How many times have you swirled the remains of a California red in your wine glass, looked at it, and thought, “I should be doing more for sustainable travel?” No? Just me? I love Napa Valley, Sonoma and California Wine Country in general, but keeping up to date about various environmental crises around the world leaves me with an uneasy feeling that there’s more to life than my favorite wine travel-style romantic escapes and girlfriend getaways. Well, cognitive dissonance begone, for I’ve learned about all the eco-friendly California wineries which routinely engage in sustainable practices! In case you also struggle with balancing a love for Napa Valley travel and the pull to leave a lighter carbon footprint while traveling, this is great news for you, too.
Sustainable wine growing is a growing movement in California. Since vines can have 25+ years of grape production, healthy vineyard ecosystems are paramount for smart winemakers. Sustainability practices in Napa Valley and all other California wine growing regions include 1. soil conservation (soil health, surrounding habitat restoration and biodiversity), 2. pest management (use of animals and beneficial insects, and visual pest monitoring) 3. water conservation (fun fact: wine grapes use less water than most crops) and 4. energy efficiency (night harvesting, use of alternate energy). Eco-friendly California wineries have found that it’s gratifying, and not terribly difficult, to switch to more sustainable viticulture practices.
Nearly 80 wineries and around 310 vineyards throughout California have earned the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing certification launched by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, making them officially eco-friendly California wineries. Best practices in terms of conservation of California’s natural resources and environmental stewardship are important; this awareness is growing, as over 1,800 winemakers and vineyard owners have assessed their own operations at around 200 workshops as the first part of the process of helping their vineyards deserve the certification. That represents approximately 70% of California’s vineyard acreage and wine producers!
It’s not just the eco-friendly California wineries that are making this move towards blending sustainable “green” practices into winemaking: Downtown Napa is the perfect place for eco-tourism and the city’s walkability is a huge draw for eco-oriented travelers. For example, you can start at Angele for a meal – a delicious eco-conscious café featuring an ever-changing farm-to-table menu and sourcing ingredients daily from local vendors – and walk along the riverfront popping into the charming store fronts and you work your way down to Oxbow Public Market, an extremely popular marketplace for local restaurants, specialty shops and artisans. Most of the lodging properties in town have pedal bikes that you can grab to tour the vineyards or take in the scenery of the country roads. Visitors can also enjoy a day of kayaking or paddle boarding down the Napa River, mixing a little exercise into their eco-centric itinerary. In addition, there is a Walking Tour of Napa for visitors to enjoy that takes participants on a journey through the City of Napa’s history led by local tour guides.
So, listen, if you’re planning to travel to California soon (or if you’re lucky enough to already live here), consider coming to a winery region in April. The Wine Institute has put together an activity-filled “Down to Earth Month” in April to celebrate California’s global leadership in sustainable winegrowing and winemaking. This will be the fifth year of what is assuredly already an annual event, timed to coincide with Earth Day. Here are just some of the many events throughout California, in and near eco-friendly California wineries.
Earth Day Celebration