Making Wine Production in San Mateo Sustainable

Making Wine Production in San Mateo Sustainable


Bottom line: Sustainable wine production can offer significant environmental benefits.

wine - FATF2013

A selection of wines from SSMC’s 2013 Feast at the Farm Fundraiser

San Mateo County belongs to the Central Coast American Viticultural Area, which accounts for close to 15% of California’s production of wine grapes(1). The San Francisco Bay area provides ideal growing conditions thanks to the warm days, cool nights and well-drained gravel soils. While enhancing the quality of the fruit is an important consideration for vine growers, producing wine can have a significant environmental impact, and an increasing number of wineries are now turning to more sustainable methods of farming and production(2). This not only helps to maintain the viability of the land and conserve natural resources, but is more cost-effective and offers wider social benefits.

La Honda Winery is one of the county’s producers that take the issue of sustainability seriously. According to David Page, the winery’s General Manager, although their wines are not certified organic, their growing practices help to preserve both the landscape and the environment. For instance, they maintain more than 40 local vineyards whose fate would alternatively be non-native landscaping. Practices such as crop cover and composting naturally enhance conditions, while organic sprays help to control pests without endangering other wildlife. When it comes to distribution, 95% of La Honda’s wine is consumed within 30 miles of its production, helping to reduce food miles, which are believed to be an important contributor to climate change(3). The winery’s commitment to sustainable practices has been acknowledged with an “As Fresh as it Gets Award” from San Mateo County(4).

Ridge Vineyards in nearby Cupertino has taken environmental responsibility even further, by producing organic vines and using measures to conserve energy and water(5). The practices they use to enrich the soil, manage pests naturally, promote biodiversity and attend to the vines’ needs are all in line with those outlined for organic grape production(6). Meanwhile, Ridge Vineyards’ measures to protect natural resources are also commendable and far from the irresponsible actions so often associated with the creation of products for our enjoyment(7). For example, water is one of California’s most precious resources, so it is vital that vine growers save water where they can(8). This is indeed something that this winery has taken care of by recycling its waste water for use in vine irrigation and using sap flow meters to allow more efficient irrigation. While 7% of the carbon footprint of wine production in California is down to the carbon dioxide emissions associated with electricity consumption(9), the winery now uses solar panels to meet 75% of their electricity needs, and the construction of eco-buildings designed to reduce the need for air conditioning has reduced electricity consumption further.

Even though Rock Wall Wine Company over the water in Alameda don’t grow their own grapes, they are taking action in other areas to make their wine production as sustainable as possible(10). Chelsea Blackburn, the winery’s Director of Public Relations, advises that they recycle wherever they can, both on site and at any events they attend. This includes all of their grape waste, which is taken to a local green waste facility. Besides recycling, Rock Wall Wine Company also makes an effort to conserve water during the cleaning process to reduce wastage.

Take action: Support local wineries taking steps towards more sustainable production and ask your favorite winery what measures they are taking, as increased demand for sustainable produce can help to drive positive changes.


1 “The appellations of California wine – Central Coast and Southern,” Wine Institute, accessed October 30 2014

2 “The environmental impact of the wine we drink,” The Washington Post, March 28 2011, accessed October 30 2014

3 “Food miles: how far your food travels has serious consequences for your health and the climate,” Natural Resources Defense Council, accessed October 30 2014

4 “Awards,” La Honda Winery, accessed October 30 2014

5 “Sustainability,” Ridge Vineyards, accessed October 30 2014

6 “Production guide for organic grapes,” Cornell University, accessed October 30 2014

7 “The environmental impact of human addiction,” Steps to Recovery, accessed October 30 2014

8 “Industry driven standards for water efficiency: the California sustainable winegrowing program,” Pacific Institute, accessed October 30 2014

9 “California wine’s carbon footprint,” California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, accessed October 30 2014

10 “About us,” Rock Wall Wine Company, accessed October 30 2014

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