Why Be Green?

It seems everyone these days is falling all over themselves to declare how “green” they are. “I am dynamically post-sustainable and bio-organic.” “My labels are made from hemp seed.” “Drink my wine and become an eco-warrior.” Kum-ba-ya and pass the chardonnay. So, we figured we might as well jump on the band wagon, right? No. Not really.

It’s true we converted both the winery and vineyard to solar power this past winter. It’s pretty neat to receive negative utility bills from PG&E. It is certainly less environmentally and socially damaging than standard alternatives and is more in-line with our personal ethos. But you will not see “solar-powered” on our label. We did not do it for marketing purposes. We do not think it is not one of the “major” reasons why you should drink our wine (though if it is, hallelujah, comrade.) We made this investment because solar generation will be a financially wise decision for Peay in the long-term (short-term we put off breakeven another year and went further in to debt); solar energy is consistent with our environmental philosophies as a business and as a family; and, on some level, it makes us feel good to know we are evolving as new information about the effect of our consumer and business behavior becomes available to us.

We also farm organically and maintain our Fish Friendly certification and Integrated Pest Management status. We will not become certified organic, however. We also do not often mention that we farm organically or have any of these other certifications. Should we tout them so we become the wine of choice for the booming “green consumer” demographic? No. The health of the plants and the wines are the focus, not specific farming techniques or a marketing message. We pursue organic and sustainable practices because Mother Nature usually does a better job supplying the right amounts and types of all the complex micronutrients, insects and other inputs than the lab and man can. Organic farming is a lot more arduous and expensive. Nick spends over 30 days on his tractor to control weeds with his under-row tiller rather than accomplishing this task in 3-4 days with herbicide. But it makes for healthier soils and vines that should be in better balance with their environment. That, in turn, should take us closer to achieving our goal of making wines with a purpose, an identity and an integrity that express Peay Vineyards’ terroir.

As a result our approach to farming is dynamic and responsive not prescriptive or doctrinaire. If we were to experience an exogenous threat, a terrible infestation that can not be addressed by any organic measures, for example, we would reluctantly use a non-organic alternative. We would do it in a way that attempts to minimize the negative impact on our little ecosystem. We would not slavishly stick to our guns and watch the wines suffer so we maintain our expensive organic or other certifications for marketing purposes. Sometimes we happen to be in step with a marketing trend like we are now with “green” practices, but if we need to adapt in special circumstances, we will.

Every consumer has her own unique hierarchy of factors that she considers when selecting a wine. At the very top of the list we hope people choose to drink Peay wines because the wines move them. That they are delicious. That they enhance a meal. And, yes, perhaps our farming techniques and energy decisions are somewhere on the list, but where is entirely up to you, the consumer.

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