Sustainability Series: Cliff Lede Vineyards and FEL Wines

August 13, 2015

Each month, we feature a company leading the way in sustainability efforts. This month, we talked with Cliff Lede Vineyards about the importance of making sustainable choices today in order to ensure a fruitful future.

Established in 2002, Cliff Lede Vineyards encompasses sixty acres in the famed Stags Leap District. Completed in 2005, the gravity-flow winery boasts a berry-by-berry sorting system and conical tanks commissioned using a design inspired by the tanks of Château Latour. One tank per vineyard block ensures each lot evolves at its own pace and acres of caves with single-layer barrel storage ensure access to each barrel at all times. We talked to Cliff Lede Vineyards about the importance of making sustainable choices today in order to ensure a fruitful future.

How does your business define sustainability? 

Lede Family Wines’ vineyard philosophy is built upon a commitment to enhancing and protecting the valuable land and water with which we grow our wine grapes.

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?

All Vineyards (Cliff Lede Vineyards and FEL Wines):

  • COMPOST and ORGANIC FERTILIZER is preferred for natural and sustained vineyard nutrition. 
  • COVER CROPPING for erosion control and to enhance soil fertility.
  • CONVERSION TO NO TILLAGE where possible between vine rows to minimize erosion.
  • MECHANICAL WEED CONTROL reduces or eliminate the use of herbicide.
  • NATURAL HABITAT for wildlife on over 50 acres of unplanted land at Poetry and Twin Peaks Vineyards, and over 20% of Savoy Vineyard. 
  • RIPARIAN HABITAT at Poetry and Savoy Vineyards for wildlife corridors and aquatic habitat.
  • NATIVE PLANT INSECTARIES attract beneficial insects to assist in pest management.
  • WEATHER STATION allows for more efficient irrigation and disease prevention based on risk.
  • DEFICIT IRRIGATION minimizes water use and produces small concentrated grapes.
    • Creating habitat for and releasing beneficial insects 
    • Using canopy management practices to reduce disease pressure
    • Applying organic products for disease control
    • Assessing risk and monitoring the vineyard before applying pest control measures

Cliff Lede Vineyards only:

  • SOLAR PANELS provide natural energy and reduce our energy use by over 90%.
  • VINEYARD WORKERS are employed full-time, year round and receive benefits.
  • CAVE network stores wine in barrel with minimal energy for cooling.
  • RECYCLING of winery process water for irrigation and landscaping.

What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Our short-term goals focus on the vintage we are currently experiencing. The goal is to farm the best possible wine grapes with minimal impact to the environment. Longer term, we are looking at developing vineyards that are healthy, use minimal water, and have high soil organic matter content, while enhancing the environment by creating a beautiful landscape.  

Where do you think you'll have the biggest impact?

Our viticultural team is very involved in the leadership of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers Association and stays at the forefront of research and technology for sustainable vineyard practices. The NVG Association educates growers, farmworkers, and landowners on these topics, and at Lede Family Wines, we educate and train our vineyard crew on these topics.  

How do you measure your progress?

We compare ourselves to industry standards. One great resource is the California Association of Winegrape Growers Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices workbook as the basis for the Sustainable Winegrowing Program, providing a tool for vintners and growers to assess their practices and learn how to improve their overall sustainability. We have also participated and are certified for both the Napa Green Winery and Napa Green Land programs.  

How do retailers factor into your efforts? 

We do our best to educate our partners and consumers on our sustainability efforts and to find partners that share similar visions where possible.  

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

The success and longevity of our industry is limited by natural resources. This has become particularly apparent in recent years due to the California drought. Collectively, the choices we make today will impact us greatly in the future.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?

Consumers are more educated today than ever before, and they want to feel good about the products they purchase.