UC Davis creates environmentally friendly winery

With the world’s natural resources in desperate need of relief, eco-wineries are emerging to answer the call.

With the world’s natural resources in desperate need of relief, eco-wineries are emerging to answer the call.

Many such wineries have cropped up across the U.S., with a particular concentration in California. Prestigious recognitions are now given to distinguish eco-wineries from their less environmentally-friendly counterparts. One such organization that recognizes green building is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

Soon-to-be chief among these eco-wineries will be UC Davis’ new teaching and research winery, which will be part of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. The facility, which will also house the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory, will be the first platinum LEED-certified winery in the world. The merit is the highest LEED level awarded to buildings by the organization.

Roger Boulton, UC Davis professor and chemical engineer chair in the enology department of viticulture and enology, spearheaded the winery’s development since its conception in 2000.

“Clearly [the winery] sets a standard for all grape and wine programs, as well as educational institutions, worldwide at a time when there is considerable thinking and action related to sustainability,” Boulton said.

Along with the brewery, dairy and food science lab, which are additional components of the UC Davis platinum-certified building, the winery will be fully constructed by July. Some features include solar power as the sole producer of energy for the institute and sequestered rainwater for cleaning needs.

Specific criteria must be met before the UC Davis winery waves the banner of environmental sustainability in its epitome. LEED takes into account categories of points when authorizing a platinum-certification. These include how the site is prepared and maintained during construction, the recycling and reuse of building materials, energy efficiency, onsite renewable energy generation and rainwater capture and use.

The UC Davis winery’s existence hinges entirely on funds from private donors. Two of these benefactors are wine companies that practice the same sustainability they promote.

J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines began their eco-friendly tactics as early as the 1970s with the employment of drip irrigation. Recently, the company installed the largest solar tracking ray of any winery in North America and published a workbook on how to make vineyards and wineries more sustainable.

Steve Lohr, executive vice president, chief of operations officer and head of the sustainability committee for J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, said the company’s donation to the UC Davis winery was only fitting.

“Clearly, UC Davis is one of the world’s leading grape and wine research universities,” Lohr said. “However, it was dealing with a winery that dates back to the ’30s. It was not befitting the faculty and the students at UC Davis.”

This new winery hopes to serve as a shining example to the rest of the world as to what can be accomplished with proper environmental planning, Lohr said.

Yet another California vineyard and winery company took up the mantle of benefactor for the UC Davis winery. Jackson Family Wines, with its famous Kendall-Jackson label, was rated by the Huffington Post among the top 10 eco-friendly wineries in the U.S. – all 10 of which are located in California. The corporation donated funds toward the bidding process, and after the bid was selected the Jackson family bestowed a private contribution as well.

“We have worked in the past and present with UC Davis on a number of projects involved with vineyard and winery technology and processes,” said Robert Boller, vice president of sustainability and production estates for Jackson Family Wines.

Boller said Jackson Family Wines actually worked alongside Boulton on a water-recycling endeavor. The company was also a pioneer of LEED certification, with its Murphy-Goode tasting room, the only LEED Gold-certified tasting room in existence.

Boulton was enthusiastic for the message this new winery will send but also acknowledged the contributions that allowed it to come about.

“[The winery] is a very public demonstration and commitment to [sustainability] and it comes at a time when we were fortunate to have support to build new facilities,” Boulton said.

KELLEY REES can be reached at city@theaggie.org.