drinking wine

22 Sustainable Wines for Earth Day   

The song may go “red, red wine…” but across California vineyards, it is all about “green, green wine.” Or going green, to be more specific. In honor of Earth Day on April 22, here are some impressive strides local vineyards have made as it relates to protecting and preserving the environment as well as 22 ultra-sippable bottles to buy so you can do your part in supporting sustainability.

Larkmead Vineyards

Larkmead Vineyards, which has earned “Napa Green Winery” and “Napa Green Land” certifications, practices organic farming, planting native species throughout the estate, restoring a local creek, installing solar panels, flame weeding the vineyard and more. Its 2017 Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon is a love letter to the land, offering blue and black fruits, dusty tannins and even cherry candy and rocky mineral, depending on the sip. $125

Hamel Family Wines

The Hamel family takes great pride in its biodynamic and dry farming, which enhances soil health and lessens the vines’ dependency on irrigation. Three of four of the vineyards from which the family sources are certified biodynamic, with the final vineyard certified both biodynamic and organic. It also incorporates livestock, natural biodiversity and compost made from plants grown on-site as an organic way to keep the soil, vines and environment in pristine condition. Its 2018 Hamel Family Wines Isthmus is red blend for the ages. A balanced mix Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and just a touch of Petit Verdot, black fruits are the star of the show, thanks to an impressive supporting cast of cassis clove and even a bit of cedar in the flavor profile. $90 

Cakebread Cellars

For nearly 50 years, this family-owned winery has led the way when it comes to organic farming, diligent water and energy conservation and extensive recycling operations to improve the health of the soil. Cakebread was only the second California winery to achieve the honorable Napa Green certification in 2008. Most recently, in 2021, Cakebread became the newest applicant member of the International Wineries for Climate Action, furthering its sustainability initiatives and working to reduce carbon emissions across the winery. The attention to detail shows in every single varietal. Its Cakebread Cellars 2021 Vin de Porche Rosé, Anderson Valley is aptly named given it begs to be enjoyed outside on the porch, patio or by the pool. The balance of acidity with strawberry is something special here. $30

Far Niente

Far Niente

This award-winning winery boasts the ground-breaking Floatovoltaic system, which is the world’s first floating, grid-connected solar installation. The result? Far Niente is a net-zero user of electricity that annually produces more energy than it consumes. Famed for many wines, its 2020 Far Niente Estate Bottled Chardonnay – with its silky palate and notes of toasted vanilla and baking spices – is timeless. $73

Post & Beam Winery

This brand also comes from the Far Niente family. As you probably guessed, the vineyards that produce the grapes for Post & Beam’s Cabernet Sauvignon are all Napa Green Certified. Through this certification, all Post & Beam vineyards provide a pathway for growers to improve soil health, become carbon neutral to negative, and increase the resilience of vineyards, businesses and the Napa community. The vineyard’s 2019 Post & Beam Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is a joy both on the nose and the palate, thanks to ample notes of raspberry and spice with just a hint of herbs. $50

Frog’s Leap

The first Napa winery to farm organically in 1988, Frog’s Leap began fully dry-farming in 1989 – saving enough water to fill 40 Olympic swimming pools annually – and converted to solar power in 2004. In 2005, it became the first Napa winery to have a LEED Silver certified building as well. Though all winners, the Frog’s Leap Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon stands out for its earthiness and oak.  $65

Banshee Wines

Banshee, part of the Foley Wine family, is committed to working relationships with small sustainable family vineyards and winery owners in its pursuit of making world-class wines that deliver in both quality and value. This means they have a hand in everything from land preservation and protection of natural habitats to reduction of carbon emissions, solar panels and dry farming techniques. Banshee’s 10 of Cups Sparkling Wine was tailor-made for the spring and summer with its bubbly effervesce and notes of honeysuckle. $30

Quintessa

This vineyard has earned both its full organic farming certification from California Certified Organic Farmers and its official Biodynamic farming certification from Demeter USA. The brand has actually been focused on biodynamic farming practices since 1996, long before the term began to dominate the wine world’s conversations. Speaking of dominate, Quintessa’s 2020 Illumination Sauvignon Blanc will dominate your summer wine selections once you taste how it manages to get grapefruit, Meyer lemon and white peach into every sip. $50

Donum Estate

Donum Estate works proactively with nature to create an environment where vines are able to thrive. They use organic and biodynamic farming to harness the essence of the land, capturing it perfectly with its flagship 2019 Donum Estate Carneros Pinot Noir. It intoxicates with aromas of sassafras, strawberry and black cherry before offering bright red fruit and slight earthiness on the palate. $85

Sebastiani Vineyards

This winery has been an important part of the Sonoma County community for more than 100 years. They are long-term practitioners of sustainable farming methods, working with the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance to ensuring all aspects of their business are sustainable and gentle on the environment. Among the measures in place: soil management, natural fertilizers, compost, no tilling on the property, cover crops, preservation of native plants, micro irrigation and the management of weeds and mildew. Right now, the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 is showing exceptionally well. It sounds wild, but there is a little leather combined with strawberry preserves and this balanced acidity that totally works. $45

Vina Robles

There are so many things to brag on when it comes to what Vina Robles is doing to make this world a better place, including the vineyard’s partnership, One Tree Planted, through which Vina plants trees with a portion of the proceeds from every bottle of its popular Arborist sells. The result? Vina has planted nearly 22,000 trees…and counting. They also do ALL of this. Obviously, go and buy the 2019 Arborist like crazy, which bursts with plum and chocolate, with a touch of tobacco at the finish. $18

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

Currently, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines operates the largest solar tracking array in the North American wine industry at its Paso Robles estate vineyard. In addition, J. Lohr has installed a 920.7 KW flat mount solar power system at its Monterey estate vineyard that powers nearly 100 percent of energy needs at the location. With over 20 wines bearing the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing seal, J. Lohr was awarded the 2020 Green Medal Leader Award and has achieved “Certified Sustainable” status for its vineyards each year since the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance first began certification in 2010. Among them is the 2019 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon, which marries red and black currants in perfect harmony. $35

Mt. Brave

To give an idea to this vineyard’s commitment to sustainability, Mt. Brave Winemaker Chris Carpenter is a founding member of Napa’s Slow Food USA chapter and each grape on property is hand-harvested with very little mechanized modern technology. Don’t sleep on Carpenter’s Mt. Brave Cabernet Franc 2019, which reflects the vineyard’s rugged sense of place with concentrated flavors of black tea, spice and berry. $95

Shannon Family of Wines

Shannon happens to the winner of the 2021 California Green Medal Environment Award for its efforts to minimize its carbon footprint. Through Project Ovis, the transformation of the 1,000-acre Lake County California mountain vineyard estate into a completely sustainable, regenerative organic farming system, Shannon Family of Wines combines carbon sequestering practices with permaculture initiatives and energy-efficiency applications. The vineyards are 100 percent Certified Sustainable and, by July 2022, will be one of the largest Certified Organic mountain-grown vineyards in the United States. Its OVIS Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 is a 92-point winner from Wine Enthusiast and somehow manages to combine chocolate, cherries, oak and – maybe a little cocoa? $60

Davis Estates

Among a laundry list of sustainable practices, the epic Davis Estates Vineyards (go visit and do the food and wine pairing!) are Fish Friendly Farming registered, which helps restore and improve water quality for the fish and wildlife in the Napa Valley area. And what to sip? Though the choices are endless, the brand’s 2017 Estate Merlot has a vanilla essence, dreamy oak notes and velvetiness that will change your life. $75

Alpha Omega

Double “Napa Green” certified as both a winery and a vineyard, Alpha Omega uses a solar power grid, drip irrigation and organic weed control, meaning no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides containing chemicals of any kind. Green equals clean, as in an explosion of fresh fruits and refreshing brightness, when it comes to AO’s sensational Sauvignon Blanc 1155 Napa Valley 2020. $85

Adelaida Vineyards & Winery

Adelaida is a pioneer of sustainability in the Paso Robles region. In fact, only 10 percent of Adelaida’s 1,900 acres are planted to vineyards; more than 1,000 acres remain undeveloped and unfenced, for ecological and wild animal habitat. Indulge in the vineyard’s Adelaida Rosé, an interesting and yummy blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsaut and Counoise. $30

My Favorite Neighbor

My Favorite Neighbor

Regular readers of this site will know this brand as the passion project of eco-leader and Booker Wines founder Eric Jensen. This specialty wine comes from local vineyards operated by Jensen’s friends, with the stipulation that the fruit be grown with organic practices and absolutely no chemicals and then made at Booker’s solar-powered winery. The 2019 My Favorite Neighbor is a truly special treat is it is cultivated from grapes at Jensen’s favorite neighboring vineyards. The cherry and currant taste like magic here, though others love it for its minerality and even hint of herbs. $50

Medlock Ames

This organic winery works with Pepperwood Preserve to identify and preserve the several distinct ecosystems on its ranch. There are seven solar power arrays throughout its Bell Ranch, allowing them to power their winery and business offices. Medlock Ames also maintains a wildlife corridor to nurture the natural flow of animal life through their property. Its 2019 Bell Mountain Cabernet is ready and waiting for you with its delicious array of cocoa, coffee and ultra-ripe blueberry. $70

Ehlers Estate

Ehlers Estate bases all its sustainable efforts on respect for the ecosystems surrounding the estate and the vineyards, the recovery and maintenance of healthy soils and the sustainable control of plagues. During the winemaking process, Ehlers Estate uses no fining on any of its wines and light filtration on its whites, but no filtration in any of its reds to save energy and reduce residue discharge. Looking for a little something while enjoying pools and patios with friends? Opt for the 2021 Sylviane Rosé in all of its vanilla, candied fruit and floral glory. $38

Stonestreet Estate Vineyards

Stonestreet Estate Vineyards is third-party certified sustainable under the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing and Sustainability in Practice programs. The care goes beyond the planted vines; of the 5,100 acres that make up the Estate, less than the 20 percent of the property is planted to vines and most of the land is left as open space for native plants and animals to flourish. Get yourself a bottle of the 2013 Christopher’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich expression of the varietal bursting with plum compote, candied bacon and just a hint of graphite for balance. $210

Domaine Anderson

Domaine Anderson’s Dach Vineyard is farmed organically and biodynamically. Preps and composts are applied in the vineyard for supporting certain aspects and properties of the vine. This is used to promote microbial diversity and vitality in the soil. Animal influences are brought by grazing sheep, raising chickens and housing bees on the property as well. You must try the 2018 Dach Pinot Noir. The bottle will convert anyone into a fan. $65

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