Keeping with our focus on innovation, “precision viticulture” is how we describe the broad array of technologies we use to understand and manage the acreage we farm. These technologies vary from small, handheld devices that measure a vine’s rate of photosynthesis and water loss to aerial infrared photography that measures microscopic differences in vine vigor across vineyard blocks.
Simply put, precision viticulture allows us to understand the plants’ water status in real time and make educated irrigation decisions, evaluating and quantifying variability in a vineyard block. The use of these tools centers on a continuous pursuit of the balanced vine.
Through the use of technology and vine-based measurements we have significantly reduced our water usage. The benefits of deficit irrigation — which allows us to precisely control when and where to irrigate — are multi-faceted, preserving an asset in limited supply while also making better wine.
- Several methods to make informed irrigation decisions, including sap-flow measurements and Leaf Water Potential (LWP), which gauges the stress of the vines by measuring the amount of water that is released in a leaf under pressure and over a short period of time.
- Each vintage and vineyard block is different, but our water usage has trended downwards, even with California in the midst of an historic drought. Over a several year period our monitoring and deficit irrigation program has resulted in water savings as high as 60% across our estate vineyards.
- To protect watersheds, we employ a variety of tools including bioswales to capture and filter sediment, buffer strips between vineyards and areas of undisturbed vegetation; and where possible, we collect and store winter runoff to to offset groundwater use during the growing season.
The long-term success of our farming and winemaking operation relies on keeping soils healthy, productive, and capable of supporting vineyards that produce world-class wine grapes.
We participate in many 3rd party certification programs, including:
- Fish Friendly Farming
- California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance
- Napa Green Certified Land
- Bay Area Green Business Certified
- Living Building Challenge — ongoing
- US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)
Our LEED Platinum Oakville Winery
LEED Platinum Certification
Our Oakville winery has been awarded LEED Platinum status under the Existing Buildings, Operation and Maintenance (EB:OM) rating system – the highest level of certification granted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the first production winery in the world to earn this status.
A few of the sustainable technologies and best practices incorporated to obtain LEED Platinum certification include using drought tolerant plants and converting lawns to HG Fescue, reducing indoor plumbing fixture water use, deriving 35% of our energy needs from solar energy, establishing sustainable purchasing policies and planing nearly 4,000 sq. ft. of fruits and vegetables on the property.
Producing world-class wine requires a high level of cleanliness at the winery, which ultimately requires water. At our Oakville winery, water conservation strategies have resulted in an 76% reduction in landscape irrigation and a 26% reduction in non-process water use.
We also use automatic pumpover devices, which not only save the backs of our cellar team, but create a closed system for each fermenting tank, meaning pumps and pipes are cleaned once every 2-3 week fermentation cycle, rather than several times per day.
Steam is an essential part of the sanitation process, which has the dual benefit of being a better sanitizing agent than hot water and using much less water. Swelling new barrels prior to filling requires a fraction of the 60 gallons per barrel it took with water.
Our Oakville winery features 1,464 solar panels, enough to power more than 35% of our annual energy needs. Since installation, we’ve reduced carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to more than 56,000 trees.
Our wineries also use night-air cooling and thick insulation to minimize the need for mechanical cooling. Natural light illuminates our Oakville cellar, creating an environment with little need for artificial lighting most of the year.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations have now been installed at all winery locations.
The Human Element
The quality of the grapes we grow is only as good as the quality of work put in by those on the ground carrying out the plan.
To attract and retain the finest vineyard workers at Silver Oak, we offer a competitive benefits package, with our full-time vineyard workers receiving 100% employer-paid medical, dental, vision and life insurance for themselves and their family, sick time, vacation and holiday pay, 401(k) opportunities, gifted wine, inclusion in company events and post-harvest bonuses.
In 2012, a beautiful and historic piece of property in the heart of the Alexander Valley became available and we had to act. With breathtaking views and excellent soil for growing high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon, we knew it would be easy to call this place home.