Earth Day—April 22—is one of the largest civic action days of the year with an estimated 1 billion people in 192 countries participating in some form of global environmental awareness. Wine lovers can do their part to commemorate this day by choosing wines that are produced using sustainable, ecologically-sound, or otherwise environmentally-conscious practices.
While there is no official definition for what constitutes natural winemaking, wines with the organic wine label must abide by federal regulations and be made from pesticide-free grapes. But we should by no means eschew wines that don’t carry the organic label—reading the label can give conscious wine drinkers a more accurate understanding of the producers’ winemaking philosophy. Or we could be fortunate enough to get paid a personal visit by a winery’s ambassador and learn first-hand how winemaking and environmental stewardship go hand in hand.
Just in time for Earth Day, let’s hail the self-described “Galactic Ambassador” of La Crema Winery, Marita Esteva, who toured the southeast recently to educate wine drinkers on its 40 years of artisanal, award-winning, and sustainable winemaking legacy. A well-known producer of Burgundian-influenced wines with a distinct New World style, La Crema has vineyards in both California--Sonoma Coast, Russian River, Anderson Valley, and Los Carneros—and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
The name La Crema stems from the Spanish “la crema de la vinera,” which translates to the “best of the vines” and their wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris consistently display the gentle, terroir-focused, elegant techniques of their head winemaker Craig McAllister. But with the focus on Earth Day, it’s their sustainability practices as described by Marita that are of particular note.
“Our wines are wines of intention,” Marita explains in a spiritual tone. “They represent time, earth, and space--we are a holistic winery, respecting the land and giving back to our community.”
La Crema has demonstrated this philosophy through several initiatives. They are one of the first companies in the U.S. to utilize powerpack commercial batteries to reduce the their use of electricity during peak times, and also employ photovoltaic solar array technology that allows them to offset 65% of their annual electricity usage. Estate vineyards are also California Certified Sustainable Winegrowing, which strictly regulates the usage of irrigation, while water conservation and reuse is par for the course—all of the water used in the winery is recycled. The winery also practices integrated pest management to protect—and respect—the surrounding ecosystems.
Ultimately, all of this conscious and “intentional” winemaking would be all for naught if the wines were pedestrian. “We are never producing second-best,” Marita shares, “we are making wines that come from the best of the vineyards.” She describes the wines that come from their vineyards as “classic, timeless, and meditative.” Chardonnays are, Pinot Noirs aromatically complex, and are Pinot Gris (from Monterey) display crisp minerality.
While sustainability and eco-friendly winemaking seem to be fashionable terms, family-owned La Crema has been producing wine this way for four decades. And thanks to Marita, more wine drinkers are aware of the painstaking effort, land stewardship, and elegant wines we should drink to help commemorate Earth Day.