Picture Napa Valley in harvest season: Between undulating rows of vines, grape pickers drop heavy bunches of ripe cabernet sauvignon into colorful boxes. Cellars hum with jazzy music and the bubbling sounds of purple juice turning into wine. The sweet smell of fermentation hovers in the air like wine perfume. Parties brim with organic garden-to-table food.
Visiting California’s best-known wine region during harvest season is always exciting — especially now. The devastating 2020 wildfires were yet another climate change alert, pushing top wineries to accelerate ways to cut greenhouse gases, conserve water, and take healing the earth seriously.
Among those achieving organic vineyard certification last year is Dominus, the Napa estate of Bordeaux winemaker Christian Moueix. One sustainability catalyst has been Napa Green. Founded in 2004 by the Napa Valley Vintners, the program is now a nonprofit helping wineries focus on climate action, regenerative farming and social equity. It has awarded certification for eco-efforts to nearly 25% of the county’s wineries.
Organic and biodynamic pioneers Spottswoode and Grgich Hills, for example, recently switched to lighter-weight-glass wine bottles to reduce their carbon footprints. Head out on a tour of Silver Oak, and you’ll see the world’s first winery to achieve Platinum Level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status from the US Green Building Council for an existing building.
Last year, solar-powered Trefethen winery worked with Texas environmental firm Earthly Labs on a carbon-capture pilot program that turns the CO2 released during fermentation into a liquid, and stores it for reuse. And this year, it won the California Green Medal Environment Award. The winery’s hands-on, daylong September harvest event is just one of many chances to experience sustainability in the valley.
Naturally, you can eat and sleep green in luxe surroundings, too. The minimalist Bardessono Hotel and Spa has long been a top sustainability stop. The brand-new Four Seasons Resort and Residences in Calistoga adds another dimension with its on-site organic Elusa winery and vineyard headed by superstar winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown.
Eco-consciousness shines at the new Stanly Ranch, with dreamy standalone cottages and suites. Set on more than 700 acres of stunning ranch land and vineyards at the southern end of the valley, it uses recycled water, and is landscaped with local plants to reduce water use. The restaurant chef gives tours around the organic garden, or you can request exclusive visits, including biodynamic treks. Time to pack your bags for the next harvest.
This article appears in the 30 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Winter 2022/23