At Emeritus Vineyards, we do everything we can to work lightly upon the earth. The world is what we make it, and this is especially true of sustainability; we want our vineyards (and our world) to last!
Our sustainability commitments are extensive and ongoing—because each of these efforts is only as sustainable as the willingness to stick with them long term. We do this because, as a company, we not only want to take responsibility for any impact we have on the environment, but have a negative carbon output overall.
Emeritus is certified sustainable by both the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and Sonoma County Winegrowers. If you’ve seen one or both of these labels while driving around in the neighborhood, that’s because 99% of Sonoma County’s entire vineyard acreage has been certified sustainable by a third-party program. We’re proud to be part of the most sustainable winegrowing region in the world.
More than 85% of the vineyards around here, including ours, are family owned and operated. By keeping our environment healthy we can preserve the viability of these family farms and agricultural heritage for future generations.
Since late 2019, Emeritus and other members of Sonoma County Winegrowers have come together to test run a brand new Climate Adaptation Certification (CAC) Program. The aim of the program is to verify that a vineyard’s sustainability practices, on top of being officially Certified Sustainable, are offsetting carbon emissions. Not just zero emission: actually absorbing extra carbon (CO2) from the air. If all 20 initial volunteer wineries keep to their lowest-emission scenarios, 1883 vineyard acres would remove the equivalent to the emissions of over 5 million miles driven by passenger vehicles.
The site-specific program for our two estate vineyards was designed for us by the California Land Stewardship Institute. Recently planting Manzanita trees at Pinot Hill is just one of the many steps as we continue the pilot test of the CAC Program. Meanwhile, the program is gaining traction as more Sonoma growers hear about and apply to participate. To learn more about the program and participating wineries, visit Wine Spectator (subscription required for this article) or Wine Industry Advisor.
California has had its share of droughts in the last while, but we are lucky enough to avoid lack of rainfall having a significant impact on our vineyards by dry farming. This practice is more common in Burgundy, France, than in California, but both of our vineyard sites are ideal for making it work. Hallberg Ranch has a deposit of clay loam underneath its Goldridge soil that allows dry farmed the vines to dig deep into the earth for the water stored in the clay; Pinot Hill has a similar soil profile, Goldridge soil underlain with Los Osos clay.
Being dry farmed, our vines are able to find moisture and nutrients stored deep in the soil, growing healthier and more in balance and attuned to the land and climate, and excelling in numerous adverse weather conditions. This sustainable farming method also offers each of Emeritus wines unique profiles even more expressive of terroir.
While many industrial agricultural practices—from deforestation and burning to excessive use of synthetic fertilizers—harm the environment, here at Emeritus we take a more homegrown approach.
We choose not to till, which churns and mixes the first several inches of soil and disrupts the natural habitats of healthy microbes and insects. This avoids disrupting the natural habitats of healthy microbes and insects that keep the soil healthy and fertile. It also helps guard against erosion by leaving cover crops in place. Untampered with, that good Goldridge soil keeps its structure and continues to absorb and filter water and nutrients, which are stored in the lower clay layer that vines sip from.
Wildflower seeds are scattered between vineyard rows as a beneficial insectary—aka a more appealing habitat for local insects than our Pinot vines. This helps keep the vines healthy naturally and whole. The insect population also draws the attention of local lizards, which in turn make great snacks for feathered visitors from the nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa, an important migratory stop for thousands of birds.
At Pinot Hill, we’ve removed invasive Eucalyptus and planted new trees to provide local birds with more nesting opportunities. We also help to build habitats along the creek where quails can hide from predators, and leave wildlife corridors so wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, etc., can continue their natural migration patterns.
Even our fertilizer is estate grown! We use compost as an organic matter builder for areas where the soil could use a nutritional boost. After harvesting and the early stages of winemaking, we take all the resulting grape pumice—aka the skins, pulp, seeds, stems, leaves, and other residue from the juice has been pressed out and fermented. Every three tons of grapes produces about one ton of pomace. Then we add it to our compost heap, along with cow manure from a local dairy and sheep manure from the flock that sometimes grazes in the vineyard.
This potent mix is spread around about a third of our land each year in the Fall, nourishing the next vintage of wine and pumice in a poetic and environment-friendly circle of life.
It’s not just our farming practices that are sustainable. One of the reasons we harvest at night is because the grapes arrive at the winery naturally chilled, and less energy is expended to keep them cool.
Whenever possible, we strive to recycle! There’s always a strong focus on keeping winery waste down, whether it’s packaging or office materials. The water bottles in our tasting room are older vintage Ruby bottles that have been sanitized and repurposed. We also have recycling programs for glass, corks, and even the bottle foil.
Thank you for your interest in our family-owned winery and dry farmed, estate grown Pinot Noirs! Joining our mailing list is the best way to stay up to date on all things Emeritus. You’ll receive notifications of new releases, events, special offers, and more. We look forward to sharing our wines with you in the future!