You may expect to think about red or white when visiting California’s Napa Valley, but it’s easy to go green too, thanks to a growing focus on conservation and sustainability. In recent years, winemakers, residents, and community leaders have come together to engineer groundbreaking sustainability programs up and down the valley. On a high level, this means more sustainability across the board. In practice, it means travelers now have a bevy of eco-friendly options to enjoy on a trip here, whether that’s sipping biodynamic wine or simply taking in the views of expanses of rolling hills dotted with magnificent oak trees.
This commitment to sustainability—part of the local vibe that helps make time here so rewarding—goes back decades. In 1968 Napa Valley’s winemakers and community leaders enacted the nation’s first Agriculture Preserve protecting more than 32,000 acres. Later, in 1991, leaders put into place conservation regulations, including the Hillside Farming Ordinance and the Stream Setback Ordinance, to further protect the local environment.
Today, nearly 90 percent of Napa County benefits from permanent or high levels of protection from development. Vintners have voluntarily given up private property, including vineyard land, to collaborate and restore large sections along the Napa River. What’s more, Napa Green’s winery and vineyard programs offer the opportunity for comprehensive third-party certification of rigorous soil-to-bottle standards to ensure sustainable winemaking and grape-growing.
In 2021, Napa Green became the first sustainable winegrowing program globally to completely redevelop vineyard certification standards to focus on climate action, regenerative carbon farming, and social equity. And the hospitality community is currently in the process of piloting a program to establish a Napa Green lodging certification using a rigorous model of constant improvement.
Everything, it seems, is coming up green in the Napa Valley, and there couldn’t be a better time to get a taste of its many delights for yourself. To help inspire an eco-fabulous trip, keep reading for a rundown of sustainability efforts that are as joyful to experience as they are beneficial to Napa and those who call it home.
In Carneros, the northern tip of San Pablo Bay where Napa and Sonoma counties meet, Carneros Resort & Spa isn’t just a stylish resort among the vineyards where you can stay in spacious cottages and vacation homes. It’s also a member of Beyond Green, a program that requires participants to meet more than 50 sustainability indicators that align with global sustainable tourism standards. What’s more, the housekeeping team collects and recycles discarded soap, then donates it to Clean the World, which sanitizes and repurposes it in areas where soap is hard to find.
A more accessible option for accommodations that help minimize your travel footprint, DoubleTree by Hilton, a LEED-Gold certified hotel, is in American Canyon, the southernmost city in Napa County. The property gets all its energy from solar panels on the roof, and the on-site Spa Gaia uses only organic products—many of which are sourced locally.
The Westin Verasa, part of the California Green Business network, features oxidizers in rooms, low-flow showerheads, and composting if you want to stay in the town of Napa. The property also has eliminated plastic straws and has implemented bio-fuel recycling, LED high-efficiency lighting, and more.
For dining in downtown Napa, the Dutch Door restaurant is a zero-plastic takeout cafe, using compostable containers, flatware, and cups. About half of the cafe’s menu is vegan.
In Yountville, you’ll find Bardessono Hotel & Spa, one of 14 LEED-Platinum certified hotels in the United States—and one of 85 in the world. Among the ways this stylish resort stays eco-fabulous are concrete floors to minimize cooling in summer, bottle service of filtered water upon demand, and motion-sensitive lights that conserve energy by shutting off automatically when rooms are empty.
Honig Winery, in Rutherford, farms its estate vineyards organically and biodynamically, and the best way to learn more is on the 90-minute Eco-Tour and Tasting Experience. Participants ride a six-person electric cart out into the vineyard for a closer look at vines, soil, and resident bees. The immersive experience concludes with a tasting of estate wines.
Also in Rutherford, Cakebread Cellars has embraced sustainability since their first vintage in 1973. Some of the eco-conscious vineyard practices include monitoring for soil moisture to determine irrigation needs, composting, integrated pest management, and low-impact farming. Cakebread also installed a green parking lot with permeable pavement and bio-swales that filter runoff.
Up the road, on the outskirts of St. Helena, Meadowood Napa Valley has been actively reforesting the property with native species, such as the coast redwood and native oaks. Members of the Meadowood hospitality and landscaping teams have hand-planted more than 2,000 oak and redwood trees to date.
At the top of the Napa Valley, nature reigns supreme. Mount St. Helena towers over everything, a reminder of the region’s distant volcanic past. (This also is where the author Robert Louis Stevenson squatted for a summer; there’s a state park on the mountain that bears his name.)
Cade Winery, on Howell Mountain in Angwin, is perhaps the best example of how Napa Valley makes sustainability a priority. It opened in 2009 with the California Certified Organic Farmers designation and it was the first winery to receive the much-touted LEED-Gold certification as well.
In Calistoga, Indian Springs Resort has built its entire brand on a natural resource: water. Four on-site thermal geysers supply a constant stream of mineral water, and a mixture of this water and local volcanic ash create the mud in the famous mud baths. Also in Calistoga, the Mount View Hotel & Spa donates half of its profits to charity, including some that promote access to clean water in developing nations and around the world.
These are just some of the ways you can easily incorporate eco-consciousness into a Napa Valley vacation—simply savoring the scenic landscapes works too.
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