The deed was done. The replanting of the entire RSV SLD estate vineyard was completed just before the two year anniversary of the devastating fires of 2017 – a wind–driven fire that swept through the Stags Leap district, destroyed the thirty year old vines and barely spared the winery. We should be rejoicing renewal, but instead we are suffering PTSD as our golden state deals with another year of devastating fires. The past few harvests have been small because of smoke and drought. The 2019 vintage ended early when smoke engulfed RSV’s vineyards in the Carneros; leaving 40 tons of fruit on the vine because of potential smoke taint.
I am a native Californian. I have never experienced consecutive years of major fires in such close proximity. The new reality is that we are destined to repeat having destructive fires until we learn from our mistakes and do something about climate change.
We are crafting a luxury item and we should concentrate on the hedonistic pleasures of the vine. I am told I should not be an alarmist and focus on the good life. However, it is hard to be silent when the wine industry is a leading indicator of an existential threat. We are experiencing the predicted effects of climate change. We can not afford to be silent and our business and consumer habits need to reflect our values. Eating and drinking is a political statement. We vote every day with our wallets.
The New York Times wrote a series of articles a while back about the wine industry and climate change. It seems there are three paths winegrowers are taking. Some choose to ignore the issue and hope winemaking techniques can fix whatever issues climate change inflicts. Others anticipate the effects of climate change and plant varieties that are better suited to a changing environment – but these approaches don’t address the root of the problem. The third is a pro–active approach that applies regenerative agricultural practices to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses and sequester as much carbon as possible to actually reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. This is done while enriching the soil, increasing the microbial and fungal content, growing a more resilient vine that creates nutritionally balanced fruit that ferments easier. We believe the latter approach creates luxuriously elegant wines that not only do no harm, but actually improve our chances in fighting climate change.