September marks the celebration of Organic Harvest Month, a widespread promotion of organic food and agriculture started by the Organic Trade Association 18 years ago. However, California’s Mendocino County wine region committed to organic production long before it was the trend to go “green.”
These farmers, grape growers and winemakers continue to lead the way in the sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming movements. (Biodynamic farming considers the farm a living organism.)
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Ann Thrupp, manager of sustainability and organic development at Fetzer Vineyards, and Martha Barra, owner of Barra of Mendocino. Both affirmed the path and goal of a community committed to wise use of the earth’s resources, which is the goal of the green movement.
Fetzer Vineyards has long been committed to sustainable agricultural practices, Thrupp says. In the 1980s, the Fetzer family established organic fruit and vegetable gardens at the vineyards, eventually transferring their organic farming know-how to the grapes, she says.
In the philosophy of “sharing the knowledge,” in the last 10 years they have aggressively collaborated with other vineyards to expand organic growing practices in the region.
The company’s 10,000-square-foot administration building is made exclusively of recycled materials and it is one of California’s first wineries to use 100 percent “green” energy for all winery operations. With the push in lightweight packaging and companywide waste reduction, Fetzer continues to be a respected role model for the wine industries ecologyfriendly future.
Barra’s life motto — “I would rather burn out than rust out” — is a drive overflowing from the way she lives her life into Barra of Mendocino’s dedication to promoting sustainable practices. The winery has been growing organic for more than 50 years, but for “the first 30 we didn’t know it,” she says.
Pushing past farming practices, last year the winery, in partnership with Ukiah Natural Foods, launched ReCork (recork.org), a recycling program for wine corks. In the already eco-friendly community, recycling was not across-the-board because even though the bottles were recycled and the grapes were organic, the corks were ending up in landfills. The program established drop-off locations for corks. They are then ground up and used by Sole, a footwear manufacturer.
- 2008 Fetzer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $10 retail)
- 2008 Fetzer Vineyards Pinot Noir, California (about $10 retail)