Great reds go green

Hall Winery’s LEED-certified facility

Hall Napa Valley makes fantastic Cabernet, as anyone who’s ever tasted it can tell you. They’re hardly the first Napa Valley winery to go organic — it seems like everybody’s jumping on that bandwagon lately. But they are the first winery in California to achieve gold LEED certification. Ed Curry, VP of consumer operations and marketing, was kind enough to show me around last week.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This process (overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council) focuses mostly on the building itself, as you might expect; even when it applies to a winery, the winemaking process is not really affected. Hall farms its vineyards organically (as do many Napa wineries these days), but that doesn’t factor into the LEED certification process. What does? Well, for starters:

* Preferred parking is provided for alternative-fuel vehicles, carpoolers and motorcycles.

* Landscaping is centered on drought-tolerant plants — an especially important step in California, which has been facing a severe water crisis for several years.

* Radiant floor heating/cooling, staggered ceilings and intermittent walls ensure easier and more efficient temperature control for individual rooms in winery facilities.

* Lights in the winery run at two-thirds capacity to save energy; some rooms (although not the ones where they store the wine) rely largely on natural light, which not only saves energy but also creates a better environment for employees (I can attest to this, seeing as how I work in a dark corner that hasn’t seen the sun since approximately 1972).

* Fully jacketed fermentation tanks allow for precise (and more energy-efficient) temperature control, which both saves energy and gives the winemaker greater control over the fermentation process.

The lake at Michel-Schlumberger

* The winery reuses 100% of its wastewater; this is something I’m seeing at more and more California wineries, including Benziger and Michel-Schlumberger (above).

* Recycled materials (at least 10%) were used in the walls of the winery, and the old facility was dismantled and recycled. A good portion of the materials used in the new facility came from within 500 miles of the winery (reducing the fossil fuels required to transport them).

Photovoltaic panels on the roof of Hall Winery.

* Photovoltaic panels on the roof (left) generate, on average, about 25% of the energy used annually, according to Curry. They cover an entire acre.

A few extra eco-friendly steps that don’t factor into LEED certification:

* All of Hall’s vineyards are organically farmed; while the grapes are hand-harvested, all equipment used in the vineyards runs on biodiesel.

* To deter grape-eating birds, Hall uses owl boxes (to attract predators) rather than streamers (a common deterrent).

Oh, and their Cabernets are fantastic. For wine lovers who care about the environment, the LEED certification is icing on the cake.