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.