Earth Day is as good as any day to raise a glass of wine and give a toast. This year, Earth Day also happens to fall on Wine Wednesday, so that’s just one more reason to uncork a bottle. If you want to make sure you’re opening a sustainable bottle, consider a wine from the California Green Medal winners.

The first annual California Green Medal: Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Awards was developed by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), California Association of Winegrape Growers, Lodi Winegrape Commission, Napa Valley Vintners, Vineyard Team and Wine Institute to recognize leading wineries and vineyards committed to sustainability. It recognized leaders in four categories: Leader Award, Environment Award, Community Award and Business Award.

Here are the winners from the inaugural awards.

Fetzer Vineyards

Leader Award for the “vineyard or winery that excels in the 3 E’s of sustainability – Environmentally sound, socially Equitable and Economically viable.”

Fetzer is a pioneer in environmental responsibility in the wine industry, with earth-friendly practices going back to 1968. Their environmental efforts are impressive.

  • First winery in California to operate on 100 percent renewable energy in 1999
  • Largest U.S. producer of organic winegrapes certified by CCOF and the first Zero Waste certified wine company in the world
  • Early adopters of measuring energy, water, waste, vineyard inputs, packaging, recycling, and many other metrics
Fetzer has several value wines. You’ll frequently find Fetzer’s Sauvignon Blanc, a wine that sells for under $10, in my home.

Benziger Family Winery

Environment Award for the “vineyard or winery that best demonstrates Environmental Stewardship through maximized environmental benefits from implementing sustainable practices.”

Benziger’s estate properties are all Demeter Certified Biodynamic, and they had the first biodynamic wine in Sonoma County.

  • Created "Farming for Flavors," which was third-party certified by Stellar in 2007
  • Holds annual “Hot Topic” seminars for growers that focus on water conservation, reduction in inputs, biodiversity, soil biology, composting and efficient use of equipment. Focuses on using technology and industry experts to learn more about practices that guarantee the most efficient use of resources
Trinchero Family Estates

Business Award for “the vineyard or winery that best demonstrates Smart Business through efficiencies, cost savings and innovation from implementing sustainable practices.”

Trinchero has more than a dozen labels, including Newman’s Own, Ménage à Trois, and their own Napa Valley Trinchero. They are committed to environmental stewardship, charitable giving and responsibility.

  • Vineyards are managed to balance desired quality, necessary inputs and water use
  • Wineries strive to minimize water, waste and energy use in both their Napa and Lodi facilities
  • Focus on sustainable packaging — such as lightweight bottles and recycled glass as well as alternative packaging such as Tetra Pak and 100 percent recyclable and lightweight PET mini bottles
Nord Vineyard Services

Community Award for the “vineyard or winery that is a Good Neighbor and Employer using the most innovative practices that enhance relations with employees, neighbors and/or communities.”

Nord doesn’t bottle its own wine. It has 400 acres of family partnership vineyards at 10 locations in Napa Valley, growing grapes sustainably to sell. Nord was recognized for several efforts.

  • Recognizes that the long-term viability of the vineyards requires sustainable business and farming practices
  • Invites professionals and the public to its vineyards, including hosting hundreds of neighbors as part of Napa Grapegrowers' and Napa Valley Vintners' "Afternoon in the Vineyards"
  • Owners and employees are active in the industry and in their community by serving on numerous boards, committees and task forces.
  • Participate in research experiments and extension of new technologies and techniques.
As you walk up and down the aisles of the wine store over the next few days choosing what to drink for Earth Day (and hey, isn’t every day Earth Day?), consider grabbing a bottle from one of these sustainable leaders in the California wine industry and support their environmental efforts. 

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Toast Earth Day with sustainable California wines
Meet the winners of the first California Green Medal: Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Awards.