Pioneering vintner Paul Dolan remembers the days when growing grapes was all about chemicals and new modes of mechanization.
?We lost the art of farming,? he said, ?the exploration, the discovery process.?
Dolan eventually became one of the foremost advocates of ?green? or sustainable farming practices for the wine industry, even penning a bible-like book, ?True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution,? while he was fermenting his very own business revolution as the head of Fetzer Vineyards in Hopland.
To try and further reclaim what was lost, he and others will gather on Dec. 1 and 2 in Santa Rosa at the first Green Wine Summit. The event is designed to set the stage for the relatively green wine industry to get even greener, from soil to marketplace.
The Summit?s founders and co-chairs are locals Lesley Berglund and Mack Schwing, who together run the WISE (Wine Industry Sales Education) Academy, a business that provides education, training and certification for winery consumer direct professionals. They?ve put together a conference that includes leadership sessions, speaker panels and a showcase of green goods and services.
?There?s a lot of confusion and intimidation about what green really means,? said Berglund. ?This summit is meant to attract people in the industry way beyond the usual suspects ? the CEO, the CFO, the director of marketing. More than just that one designated green person.?
As momentum continues to build for all things green, even wine ? a product people didn?t always see as better being green ? is getting on board. Increasingly, green wines are high-quality wines.
Summit participants pick from four key learning tracks: Best Green Practices, The Business of Green, The Green Consumer and Green Communications.
Scheduled throughout each area will be a host of speakers, including Mike Benziger of Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, Jean-Charles Boisset of DeLoach Vineyards in Santa Rosa, Joe Brode, project manager of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, viticulturist Remi Cohen of Merryvale Vineyards in St. Helena and former Olympic rower Seth Bauer, now editorial director of National Geographic?s Green Guide.
That there is even a Green Summit planned signals a commitment to better practices in wine grape farming and winemaking, with Northern California taking the lead.
Dolan recalled that in his early days in agriculture, ?we didn?t have those kinds of discussions.? Instead, it was ?how do I get rid of weeds in the cheapest way, how do I make sure the vine has enough water. We?ve shifted that and expanded our awareness of what agriculture can be.?
Virginie Boone is a freelance wine writer based in Sonoma County. She can be reached at email@example.com or visit wineabout.pressdemocrat.com.