California wineries becoming more committed to sustainable practices, a few wineries are working to spread the news and the experience to the public.
Kunde Estate Winery in the Sonoma Valley leads four-hour hiking tours of its 1,850 estate acres from spring through fall. The “eco tours” of its vineyards, oak woodlands, chaparral, native grasslands and riparian and aquatic habitats cover about five miles. About 60% of the Kunde land is open space.
“The people who come on the hike are not your typical swirlers and sniffers,” says Jeff Kunde, chairman of the winery’s board and the tour leader. “We do it because we want to educate people and to show them we consider ourselves stewards of the land.” The Kunde family recently completed its 103rd harvest.
Kunde’s winery, where scenes from the upcoming movie “Bottle Shock” were recently filmed, plants cover crops between vineyard rows to introduce nutrients into the soil, uses beneficial insects and owls to kill harmful insects and rodents, and practices extensive erosion control and water and energy conservation.
“We’re not perfect, but we’re learning and trying new things all the time,” says Kunde, who is working with a Wine Institute committee on sustainable certification for California wineries. He defines “sustainable” as farming and winemaking “that is socially equitable, environmentally sound and economically feasible.”
Some 250 miles south in the Paso Robles wine region, grape grower Cindy Newkirk leads 2-hour, vintage Jeep tours of her family’s 500 acres through The Wine Yard at Steinbeck Vineyard. “It’s really important for me to share our sustainable and conservationist policies—to let our visitors know that farmers are conservationists,” says Newkirk.