Sustainable Growing & Wineries: Sonoma

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by Courtney Cochran

Sustainable businesses famously have an eye to the future as well as current projects. As awareness about the need to conserve for tomorrow's generations grows, so does the number of wineries in our backyard converting to eco-oriented wine-growing - and a sustainable future for us all.  Below are some of the Sonoma wineries featuring green practices ranging from responsible vineyard management to economically friendly processes in the winery.

benziger_Vineyard_FromClientWebsite.jpgBenziger Family Winery

Sustainability is built into the mission at this green winemaking leader, which famously focuses on "family, great wine and healthy vineyards." Now three generations in, the Benziger clan - more than a dozen are actively involved in the winery - ensures their entire roster of vineyards is certified sustainable, organic or Biodynamic© via green metrics and a rigorous annual audit. Visitors will see the 'whole farm' ethos at work by way of the farm animals at the welcoming Glen Ellen property (hello, sheep cam!), and can look forward to quality that shows through in the glass:  a diverse lineup spanning Sauvignon Blanc to Syrah is well-received by critics.      

*Visit: 1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442; Call (707) 935-3000; Tasting Offer
**Event: Celebrate Earth Day

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards

Nestled into the hills of cool, bucolic Carneros, Gloria Ferrer is in a prime spot for making world-class sparkling wines.  What's perhaps less apparent is this picturesque winery's commitment to sustainable agriculture, something its owners pursue through innovative approaches to everything from soil biodiversity programs to integrated pest management, water management and energy conservation.  Because sustainability also has an eye to the health of people - not just plants - Gloria Ferrer's sustainability efforts support an arts program for local bereaved children, facilitating a focus on renewal of life through creativity.  Ferrer's high marks for hospitality and stellar pours are just icing on the sustainable cake, as it were.

*Visit: 23555 Arnold Drive Sonoma, CA 95476; Call: (707) 996-7256; Tasting Offer

imageryEstate_grapeVineBud.jpgImagery Estate Winery
Benziger scion Joe Benziger brings his passion for lesser known varieties (a popular phrase is "Lagrein is not a sexy Latin dance") and Biodynamic© farming to estate vineyards in Sonoma.  With green farming input coming courtesy of renowned horticulturist Alan York, Imagery's sustainable practices are off-the-charts on-target.

Think: creation of a wastewater pond and composting site, recycling organic winery and vineyard waste back into the land, and the construction of a wildlife sanctuary (ongoing). Not only is all this good for your conscience, you can play bocce and picnic while on site, too.  That's what we call a green tourism score.  Now pass the sustainably made Muscato di Canelli.  

*Visit: 14335 Highway 12 Glen Ellen, CA 95442; Call: (707) 935-4515; Tasting Offer

Korbel Champgne Cellars

As one of California's most historic wineries, Korbel knows a thing or two about the passage of time and preserving a healthy planet for future palates.  In the vineyard, stewards of this stunning Russian River sparkling producer follow a sustainably-focused routine that hews to the guidelines of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.  Beyond, they've taken innovative steps to dramatically decrease energy use, reduce CO2 emissions and improve water quality at their on-site wastewater pond.  Statistics they're proud to share include tripling the efficiency of their wastewater system and reducing related energy use by 75%.  According to head winemaker Paul Ahvenainen, "We want to be around for another 130 years!"  We certainly hope so, and the planet does, too.

*Visit: 13250 River Road Guerneville, CA 95446; Call: (707) 824-7000; Tasting Offer

stonestreetWinery_Vineyard.jpgStonestreet Winery
Stonestreet's owners like to say their job is uncovering the "story" of Alexander Mountain Estate, their vineyards' rugged perch high above the Alexander Valley in northern Sonoma.

Incorporating the land's story - even invoking its 3 million-year-old legacy - in their ethos is a direct tie to sustainability, as the winery invokes the past, present and future in its ideology.  (Since 2009, all Stonestreet vineyards have been certified sustainable under the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance's Certified California program.)  Boasting a critically lauded portfolio of varietal wines focused on Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Stonestreet's collection of altitude-driven pours appeals to those looking for excellence in the glass as well as in a tie between the winery's overall outlook and the environment.   

*Visit: 7111 Highway 128 Healdsburg, CA 95448; Call: (800) 355-8008; Tasting Offer

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