests can simply order their tickets online and print an electronic ticket. Detailed event programs will be available at www.wineroad.com in a PDF format, which can be printed out in advance or guests can pick up a copy upon arrival. To save even more, customers can use their smart phones to view programs instead of printing any information.
To continue along this path of conservation, the Wine Road no longer distributes balloons to wineries during events. This had been the main way to attract guests during events, but it amounted to handing out 10,000 balloons a year and copious amounts of helium to blow them up. Now guests can watch for reusable signs during event weekends.
In January 2014, Sonoma County Winegrowers announced their commitment to becoming the nation’s first 100% sustainable wine region through a three-phased program to be completed within the next five years and numerous Wine Road vintners are on the front lines helping to reach this ambitious goal. Sustainability is no longer a hopeful option for the region, it’s a priority and its practices are quickly becoming part of long-term business strategies among the 200 Northern Sonoma County wineries and lodgings from the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley AVAs. Wine Road members are enthusiastically embracing greener principles, from biodynamics and organics to dry farming and solar energy.
Many wine growers and winemakers along the Wine Road have readily embraced dry farming practices as their primary source of sustainability. Dry farming, which relies entirely on rainfall, not only conserves water, making a vineyard’s growing practice more sustainable, but produces more concentrated grapes, intensifying the flavors, structure, and body of the resulting wines.
Several member wineries also practice sustainability through organic farming techniques, starting with non-chemical fertilizers and pest-management practices. Taking organics one step further, a handful of Wine Road wineries grow biodynamically—an integrated cultivation approach that treats the entire vineyard as a living system, with organic guidelines for fertilization and insect/predator management, as well as rules for planting, harvesting, and production.
Moreover, nearly half of the 50-plus wineries awarded Sonoma County Green Business certification are members of Wine Road. This designation is given to businesses that meet certain requirements, including conservation of resources, pollution prevention, and waste reduction.
What does all of this mean? Socially responsible Wine Road wineries and lodgings consider dedication to the environment a way of life not a fringe practice and embrace this modern business model, while continuing to produce some of the finest wines in the world.