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This California Road Trip Takes You to Some of the State’s Most Sustainable Wineries

California Wine Sustainability Road Trips
by Eben Diskin Aug 8, 2023

It’s no secret that California is home to some of the best and most picturesque wineries in the country, but it’s also home to some of the most sustainable vineyards that treat the environment with care while producing world-class wines.

Low-impact harvesting is beneficial for both the soil and grapes, while solar panels and other forms of sustainable energy reduce a winery’s carbon footprint. Wildlife conservation is another important aspect of sustainable winemaking. Establishing green corridors for animals to access water and planting vines around trees, rather than cutting the trees down, goes a long way toward maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

These and other practices are becoming standard across California, and seeing just how they’re doing it makes for the perfect wine-focused road trip.

Baileyana Winery in San Luis Obispo

Start your trip in San Luis Obispo on California’s central coast. The region has cooler weather that leads to refreshing red and white wines (most notably using chardonnay and pinot noir grapes) with a higher acidity than you find in warmer areas.

Founded more than 35 years ago, Baileyana Winery is a mainstay of winemaking in the Edna Valley. The winery makes a small amount of syrah, rosé, and sparkling rosé in addition to its main focus: a range of cool-climate chardonnay and pinot noir. Baileyana has been SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified since 2008, and prides itself on making wine in a way that respects the environment, the surrounding wildlife and plantlife, and the workers who tend to the vineyards.

On your visit, don’t leave without booking a tasting unlike any other. Located in the historic Independence Schoolhouse, Baileyana’s tasting room gives guests an experience that combines history with flavor and views of the Santa Lucia Mountains. On select days you can pair your wine with food from local food trucks, and on non-food truck days, you’re welcome to bring a picnic lunch.

Baileyana Winery: 5828 Orcutt Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Wrath Wines in Soledad

About an hour and a half north of San Luis Obispo in Soledad, Wrath Wines is one of the most iconic properties in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Producing site-driven pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah, and sauvignon blanc, this small and limited-distribution winery packs a powerful punch when it comes to flavor – and, of course, sustainability.

Wrath pays careful consideration to the kind of packaging it uses. The winery doesn’t treat its wine with harmful contaminants, and generally takes a holistic approach to growing grapes and making wine. To preserve the local ecosystem, Wrath has developed a certified sustainable farming program designed to protect the environment and create wines tailored to the region in which they’re grown. Of the property’s 80 acres, 60 are planted with vines (the vineyard has the oldest pinot noir vines in the area) and 20 are set aside as a wildlife corridor.

Wrath Wines: 35801 Foothill Rd, Soledad, CA 93960

La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard in Windsor

You’ll find La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard if you continue north up the coast until you reach the heart of the Russian River Valley. Housed in a historic barn dating back to 1900, La Crema Estate is one of the premier destinations for wine education and cool-climate pinot noir and chardonnay wines in California.

The Best of the Vine Estate signature tour is the best way to get acquainted with the ins and outs of the vineyard. This intimate, small group tour gives you special access to private areas of the estate, and you’ll stroll through the vineyards, taste wines exclusively set aside for tour guests, and learn about the winery’s sustainability practices. You can also book a VIP tasting experience in the historic barn, like the Estate Tasting featuring six wines or the 9 Barrel Tasting of five small-production wines, or reserve a picnic table and enjoy bottle service and the outside food you decide to bring with you.

Sustainability is central to La Crema’s ethos. Only 40 percent of the vineyard properties are planted, promoting biodiversity by leaving the rest as a natural habitat for animals and plants to thrive. Regenerative farming techniques and avoiding pesticides and synthetic solutions helps to improve soil health and remove excess carbon from the atmosphere. The animals here are given pretty free rein, too. Instead of using tractors, sheep and chickens graze on unwanted weeds and nibble on excess cover crops.

La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard: 3575 Slusser Rd, Windsor, CA 95492

Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen

Just a short drive southwest from La Crema through the city of Santa Rosa, you’ll find the Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen. This biodynamic winery doesn’t just have grapes — olives and lavender are also grown on the 86 acres of land. Animals play an important role here: Sheep help remove overgrown cover crops, while Scottish Highlander cattle provide organic manure. There’s also an insectary, home to several plants and bugs critical to the health of the estate’s vines.

This winery’s award-winning tour brings visitors through a picturesque Sonoma Mountain estate, where you’ll learn all about the biodynamic farming practices while tasting six estate wines. The tour also includes a stop in the wine cave and a seated tasting of the limited-production biodynamic estate wines. For a change of pace, the Biodynamic Tractor Tram Tour takes you through the vineyards by tractor tram. The tour focuses on the winery’s sustainable farming practices, and ends with a tasting of four limited-production wines. Other experiences are available too, like the Estate Seated Tasting and Parlor Group Seated Tasting.

Benziger Family Winery: 1883 London Ranch Rd, Glen Ellen, CA 95442

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