Green Efforts: Valley of the Moon

Oliver’s Market Green Item for the month of February is Valley of the Moon’s (a Heck Estates Winery) 2010 Rosato Di Sangiovese. We have selected this wine because of Heck Estates’ commitment to being sustainable and its perfect Valentine’s Day coupling. Heck Estate's has a long history in Sonoma County; with vineyards producing grapes for over 140 years. Heck wants to continue this tradition for generations to come by stewarding the land, reducing their waste, water, and energy consumption.

While Heck does not tote the “organic” label they do use practices that drastically reduce the need for synthetic chemicals. Their most commonly used chemical is sulfur dioxide, which inhibits oxidation and growth of microbes that can spoil wine. This is used as a preservative, ensuring the wine is in peak condition when it reaches the customer. Heck Estates reduces the need for chemicals by developing and encouraging the growth and health of the natural ecosystem. Predatory insects and birds keep pests at a manageable level. Sustainable grape growing provides much of the benefits of organic farming, with less risk and at a lower cost of labor.

In addition, Heck wineries employ many other sustainable practices. Some key elements include: using cover crops on all vineyards to control erosion, enhancing soils with decaying organic material and nutrition, and re-using materials instead of disposal. Open land is retained in its natural state to maintain biodiversity. Only land where vines are located is fenced, leaving property open for migration of wildlife. On 125 acres of vineyards, all water needs are met by using reclaimed processed water. Use of subsurface drainage collects rainwater for all irrigation and frost control needs for approximately 120 acres, meaning no well water is used. Heck wineries have been recognized by the state of California’s EPA with waste reduction awards each year since 2003. Heck wineries utilize night time harvesting which reduces energy needs for cooling the grape juice. All of these practices, amongst others, are why Heck wineries are a leader in sustainable wine growing in Sonoma County.

Valley of the Moon is a Sonoma County Green Business. This means they have been certified by the Sonoma County Green Business Program. In order, for a business to become certified they must meet requirements in energy, water, waste, and pollution prevention. This accomplishment is both beneficial for the winery and Sonoma County. Businesses that partake in this program are demonstrating their commitment to reducing negative impacts on the environment and improving on Business As Usual practices.

Heck Wineries uses the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Self-Assessment Workbook. This book provides a foundation of sustainable practices that can be implemented as applicable to each winery. Wineries can use provided tools to asses their own sustainability. Chapters include: viticulture, soil management, vineyard water management, pest management, wince quilting, ecosystem management, energy efficiency, winery water conservation and quality material handling, solid waste reduction and management, environmentally preferred purchasing, human resources, neighbors and community, and air quality. This diverse set of perspectives allows wineries to self-evaluate and grow in areas where they might be lacking. It also, provides a resource for wineries that allow them to learn about new and innovative practices.

Valley of the Moon and Heck Estates have done a tremendous job in providing a great product through sustainable practices. The 2010 Rosato Di Sangiovese is a vibrant red cherry and cranberry fruit character wine. The Rosato gets its brilliant color from an overnight soak of the crushed grapes on the skin. This wine is wonderful as an aperitif or paired with fruit and mild cheeses. The perfect wine for a romantic evening, setting the mood for a wonderful Valentine’s Day and month of February.

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