Happy Hour: Sustainable Winemaking with Merry Edwards
Anna MowryAnna Mowry
October 23, 2015
With the future of food and drink on our minds following our annual JBF Food Conference earlier this week, we caught up with Merry Edwards, a longtime champion of sustainable winemaking and our 2013 JBF Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional Award winner, to discuss her pioneering work at her eponymous Russian River Valley property.
JBF: Can you give us a specific example of how a sustainable practice in your vineyards ultimately affects the quality of your wine?
ME: We use organic mushroom compost, a by-product from our neighbor, Gourmet Mushroom, as a supplement. In some vineyards, we apply the material on a vine-by-vine basis. It evens out the vines’ growth, giving us consistent vine size and ripening. Much of our farming energy is focused on this end result.
JBF: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced when implementing green practices at the winery?
ME: We wanted to operate 100 percent on solar power. We were able to do this for all of our electrical needs except hot water. This is still heated by propane, as there are no industrial-size electric hot water heaters that can be powered by solar energy. We’ve left room for a solar hot water pre-treatment system to be installed in the future.
JBF: Suppose a non-green winery wants to become a more sustainable operation. What are some of the easiest or most affordable green practices to adopt?
ME: I would say that solar power is really affordable in terms of the payback; however, an upfront investment is required. Paying attention to bottle weight is another way to be more green. We were able to redesign and lighten our Sauvignon Blanc bottles. This conserves materials and requires less fossil fuel for shipping the final product. You should also avoid using poisons to combat birds, rats, or gophers; use bird netting, traps, and owl boxes—and adopt cats!
For more information about Merry Edwards and her green practices, visit merryedwards.com.