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Earth Day Events at California Wineries

Celebrations all over the map and calendar

by Jane Firstenfeld
Complimentary tastings will be provided to visitors who arrive at Concannon Vineyard on bikes and take the 2 p.m. “sustainability tour.” Other wineries are offering deals and special events to celebrate Earth Day.
San Rafael, Calif.—Since its inception April 22, 1970, Earth Day has grown into an international celebration of the planet, its environment and resources under the auspices of Earth Day Network.

Typically proactive, California’s grape and wine industry marks the day with group and individual activities designed to educate wine lovers about its stewardship of the earth. This year, the Wine Institute declared April “Down to Earth Month,” and published a listing of winery activities marking the occasion. Down to Earth is also the title of Wine Institute's new book (a collaboration between author Janet Fletcher and photographer George Rose), which discusses sustainable growing practices in farming California vineyards.

With a late Easter Sunday falling on April 20, and Earth Day itself the following Tuesday, wineries have chosen to host events starting early in the month. Most, however, are just now beginning their celebrations. 

Livermore Valley
Members of the East Bay’s Livermore Valley Wine Country opted to mark the day on the following weekend, April 26-27. Among the most intriguing options:

Page Mill Winery invites customers to “Bring your empty wine bottles and fill them with a delicious red blend for $8.99.” Those without a handy empty can purchase new bottles for 50 cents. “Recycling is good, re-using is better.”  

This is not a new initiative from Page Mill. According to sales manager Debbie Cristiano, the winery has bottled growlers on the third Sunday of every month for five years. Because of Easter, it was rescheduled for the fourth Sunday this April.

“It is the busiest day of every month,” she said. Some loyal customers bring in cases of empty bottles to take advantage of the recycling.

Westover Vineyards & Winery offers a similar BYOB option: Visitors can fill their own bottles with Livermore Valley Petite Sirah for $7.50 or use a recycled bottle from the winery for $1 more, while learning about the winery’s recycling program. Those who bring in 10 or more wine bottle “foils” will receive a discount.

• Winegrower Tom Heineman will lead vineyard tours at Bent Creek Winery and discuss grapegrowing during a drought.

• The venerable Concannon Vineyard will provide complimentary tastings for visitors who arrive on bikes and take the 2 p.m. “sustainability tour.” Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery offers a 15% discount to cyclists; delivers purchased wines free to any Livermore address and will give tasters a bulb to plant in their home gardens.

Napa County
Napa County wineries are taking a jumpstart, according to a list from the Napa Valley Vintners: Several have events beginning today (April 18), and extending through the actual day next week. Among the offerings:

• Wine educators at St. Supery Estate Vineyards & Winery will lead tours of the Napa Green-certified vineyards after a tasting of Estate Sauvignon Blanc and followed by a cellar tour and three more wines.

Ed Currey, St. Supery’s vice president of direct-to-consumer sales and marketing, said the winery has launched similar green promotion in the past. “It’s something we’ve supported for a long time: We really do it every day.” This angle brings business by driving people to choose among many choices who share St. Supery’s values.

“They have a lot of choices. This reinforces our commitment to the environment. For instance, we’ve hung more than 100 bluebird boxes” in trees around the vineyard.” These are fun as well as environmentally productive, he said. The winery plans to bring some boxes into its tasting room (sans birds).

“We’re not going to make a ton of money hanging bluebird boxes,” he conceded, “But it’s important to us.”

The Hess Collection will lead vineyard immersion walks touring the Mont La Salle vineyard, where visitors will learn about sustainable vineyard practices including trellising, clones, spacing and their impact on vine production. Winery Chef Hendrickson will prepare an optional picnic.

• On April 22, Domaine Chandon’s Green Team leader Joel Burt will lead a behind-the-scenes tour of the winery and explain the standards required to become part of the Napa Green Certification Program, followed by a tasting of the Vintage Appellation wine series and Pinot Meunier wine.

Alex Evans, Domaine Chandon’s interactive media specialist, said the winery had not done this specific promotion before. “It’s modeled on a trade tour; we’re hoping to make it more permanent in our tour rotation.” Reservations are still available for the tour, the first time it’s been available to the public.

Sonoma County
Wineries in Sonoma County are following their own path. Here are a few independent celebrations we unearthed:

• On April 19, Ravenswood Winery promises fun and education, with a docent from nearby Jack London State Park visiting the winery to talk about the influential and locally connected author Jack London. Tasting is complimentary for visitors who arrive by bicycle or on foot, and 2-for-1 for carpoolers or hybrid vehicle drivers.

• On April 26, visitors are invited to get “Down & Dirty in the Vineyard” at the historic Buena Vista Winery, helping the director of winemaking and the vineyard team plant rootstock for the winery’s new demonstration vineyard, followed by a special Earth Day tasting flight paired with small bites.

• Enter the Theater of Nature, “A walking adventure through the practice and impact of the organic and Biodynamic farming methods” in the estate Vineyards at DeLoach Vineyards on April 26. The experience will include “The Magic of Wine and Mustard” and a sampling of small bites from the estate garden. 

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