LEED Winery Projects in North America—Expanded Profiles and Photos

Wineries in the United States and Canada have adopted environmentally friendly design in their new buildings
Mar 31, 2010

Increasingly, North American wine producers are aiming to be as green as possible inside and out, constructing their new facilities to standards set by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, introduced in 1998 and since adapted by Canada, the voluntary LEED certification is an international benchmark for buildings that are environmentally friendly and healthful places in which to work or live.

Two prominent Napa Valley Cabernet producers—Hall and Cade—are bringing new attention to LEED among visitors to the country’s leading wine region. (See “Green from the Ground Up.”) Hall's winery earned the prestigious Gold level certification in July 2009, and Cade—part of the PlumpJack Group owned by billionaire philanthropist Gordon Getty and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom—is likewise hoping for Gold for its winery, tasting room and offices when the verification process is completed.

A handful of other North American wineries have already earned LEED certification for one or more of their buildings—Oregon's Sokol Blosser being the first, in 2002. More than a dozen winery-related projects are in design, under construction or in the verification process—10 of them registered for LEED in 2009 alone, not only in California and Oregon, but also Florida, Michigan, New York, South Dakota, Vermont and Virginia. In addition to the commercial wineries, both the University of California at Davis, with its new teaching and research winery, and the Napa Valley Vintners association, with its new headquarters, are aiming to be models for the industry.

Learn more about these projects in this article, an expanded version of the list that accompanied “Green from the Ground Up,” in the March 31, 2010, issue of Wine Spectator magazine.

Certified Projects

Sokol Blosser
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Silver certification, earned December 2002

Sokol Blosser’s underground, naturally cooled barrel cellar was the first U.S. winery project to achieve LEED certification, joining only 37 other LEED buildings in the country at the time. Under 3 feet of earth, 900 or so barrels are kept at 60° F year-round without air-conditioning; the living soil roof is covered with wildflowers to encourage biodiversity and blend in with the surroundings. Dundee Hills-based Sokol Blosser, which produces multiple Pinot Noirs from its certified organic vineyards, followed up in 2006 by installing a solar-panel system to provide one-third of its energy needs. Last year, the winery began reporting greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of going carbon neutral.

Stratus Vineyards
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
Silver certification, earned May 2005

When this winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake opened to the public in 2005, it was unique in many ways. It was the first building in Canada to earn LEED certification (from the Canada Green Building Council). It was the world’s first LEED-certified winemaking facility, covering the production areas, cellar, hospitality center and offices. The geothermal energy system, with individual temperature control for each room, was rare at the time in Canada. The company’s Toyota Prius, used for local wine deliveries, was still a novelty. But just as interesting are the design details: The tasting room is housed in a glass cube to use daylight, yet on the south and west sides of the building, the windows are narrower to minimize heat gain from the sun. A translucent interior wall lets some natural light from other rooms into the cellar. Since Stratus’ owner is Teknion furniture magnate David Feldberg, even the offices got lots of attention, with all furniture certified to be low in volatile organic compounds. Renowned consultant Paul Hobbs is now working with winemaker J-L Groux on Stratus’s red and white blends.

Stoller Vineyards
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Gold certification, earned April 2006

With its solar-supported, multilevel gravity-flow winery built into a hillside, Stoller became the first U.S. winery to earn Gold. The winery and vineyard were established on the Stoller family’s former turkey farm, in the Dundee Hills, preserving agricultural use, rather than being built on an undeveloped site. By using gravity to move wine rather than pumping it, Stoller saves energy, along with improving quality by processing the wine more gently. The barrel cellar was placed underground, with a catacomb above it; to cool the cellar, nighttime air can be pulled in (even in summer, in this region, 55° F air is available for at least a few hours) by fans and passed through a thermal mass of gravel, which helps regulate the temperatures by acting as a "heat sink" or by warming very cold air. Among the locally sourced materials were beams, posts and stair treads of wood reclaimed from an old building in Portland, while the office chairs were made from recycled plastic soda bottles. Stoller is working to become carbon neutral by April 2010.

Frog’s Leap Winery
Napa Valley, California
Silver certification, earned February 2007

After installing solar panels in 2005 to produce most of the energy for his winery, owner John Williams set a goal of saving energy in his new hospitality center and offices in Rutherford. But he went way beyond double-glazed windows. Before putting in the parking lot, Frog's Leap had 20 bores dug 250 feet deep into that spot for a geothermal system to take advantage of the earth's constant, moderate temperature. Geothermal is far more efficient than traditional heating and air-conditioning because it involves fluid-to-fluid energy exchange instead of fluid-to-air. A water-based liquid circulates through a sealed series of pipes, absorbing heat from the earth and carrying it inside. A heat pump compressor then essentially transfers the heat to liquid in another closed loop that is then pumped throughout the building. In the opposite process, the liquid can carry heat out of the building and transfer it to the soil. An early proponent of organic farming, Williams also avoided toxic chemicals in the building, using non-PVC piping and low-emitting paints and varnishes, and chose rapidly renewable building materials and certified sustainability harvested wood.

Southbrook Vineyards
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
Gold certification, earned November 2008

Designed by prominent Canadian architect Jack Diamond, the hospitality center of this Niagara-on-the-Lake winery is notable for two striking features: the floor-to-ceiling glass exterior and the monolithic wall on one side. The glass lets in natural daylight, cutting down on energy use, and shows off the vineyards from every point in the building except the bathrooms. The wall, which marks the entrance and captures attention visually from the road, houses the plumbing and air ducts that otherwise can't be accommodated in the walls and “floating” roof. As part of a comprehensive water management plan, storm runoff is captured by a bio-swale, a long drainage ditch lined with wetland plants that break down any pollutants, while roof runoff is collected in a reflecting pool. The winery is not on the municipal sewer system, so wastewater is cleaned by passing through a wetland system of sand and reed beds. Adding to their green credentials, owners Bill and Marilyn Redelmeier had the vineyards certified organic and biodynamic.

Hall St. Helena
Napa Valley, California
Gold certification, earned July 2009

Located right along Highway 29 in St. Helena, this high-end Cabernet producer is well positioned to educate visitors about the state of the art in winemaking efficiency, through tours of its LEED-certified production facility. The new fermentation and barrel cellars are topped with more than 35,000 square feet of solar panels. To efficiently heat and cool these large spaces, Hall's St. Helena winery has radiant flooring, which passes water (a better conductor of energy than air) through the floors to moderate temperatures in different areas. To reduce reliance on wells and cut water use by 40 percent, Hall installed low-flow outlets and captures all water that goes through the facility, sending it to a treatment pond or their own sewage-treatment system. It’s then used to irrigate the vineyards or the landscaping, which consists of drought-tolerant plant species.

Murphy-Goode Winery Tasting Room
Sonoma County, California
Gold certification, earned October 2009

This Sonoma producer opened a tasting room just off the square in Healdsburg to expose more wine-country visitors to its Bordeaux-style reds, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. At the same time, it’s exposing guests to green-building principles. Thanks to the large windows, high ceilings and open floor plan, those inside enjoy natural daylight in about three-quarters of the space, while occupancy and photo sensors keep the electric lights off when they’re not needed. High-efficiency appliances contributed to a one-third reduction in water use; on a related note, parent company Jackson Family Wines recently finished testing a new energy-efficient technique for filtering and recycling water used to rinse winery barrels and tanks. The process returns 90 percent of the water to drinking quality, so that rinse water can be reused up to 10 times. Kendall-Jackson winery will be the first to adopt the technique, which is expected to save it more than 6 million gallons of water annually.

Torii Mor Winery
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Gold certification, earned April 2010

The Dundee Hills AVA is practically a hotbed of LEED activity. Like their neighbors, Donald and Margie Olson decided to focus on sustainability when they constructed their new gravity-flow winery to make their vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs and other varieties. Along with the 45Kw solar-panel system that can handle all the winery and office energy needs during the summers, the Torii Mor project hits a lot of the green-building basics, from choosing native plants for landscaping, to installing low-flow faucets with a rate of 0.5 gallons per minute, to using green cleaning products in the office. Many of the decisions aren’t obvious to visitors; for example, the ultrablocks used in the retaining walls are made of concrete that would normally be dumped by mixer trucks at the end of pouring. And to ensure good air quality in the winery, a carbon dioxide sensor turns on vents when it detects certain levels. Torii Mor is also pursuing Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine accreditation and assessing its carbon usage.

Napa Valley, California
Gold certification, earned April 2010

Perched high on Howell Mountain, Cade winery’s airy, glass-walled tasting room offers gorgeous views of the Napa Valley floor below and the Mayacamas Mountains on the other side. Yet a closer look at the property—the entire estate received certification—is just as intriguing. From the moment you arrive, you’ll see green elements, from the electric vehicle charging stations in the parking lot to the untreated wood beams and fly-ash concrete walls along the path that leads to the tasting area. About 60 percent of the property is kept as a natural landscape of evergreen forest and meadows seeded with native grasses. A winery tour will take you through the workspaces—where recycled galvanized steel, polished concrete floors and glazed, textured glass that makes dirt less noticeable reduce the amount of cleaning and other maintenance needed—and into the barrel caves, well-insulated under 200 feet of earth.

Completed Projects Pending Approval

Mendocino County, California
Opened: September 2009
Goal: Silver

This Anderson Valley Pinot Noir producer, owned by the Duckhorn Wine Company, took sourcing local materials seriously; it found a renewable resource less than 10 miles from the building site. The exterior of its Gowan Creek winemaking facility is wrapped in siding milled locally from redwood from one of its vineyard properties; the wood was harvested by a Forest Stewardship Council-certified forester during a restoration and cleanup project to improve the watershed. The winery’s sloping metal roof plays an integral role in the energy-efficient design; coated with special paint that reflects more heat than it absorbs, “it stays up to 50 to 60 degrees cooler than conventional materials during peak summer weather,” said architect Ron Verdier. One portion is topped with solar panels to generate the majority of the winery's needs. And for every inch of rain, nearly 12,500 gallons of water sheet off the roof and are collected in a pond for irrigation and frost protection.

Red Tail Ridge Winery
Finger Lakes, New York
Opened: Fall 2009
Goal: Silver

When Nancy Irelan and Mike Schnelle started their small winery and vineyard from the ground up in 2004, they took the opportunity to introduce cutting-edge techniques to western Seneca Lake. Their modern winery—in which they produce about 5,000 cases annually of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and more—is heated and cooled by a geothermal energy system in which thousands of feet of coiled pipe are buried horizontally six feet underground. The energy extracted from this system can be pumped to different zones in the winery, so for example, radiant flooring can warm the barrel area during malolactic fermentation; a separate system can simultaneously supply cooling for the insulated jackets on individual fermentation tanks. The building was constructed of sustainable wood and recycled galvanized steel, while the rocks on the façade were picked out of the soil when the couple cleared the vineyards. “That’s very local stuff. We have a big pile left over if you’re interested,” quipped Irelan.

Napa Valley Vintners
Napa Valley, California
Opened: December 2009
Goal: Silver

While not an operational winery, the new headquarters of this organization—best known to wine consumers for its annual Auction Napa Valley—is located in the old Jackse Winery in St. Helena, which operated from 1913 to 1951 (apparently even during Prohibition). Historical preservation was a key focus; many winery artifacts, such as a hydraulic press, were kept, and original woods and roofing were extensively reused. But the organization, which runs the Napa Green Land and Napa Green Winery certification programs, also chose to set an example for its members by following LEED specifications, showcasing solar energy and geothermal heating, sustainable building materials such as cork flooring and landscaping that uses little water.

Soon-to-Be-Completed Projects

University of California at Davis’ Research and Teaching Winery
Central Valley, California
Scheduled to open August 2010
Goal: Platinum

Aiming to be a model for the wine industry and teach students the latest about sustainability, UC Davis is not only reaching for Platinum certification but also researching innovative practices that go beyond current LEED recommendations. If approved, it will be the first winery to achieve Platinum and will join fewer than 100 other buildings in the world that have earned that level. Solar power will account for all of the building’s energy needs, even at peak capacity. Captured rainwater will be used for landscaping and toilets. Because it’s on a college campus, the project can more easily earn LEED points for public transportation, carpooling and bicycle storage—which are more difficult for wineries in a remote agricultural locations to adopt.

On top of that, viticulture and enology professor Roger Boulton and department chair Andrew Waterhouse say they hope to eventually make the winery zero-carbon (with no emissions and no need to pay offsets) and fully independent of the grid and water systems. The winery will be equipped to capture the carbon dioxide emitted by fermentation (60 liters of CO2 per liter of juice), remove it from the building and then test ways to sequester, convert or make use of it. Through its Live Winery system, real-time data on energy, water and carbon usage, as well as waste output, will be captured and shared with the public via a website, while video cameras will show what is going on inside the winery.

LEED is a flexible, points-based system that allows a building owner to pick from a list of recommended practices most suited to his site, budget and intended purpose. It operates on a 100-point scale, with credits weighted by their environmental impact. After satisfying certain prerequisites, the more recommendations that are met and documented, the greater the number of points and the higher the level of certification earned. Beyond the basic LEED certification (a minimum of 40 points) are the Silver (50 points), Gold (60) and Platinum (80) levels. (The points system differs slightly in Canada.)

Environment Carbon Reduction Recycling Vineyard Management Sustainability LEED Certfication