A drive through Napa is almost surreal. Miles and miles of vineyards stretch before you. You begin to wonder if there’s ever an end to them! Then, you start wondering: How is this even sustainable? How do they keep the soil replenished, water supplies clean, air quality good, and waste products to a minimum in the midst of all this agriculture? How do these vineyards affect the health of the land and the nearby Pacific Ocean?
Napa Self-Polices Their Environmental Practices Voluntarily
Fortunately, Napa Valley growers have gone to extraordinary lengths to self-police their vineyards and wineries. Part of these efforts yielded Napa Green, a program to promote and assure sustainable practices throughout the vineyards, wineries, and related homes and businesses of the region. The excellent news is, Napa’s growers are 50% of the way to complete sustainability, and expect to achieve 100% of their goal by the year 2020. Here’s how.
Part of understanding how to keep soil, water, and air clean and healthy is to realize that not every square inch of the land can be used for any sort of agricultural production. While a passer-by could easily assume that all of the land in Napa is used for either growing grapes or making wine, Napa County has, in fact, reserved 444,000 acres of land that is protected from development.
The Napa Green Certification Initiative
Additionally, Napa growers have developed a Napa Green Certification program, whereby wineries can join and receive education and support on environmentally-friendly practices, including sustainable techniques and methods for managing vineyards, as well as winemaking.
About 70,000 acres of Napa’s land is included in the Napa Green Land program, and almost half (45%) of Napa’s vineyard owners are certified Napa Green. These owners meet or exceed all environmental regulations. The program is overseen by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner and Napa County Public Works. Vineyard owners must go through the recertification process every 5-7 years.
Protecting Land, Soil, Water, and Air
But these sustainability programs aren’t just limited to the vineyards; they also apply to the wineries and winemaking processes. Currently, over 55 Napa wineries are certified Napa Green. The program helps these wineries reduce their carbon footprint through the smart, efficient use of water and power, as well as intelligent management of waste products. Wineries receive their certification through the California Green Business program. Wineries must undergo recertification every 3 years, proving their ability to continue improving their sustainable practices over time.
Preserving Napa’s land assures that the area remains a thriving, healthy farmland, free of urban sprawl, which would almost certainly kill North America’s premier wine region (as it did in Santa Clara Valley). Part of this initiative includes controlling population growth, limiting it to just 1% per year. This is done through the Growth Management System, protecting the area from urban sprawl and assuring enough land remains available to sustain the agricultural integrity of Napa Valley.
But it isn’t just about earmarking land that isn’t farmed. The sustainability programs also address the health of the area’s watershed. This facet of the program includes measures to reduce or eliminate erosion by limiting hillside development and making sure each vineyard is adequately set back from area streams and rivers.
The result of all this hard work and self-policing is a clean, healthy environment and practices that produce not only excellent wine, but healthy wine, health business, and a clean, healthy environment for both Napa Valley natives and their visitors. Come see for yourself what a difference sustainable growing practices can make. Schedule your Napa Valley wine tour today!