Sean Garvey writes: "As part of the third-generation team that’s been working to take our family-run winery into the future while maintaining the artisan winemaking legacy created by our parents and grandparents at Flora Springs, the addition of solar power to our winemaking facility enhances our well-being as a business as well as our values and mission. My cousin, Flora Springs General Manager Nat Komes, and I are earth-conscious kids, and we were eager to make our winery as green as possible.
In 2005 we began the process for organic certification in our 650 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley (22% of our vineyards are now certified organic by the CCOF, and more acres are added each year). Solar power seemed like an obvious next step.
We faced a few challenges, however. The first was convincing the rest of our family: we’re accountable to our entire family, who serve as shareholders in our winery, and going solar requires a large capital commitment. Our mission as a winery has always been to respect and understand tradition but strive to push beyond and fortunately we all share in this belief. The prospect that the green benefits would also help us to save money in the long run only made our decision easier.
Next, we faced logistical issues. Our Napa Valley winery is located against the western slopes of the Mayacama mountain range, on a steep hillside bordering Rutherford and St. Helena. The stone building that houses all of our red wine production was constructed by the Rennie brothers in the 1880s, and we didn’t want to touch their historic structure. Other buildings on the property are well-shaded, and there’s no way we were going to move our ancient oak trees.
My uncle John, Flora Springs’ President, decided to contract Novato-based iPower to install our solar panels. iPower’s architecturally-trained designers and full time engineers came up with a plan to place the solar panels on the hillside behind our winery, and to mount them on a custom-designed structure that doubles as a storage and shade area.
We went live with solar power in December 2007, and haven’t looked back. The panels take up approximately 6,500 square feet, and generate about 100,000 kWh annually, which covers all of the energy needed for our offices and red wine production. Our solar panels, while large, are out of sight—we know they’re there, but most visitors do not.
The marketing benefits may seem obvious, but we don’t want that to overshadow our main focus, which is making great artisan wine. The feel-good benefits are also clear: it was natural for us as a family-run business to see our actions as part of something larger that will positively affect both our family and our community for generations to come."
GUEST BLOGGER Sean Garvey is a Third-Generation vintner. He's also Director of Communications & Production for Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards in St. Helena, California