In a sunny valley of Sonoma County two winemakers have forged green building, renewable energy and biodynamic agriculture into a bountiful endeavor. Founded in 1998 by Christopher Medlock James and Ames Morison, the Medlock Ames Winery has come to full fruition beautifully with glowing wine reviews and an operation that is now 100% solar powered. The sustainable philosophy of this forward thinking vineyard is entwined in its structures and practices. The winery building, designed by George Riley of Sebastopol, incorporates passive solar design, natural daylighting and natural ventilation.

The owners chose a light colored roof to reduce the building’s cooling energy load. The corrugated roofing provides structural efficiency while allowing minimal support material. A concrete floor provides high thermal mass, helping to reduce temperature swings and cooling demand. The winemaking process housed within uses gravity flow, gentler on both energy usage and the wine itself. The fruit is raised by electric (solar powered) forklifts and follows a natural path to an underground cellar where the cooling system equipment is efficiently sheltered out of direct sunlight.

Around the vineyard sustainability grows everywhere. A series of six solar photovoltaic arrays produce 140,000 kWh annually powering 100% of the business, including vehicles. Of the 335 acres that is owned by Medlock Ames, only 56 acres are used for grape growing – the rest is left in its natural state.

Where viticulture takes root there are no pesticides or fertilizers used. Instead, natural materials fight pests and encourage healthy plants and soil. The solar arrays have even become part of the inviting natural landscape where, Morison notes, “Owls and hawks are often seen perching.” Other farm “employees” include sheep, geese and horses.

In addition to perfecting organic wines in sustainable style, Medlock Ames Winery encourages sustainability in the local community. They recently funded the school garden initiative at West Side School in Healdsburg to help children become skilled and interested in growing their own food. This outreach will expand to bring local school children to the vineyard to see organic and sustainable farming in practice.

Between the reds, the whites and the greenness its difficult to decide the winery’s greatest asset. One easy certainty is that at Medlock Ames everything is produced without compromise.

+ Medlock Ames Winery


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  1. Daily Detox: In the Spi... November 15, 2007 at 2:03 am

    […] of sustainability using biodynamic farming practices like hawks for pest control. The winery is 100% solar-powered, including […]

  2. Mike D Kelley October 31, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    I am working with GEM to make a better electric car for both people and cargo.,,I just hate to see your workers riding bikes in the rain and mud all winter long…I have two e6s models with the performance and cooling package working out of Middletown…I will let you know how they work there…by the way your Merlot is one of the best I have tasted…looking forward to drinking your red..MK

  3. Rebecca Schaefer September 13, 2007 at 11:39 am

    In a future where fossil fuels will be limited or non-existent, sustainability will be not only commendable but necessary. Thank you for having the courage to pave the way and showing that it can be done!

  4. David H. September 8, 2007 at 12:12 am

    I really love reading success stories such as this. To take a facility such as a winery “off the grid” requires true foresight and a deep commitment to the environment….and they seem to have pulled it off in fine form. Well done everyone at Medlock Ames!

  5. Dee Merz September 7, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Hello Ames and Chris,
    Congratulations on all the wonderful sustainablity work. I follow along and glad to receive your newletters and hear of the progress.
    I’m impressed and not surprised as it was your vision come alive!
    Wishes for all the best for everyone, Dee

  6. Marilyn Terrell August 29, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Medlock Ames proves sustainable can be beautiful; is it also delicious? I guess so, because on their website all their wines except the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) appear to be sold out. They must be good!

    Interest in eco-brewing is catching on as well, according to this review of the Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater Corners, VT. They use a special technique that allows them to operate with one-third less water than the industry standard, and their Long Trail Ale has won awards for taste:

  7. Bob August 25, 2007 at 3:07 pm


  8. E.J. Bisch August 25, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    100% sustainable energy, Congratulations! These people are looking into the future. I will be looking for Medlock Ames when I shop.

  9. Walt Barrett August 25, 2007 at 7:19 am

    This is a really neat looking and attractive, functional solar building.
    Great Job!

  10. »... August 25, 2007 at 6:04 am

    […] found a link on Inhabitat quite intriguing, so I followed it and found a great example for a holistic way of combining the […]

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