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California winery boasts LEED certification of the gold vintage

California winery boasts LEED certification of the gold vintage

Posting in Design

Solar arrays now handle about one-third of the winemaker's electricity needs.

I spoke earlier this month with Michael Reynolds, president of HALL Wines in St. Helena, Calif., which is the first winemaking facility in the state to earn a Gold-certified designation under the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Green Building Rating System. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.) The certification actually is for a very specific facility from among the six-property operation, which concentrates on wines of the Bordeaux variety (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc).

The HALL facilities, built in 1885, are actually among the oldest in the Napa Valley region. The operation started farming organically back in 2006 and all of its vineyard acreage -- roughly 500 in total -- is organic-certified by California Certified Organic Farmers, according to Reynolds. (HALL actually has 3,300 acres in all, with 500 planted to vineyard.) Like most progressive agribusinesses, HALL uses sensor technology in the fields to ensure that its crops -- in this case the grape vines -- are properly irrigated. I didn't know this, but apparently grapes need to be "stressed" (actually allowed to get a little dry) before they should be watered, which means that growers need to measure the water pressure in the leaves carefully. The other plants used to landscape the LEED property are drought-tolerant, in order to cut irrigation needs by about half when compared with comparable facilities. Incidently, all the water used to irrigate is recycled. The flow within the buildings themselves has been reduced by about 40 percent through the use of low-flow outlets and fixtures.

One of the two hallmarks of this particular LEED installation are the 42,000 square feet of solar panels that span the St. Helena property's barrel cellar and fermentation building roofs. The original administration building, which is protected under historic preservation laws, can't have solar panels installed because of that, Reynolds says.

Reynolds says the panels were designed to produce about one-third of the facility's total electricity needs although he believes the percentage is actually a bit higher. The winery also uses 50 percent bio-diesel in its farming operations.

Another major consideration is keeping the buildings at a very consistent temperature. I write a lot about what people do to keep their technology data centers cool, but as you can imagine, a winery also has pretty serious concerns about the temperature in their buildings. Wine is finicky that way. HALL uses radiant floors to control the temperature, running hot or cold water through pipes run through the floor slabs.

Although the fact that I am writing this blog means that HALL has been able to "market" its LEED designation in some way, Reynolds doesn't expect it to be a point of differentiation in the marketplace. "This is just part of the fabric of who we are," he says.

At least for now. That's because eventually, Reynolds believes most businesses in his industry will take time to address the energy efficiency of their facilities, because all their peers are doing so. "Right now, we are the leaders in this, but i the not-to-distant future I think people will ask the opposite question, 'Why aren't you thinking green?" Reynolds says.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure