Fourth-generation vintner John Concannon manages the Livermore Valley winery that his great-grandfather started in 1883 and that his grandfather successfully steered through Prohibition. The winery has continuously operated under the same family label and stewardship for more than 130 years. For a winery with such a rich past, Concannon is determined to lead in the future. In 2010, it became one of the first to receive Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) certification.
Looking back at the changes you've made to operate more sustainably, what are you most proud of?
We knew we needed a new winery to take us into the next 133 years, so in 2009, we built a state-of-the-art solar-powered winery. Eighty percent of the roof is covered in solar panels.
We bottle a lot of private-label brands for grocery chains at this facility, as well as the premium brands for The Wine Group, and of course, our own Concannon wines. In all, we bottle about 5 million cases a year here. We've gone to buying bottles in bulk instead of bottles in cases. The bottles are delivered shrink-wrapped, and we assemble the cases on the bottling line. You can get more bottles on the truck that way, so it's a more efficient way to get the glass to our facility – less traffic, less fuel, fewer emissions.
We also operate a large recycling center and recycle all of our own glass, plastic and cardboard. Getting these materials picked up used to cost us $144,000 a year. Now the money we earn from selling the materials pays for the recycling center, so it's net zero. There was some initial expense for equipment, like trash compactors, but no matter what size you are, you can start recycling. We started with our visitor's lawn area, setting up barrels for plastic, glass and paper. We have 125,000 visitors every year, and everything was going into one container. Our tasting-room manager was passionate about recycling and wanted to get it implemented.