Early on, the Wetzel family composted winery waste, practiced irrigation management and planted cover crops in the vineyards to minimize the use of pesticides and control erosion. The motto of founders Hank and Linda Wetzel was: “Sustainability is about using less and having more,” and from the beginning they instilled those values in their family.
More recently, they installed solar panels on the winery and increased their naturally cooled caves to 25,000 square feet. Harry Wetzel has followed his father’s lead on sustainability and says that, “Quite simply, it is the right thing to do. Minimizing our impact on the environment is not only good for us, but it’s healthy for everything around us as well.”
The Wetzels would fit right in with the winegrowers of Mendocino County to their north and west. Mendocino’s authentic “green” credentials are unsurpassed by any other wine region in the world.
The region is dominated by family farmers, many of whom have lived for two or more generations on their land — some tracing their roots to the first settlers in the 1850s.
The entire farming community has a rare appreciation of the connection between man and earth. These farmers, grape growers and winemakers were at the forefront of the sustainable, organic, Demeter-certified Biodynamic, and Fish Friendly farming movement long before it gained the attention of the general population.
“America’s Greenest Wine Region” is not a marketing slogan; it is the true reflection of all that this vast and varied county offers those who seek healthy foods and beverages, and accessible yet pristine travel destinations.
Mendocino County is home to 550 vineyards with an average size of 30 acres. Twenty-eight percent of the county’s winegrapes are certified organic or Biodynamic — substantially higher than any other region in the United States. In fact, one-third of the total organic winegrape acreage in California is in Mendocino County.
An additional 3,500 acres (across 58 vineyards) are certified through the Fish Friendly program. Within the county, there currently is a higher enrollment in this program than any other green certification.
It’s interesting to note that many Mendocino winegrowers not only certify their vineyards, but include the wilderness lands that they own. In this way, the Fish Friendly program protects vast reaches of wilderness adjacent to the vineyards.