More and more California wineries are focused on going green these days. From newer, smaller labels like River Vine to major players like Kendall-Jackson, these are vintners taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint through energy efficient green building and renewable energy.
Just over the border in Oregon, an increasing number of wineries are doing the same, and their impact is going beyond greening the winemaking process — they’re helping preserve open space, much the way the wine industry saved Napa Valley from being paved over by suburbanization in the 1960s and ’70s.
“In a way, wineries are greening the Oregon landscape,” said Ernest Munch, of Ernest R. Munch Architecture (ERMA) in Portland, in an interview with EarthTechling. “If you look at a place like Dundee, it has a very nice south-facing slope. But when the area was being developed back in 1988, the trend [toward winemaking in Oregon] hadn’t hit, and now it’s full of houses. This beautiful Oregon landscape we have has been known since the 1830s as the Garden of Eden. Winemaking adds value to our agricultural lands, and saves them as agricultural lands. These are marginal farmlands — orchards and vineyards do best on second-rate agricultural lands.” He goes on to note that these lands often can’t compete growing standard crops.
Winemaking has roots to the 1960s in Oregon, but it really took off in the early ’90s as gourmet and organic food became more popular nationally. That trend was led by people increasingly concerned about the quality of their food and where it came from — and willing to pay more for quality. In Oregon, that led to the cultivation of those delicate, temperamental Pinot Noir vines that favor the mild climate west of the Cascades. Oregon has since developed a reputation for some of the finest such wines in the world — a fact that, according to architect Corey Omey, also of ERMA, tends to lend itself to green-minded vintners.
“The flagship for the Oregon wine industry is a bottle of super-premium Pinot Noir,” he told us. “A stellar Oregon Pinot Noir is well balanced and nuanced with the site’s terroir, the interweaving of a vineyard’s climate, geography and geology. A person who can produce an excellent bottle of Pinot Noir is well tuned to the ecology of his vineyard and has an ear to what is happening globally. And many of their customers share their interests.” He goes on to note that many Oregon vintners are LIVE and Salmon Safe-certified, and farm using organic or biodynamic practices — hence, their bent toward green architecture and participation the Green Building Council’s LEED certification program.
Read on to meet some of the Oregon wineries leading the green trend.