Parducci Wine Cellars in Ukiah, Calif., received the 2009 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award – California’s highest environmental honor – at a reception following the Governor’s Global Climate Summit 2 in Los Angeles.
The winery was singled out for Enhanced Leadership, a category reserved for previous GEELA winners that continue to expand their environmental commitment. In 2008, Parducci was honored for combating climate change.
Parducci sales and marketing coordinator Kelly Lentz accepted the award on behalf of Parducci partners Paul Dolan, Tim Thornhill and Tom Thornhill.
Thornhill credited Lentz for her role in sustainability at the winery, calling her “our incredible environmental conscience.”
The California Environmental Protection Agency deemed Parducci’s achievements “exceptional for their breadth, environmental and economic impact, and value to California’s environment and economy.”
“Sustainability is a journey, not a destination,” said Thornhill, who believes that “one of the main things you must do to be sustainable is spread the word.”
Sometimes that means helping to change people’s perceptions.
“Being environmental means being efficient, and being efficient means being more profitable,” Thornhill explained. “Everyone says, ‘I can’t afford to be more environmental.’ (But) when you are, you are usually more efficient and your bottom line is better.”
A highlight of Parducci’s environmental work is a water reclamation project that was designed and built in 2006 through 2008 by Thornhill and vineyard manager Al White.
In operation since June of last year, the system conserves and recycles water 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year. The system reclaims 100 percent of the water used in Parducci’s cellars through a system of capturing, cleaning and purifying via on-site constructed wetlands. The grasses extract metals and any residual grape sugars while adding oxygen to the water. Because their underwater roots need oxygen, the plants pull oxygen from the air and emit it into the water.
“It polishes and purifies the water. This is an energy efficient, low-tech, natural process,” said Thornhill.
The treated effluent is used for vineyard irrigation and provides a wildlife habitat in the Russian River watershed.
“We managed to reclaim 4 million gallons of water this year for irrigation, which is important for today’s water economy,” Thornhill added.
True to the GEELA award’s purpose, the project involved “thinking outside of the box and maximizing existing resources – not taking the traditional road, but asking more questions about other ways of doing things.”
Rather than accepting the advice of several wastewater firms, Thornhill said he “took advantage of gravity and the land and constructed a wetland, using waterfalls for aeration instead of electric motors.” The results: 25 percent less electric power usage and higher water quality than Parducci would have received via the traditional route.
In addition to the reclamation project, Parducci continues to assess its environmental impact, improve its practices, and develop systems to reuse and recycle resources. This is accomplished through a comprehensive water conservation program, a reduction of energy use, and the conversion to 100-percent green energy. Parducci’s estate vineyard is 100-percent certified organic.
In 2008, Parducci created a “Leadership Challenge to the Wine Industry,” defining the minimum requirements that qualify vineyards and wineries as sustainable. These standards are spelled out in Parducci’s Green Winegrowing Handbook, available online: