As today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Unfiltered is this week recognizing those wineries that are greening things up this month in honor of the annual environmental awareness day. Earth Day 2010’s main focus is climate change and support for a healthy clean-energy economy; as the wineries listed here reveal, there’s no limit to the ways in which you can contribute to the cause. We couldn’t possibly list everyone pitching in this week, so please add your own Earth Day efforts to the comments section below.
• Benziger Family winery recently got a facelift that was anything but superficial. For Earth Day, the winery announced it will be adopting new packaging for its wine, for both bottles and labels, that will lighten its impact on the environment. New bottles that weigh 30 percent less will use fewer natural resources to create and take less energy to ship. Soy-based ink on their updated labels will more eco-friendly than the industrial ink they used before. They’ve also invested in an electric vehicle research program to offset their carbon usage in an effort to become carbon-neutral. Today, 100 percent of the profits from Benziger’s tasting room sales will be donated to Sonoma Valley’s La Luz Center/Vineyard Worker Services, a non-profit organization that provides community assistance to Sonoma farm workers. And as a feather in its cap, Benziger recently won a 2010 Growing Green Award from the Natural Resources Defense Council for its efforts to recycle and reduce water usage at its vineyard. “We consider water conservation a major priority in planning vineyards, growing grapes and making wine,” said Mike Benziger.
• Today through Sunday, every guest tasting at Sonoma’s Rodney Strong Vineyards will take home a compact florescent light bulb as part of the carbon-neutral winery's Green Light Pledge for Earth Day. Each bulb creates the opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions by 277 pounds per year; if all of Sonoma were to change just one bulb, 50 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented from entering the atmosphere.
• The non-profit Central Coast Vineyard Team organization, which promotes sustainable winegrowing, got an early start on Earth Day this past weekend, ringing in the ecological holiday with their annual Earth Day Food & Wine Festival at Santa Margarita Ranch. The three-day binge on locally cultivated and sustainably produced fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, olive oils and wines ended as the previous such bacchanals have, with virtually zero waste and a negligible carbon footprint thanks to heady doses of solar power, recycling and ride-sharing to and from the festival. Last year, 1,000 guests generated just two bags of trash.
• Wineries in Sonoma’s Green Valley, including DeLoach, Dutton-Goldfield, Freeman and Marimar Estate, hosted a walk-around food-and-wine tasting at Iron Horse Vineyards on April 18, with proceeds going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program and National Geographic's Ocean Now initiative. Besides sipping Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, guests chowed down on sustainable dishes like Hog Island oysters, California Osetra caviar, fish tacos and homemade breads. National Geographic was on hand for a presentation on ocean exploration, and the winery will feature an eco-exhibit on the beauty of water.
• Australian winemaker Thomas Angove, credited with the invention of one of the most environmentally friendly forms of wine packaging, bag-in-a-box wine, has died at the age of 92. Riverland winegrower Angove’s was one of Australia’s largest vineyards when Thomas became managing director in 1947, a position which he held until 1983 when he was succeeded by his son, John Angove. Ever the innovator, Thomas was the first in Australia to use stainless steel tanks for wine storage. But he will be most remembered for revolutionizing wine packaging by developing the wine cask in 1965. When Thomas first brought the cask prototype home, his teenage son, John, told him, “That’s ridiculous, nobody will buy wine in a plastic bag stuck inside a cardboard box!” Fortunately for college students around the world (as well as the ecosystem), Thomas didn’t listen.
Few luxuries pair better than fine wine and fine art.
• Finally, in an equally philanthropic albeit non-green gesture, Italian fine-wine producer Tenuta dell’Ornellaia is celebrating the release of the 2007 vintage with a collection of artist-designed special-edition large-format bottles to be auctioned at a gala dinner at the Whitney Museum of American Art next week. Artists Ghada Amer and Reza Farkondeh collaborated on the series of hand-painted, stitched and printed artist labels, the theme for which is “Happily Ever After.” Twenty-three bottles in all will be up for auction, including a 9-liter salmanazar, four imperials and 18 double magnums; 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Whitney. Bottle Shock star Alan Rickman is expected to be on hand at the April 28 gala at the museum, but those not fortunate enough to secure a seat may still bid online by registering at www.sothebys.com/ornellaia.