Sonoma County millennials wary of 'green' claims

Greenwashing is the practice of paying lip service to environmental issues, and for the record, millennials loathe it.

As Forbes magazine put it in a recent story, “They are always on the lookout for corporate hypocrisy.”

At Sonoma County wineries, green comes in countless flavors: biodynamic farming, organic certifications, solar panels, environmental fundraisers, donations to environmental foundations and even parking lot charging stations for electronic cars. But how does this translate to the green wine drinker?

Several of these green palates, ages 33 and under, gave us their opinion while standing outside Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewery.

Luis Mazul, a 27-year-old food scientist at Amy’s Kitchen, said biodynamic farming is the only thing that really counts.

“The word ‘organic’ doesn’t cut it for me,” he said. “I’m in the food industry, and our government’s definition of organic is pretty lenient. In reality you could say water is organic when it comes from the faucet.”

Mazul, who lives in Santa Rosa, said biodynamic farming is the purest effort wineries can make.

“With biodynamic farming, there are different types of plants and animals in the same ecosystem coming together,” he said. “It’s nature taking care of itself.”

Meet Anthony Caspary, another green drinker with big opinions. The 33-year-old distiller said “having an organic certification is B-list for me.”

Caspary, who works at Ventura Spirits in Santa Barbara but was visiting Santa Rosa, said he’s also most impressed with biodynamic farming.

“I look up to Medlock Ames (Healdsburg) and Littorai Wines (Sebastopol) because I think you can taste it in the wines. I like wineries that grow their own grapes.”

Caspary is not so impressed with electric charging stations or donations to foundations. “Marketing dollars buy those things,” he said. “It’s not the work of the winemaker.”

Two other green drinkers are open to all expressions of green. Jon Corti, 30, and Erica Clough, 26, both from White Plains, N.Y., were traveling through Wine Country with an eye out for environmentally sound boutique wineries.

“When they give tours, they talk a lot about organic farming and solar panels,” Corti said. “It’s very appreciated by customers like us. We like to see these initiatives.”

More than 83 million people fall under the Millennial umbrella, ranging in age from 15 to 35 and representing the largest segment of the world’s population.

There’s a reason millennials are dead set against greenwashing, said Brandon Carneiro, co-founder and CEO of SommSelect, an online wine sales site that caters to millennials.

“Our generation has had time to have all these (environmental) lessons soak in,” Carneiro said. “There’s never been a time I don’t remember taking the recycling can out to the curb.”

SommSelect was created by Carneiro and master sommelier Ian Cauble, who recommends one new bottling every day.

Carneiro said 99 percent of the recommended wines are organic or biodynamic, adding that “it’s not by chance” that the very best wines of the world are steeped in good environmental practices.

A biodynamic certification requires farming that is free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and that support biodiversity. At a biodynamic winery, for instance, sheep, vegetable and flower gardens may share the property with rows of vineyards.

“Sonoma County is the big story here because of some of those early adopters like Quivira and Benziger,” said. Elizabeth Candelario of Demeter-USA, the sole company that handles biodynamic certification in the United States. “Today approximately 13 of 70 biodynamic vineyards and wineries are nestled here in this county biodynamic farming is the highest form of ecological farming.”

Candelario said she is glad to hear that millennials have a keen interest in biodynamic farming.

“Young people are acutely aware of the world they are inheriting and certainly have a vested interest in cutting through all the greenwashing in order to understand how they are going to address these issues so they have a future,” she said. “It was a certainty for us but is no longer for them.


Biodynamic vineyards and wineries in Sonoma County

DaVero Farms & Winery: 766 Westside Road, Healdsburg,, 707-431-8000.

DeLoach Vineyards: 1791 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa,, 707-755-3300.

Enterprise Vineyards: 569 First St. West, Sonoma,, 707-996-6513.

Truett Hurst: 5610 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg,, 707-433-9545.

Mabaroshi Vineyard & Wine Estates: 2970 Thorn Road, Sebastopol,, 707-829-1216.

Porter Bass Winery: 11750 Mays Canyon Road, Guerneville,, 707-869-1475.

Porter Creek Vineyards: 8735 Westside Road, Healdsburg,, 707-433-6321.

Preston Vineyards: 9282 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg,, 707-433-3372.

Puma Springs Vineyards: 1421 Chiquita Road, Healdsburg,, 707-431-9173.

Quivira Vineyards & Winery: 4900 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg,, 707-431-8333.

Radio-Coteau: P.O. Box 610, Forestville,, 707-823-2578.

Rose Ranch: 303 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood,, 707-833-2143.

Bearg Ranch Vineyard: 3030 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa, no website, 707-537-5040.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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