Rodney Strong Wine Estates
Rodney Strong Vineyards is dedicated to crafting world-class wines that capture the essence of Sonoma County. Rodney Strong sustainably farms 14 estate vineyards and produces wines from Sonoma County’s finest appellations – Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and Chalk Hill. The winery was founded in 1959 by Sonoma County wine pioneer Rodney D. Strong as the 13th bonded winery in the county. It was purchased by the Klein family, a fourth generation California agricultural family, in 1989. The company aspires to conserve and protect the environment in all its operations.
January 5, 2010
Winery and Vineyards
Below is a sampling of the sustainable practices adopted by the Certified Participant. This is not an exhaustive list of the sustainable practices adopted, but is designed to give you some idea of the types of practices they use to demonstrate the breadth of practices that are included in their sustainability initiative. Please click on the photos to view a larger image.
- Vine nutritional needs are monitored.
- Green tissue samples and soil samples are taken on an annual basis. Fertilizer blends are tailored to each individual block to replace only what was used.
- Fertilizer applications are timed to coincide with periods of greatest uptake to minimize leaching potential.
- Vineyard productivity and vine balance are closely monitored via bud dissections and pruning weights.
- All grape skins are composted and used in our vineyards as fertilizer.
- GIS/GPS software is utilized to farm on a sub-block basis: Uniformity is paramount.
- Conservation of soils includes proper runoff management and erosion prevention, reduction of soil compaction, competent soil analysis to minimize amendment, returning composted grape pumice as organic matter, minimal tillage, and the intelligent use of cover crops.
Vineyard Water Management
- Drip irrigation emitters lessen water use, along with tools and strategies to monitor water in soils and vines with metering devices. Preventing erosion also keeps silt and fertilizers out of the local watershed. Since we often farm along creeks, we practice Fish Friendly Farming, which includes the removal of harmful vegetation and replacement with California native riparian plants.
- Regulated deficit irrigation is carried out in all vineyards
- Technology such as pressure chambers, neutron probes, and telemetry are used to monitor the level of drought stress throughout the season
- Target levels are set for each particular variety, with some receiving back as little as 40% of the water they use
- Irrigations are conducted in ‘blocks’ instead of all at once to minimize pump size and fuel consumption
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is practiced
- Pest life cycles are monitored and recorded – if necessary, pests are treated at their most vulnerable life stage (this allows us to use low rates of ‘soft’ chemistry pesticides that target specific pests)
- Treatments are not conducted unless the cost of the treatment is less than the expected loss from pest damage
- Pesticides are considered a last resort (every effort is made to solve a pest problem through non-chemical means)
- Fish Friendly Farming (FFF) approves our farm plans
- FFF is a certification program for vineyard properties that are managed to restore fish and wildlife habitat and improve water quality
- Regional Water Quality Control Board and the National Marine Fisheries Service suggest Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office ‘Best Management Practices’ and verify their implementation
- Program focuses on erosion and sedimentation prevention, as well as restricting the use of all pesticides most harmful to fish and wildlife
- We have completed two large scale restoration projects on streams adjacent to our Rockaway (Miller Creek) and Pine Flat (Sausal Creek) vineyards – these streams serve as migratory pathways for threatened species of salmonids, and caring for them greatly improves the spawning conditions for these fish
- Restoration involves removing invasive non-native plant species from the bank and replacing them with appropriate native plants and trees
- All farming is done so that it minimizes adverse affects to threatened or endangered plant or wildlife species. Sensitive areas are left undeveloped. Deer are fenced out from damaging vines, but are provided normal movement with wildlife and riparian corridors. Large areas of our property are left as green open space, and we place bluebird and owl nesting boxes in our vineyards.
- Rodney Strong Vineyards collects sunlight and turns it into power with an array of solar panels on the roof of our 100,000 square foot barrel building. These 4,032 panels produce a significant portion of the winery’s power needs, and greatly reduces the environmental impact that would otherwise occur from commercial power production. After just the first three years of operation, the system produced 2,579,870 kilowatts of electricity, which helped avoid the release of 817 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It’s like saving 230 acres of forest, or not driving 2,041,515 miles. The solar array generates enough electricity during the day time to power almost 800 homes. The energy efficiency measures are projected to reduce our annual energy usage by 35% and electricity costs by 40%. In 2004 the winery was honored to receive a Green Power Leadership Award, jointly given by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Center for Resource Solutions. In March of that year, the winery was awarded with a rebate check of $2,164,403.00.
- System Peak Capacity: 766 kW
- Solar Electric Panels: 4,032
- PV surface area: 80,000 square feet
- Date Completed: December 2003
- “As with making great wine, going green starts in the vineyard,” states winery owner, Tom Klein. “Our sustainable farming led us to install solar panels to conserve energy, participate in Fish Friendly Farming to protect the nearby streams and audit our whole winery's green practices for immediate and on-going environmental progress. I’m proud to say that in 2009, we’ve become carbon neutral and hold ourselves accountable for our winery's carbon footprint. Global warming is real and one of today’s biggest threats to our future. This is something we had to do. The whole world needs to get involved in solving this problem.”
As a business, there are direct (onsite activity) and indirect (from purchased electricity and natural gas) emissions of GHG. Being carbon neutral means we measure our total carbon output, or “footprint,” so that we can mitigate our effect on the environment to neutral. The numerous sustainable steps we take (solar power, sustainable farming, recycling, motion sensor lighting, etc.) reduce our footprint, but not to zero or neutral. We now work with two companies, PG&E’s ClimateSmart and NativeEnergy, that help us offset our remaining carbon output with the creation of new green energy; energy that because it’s being produced will lessen the need to burn fossil fuels and therefore reduce global warming.
Winery Water Conservation And Water Quality
- High pressure/low flow nozzles are used to clean equipment and surfaces.
- Automated barrel washing stations maximize water use efficiency.
Solid Waste Reduction And Management
- We reduced our solid waste stream by approximately 50% in 2008/2009 in the bottling and warehouse departments.
Environmentally Preferred Purchasing
- Using green business to business companies.
Neighbors And Community
- We consider our neighbors in all of our vineyard practices, and our Sonoma County farming enhances the local community with job creation and the support of local businesses. Vineyard workers, both seasonal and full time, are provided with housing by our vineyard management company.
- Cover crops greatly reduce dust from vineyard activity. We have eliminated the burning of winter pruning and chipping the canes instead. We reduce the use of fossil fuel by minimizing tillage. Vineyard roads are wetted down or treated with environmentally safe wetting agents.