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What’s New at Shafer

A Statement on Climate Change

By Doug Shafer

The March 12, 2008, edition of the Washington Post ran a story on the effects of climate change on the world of wine. The writer, respected journalist, Joseph Ward, interviewed a winemaker in Burgundy, who reported seeing some compelling evidence of climate change within his lifetime.

Ward later called me to ask what we have seen here on our Stags Leap District vineyard sites. Over the past few years numerous writer have queried me on this issue and my answer to Joe Ward was the same I’ve given before. Over the 30 years our family has cultivated grapes and produced wine in this little corner of the world, we have experienced some blazing hot summers through the 80s, 90s and into the 2000s. We’ve also had cool years, including the last two growing seasons. I cannot say with any sense of honesty that I’ve seen a trend that indicates a change in our climate.

Having said that, I also make clear that I’m not a climate expert. What I know about climate change is what most people have learned over the past decade in the media.

I think Ward did an excellent job with the story and was pleased with how he characterized what I’d said. However, an editor at the paper wrote a caption under a photo of our winery that read: “Shafer Vineyards in California, Doug Shafer is skeptical about climate change's effects: ‘I’m not seeing a trend.’”

I was disappointed when I saw this since it completely mischaracterizes what I said and how I feel. We of course requested a correction from the Washington Post and they have graciously promised to run one.

My hope is that people will look beyond a 17-word caption in a newspaper and will know Shafer Vineyards by our decades-long commitment to conducting our business in ways that are as earth-friendly as possible.

Besides integrating a whole host of sustainable farming practices that long ago eliminated use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, in 2004 we were the first winery in Napa and Sonoma (and perhaps the nation) to flip the switch to 100 percent solar power.

Part of what we found compelling about going solar is that we are now producing “clean kilowatts.” Our power is not produced by and oil- or coal-burning electrical generation plants. In fact, we learned back then, half of the toxic pollution in our atmosphere is the result of power generation.

Over the 30-year life of our solar array, the carbon NOT produced on our behalf will equal the air-purifying effects of 17,000 mature trees.

Shafer’s commitment to a better earth continues. This year we are constructing a new solar array to power the equipment that operates our irrigation and water recycling systems.

We at Shafer don’t have all the answers for the issues related to our climate. But we do know that we’re trying to do the right thing.