Not too many years ago, actually just about two to three generations ago, most Americans lost their connection with agriculture. With the dawning of the age of industrialization folks moved from farms to find jobs building cars, running machines, working in cities where the factories were being built. America was on the move. Massive immigration occurred as America was seen as the “land of opportunity”. The world was becoming more mechanized more efficient more industrial based less agricultural based. Things were growing. Though two world wars and other major conflicts, industrialization continued to take over a larger and larger part of present day society. No one seemed to care as long as we were moving forward.
Agriculture became more efficient, utilizing both mechanical innovations and crop hybridization which produced larger and larger harvest using fewer and fewer people. To the point where we are today in which a large segment of our population has no clue where their food comes from, who grew it, how it was grown, what happens to it from its journey from the field to their table, or what the accumulated environmental impact was in all of these processes. Or do we even care, as long as we can get traditionally seasonal crops, tomatoes for example, year round? Most folks know that the tomatoes in the winter look like tomatoes but don’t taste like tomatoes. So we are shipping over longer distances, produce that merely look like what nature produces when it’s in season in our area.
The whole “eat local movement” started back in the ‘60s to try to get real food produced by thousands of farms scattered across the country, who (this was the intention anyhow) were sell their produce to the local community, thereby avoiding the massive use of fossil fuel to truck perishable food stocks across the country. But we had grown accustom to having those tomatoes, grapes, and lettuce on our table in January. But at what price?
In 1976, the first year we started making wine commercially, all of our pressed fruit pulp was hauled out to the pasture where we had 60 head of beef cows just waiting to devour the spent skins, seeds, and pulp. Which worked out well, we got the juice from the press to ferment into wine, the cows got the pulp, and we ended up with marinated beef on the hoof. All recycled nice and neat. As the winery grew we got out of raising animals in ’85 and found that the dry pulp was great for keeping the deer away from the vineyards during harvest, if we put piles of pulp in the woods. It would keep them eating there, while we harvested. Behavior modification at its best! A few years later we found folks who wanted the tartrate crystals from the bottoms of the aging tanks and casks, and those along with the paper on the take-up reels from our labeler go to local nursery schools for “play dough” and drawing paper. When the “barn” was renovated into our tasting room and a banquet hall we reused the barn siding for the woodwork in the tasting room on the lower level, the cask room and the upstairs banquet hall were insulated with a concrete foam insulation which is totally nontoxic and is 5 times more efficient than fiberglass, high performance windows, radiant heat in the floor, concrete permanent siding. A lot of these technologies were not generally known when we did the work. Use of CFL lights alone dropped the banquet hall electric demand from 4000 watts of power to 800 watts.
We instituted a recycling program for glass, paper, aluminum, plastics, and cardboard, basically anything that can be recycled is recycled, which started years ago. This program alone has kept over 15 tons of recyclable material out of the landfill just last year. Our next major thought was to try to “get off the grid”. Our aim was to produce enough power on the winery premises so we were independent of the local power company. I started work on this project around 2001-2 and first looked at going solar. With the research I did combined with the information provided to me by local suppliers I found out that to replace just 30% of our electric needs at that time was going to require an investment of over $800,000.00 in solar cells which seemed just ludicrous. Years went by and new proposals came in with solar arrays coming from Japan and quite frankly I was ticked that we couldn’t supply an American made panel to an American company, “Oh the Japanese solar cells are so much more efficient” is what I was being told. Sorry the cost was still way to prohibitive to make it a viable option and I really wanted to “Buy American” We looked at roof mounted wind turbines but they couldn’t produce enough power, the large tower mounted turbines are way too costly, and our location, although it says Mount Airy isn’t in a good “wind zone” according to the national wind maps to keep the tubines turning enough hours each day. Then one day along comes a company called Clean Currents who marries environmentally conscious buyers with wind turbine energy producers. The wind farms have energy to sell. I want the wind energy to buy and POOF 100% of our electric is now supplied by a wind farm! It’s that easy. So my lights, my filters, my pumps, crusher, press, refrigeration, is all running on the wind. In doing this it is the equivalent of taking 30.5 cars off the road, saving the CO2 emissions from almost 18,000 gallons of gasoline, or the equivalent of 160 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide in one year alone! The same wind that powers the turbines may be some of the wind that comes through our vineyards, through our tasting room, through your homes! ”WIND TO WINE POWER RULES!” This is not by any means the end of the story. The evolution of the winery continues and we would like to thank all the folks who have supported us throughout the years and have helped keep our family winery thriving and growing.
Anthony Aellen – Your Winemaker