Fetzer Vineyards / Bonterra Vineyards
Fetzer Vineyards is a true pioneer and leader in implementing sustainable practices, and started this approach in the 1980s, long before the term “sustainable” became popular. For over two decades, the company has developed practices that are environmentally-friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable – as a core way of doing business and part of the culture among the employees at Fetzer. Bonterra Vineyards emerged in 1990, produced at the Fetzer winery, and first released 1992 as one of the early pioneers in growing organic winegrapes. Bonterra has become the number one selling brand of wines in the US that is made with organic grapes. Fetzer and Bonterra have continually developed innovations aimed to benefit the planet and people, while creating great quality wines.
January 5, 2010
Five Rivers Winery
Below is a sampling of the sustainable practices adopted by the Certified Participant. This is not a comprehensive list but provides some examples of the types of practices they use.
- ORGANIC: All of the vineyards/grapes that Fetzer and Bonterra farm in Mendocino county are farmed with certified organic practices. The total acreage farmed by Fetzer/Bonterra in Mendocino county (as of 2010) is 960 acres. Nearly all of the grapes from these vineyards are used for the Bonterra brand. Fetzer/Bonterra is the largest producer of organic winegrapes in California (according to the California Certified Organic Farmers, January 2011.)
- BIODYNAMIC: The McNab, Butler, and Blue Heron Ranches are three of the ranches for the Bonterra brand, and they are certified Biodynamic by Demeter, as well as certified organic .
- CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE: All of the vineyards farmed by Fetzer – for the Bonterra brand – are also certified by the California Certified Sustainable Winegrowing program as of 2009; the Fetzer winery is also certified under this program. (www.sustainablewinegrowing.org)
- Balance: Pruning and canopy management are undertaken with focused attention on achieving optimal BALANCE of the vines and fruit. Leaves and shoots are removed as appropriate, to ensure adequate flow and circulation of air, and to permit adequate light for even ripening of the fruit, and to minimize potential for disease and pests.
Photos: from McNab Ranch, Bonterra Vineyards
- Cover Crops: 4 different mixes of cover crops are planted in the vineyards; and adjusted for fertility, erosion control, and attraction of beneficial insects. A diversity of species is used to have multiple functions.
- Compost: Compost is made from pomace from our winery (composted grape skins, seeds, skins) ; and it is applied on many of the vineyard blocks (as needed) each year.
- Erosion control: reduced tillage (and no tillage in some years, in certain blocks), cover crops, drainage systems, vegetative cover, and other practices are used to prevent erosion and protect soil.
- Soil analysis and monitoring - Soils sampled every 2-3 years to check for nutrient
Photos: Cover crops, compost, erosion control
Vineyard Water Management
- Meters are installed at each ranch for metrics and leak detection monitoring
- Drip irrigation, regular soil moisture monitoring in order to determine timing of irrigation
- Ponds used to catch rain in winter/spring, and used for frost protection or irrigation
- Two new ponds constructed in 2009 to increase capacity for holding water for frost protection (and lessen amount used from river); total new capacity is 54 acre-feet
- Vines removed for pond construction were chipped and mulched rather than burned
- Fetzer/Bonterra has undertaken two significant Watershed/creek restoration projects at Dooley Creek and McNab Creek (see Ecosystem management too)
Photos - ponds at McNab ranch
- Regular Monitoring of insects, disease, and beneficial insects; results recorded/tracked by PCA
- Insect prevention and control methods
- Cultural practices (eg, leaf pulling to reduce leafhoppers; Avoid dust for mite control)
- Habitat conservation and biodiversity enhancement - insectaries for beneficials
- Occasional use of certified organic material if pest populations require treatment
- Cover crops also provide habitat for beneficials
- Bird boxes are installed in many vineyard blocks; nesting raptors help with gopher control; song birds help with insect control
- Disease prevention and control methods
- Weather monitoring using weather stations, to adjust methods of mildew prevention
- Cultural practices to avoid disease (eg, balance canopy, leaf pulling)
- Avoiding excess water use
- Adequate drainage
- Treatment with certified organic materials according to weather monitoring
- Weed prevention and control methods
- Under-the-vine tillage with mechanical weed control is used in most vineyards
- Under-vine mowing is also used in some occasions
- Mowing and tilling are used for managing cover crops and weeds.
- Sheep are grazed in some of the vineyards (before bud-break), to assist in weed control
Related Photos: sheep, chickens,bird boxes, under mechanical vine weed control and cover crops
- State-of-the-Art methods are used to ensure consistency of wine quality and outstanding quality
- Tastings are undertaken daily by winemakers
- Winemakers and grower representatives hold tastings every year with growers who sell grapes to Fetzer/Bonterra, to provide feedback on practices and results
- 100% organic grapes are used for the Bonterra brand; and the winery is also certified organic, to produce wines “made with organic grapes”
- Fetzer protects and maintains the natural oak woodlands and riparian habitat on about 45% of the property owned by the company in Mendocino county
- Fetzer conserves thousands of trees, as well as vegetation and land which are rich in biodiversity, including abundant wildlife.
- These resources benefit organic farming, by providing habitat for beneficial species, and the land and habitat conservation also helps to sequester carbon, which mitigates climate change.
- Many additional practices are used to protect and enhance biodiversity
- Fetzer has been recognized by the Peregrine Chapter of the Audubon Society for creating a blue heron sanctuary.
- In McNab ranch, habitat corridors have been planted, with over 100 plant species. These corridors and protected riparian vegetation harbor beneficial insects and help in pest control.
- Sheep grazing assists in weed control and soil fertility; Chicken grazing (McNab) assists in cut worm control, loosening soil, and soil fertility.
- Methods are used to attract native birds (bird-boxes, conserving native vegetation, etc.)
- Fetzer and Bonterra served as case studies for an analysis of insect biodiversity from habitat conservation in 2007-08. The study was undertaken by the CA Sustainable Winegrowing program with UCCE and scientists from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The results showed quantitative increases in the numbers of beneficial insects and improved pest control
- Watershed/Creek Restoration projects: Working with US Fish and Game, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, we have restored & enhanced creeks which are tributaries to Russian River
- Dooley Creek Restoration project
- McNab Creek - 2 Restoration projects
- These projects include planting trees and appropriate shrubs along the stream banks, which reduce erosion, prevent flooding, and help to restore fish populations.
Photos: habitat conservation, creek restoration, biodiversity conservation blue herons on property
- The electricity for Fetzer’s main winery operations in Hopland is from renewable sources of energy, through a contract with Three Phases Renewables. This renewable energy contract was started in 1999; Fetzer was the first company in the wine industry to adopt a green power contract. (The renewable energy sources from the Three Phases contract include solar, wind, geothermal, and small-scale hydroelectric power.)
- In 1999, a 40kW solar photovoltaic array of panels was added to the administration building. The panels provide a majority of the building's energy needs.
- In 2006 Fetzer installed another very large solar array, which is 899 KW. It consists of 4300 panels, and covers 75,000 square ft. This installation involves a power purchase agreement with MMA Renewable Ventures. The panels, on top of the red barrel room and warehouse, have a potential capacity to generate 1.1 million kwhr/year. The array has a potential capacity to generate approximately 80% of the energy used to run the bottling facility.
Conservation and efficiency measures
Since 1999, aggressive and ongoing energy conservation projects have saved energy every year at the winery. Examples include:
Lighting innovations (eg, motion sensor lights, high bay lighting)- for examples:
In 2001, Lighting retrofit for 155 fixtures saved approx 41,000 Kwh per year (Healy, historical timeline)
- In 2008, new high-efficiency linear florescent lights were installed in the winery.
- They replaced 436 high-bay metal halide light fixtures; improved illumination and safety
- Total projected energy savings from the lights are 255,532 kilowatt hours/year,
- Estimated total cost savings in electricity is $28,568, earning Fetzer a rebate from PG&E.
Insulation of tanks
- In 2002, insulated 30% of white wine tanks at that time; estimated 30% energy savings for cooling in the tank room.
- In 2008, Fetzer insulated six large tanks, covering a total of 3,572 square feet, projected energy savings 53,942 KWh/yer, and $7,552 savings.
- Light weight bottle initiative for Fetzer Valley Oaks brand rolled out in 2008 - (please refer to purchasing section also)
- Reduction of glass overall by 17%; This innovation affects 23 million bottles annually, reduces energy to produce the bottles, energy/fuel used in transport, and costs.
- Estimated savings of 2985 tons of CO2 equivalents in the supply chain; and the energy savings in the supply chain are equivalent to 4,434,470 kw hours (Best Foot Forward)
Transport energy efficiency practices
- Electric vehicles used on campus (golf carts, etc. )
- Company hybrid vehicles driven by 4 employees who do frequent road travel
- 2 Vanpools are offered for employees
Reducing GHG Emissions
- Fetzer is implementing many practices that reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions and its overall carbon footprint.
- By using renewable energy in winery operations, Fetzer has reduced GHG emissions by approximately 2,200 tons per year. (B-F/Carty)
- In 2006, Fetzer joined the California Climate Action Registry (CCAR), to support voluntary GHG reporting initiatives, and to benefit from climate change accounting efforts
- Since 2006, Fetzer and other B-F facilities carried out a major GHG study, using the CCAR methodologies and verification.
Measurement initiatives of energy and Green House Gas emissions (with 3rd party experts/auditors)
- LBL study of Fetzer energy use 2004-05 - used to produce the BEST (Benchmarking and Energy and Water Savings Tool) software, which resulted in a Flex Your Power award;
- BEST is used by PG&E and Sustainable Winegrowing Program for the wine industry energy analysis and benchmarking by other wineries
- GHG study using California Climate Action Registry protocol
- GHG emissions study of the light-weight bottling initiative, from Best Foot Forward
Carbon Storage Study of vineyards and vegetation undertaken by UC Davis scientists (08-09)
Photos: solar panels installed in 2006 (899 kw), solar panels from 1998 (40 kw) on green building
Winery Water Conservation And Water Quality
- Conservation practices in winery
- Ozone used for barrel sanitizing - saves water used for cleaning barrels (began in 2004)
- Conservation practices in bottling
- Reduced sterilization time of filler bowls on bottling line, starting in 2001, saving over 2 million gallons of water per year
- Pump changes in bottling lines, involving a closed-loop system that allows reuse of water (2004) (Healy, timeline)
- Change in the nozzle inside holding tank (for cleaning) which saves water - 2009
- Wastewater treatment
- Fetzer has water treatment ponds, using aeration for treatment
Photos: waste water pond, and ozone barrel-cleaning system
- Fetzer handles all hazardous materials according to laws, and ensures that all materials area handled with maximum safety and security.
- The use of certified organic vineyard practices means toxic inputs are greatly minimized for use in vineyard management. Efforts are also taken to greatly reduce the use of chlorine and other materials that may be hazardous in the winery operations.
Solid Waste Reduction And Management
- Starting in 1990, the Fetzer winery in Hopland has undertaken a company-wide waste reduction effort, reuse of many materials, and recycling of all bottles, cardboard, plastic, aluminum, paper, antifreeze, waste oil, fluorescent tubes and glass, pomace (for compost), and more.
- Fetzer has reduced waste to landfill by 96% since 1990 (from 1724 tons in 1990 to 60 tons in 2009), while at the same time more than doubling wine production
- Fetzer has won the “Waste Reduction Award” (WRAP) award from the California Integrated Waste Management Board 15 times, with the most recent award received in 2011, for waste management achievements in 2010.
- Fetzer also has initiatives to reduce the amount of materials being used, through many innovations. (Examples are light-weight bottling, reuse of packaging boxes, and others, as noted below.)
The following items are reused (2010 figures are noted): Pallets (1,064,100 lbs); Barrels (21,000), Computers, Green waste composting, Tires, Office furniture, Office paper, and returned boxes to vendors. Fetzer also uses lighter weight glass bottles, as noted below.
The following materials are recycled (2010 figures are noted): Corrugated cardboard- 183,680 lbs, Electronic waste - 4,000 lbs, Glass - 142,860lbs, Plastic - 38,640 lbs, Scrap metal-
52,520 lbs, Barrels - 1,081-560 lbs, Pallets - 11,000 lbs, Oak pieces - 15,000 lbs, Tires, Oil and Used Oil filters, Office Paper, Newspaper, Aerosol cans, etc.
NOTE: Fetzer has balers for cardboard and plastic. Recycling bins are located throughout facilities. Many of our recycling materials are picked up by Napa Recycling Company
C. On-site Composting - estimated figures -
Fetzer makes at least 2,000 tons of compost every year from leftover grape seeds, skins, and stems – ie pomace from the winery. In 2010 alone, Fetzer’s pomace created 2,010 tons of compost. Leftover Food scraps from employee break rooms are also composted in some buildings. Some landscaping residues are also composted. Compost is used to provide valuable nutrients in the vineyards and landscaping
D. Cost Savings or gains from recycling (2010)
Fetzer has economic gains and avoids costs every year from reducing, reusing, and recycling materials. In 2010, the estimated total economic benefit was $310,433 for the waste management. This does not include the cost savings from lighter-weight glass bottles.
Photos: sorting recycled materials, and hauling recycled cardboard
Environmentally Preferred Purchasing
- Fetzer's purchasing department gives a questionnaire to vendors to ask questions about their sustainability practices and performance.
- Fetzer makes strong efforts to purchase products and packaging materials that are recycled and recyclable, as long as they meet our quality and cost needs.
- Fetzer also returns some packaging materials (such as boxes for labels, capsules, and other supplies, as well as rubber bands) to vendors, so they can be reused.
- Recycled content: The following items that we purchase have recycled content: biofuels, copier paper, file folders, binders, packaging materials (boxes, box partitions, shippers), paper towels, insulation, oil, tires, toilet paper, glass, other office supplies
- Returned to vendors for reuse: boxes for labels, rubber bands, and capsules; rubber bands; and pallets. These items are reused. (amounts are recorded; available upon request)
Light weight Glass initiative
- The Fetzer Valley Oaks brand began in 2008 to bottle wine in lighter-weight bottles; approx. 23 million bottles of wine per year are now bottled in lighter weight glass.
- The total weight of glass is reduced by 2173 tons (17%), compared to previous bottles.
- This has positive outcomes in terms of reducing costs, and reducing energy for transport and production of bottles. This results in the total estimated reduction of 2985 tons of carbon equivalents in the supply chain. ( Best Foot Forward, 3rd party analyst)
- This innovation has a positive social benefit for people who carry wine cases, since they have less stress on their backs when lifting wine cases.
For other brands, we are adopting packaging changes that have environmental and economic benefits.
Photos: views of light weight bottles
- Fetzer has a strong safety program that benefits all employees. It includes many types of safety training sessions, as well as research projects, practices, or infrastructure, to ensure safety at work.
- The program convenes a safety committee, made up of employees from every department, who work together to identify and resolve safety issues.
- It includes an initiative called “C.A.R.E” (Communication, Awareness, Reward and Education). Through CARE, the committee awards employees and departments for taking extra steps to
ensure and mprove the safety and health of employees.
- Specific aspects of the safety program include:
- Continual, ongoing Safety Training for all employees -covering all operations, for prevention, precaution, protection, etc.
- Tracking and reporting incidents, near misses, and improvements
- Protective equipment/gear are provided for all operations
- Organic vineyard practices means no exposure to synthetic pesticides
- Reimbursment for employees' purchase of good work boots for work purposes
- Point system provides incentives for employees to identify and improve steps for safety
Employee Educational Opportunities
- English as Second Language (ESL) and Spanish as Second Language classes provided
- Tuition reimbursement; In-house training: Management/Legal, Technical
- Team Coach Training & Development -9/yr + teambuilding; New employee orientation
- Health & Safety Committee regular trainings; On-line Brand Building University through B-F
- Scholarship support for employees and community
Photos – stretching for safety, ESL class
Neighbors And Community
Charitable Contributions and Support
- Charity Golf Tournament (Boys Club and Girl Club and Hospice)
- Mendocino Cancer Resource Center (Pure Mendocino)
- Rorabaugh Recreation and Culture Center - Ukiah
- Project Sanctuary; United Way Day of Caring – employees participate every year
- Local chapter Special Olympics; Leadership Mendocino (including events, Green conference, etc)
- Hopland School recovery and restoration after Flood 2006
- Mendocino Social Service Agency & Food Bank (donation of coats and shoes)
- American Cancer Society - Relay for Life; Blood Bank of the Redwood - Blood Drives
- Ukiah Valley Trails Organization; Organic Farming Research Foundation
- Mendocino Wine and Winegrape Commission, MESA - Students in Engineering and Science
- Future Farmers of America, California Ag in the Classroom
- Hospice of Mendocino, Plowshares , Ford Street Project, Ukiah Food Bank , Mendocino County 4H
Company sponsored events and involvement in community organizations and activities
- Speakers from Fetzer at various community conferences & events
- Examples, Leadership Mendocino, MWWC, Green Opportunities, Farm Bureau, etc.
- Charity Golf Tournaments benefitting local organizations
- Funds raised have been donated to Hopland Elementary School, Plowshares, Special Olympics, Ford Street, Boys & Girls Club, Ag Scholarship Foundation
- Workforce Investment Board; Community Catalyst; Ukiah Main Street Program
- Leadership Mendocino -
- Board of Directors, Student Membership
- City of Ukiah
- Youth Sports, Recreation Department, Summer Concert Series
Photos: organic education to community, United Way volunteer day
- Organic practices also reduce use of chemical sprays that can cause drift.
- For new pond construction that required elimination of vines, we used a machine that chopped and mulched old vines instead of burning the residues.
- Use of cover crops and other vegetation cover helps reduce dust (PM10)
- Our use of renewable energy at the winery lessens impact on air quality (and climate change).
The Administration Building, constructed in 1995-96, was built from recycled materials and incorporates Green Building Techniques , before LEED existed.
- The 10,000 square foot building is made of recycled and natural materials, including wood for ceiling and rafters, doors, paint, and other items.
- The building is one of the first large-scale uses of rammed-earth construction, which has thick walls for insulation. It is very energy efficient.
- It also has a system that enables passive night-air cooling. A 40kw array of solar panels was installed in 1999 on top of the building. (More details available upon request)
The following are awards that Fetzer has won for outstanding sustainable practices:
- 1999- Award for Environmental Excellence from Business Ethics Magazine
- 1999- Climate Wise” Partnership Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency. (1999)
- 2001- Green Power Leadership Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency
- 2002- Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award, U.S Environmental Protection Agency recognizing the company's exemplary efforts and achievements in protecting stratospheric ozone.
- 2003- Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, from The California Environmental Protection Agency (sustainability category)
- 2004- Integrated Pest Management Innovator Award from the California Environmental Protection Agency for using IPM in organic vineyards, and providing education and support to other growers.
- 2004- Pollution Prevention Award, San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District for Fetzer’s overall environmental efforts and its willingness to share insights about sustainable practices
- 2005- Flex Your Power Award from the California Energy Commission for Fetzer’s partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in developing a benchmarking tool for California's wineries.
- 2006- “Best of the Best” Award for Ozone Protection – US Environmental Protection Agency .
- 2007- “Brand with a Conscience” Award: The Medinge Group
- 2008- Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in the category of “Enhanced Environmental and Economic Leadership”. Fetzer is the first winner of this category.
- 2008- Flex Your Power Award, for the second time, from the California Energy Commission, for energy efficiency accomplishments
- 1993 to 2010- Waste Reduction Award Program (WRAP) awarded to Fetzer 15 times, from the California Integrated Waste Management Board.
- 2010 – IPM Innovator Award to Bonterra Vineyards – Awarded from the Department of Pesticide Regulation, California Environmental Protection Agency
Fetzer and Bonterra have also achieved numerous awards for wine quality; for recent information, please see websites at www.fetzer.com, and www.bonterra.com
For more information, contact Ann Thrupp, Sustainability Manager, Fetzer/Bonterra 707-272-1152