Sonoma County Ag Produces Very Little GHG

Sonoma County Winegrowers Committed to Sustainability

By Tim Hammerich, with the Ag Infomation Network 

In 2014 the Sonoma County Winegrowers made the commitment to become 100% certified sustainable in all 1,800 member vineyards.

They’re now taking their commitment a step further by piloting a new Climate Adaptation Certification Program created by the California Land Stewardship Institute.

“Because of our sort of foundational work in sustainability, it really felt to us what a great opportunity to continue being leaders and also continue to kind of push the envelope on what we’re learning and what we’re doing and on our vineyards, “said Sonoma County Winegrowers President Karissa Kruse. “So we were super excited to partner with Laurel Marcus and her team at the California Land Stewardship Institute and really be this pilot kind of launch model for what could be done, not only in vineyards, but ag around the state and even across the U S.”

Kruse said through conservation tillage, cover crops, and other practices, ag can be part of the solution to offset carbon emissions.

“Ag is really in an interesting position. It really accounts for only 8% of the greenhouse gas emissions. But when you think about around the state, who has the most opportunity to sequester carbon, it really is our farmers.” noted Kruse. “I mean, they’re the ones with the land and the soil and it’s not paved over. It’s not in an urban environment. And so they have kind of a unique opportunity to almost be part of the solution for more than just offsetting their GHG emission, but also helping our cities and others in the urban environment offset some of their GHG emissions.”

Kincaid Fire Hurts Many Ag Operations

Kincaid Fire Destroys Several Wineries and Cattle Ranches

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The Kincaid Fire, which focused on Sonoma County, did cause much damage to agricultural operations.

“Sonoma County is very familiar with fires, and I wish that were something we couldn’t say. But this fire was a little bit different than the one that hit us in 2017,” said Tawny Tesconi. Executive Director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

The Kincaid fire burned a little bit differently, in the sense that in actuality impacted more of our small cattle ranches, this time around. Tragically in the previous fire, it was a lot of homes that were burned.

Other Ag operations have been impacted, as well. “Several wineries that have been confirmed as burned is Soda Rock, and then, also Fieldstone. And I don’t want to say any others because I haven’t been able to confirm those,” said Tesconi. “There might be a few other actual winery structures that have burned, and it did hit our vineyards as well. Some of those vineyards are seeing some end post structure damage

However, Tesconi said that vineyards are very excellent firebreaks. Many of the homes that are surrounded by vineyards were able to make it through the fire. “I think any structures that burned came from flying embers,” she said.

There was a severe wind in the Kincaid fired, and it was part of the worst of two worlds hitting at the same time due to the PG&E shutoffs. “But luckily, Sonoma County is very grassroots and very community-based. We’re all helping each other out, and we’re very strong. And so, we’ll come through this one too, like we did the last one, but it’s just a little too close for comfort as far as timing goes.”

This fire was initially caused by PG&E equipment failure. “But I have to say, one thing that I have to shout out and recognize is the effort of our local sheriff and our county administrators and staff. They started doing the necessary evacuations of communities early on. And that can be tough in our county with 500,000 people,” she said.

The evacuation was focused on about 190,000 people. And officials were very organized, in that they evacuated different areas at different times. But even then, it took some four hours to go 10 miles. “So if there’s anything we learned and other communities can learn from this is that we all complained about having to be evacuated when we didn’t think we were in any danger, but it was the safest thing. Lives were saved. No lives were lost on this fire,” Tesconi said.

Some Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards had not been harvested yet. And with grapes are hanging and subjected to smoke—it can cause smoke taint grapes, which leaves them unusable. “We still are trying to get that figured out. The one great thing that our sheriff allowed us to do is that he was allowing our vineyard managers in and pick grapes, even in areas that had been in the evacuation zones because we know about smoke taint,” said Tesconi. “We don’t want to see smoke taint. So our guys got on it. People were helping with the harvest. One vineyard that had already finished harvesting for the year would send their staff over to help get the grapes off a neighbors vine.

One ranch that was the hardest hit was the LaFranchi Angus Ranch, which is up in Knights Valley, right on the Sonoma/Napa line. The family has been ranching for the last 107 years. And they lost seven houses. They lost most of their barn structures. They lost all of their hay, and they don’t know if they lost any animals yet, they’re still trying to assess that. “We’ve been doing a hay drive here at Sonoma County Farm Bureau to get them a couple of loads of hay to get them through the next couple of weeks,

“I’ve got word that there’s another cattle ranch up on the Geyser Ridge. They lost a lot of structures. They lost all their fencing,” said Tesconi. “They’re trying to keep 200 cow/calf pairs on the ranch without any fencing. So I’m sure that’s a challenge.”

“We’re still reaching out to our members, trying to asses all the damages because we have tons of support coming in. We were just notified that American AgCredit is donating a $25,000 matching grant for a program we’re running through Sonoma County Farm Bureau for people to help our farmers that are in trouble,” noted Tesconi. “If anybody wants to donate to that, they can go to our Facebook page, Sonoma County Farm Bureau. So, the awful thing is that we’re going through the tragedy. The good thing is that we’re extremely well supported by all of Sonoma County in our Ag industry.”

Wineries Need Business after Napa & Sonoma Fires

Following Disastrous Fires, Napa/Sonoma Valleys Need Visitors Back

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The recent Napa & Sonoma fires have left wine country reeling.

“Our message is, please come back to the wine country,” said John Winkelhaus, vice president of operations and general manager of V. Sattui Winery, the number one visited winery in Napa Valley.

The region just had some devastating fires.

“It was absolutely dramatic. We certainly just have heartfelt feelings for the folks that have lost their homes and their businesses. And of course, you can’t measure the sorrow we feel for those who lost their lives,” Winkelhaus said.

Sonoma and Napa counties were hit pretty hard. Sonoma County was perhaps worse than Napa because of the devastation that was in that residential area.

It rained last Thursday, the fire was put out and the smoke was washed out of the sky, but now there’s another problem.

“It cleared the air. I mean, we have beautiful blue skies here. But visitor traffic is way down,” Winkelhaus said. “We always have a lot of complaints about the traffic here in the Valley, especially on weekends. But there’s no traffic here.”

“So, what’s happened is that the people, our guests, our visitors who we depend on, allow our staff to come to work every day. They’re not coming,” he said.

“Everybody has a mortgage or rent to pay, or food to buy, or bills to pay as well. … In Napa Valley, 70% of the wage earners are earning their money through the hospitality business, whether it’d be the restaurants, or the hotels, or the wineries,” Winkelhaus said.

“There are 500 wineries in the area, and only seven were damaged or destroyed by the fire. So 447 are open for business and need business,” he explained.

 

Expanding California Wine Industry

Will the Expanding Wine Industry Impact California Communities, Environments?

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

How the expanding California wine industry might negatively impact the state’s communities and environment is growing concern. Rob McMillan, who founded Silicon Valley Bank’s Fine Wine Division in 1992, said in the Napa Valley community, “we are banding together to address apathy and address tourism issues in the community planning process. If we continue to build new wineries, those opposed characterize the downside in terms of traffic and noise, with very little fact-finding to back up their argument.”

McMillan described some current challenges associated with getting accurate information to the public. “With social media today, people just get to say what they want, and that grabs hold and becomes a catch phrase. Now in Napa Valley, we are working from behind in that there’s really a divide between growers and vintners about how Napa Valley ought to look. And this is not just limited to Napa Valley, either. You are seeing this anti-tourism attitude brewing in Sonoma County and in Santa Barbara County, legislatively.”

While growth of the industry is a good thing, McMillan believes implementing a strategy to prevent congestion is essential. “Whether you are in Washington or Oregon—pick a place—you also have to engage in the community planning process. If you are going to add tourism and direct consumer sales, you can’t have more and more people come and use your region’s resources until you have nothing but a Saturday traffic jam. Your neighborhood starts looking like New York or Tokyo. That is not going to convey the welcoming and accessible message you need to deliver.”

Silicon Valley Bank’s Fine Wine Division, founded by McMillan in 1992, has since become the leading provider of financial services to the U.S. fine wine industry. To ensure the California wine market remains vibrant, McMillan urges wineries to engage in the community planning process, reach beyond the individual winery to work together as a community, and determine how our wine tourism regions should look like. He elaborated, “We can’t go through distributors; we have to go directly to the public, and direct outreach requires a level of entertainment. We have to solve tourism issues in the planning process.”

Viticulturist Mark Greenspan Confirmed as ASEV President

Announced TODAY, Mark Greenspan, president of Advanced Viticulture Inc., has been confirmed to serve as the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) 2015-2016 president. Greenspan succeeds Lise Asimont of Francis Ford Coppola Presents to lead ASEV’s 12-member board.

mark greenspan
Mark Greenspan, president of American Society for Enology and Viticulture

“Throughout my career, ASEV has been the go-to source for reliable, thoughtful research and science that has been critical to my success and that of my vineyard clients. It’s a real honor to serve as the Society’s new president and to hopefully carry on the impressive work of Lise and the other dedicated ASEV past presidents,” said the new ASEV president. 

Greenspan, a Sonoma County resident, provides premiere vineyard consultation in water management, nutrient management, precision viticulture and vineyard design, establishment and management. He has operated Advanced Viticulture for over 10 years. Previously, he was the viticulture research manager at E&J Gallo, responsible for viticulture experiments in the north coast vineyards and collaborative projects throughout the state of California. He is a monthly contributor to Wine Business Monthly and periodic contributor to other trade publications. He presents at local, national and international events, and is a certified crop advisor (CCA) and certified professional agronomist (CPAg). Mark has served on review panels for the American Vineyard Foundation and Viticulture Consortium – West and Viticulture Consortium – East. He is a member of Sonoma and Napa Viticulture Technical Groups, Sonoma County Farm Bureau and Napa Valley Grape Growers Association. He’s a former director of the UC Davis Trellis Alliance and sponsor of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission.

As an active 25-year ASEV member, Mark has held several ASEV positions and served as a reviewer for the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture (AJEV). He has served on the best paper review committee, annual meeting technical abstract review committee, annual meeting program committee, and as sessions chair. He received the ASEV Best Viticulture Student Paper Award in 1991. 

ASEV has also confirmed two new directors: Patty Skinkis, associate professor at the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University, and Hans Walter-Peterson, viticulture extension specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension. In addition, the Society has announced its 2015-2016 executive team members: Nichola Hall of Scott Laboratories, confirmed as first vice president; James Harbertson of Washington State University, elected as second vice president; and Tom Collins of Washington State University will serve as secretary-treasurer. Additional Board members continuing current terms are: AJEV Science Editor Linda Bisson and Technical Program Director M. Andrew Walker, both of the University of California, Davis; and Directors Lise Asimont of Francis Ford Coppola Presents, Kristen Barnshisel of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, and Kay Bogart and Anita Oberholster, both from the University of California, Davis.

Formed in 1950 as a professional society dedicated to the interests of enologists, viticulturists and others in the fields of wine and grape research and production, the ASEV’s membership of more than 2,000 includes professionals from wineries, vineyards, and academic institutions and organizations around the world.  In addition to publishing the AJEV, the Society also hosts its National Conference (slated for Monterey in June of 2016) and co-presents the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in January with the California Association for Winegrape Growers. For more information, visit www.asev.org.

El Capitan Achievement Celebrated with California Sparkling Wine

Iron Horse Vineyards 2010 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs
Iron Horse Vineyards 2010 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs

Sonoma County native Kevin Jorgeson and his climbing partner Tommy Caldwell celebrated their achievement of scaling the Dawn Wall of El Capitan with California sparkling wine. Their feat has earned them admiration and cheers from all over the world, so it was only natural that they celebrate with a local delicious beverage.

The featured wine is the Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blanc from Iron Horse Vineyards – whose sales help promote the National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative. Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, is also a member of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.

According to the winery, in the spirit of supporting ocean conservancy, best food pairings focus on seafood, the beverage was deemed a “best choice” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program. Iron Horse Vineyards is located in the gentle rolling hills of the Green Valley appellation within the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, California.