Green Wine Country of California & Beyond
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: NAPA-SONOMA
Any season can be the perfect time for green wine lovers to savor vineyard landscapes with a hike or bike ride in Napa-Sonoma wine country. Capped off with, of course, some great wine tasting.
Sonoma County just got a little greener. J Vineyards & Winery, in Russian River Valley, has achieved certified sustainable status through the California Sustainable Winegrowers Alliance (CSWA). The sustainable certification covers all vineyard and winery operations.
We are invited to spend this late spring day in Green Wine Country, with a stay at the eco-friendly Lodge at Sonoma and its award-winning Raindance Spa. Plus a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting at one of the greenest wineries in Napa, Domaine Carneros.
We check in and are escorted through sunny courtyards and flourishing gardens to Room 102. Drawing in a breath, we gasp, “Oh, wow.”
Though she needs little introduction, permit us to introduce the Sonoma Mission Inn. This is a grand old gal who has her secrets. And chief among these is that, behind her luxurious image and fascinating history, she’s really quite green.
Start with one nasty old gas station, a relic of the Carbon Age. Remove it and the all the oily, greasy soil beneath and restore the land to health. Now in this very space raise an eco-chic refuge that is LEED Gold certified. The really, really good news is, this is not make believe at all.
How cool! Awaiting us is a “green” meal, a “green” sleep. At Vineyards Inn, the locally acclaimed organic tapas restaurant in Kenwood, dinner timing has just been confirmed, a key to our accommodations and instructions on how to operate the ranch gate obtained.
From the moment you arrive in the tree-shaded plaza, you feel like savoring life here. You want to linger. To make a memory of Sonoma’s seductive charms, with a farm-to-fork meal, a local “green” wine, a night’s healthful rest. If possible, to enjoy these traveler’s pleasures all under the same roof. It is possible, at El Dorado Hotel.
Not that Sonoma is short on dining options, not at all. It has plenty of those. But when you narrow your search to establishments that focus on seasonal, local and organic in ways that are both interesting and earth-friendly, well, then your choices contract. On this night we decide to return to an old favorite, El Dorado Kitchen.
We’ve just checked into MacArthur Place, Sonoma’s historic country inn and spa a few blocks from the square. An independently-owned slow haven of beautifully tended gardens, majestic old trees and 19th-century architecture.
We’re overlooking a perfect crescent of sandy beach, watching the clam diggers harvest a chowder. Where are we, New England? No, just 25 miles down the coast from San Francisco, in a laid-back haven specializing in nature-focused getaways with organic dining, green wineries and sustainable shopping close at hand.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: ELSEWHERE
Sierra Foothills, Livermore, Santa Cruz Mountains, Lodi wine country: great places to hike, bike and sip
Any season can be the perfect time for green wine lovers to savor vineyard landscapes with a hike or bike ride in Northern California’s “other” wine country. Capped off with, of course, some great wine tasting.
Who can resist an invitation to visit the greenest winery in the United States (arguably, in the entire world)? Especially one that’s also among the most historic in California? Certainly not us. Parducci Wine Cellars anchors Ukiah, the commercial and civic center of Mendocino County—America’s greenest county.
In northern California you’re never far from wine country. And while Napa and Sonoma steal the attention, we tend to favor more remote appellations that offer quality vintages, artisan pleasures and a slow pace of life. One of our favorites is Anderson Valley, nestled in sparsely populated Mendocino County.
Mendocino County was first in the U.S. to ban GMOs. It’s here you will also find the oldest purposely organic vineyards in the country, at Lolonis Winery. And at another noteworthy location just south of the village … Stanford Inn By The Sea, a pioneer of sustainability among North American inns.
Any season can be the perfect time for green wine lovers to savor vineyard landscapes with a hike or bike ride in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara wine country. Capped off with, of course, some great wine tasting.
Midway between LA and San Francisco lie the rolling hills and tree-shaded country lanes of California’s fastest-growing wine region. Paso Robles—home to 180+ wineries. This is idyllic, laid-back country where the owner or winemaker may personally pour you a welcoming sample. Here’s our formula for a great visit.
We’re on a mission: to scout out as many organic, biodynamic and sustainably produced wines as we can in this laid-back, less traveled wine country. But we can never pass up a good beach. And that’s why today’s journey ends in a classic beach town … at one of the best green inns in the state, the elegant Cass House.
The City of Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail and its hip, new tasting rooms in a revitalized arts district
Lovely Santa Barbara, on “the American Riviera,” now boasts a world-class showcase of wine, beer and spirits—and local agriculture, art, green and indie businesses—all anchored by the city’s first eco-hotel.
Any season can be the perfect time for green wine lovers to savor vineyard landscapes with a hike or bike ride in Santa Barbara and Temecula wine country. capped off with, of course, some great wine tasting.
Take a lazy drive along Rancho California Road, lined with vineyards, olive trees and cypress, and you might, for a moment, imagine yourself in Tuscany rather than SoCal’s Temecula, an easy hour-or-so trip from San Diego, Orange County and Palm Springs. This wine growing region is sprouting some green as well.
Stretching from Grants Pass to Jacksonville, this is one of Oregon’s newest appellations, and the warmer and drier growing seasons here compared to elsewhere in the state have fostered more than two dozen boutique producers so far. This terroir is for excellent chardonnays, syrahs and Rhone-style red varietals.
Willamette Valley offers the first wine tour company in the world to earn certification through the rigorous Sustainable Tourism Eco-certification Program.
British Columbia is Canadian wine country, one of the nation’s two primary wine regions. More than 20 wineries—several of them organic or biodynamic—edge the lakeside city of Kelowna, with well over 100 in the Okanagan Valley region. We come to to spend an evening at the green Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar.
Not far from Niagara Falls, peach and cherry orchards of the past are being replaced by grape vines. Many of these new wineries are going green. They are producing organic and biodynamic wines, and have sheep grazing the vines and geo-thermal heating and cooling systems.
In this photogenic region edging Lake Michigan, a growing eco-spirit embraces farms and vineyards that grow organically and biodynamically; and artisan producers embrace local, organic ingredients. An excellent starting point for your explorations is nearby Traverse City.