Sustainability on the Central Coast

Every year, around the end of July, there is only one thing on our minds – getting ready for harvest!  Last week Julien and I took a road trip to visit the K-J vineyards in Monterey, California, in the Central Coast, to help wrap up some sustainability projects, and also to introduce Julien to the rest of the K-J family. It was a great trip and was probably our last opportunity to get out and see the vineyards before harvest starts.

Harvest is really important to us for a lot of reasons, one of which is that our energy and water consumption are a lot higher than during the rest of the year. With all of the grapes coming in, tanks and equipment getting covered in sticky sugar and wine being moved into barrels, there is a lot of washing and cleaning going on.  Even though we use a lot of water, there are a lot of ways to make sure that we are not wasting, using only what we need.

This year some of our sustainability projects have included:

  • Setting up real-time energy monitoring at the facilities through a smartphone app by EnerNOC – this allows us to work smarter instead of just harder.
  • Replacing boilers with 95% efficient models to save natural gas and propane – which helps make our local air cleaner too.
  • Installing water meters across our facilities to really understand when and how we use water – so we can get smart about saving.
  • Upgrading a building control system to automate boiler and HVAC control for maximum efficiency – and minimum headache.

The most exciting part for us was definitely the excitement that lots of K-J employees had when they saw us onsite.  Everywhere we went there were new suggestions and ideas on how to save energy, water, money, etc.  A group of employees even when so far as to shut down a barrel washer and show us the improvements they thought we could make to save water.

We still have a long way to go to become a truly sustainable company, but every year we take several more steps in the right direction. Julien and I will head south again during harvest to work a day at several of the locations. It is hard to understand what is really happening in the wineries if you are sitting in an office all day – and besides, why would you want to miss a chance to join in the fun at harvest?