Gary Strieker brings Assignment Earth to Napa Valley, where more sustainable practices — from growing cover crops to harnessing the power of the sun — have taken hold. Doug Shafer of Shafer Vineyards, says that hasn't always been the case. (Video: Assignment Earth)



>>  California’s Napa Valley is home to some of the finest wines made in America.  Grape growers and wine vintners in Napa are fiercely proud of their wines and protecting the environment they are grown in is a top priority.  Doug Shafer of Shafer Vineyards has been a leading proponent of sustainable farming practices for many years and it’s not always been easy.

>>  When I first started doing this, I’d be at meetings with other growers and I got a lot of funny looks, ‘cause there was only a few of us doing it back there. 

>>  Where there was once bare earth between grapevine rows, Shafer planted cover crops with a variety of beneficial effects.  Soil nutrients were replenished.  And, new habitats created for beneficial bugs that prey on harmful pests, thereby minimizing use of chemicals on grapes.  Hundreds of solar panels are the most obvious bow to green technology.  Shafer Vineyards became 100% solar supported in 2004.  Their solar arrays generate 229 kilowatts of electricity at peak, creating a surplus of energy, which is then returned to the grid to power other vineyards in the valley.  More sustainable systems at the winery include composting of waste vegetation, nesting sites and perches for birds, which control insects and rodents, and the treatment and recycling of all water used on site. 

>>  This whole movement to farm and produce wines more organically, sustainably, it’s almost become the norm.  It’s almost the expected.

>>  Across the Valley at Far Niente Winery, those sustainable practices are also catching on.  Far Niente has enthusiastically adopted the change to sustainable and organic practices, including an ingenious approach to solar power.

>>  Behind me is Far Niente’s Floatovoltaic system.  It’s a pontoon based, a floating solar array.  It’s designed to offset 100% of the winery’s energy usage. 

>>  While it still might be too early to quantify the result sustainability practices have on grapes and wines, winemakers are confident the payoff will be reflected in their quality.

>>  The quality of our juice seems to be a little bit better than it used to be and if you've got better quality juice, the hope is you’ll have better quality wines.

>>  As environmental responsibility achieves a major role in the business of winemaking here, Napa Valley is becoming a leader in the global environmental movement and that is really something to toast.

[glasses clinking]

For Assignment Earth, I’m Gary Strieker.

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"Assignment Earth" features compelling video reports from the front lines of major environmental stories from around the globe. Topics include global warming, pollution, habitat destruction and endangered species.