Sustainability with regards to water, energy, and people at Jackson Family Wines.
By The Editors
According to the National Wine Institute, Americans drink over 800 million gallons of wine per year. With this high rate of consumption, it’s important to ensure that wine is produced sustainably in the U.S. Family-owned Jackson Family Wines was started in 1982 by lawyer-turned-farmer Jess S. Jackson. It produces well-known brands like Kendall Jackson and La Crema, as well as smaller labels such as Cambria and Stonestreet. In addition to its focus on wine, responsibility and environmental stewardship have always been at the heart of the business. Three of the core areas of focus are water, energy, and people, according to Katie Jackson, Jackson Family Wines representative of government relations and community outreach.
The company described these three core areas, and explained why they are so important in
sustainable wine-making—for them and for all other beverage companies across the U.S.
Water. A focus on water conservation in the wineries started in 2008, and since that time, they
have reduced water intensity—the number of gallons of water used per gallon of wine
produced—by 41 percent, which equates to 28 million gallons of water each year. The company’s goal is to further reduce water intensity by 33 percent by 2021.
Some of the company’s water conservation strategies were developed back in the 1990s, when
the family built rain-capture reservoirs on most of its vineyard properties. The goal was to collect water in advance to minimize impact on streams and other natural water sources. The reservoirs have been invaluable during the last five years of drought; in the 2015 growing season, the reservoirs were full enough to ensure that the vineyard would have enough water for the next year and a half, if need be. Because there were three big weather events that delivered the needed water that year instead, Jackson Family Wines released more than 2 million gallons from a vineyard reservoir into Green Valley Creek, dramatically improving the odds of survival for juvenile Coho spending the summer in the stream.
More recently, the company installed technology that measures sap flow in the vines and allows
the individual plants to indicate when they need water rather than relying on set irrigation
scheduling. This technology has the added benefit of improving the quality of the fruit, which is
better when water intake is regulated.
Other innovations that the vineyard uses to conserve water include:
• A barrel-and-tank, washwater recycling system, which helps save about 700,000 gallons of
water each year;
• Smart controllers on cooling towers that recycle and reuse water up to six times per cycle;
• Rainwater-harvesting using existing tank infrastructure to capture up to 1.6 million gallons of water each year; and
• A waterless tank sanitation system that uses UV light instead of water for tank sanitation. This
saves around 250K gallons of water per year with each unit deployed.
Energy. Reducing energy use is fundamental to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, saving
money on energy costs, and decreasing dependence on the grid. Jackson Family Wines has
executed a variety of initiatives designed to reduce overall energy consumption and also
implements renewable generation sources and stationary energy storage systems to create an
integrated solution. The result of these initiatives has been an overall energy-intensity reduction of 13 percent since 2008.
Other initiatives include improving the efficiency of winery lighting, compressors, and boilers;
retrofitting lighting and re-commissioning HVAC systems, and upgrading pumps at the largest
wineries. The wine producer also bought its first renewable energy credits (RECs) in 2010. Each
year, Jackson Family Wines has increased its purchase of U.S.-generated renewable energy to
offset emissions—so much so that in 2015, Jackson Family Wines offset 130 percent of its annual usage. This amounted to 100 percent for operations, and another 30 percent on behalf of its employees’ home usage.
The company began piloting the Tesla “Powerpack” stationary storage systems at six of its
wineries in 2014. The Tesla systems draw power from the grid at night when demand is at its
lowest, which shifts electric load away from daytime peaks when energy is most expensive. The
21 stationary energy storage systems provide 4.2 MW of storage capacity, and, when integrated
with the wine company’s 6.5MW of onsite solar arrays, deliver more than $1.5 million in savings
People. A critical third leg at the company is people: both inside the company and in the extended community. In 2015, before the recent changes to the minimum wage in California, Jackson Family Wines began paying all its non-commissioned employees $15/hour, which has been deemed a living wage in the regions where they do business. The company also launched JFW Cares: a family-supported fund that provides emergency assistance to employees in difficult situations—during last year’s Valley Fire, which severely affected California’s North Coast winegrowing region, for example.
In October 2016, Jackson Family Wines received a 2016 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which recognizes the country’s leading green power users for their commitment and contribution to helping advance the development of the nation’s voluntary green power market. The wine company was one of just three organizations chosen as a Green Power Partner of the Year, compounding the significance of the award.