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3p Weekend: 11 Sustainable U.S. Wineries

Mary Mazzoni headshotWords by Mary Mazzoni
Energy & Environment
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With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

A few months back, we ran a roundup of the top 10 sustainable U.S. breweries. As the list made its rounds on social media, a few of you asked us to give a nod to the wine-lovers out there. You asked, we answered. Break out those glasses, and toast the weekend with a sip from one of these 11 sustainable U.S. wineries.

1. Jackson Family Wines, California and Oregon

Jackson Family Wines boasts vineyards in France, Italy, Chile and Australia. Here in the U.S., the family-owned winery makes tasty reds and whites at more than 25 wineries throughout California -- from Sonoma to Santa Barbara -- as well as Willamette Valley, Oregon. Wine newbies may recognize its Kendall-Jackson label, while enthusiasts gush over its Champ de Rêves, one of the premier producers of high-altitude Pinot Noir in California's Anderson Valley.

The brand has grown tremendously since it was founded in 1982, but the Jackson family, which still runs and operates the company, stayed true to their commitment of land stewardship and biodiversity. Less than half of the company's land holdings are planted to vines, leaving the remainder to nature. And, all of the Jackson Family vineyards are certified under the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) and Sustainability in Practice (SIP) programs, as well as Low Input Viticulture & Enology (LIVE).

2. Sunset Hills Vineyard, Virginia

Sunset Hills Vineyard set out to preserve the environment that serves as a backdrop for its lush vineyards, located about an hour outside Washington, D.C. To that end, the company installed 245 solar panels on the south-facing roofs of its winery and case storage buildings, supplying 100 percent of the company's electrical needs.

The panels produce 50,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, making it the largest producer of solar energy in Loudoun County, Virginia.

3. Fetzer Wines, California


Fetzer is serious about wines. Luckily for the planet, they're pretty serious about waste, too: Since 1990, Fetzer Vineyards has been tracking and reducing waste it sends to landfills. Through company-wide efforts, it has reduced that waste by 96 percent -- from 1,724 tons in 1990 to only 67 tons in 2013 -- all while doubling wine production. The winery even became a member of the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council last year.

Additionally, Fetzer's Hopland Winery became the first winery in California to go 100 percent renewable back in 1999. Thanks to the largest solar array in the wine industry -- an 899-kilowatt photovoltaic system atop the winery's production buildings -- the Hopland location now generates all of its own power.

4. Kelley Fox Wines, Oregon

Kelley Fox Wines' Maresh Vineyard is a Demeter-certified biodynamic vineyard. It was first planted in 1970 by Jim and Loie Maresh. From the beginning, Jim had the foresight to avoid vineyard monoculture, planting local crops like walnut, hazelnut and fruit trees to enhance biodiversity. Maresh is famous for its Pinot Noir, as well as the lush, natural landscape that greets visitors passing through for a wine tasting.

5. Red Tail Ridge Winery, New York


Located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Red Tail Ridge Winery is the state's first LEED gold-certified winery. Its wine-processing building was made using recycled materials and energy-efficient design. An installed geothermal system cuts energy use, while a sand-filled basin behind the main building naturally filters storm water.

Red Tail is still a fairly new winery, bottling its first batches in 2009, and its operators want to "wait until the vines mature before considering going organic or chemical-free." But they already utilize natural processes to reduce the use of pesticides and hope to continue cutting chemical use in the coming years.

6. Stonestreet Estate Vineyards, California


Headquartered in Healdsburg, California, Stonestreet Wines focuses on land stewardship and biodiversity -- resulting in healthy grapes and soil. Of the 5,100 acres that make up the estate, less than the 20 percent is planted to vines. The rest is left as open space for native plants and animals.

Stonestreet also practices water-saving irrigation, and its vineyards are third-party certified sustainable under the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing and Sustainability in Practice (SIP) programs.

7. Deep Creek Cellars, Maryland


This small winery in the mountains of western Maryland calls itself the "natural wine specialist." "From vineyard to barrel, and barrel to bottle, we seek to reduce the carbon footprint of our business [and] eliminate chemicals (especially sulfites)," the company writes on its website. Deep Creek emphasizes the low-tech or even the no-tech in its winemaking process, resulting in a naturally dry wine with minimal impact on the environment.

8. Villa Milagro Vineyards, New Jersey


Located in Finesville, New Jersey, Villa Milagro's vineyard uses organic and sustainable practices and is a safe haven for migratory and resident birds. Sections of the 104-acre property are dedicated to “conservation strips” and natural woodlands where native New Jersey wildflowers and plants provide food and shelter for birds and other native species.

9. Benziger Family Winery, California

Benziger Family Winery has emerged as an agricultural success story in drought-stricken California. During the state's three-year drought, the Sonoma County vineyard managed to decrease water usage by 25 percent while maintaining yields.

Benziger combines biodynamic farming practices -- from cover crops to compost -- with technology such as soil moisture probes and leaf porometers to determine water needs and plant stress. It also recycled and reused 3 million gallons of water through its wetland process, where microbes naturally clean the water for reuse in the vineyard.

10. Snoqualmie Vineyards, Washington

Snoqualmie Vineyards is Washington's largest certified organic vineyard. The vineyard reduces soil erosion through a green cover of beneficial native grasses and cereal grains, which also provide habitat to attract beneficial insects.

The company has also managed to cut its water and energy use by 30 percent in the last five years and emphasizes sustainable packaging.

11. Baker & Brain, California


Founded by camping buddies and sustainability enthusiasts Josh Baker and Matt Brain, this California winery began as a way to showcase responsible farming. Baker & Brain practices small-lot, minimal intervention winemaking:
"We truly believe that wine is made in the vineyard. We pursue a very minimalistic approach to winemaking; intervening only when we’re sure it’s absolutely necessary and allowing the fruit to express itself as it will," the company writes on its website.

The winery also generates all of its own power through solar energy and recycles 100 percent of its waste.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this post referred to Kelley Fox Wines' Oregon vineyard as Momtazi vineyard.

Image credits: 1) Flickr/Emiliano De Laurentiis 2) Flickr/Udo Schröter 3) Flickr/Alex Brown 4) Flickr/Maureen Didde 5) Flickr/Jordan Johnson

Mary Mazzoni is the Senior Editor of TriplePundit. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni headshotMary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious CompanyAlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia, PA.

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni