How Green Is My Valley?
Silver Oak has long been one of the most environmentally conscious wineries in Napa Valley. After a fire destroyed much of its original Oakville facility in 2006, the award-winning cabernet producer rebuilt with an eye toward sustainability, installing 1,464 solar panels and incorporating drought-resistant landscaping, among other measures, eventually earning LEED Platinum certification—making it the first commercial production winery to take home that designation.
“I choose the words ‘stewards of the land,’” says CEO David Duncan. “That’s the way we think about ourselves, and we do everything we can to [honor that].”
As Silver Oak prepares to open a second winery in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley in March, the company is attempting to one up itself. Designer Daniel Piechota, of San Francisco’s Sagan Piechota Architecture, has filled the facility with eco-friendly details. Siding is made from reclaimed old-growth redwood fermentation tanks, while skylights reduce the need for electric lighting. And the designers devised a clever solution for the ever-present threat of California drought: a membrane bioreactor water-management system that uses a series of tanks and filters to clean rainwater and winemaking wastewater for reuse. If all goes according to plan, Duncan is hoping the new winery will receive both LEED Platinum Certification (making it just the second production winery to do so) and Living Building Challenge Petal Certification.
Sustainable architecture doesn’t typically come cheap, but Duncan is quick to explain that Silver Oak examined the “life cost” of the building when considering various green solutions. “Installing solar panels is an upfront expense that we think will be paid back in three or four years,” he says. “You can’t build green at just any cost, because that doesn’t really prove anything. But to have a brand-new, state-of-the-art, highly sustainable facility is going to be a new chapter in Silver Oak’s history for sure.”