The U.S. Wineries Pursuing Radical Sustainability | Wine Enthusiast
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The U.S. Wineries Pursuing Radical Sustainability

In wine, sustainability is often mentioned alongside terms like organic and biodynamic. But sustainability is its own entity. It doesn’t just involve environmental protections; it also incorporates economic viability and social impact.

That last part is often overlooked, but it can go hand-in-hand with commercial success. By incorporating social impact into their initiatives, wineries across the country do well while also doing good.

“Taking care of others is a ripple effect. It goes out in the universe and eventually comes back.” —Cathy Corison, Corison Winery

Napa’s Corison Winery is celebrating its 34th vintage, and for more than 20 of those, Cathy Corison, its winemaker and founding partner, has farmed Kronos Vineyard sustainably, planting cover crops and composting. She’s installed fixtures to maximize temperature control in her barn, and made solar panels the winery’s primary energy source.

It’s Corison’s generosity and dedication to mentorship, however, that nurtures her following. From former interns like famed winemaker Hugo d’Acosta, to partnership with entities like the Battonage Forum, Corison’s impact is wide. Yes, the product is excellent, but the giving helps keep it on people’s radar.

“Taking care of others is a ripple effect,” says Corison. “It goes out in the universe and eventually comes back.”

The Willamette Valley’s Left Coast Estate has seen similar returns on its environmental and community investments. Founded in 2003, Left Coast has received several grants to help preserve its natural habitat and pursues new ways to prioritize environmental health. A recent effort included thinning the glass used in its wine bottles to lessen their carbon footprint. It also has implemented drip irrigation and solar power at the winery and undertaken a 100-acre oak restoration project.

Just as important, though, is the retention and care for staff. Cali Pfaff, Left Coast’s cofounder and creative director, emphasizes salary equity and healthcare for employees. The estate participates in ¡Salud!, a nonprofit that assists vineyard workers with healthcare. It’s also has raised money for the NAACP and the Oregon Community Foundation with such projects as “Pinot for the People,” where certain bottles are priced for whatever the customer can afford.

These tactics have created a loyal following.

“There has been tremendous online support,” says Taylor Pfaff, the estate’s CEO. Sales are strong and the retention rate of wine club subscribers increased in 2020 versus the previous year.

Red Tail Ridge Winery, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, is groundbreaking in its eco friendliness.

It utilizes geothermal energy as its primary power source and is the only LEED-certified winery in the state.

Owner Nancy Irelan and her husband are devoted to giving back in other ways, too. For example, 10% of net profits from the sale of their Good Karma bottling go to the local food bank. Red Tail Ridge says that it has donated $45,000 to date.

“Everyone needs food,” says Irelan, particularly in the economic uncertainties of the Covid era.

Like Corison and Left Coast, Red Tail Ridge’s wine and community outreach have garnered a loyal following. The winery has seen a steady increase in online sales, Irelan says.

In an age where brand loyalty and authenticity are deployed as marketing buzzwords, these wineries’ ability to sustain their businesses and communities are to be acknowledged—and celebrated.