Sustainability is woven into our history and is a vital component of who we are today.
Lighter Bottles and Less CO2
30% lighter bottles burn less fuel in transportation.
There was an era, some 30 years ago, when consumers thought of heavier bottles as an elevated way to present wines of distinctions and rarity. Today they rightly think of heavy bottles as a wasteful way to burn extra CO2 in transportation. In response to this growing understanding, our bottles have lost more than 30% of their weight in the past 10 years.
Cover Crops and Sheep
Our cover crops create healthy insect habitats that eliminate the need for pesticides. Sheep mow between the vine rows and eliminate use of herbicides.
Our vine rows grow wild with clover, vetch, oats, bell beans and other foliage called cover crops. This vegetation does multiple jobs. It controls erosion and, at the end of its lifecycle, enriches our soil with nitrogen and other macronutrients. This, combined with our own compost, allowed us long ago to abandon chemical fertilizers.
Over time cover crops have added organic material to the soil, a cornerstone of regenerative farming, as it holds and absorbs water and makes the vines more resilient to weather extremes.
Cover crops also create a lively habitat for insects, where “good bugs” prey on “bad bugs,” specifically, insects such as spiders and ladybugs naturally control populations of vine-damaging insects such as leafhoppers and blue-green sharpshooters. This eliminates the need for insecticides.
Rainwater and Recycling
During the winter we capture rainwater for careful irrigation and throughout year we re-use and recycle all the water we use.
For more than 30 years we have reused and recycled all of our water – and continue to find new ways of being better stewards of our precious water resources.
Our first step, in the late 1980s, was to abandon the old, wasteful system of overhead sprinklers (common in that era) and switch to a drip irrigation system, which cut overall water usage dramatically.
Next we engineered a waste-water system. This allows us to capture all winery water (used to clean tanks, floors, and equipment) and pipe it to a small reservoir, where it is aerated and naturally processed to eliminate impurities. The newly treated water is then reused for careful irrigation.
In the mid-1990s we made our biggest investment yet in sustainable water use by clearing four acres of prime Cabernet Sauvignon vines to dig a large pond that collects and stores winter rain runoff from the surrounding hillsides. The lake has a capacity of 30-acre-feet and supplies most of the winery’s irrigation needs throughout the summer.
A.I. and Water Conservation
We’ve embraced A.I. technology in vineyard to allow us to be surgical in our water use.
Since 2013 we embraced new technology that allows us to dial back water use. A decade ago we placed sensors on several vines on the property that monitored water use and sap flow within the vines themselves. This gave us data on the actual needs of the plant and tells us when we truly need to irrigate. The first year we used this new system we saved more than 100,000 gallons of water.
In 2023 we adopted a new A.I.-based imaging system from Tule called Rover Vision which collects information on hundreds of vines at a time. This tech allows us to attach a smart phone to the front of a tractor or an ATV and while we drive through the vineyard, the phone records thousands of images of the grape leaves. These images are sent to Tule, whose A.I. platform analyzes the images and sends our vineyard team key data on which vines need water and which do not. This new system allows us to cut water use even further.
Caring for Vines and Wildlife
Partnering with hawks and owls means we can control vine-root-eating gophers naturally.
In the late 1980s we started erecting nesting boxes for Barn Owls and perch poles, which attract birds of prey such as Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, and American Kestrels.
The reason we want to attract owls and hawks is simple – we wanted to stop putting rodent poisons in the soil to control the gopher and mole population. These creatures like to tunnel through the ground and eat young vine roots.
Between the hawks and owls, we have day and night rodent patrol (hawks feed during daylight, while owls are nocturnal hunters).
The work of these raptors is so effective we named our Chardonnay vineyard “Red Shoulder Ranch” to honor them.
100% Solar Power
Going 100% solar means dramatically reducing our carbon footprint
In 2004 we became the first winery in the U.S. to make the switch to 100 percent solar power.
On sunny days our arrays produce, at peak, more than 200 kW of electrical power, or in other words, enough to meet the baseload needs of 160 average homes.
Over the lifetime of Shafer’s system alone (30 years) the greenhouse gasses that won’t be produced on our behalf has the air-purifying effect of planting more than 30,000 trees.
In addition, of course, we have eliminated our electricity bill and we actually contribute power to the electrical grid.