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ANGWIN, California: John Conover was looking for the best place to grow Napa Valley's famous cabernet sauvignon grapes. Turns out the same southwest-facing, sunny hillside that gives him great grapes also raises a fine crop of solar panels.
"We wanted to be as green as we can be," says Conover, a partner in the Cade winery, which is on track for Gold certification under the US Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Green wine is catching on.
"We're seeing a trend toward more sustainable wineries," says Ashley Katz, spokeswoman for the Green Building Council.
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The council does not track industries specifically, but Katz says at least four wineries already have received LEED certification and a dozen more are going through the process. Wineries with Gold-certified facilities include Stoller Vineyards in Dayton, Oregon, and Hall St. Helena in the Napa Valley of northern California.
Meanwhile, solar panels have become a common sight across wine country, and some wineries are rethinking water usage. Jackson Family Wines, makers of the popular Kendall-Jackson chardonnay, recently announced it will recycle water used for rinsing wine barrels and tanks, resulting in significantly less water and energy use.
In dry California, which has seen three years of drought, water conversation is the new frontier of winery design, says Roger Boulton, who is helping to create a planned Platinum LEED-certified winery at the University of California, Davis.
"The real question in the future will be how many times did you use the water. And 'one' will not be a good answer," he says.
The university's under-construction teaching winery, privately funded and part of the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, is packed with sustainable operating features, including onsite sourcing and efficient use of both water and energy.
The winery, which aims to be the first to get Platinum certification, the highest level, will be fully solar-powered, including during harvest, the peak period for a winery's energy consumption. Eventually, all water used for cleaning will be from large tanks that collect rain from adjacent academic building during the winter and use it throughout the year.