In Sonoma County, the word “sustainable” is more than an eco-friendly catchphrase—it’s a big-picture approach to caring for land, people, and wine. Most of Sonoma County’s 425 wineries, and 99% of its 60,000 vineyard acres are certified sustainable, having passed a rigorous review of their management of energy, soil, water, and more; the strength of their community relationships; and their efforts to preserve land for natural habitat.
To gain a boots-on-the-ground understanding of wine-county sustainability, just visit some of these Sonoma County wineries. Amble through some legendary vineyards, greet winemakers and farm animals, and see firsthand what it takes to produce wines that express a real sense of place.
The only agritourism program of its kind, this series of complimentary, self-guided vineyard walks at several Sonoma County wineries invites you to learn about the wine region’s history, soil types, microclimates, and sustainable farming practices, such as the use of wind technology and water conservation. These tours average a mile or less, and are created for all ages to enjoy.
Ranging throughout the Sonoma, Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander valleys, participating wineries include Schug Carneros Estate, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, Matanzas Creek Winery, Balletto Vineyards, La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard, Mauritson Wines, and Amista Vineyards. There’s no charge for these tours—wineries will determine any wine tasting fees.
Medlock Ames Walking Tour
Embodying the spirit of Sonoma County sustainability, this small-production Alexander Valley winery has preserved all 338 acres of its 100% solar-powered, organically farmed Bell Mountain Ranch estate. When you reserve a walking tour of the property’s 55 acres of vineyards, 800 olive trees, orchard, market garden, and production facility, it’s paired with an engaging education in sustainably-focused winegrowing and winemaking, as well as local cheeses and their Bordeaux-style varietals and blends.
Benziger Family Winery Electric Tram
One of the few wineries in Sonoma County to be certified Biodynamic, organic, and sustainable, Benziger views its entire 85-acre Sonoma Mountain estate as its own ecosystem. To learn how they use wooly weeders (that is, goats and sheep), compost, and cover crops to grow stunning gardens and produce renowned wines, hop aboard an electric tram for the 90-minute Tribute Estate Tour & Tasting, enjoying Benziger’s rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon, and more along the way. Tour guests must be 21 years or older, and reservations must be made in advance.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery Ultimate Wine Tour
Though you’ll surely be wowed by Jordan’s elegant chateau-style estate, its greatest asset is the 1,200-acre property that surrounds it. On this Alexander Valley winery’s Ultimate Healdsburg Wine Tour, a luxury sprinter van will ferry you through a rolling ramble of open spaces, woodlands, grazing pastures, lakes, and vineyards, stopping along the way to learn how land stewardship, pollinators, and wise water management support their sustainable farming practices. The 3-hour tour includes tastings of Jordan’s Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons, as well as culinary pairings that use produce from the winery’s own kitchen garden.
Belden Barns Farmstead & Winery Farmstead Tour and Tasting
Equal parts winery and farm, this family-owned Sonoma Mountain operation is a one-stop shop for sustainable produce—bottled or otherwise. Book a farmstead tour to see what’s growing in the three-acre veggie garden and fruit orchard, which includes 25 varieties of apples, and shop for dry goods produced organically on site. Then head to Belden Barns’ rustic tasting barn to sip sustainably produced Pinot Noir, Grenache, Grüner Veltliner and several other varietals, basking in the view of their 18.5-acre estate vineyard. Learn all about Belden’s eco-conscious farming and viticulture practices, the release of their first hard cider later this year, and their plans to add a creamery to their agricultural mini-empire.
Silver Oak Tour and Taste
An entire education in sustainability can be gained simply by visiting Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley winery, one of the first in the world to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum Certified for Building and Construction. Using 2,595 solar panels, the barn-inspired tasting room and production facility here produce 104% of their annual energy needs, and LED lighting and reclaimed redwood maximize sustainability at every turn. Stroll along the recycled-water reflecting pool, wander through the organically-grown kitchen garden, and enjoy Silver Oak’s famous Cabernet Sauvignons with a dreamy view of the estate’s certified-sustainable vineyards.
Written by Melanie Wynne
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