Napa Valley Vintners Engage with Top Climate Scientist


10/17/2008 - St Helena, CA-The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association held its fall general membership meeting Tuesday, October 14th with a focus on the group's ongoing Climate Study Task Force. Pat Stotesbery, owner of Ladera Vineyards and president of the NVV Board of Directors, welcomed the more than one hundred vintners in attendance saying, "Throughout the history of the wine industry in Napa Valley vintners have prevailed in spite of many incredible challenges like Prohibition, pests and diseases such as Phylloxera, land-use battles and several challenging economic periods like the one we are experiencing now, and climate change is yet another challenge that will be with us for the foreseeable future. The good news is that we can educate ourselves about the situation and still take action that can have a positive effect."

This was the introduction to the top-notch panel of climate experts assembled to speak to vintners about this global problem and its local impact. The panel was moderated by NVV Climate Study Task Force member and vintner Chris Howell of Cain Vineyard and Winery. Howell shared a story about a panel discussion as part of a marketing visit to Tokyo, Japan with fellow vintners Margaret Duckhorn and Bo Barrett, in 2005 where international journalists asked them their view on climate change and he quickly realized that he and his peers had varied information on the topic.

"I am happy to see the leadership the Napa Valley Vintners have shown on this topic," said panelist Dr. Chris Field who holds many titles including founding director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, Professor of Biology and Environmental Earth Systems Science at Stanford University, and most recently co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the group that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. Fields highlighted the global, broad stroke view of what has been occurring with Earth's temperatures, specifically the impacts that have occurred since the Industrial Revolution. He noted that the IPCC has very strict criteria for drawing conclusions about climate research, where all members from this vast global coalition must all agree that the conclusions put forth are sound, and they all agree that the greatly accelerated volume of CO2 in the atmosphere and the rate of global warming are caused by man-made activities.

Dan Cayan, renowned climate researcher from Scripps Institution of Oceanographic Science at UC San Diego has partnered with Kimberly Nicholas-Cahill of Stanford University, who was also present at the meeting, to study the Napa Valley climate. This team was hired by the NVV to lead a locally focused climate study using statistical data from a variety of climate indicators throughout the Western U.S. and, most importantly, specific data to the Napa Valley appellation. Working with vintners and growers from Napa Valley they are attempting to piece together a history of what has occurred here, from hand-written ledgers so that bud break, bloom, fruit set, veraison and harvest data are correlated with weather statistics including precipitation, frost, temperatures and such to create a model.

Cayan went on to provide examples of the effects of increased carbon in the environment, noting "CO2 has a lifespan of about 100 years, so what we are creating in the atmosphere affects our future generations." He also noted that carbon-emitting activities like burning fossil fuels are largely mitigatable. To date, the rise in temperatures is subtle, generally in winter nighttime temperatures, and he said, "What we see happening across the Western U.S. to date is an earlier spring over the past several decades."

Nicholas-Cahill, a graduate fellow at Stanford University working in partnership with Cayan on the climate study, and a viticulturist herself with vineyards in the area, looks more specifically at vines and vineyard development in her research. She said, "Fruit yields are very affected by climate and climate change. Future year yields are dictated by the carbohydrate reserves the vine stores, which is why some growers irrigate post-harvest." She continued by telling the vintners in attendance that her team was seeking as much historical content from them to make the research as rich as possible, and they realize the capture of this information is difficult. None of the historical records are recorded digitally, therefore, Cayan and Nicholas-Cahill are dedicating research assistants' time to taking these hand-written field ledgers from winegrowers and inputting them into databases.

Steve Cliff, manager for the Climate Change Planning Department of the State of California's Air Resources Board rounded out the panel talking on AB32. He noted that fermentation from winery production facilities was not a regulated carbon emission under the state's AB32 mandate to return to 1990 carbon levels by 2020. He clearly said that the carbon emissions targeted are those caused by burning fossil fuel. He noted that, astonishingly, California is the number two carbon emitter in the world, due to transportation fuel burning, behind only the U.S. as a whole. He told the audience that with new technology and fuel efficiency that the return to 1990 levels in California is very achievable. The state offers the website as a resource.

NVV's Executive Director Linda Reiff said, "The NVV has a responsibility to continue to lead the wine industry. Even though the Napa Valley produces just 4% of California's wine, our wineries - 95% of which are family-owned - have a strong desire to continue to lead the wine business in sustainable farming and wine quality, and we look forward to the climate study providing us with valuable information on this challenge." Other vintners who have been working on the Climate Study Task Force along with Chris Howell are Burges Smith of Araujo Estate Wines, Dawnine Dyer of Dyer Vineyards, Tracey Skupny of Lang & Reed Wine Company and David Graves of Saintsbury.

About the NVV
Now in our seventh decade, the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association is the sole organization responsible for promoting and protecting the Napa Valley appellation. Respect for our history reinforces our commitment to the preservation and enhancement of the Valley’s land, wine, and community for future generations. We address the shared interests of our 330 member wineries.

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Contact: Terry Hall, Communications Director 707-968-4217