Vail wines: Artisan winery leads green movement |

Vail wines: Artisan winery leads green movement

Patricia KloehnVail, CO Colorado

Peju Winery, located in the Napa Valley, is a close-knit-family-owned and operated business producing around 40,000 cases annually. Two women Ariana Peju, daughter of the founders, and Sara Fowler, winemaker are making green improvements to the winery. Anthony and Herta Peju had a thriving nursery and flower business and then sold it all to begin vineyard life in 1982 with 30 acres of vines. Their daughter, Ariana, describes her teacher early on, I grew up in the vineyard … pruning, harvesting and riding tractors. I watched my dad care for and understand plants.While surveying the grounds, Ariana noticed the production plants roof was in need of repair. She convinced her father to harness Napas most prevalent resource the sun. In 2006, more than 720 solar panels were installed on 10,000 square feet of the winerys roof. Results? An electrical savings of over 40 percent $170,810; a reduction in carbon emissions of over 209,000 kilograms; and 300,000 kilowatts less electricity used. The winerys daily carbon footprint can be viewed on its Web site.Employees have also been recognized for green practices. They carpool; conserve water and shut off electricity when not in use; use green cleaning products and biodegradable shipping and packaging materials; sell retail items made from recycled materials; and dispose of kitchen and food waste in a compost pile. Employees can receive $2,000 for purchasing a hybrid vehicle. Peju has recently received certification as a Napa County Green Winery and Bay Area Green Business. Fowler, Pejus winemaker since 2006, grew up on the soil as well. Fowler knew how to drive a tractor at 12, growing up on a 400-acre ranch founded in 1884 where her family practiced organic farming and sustainable living long before it was vogue. We had no TV, no processed foods, Fowler says. We grew and raised our own vegetables and livestock. My first introduction to macaroni and cheese was into my 20s. Fowler planted her familys organic grapes on the ranch 15 years ago. Here, she learned about choosing rootstocks and clones and organic growing without using fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides. Fowlers father, Charles, has been her mentor. He has served on the board of directors for California Certified Organic Farmer for several years. Two and a half years ago, Peju became a certified organic winery, and Fowler describes the process always evolving. We are constantly learning and trying to improve, Fowler says. The look of a manicured versus organic vineyard can lead one to the answer. An organic vineyard shows the balance of life. We add cover crops to promote the balance of good predatory life giving back to the soil.Growing organically also means watching the environment. This year, Peju purchased mites to control damaging mealy bugs. The mites arrive on beanstalks, and then jump to the vines and eat the mealy bugs. The winery also tries to control its birds. Owl housing is built so the they nest and scare destructive starling birds away. Bluebirds are encouraged to stay, as they are predators of the leafhopper. The next bug Fowler says she plans to tackle is the glassy-winged sharpshooter, known for spreading Pierces disease, which can kill grapevines.Pejus efforts are paying off. It was named top artisan winery of the year by Wine & Spirits magazine and its Peju Province Reserve Cabernet was named a top California cabernet by Wine Spectator. It is exciting making award-winning wines and giving back to the land and environment, Fowler says. Patricia Kloehn lives in Edwards. She is a currently taking the diploma course for the WSET school in London (wine, spirit, education & trust), which is the precursor to the master of wine program. E-mail her at

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