Iron Horse is our business and it is our home. Three generations live on the property, ranging in age from 14 to 79. In the vineyards, the winery, the gardens, our lifestyle and community life, we strive to put back more than we take out.
We are locavores at heart. We try, whenever possible, to source our food, either from the estate or from farms within a 100-mile radius.
The core of our business is to grow the highest quality wine grapes, which express our unique location in (aptly named) Green Valley. We do that through what we call "precision farming," which means all pruning, canopy management, irrigation, cover crop and even harvesting decisions are determined on a block-by-block (and sometimes even vine-by-vine) basis, considering both the vintage at hand and the long term needs of the land. In both our older vineyards and new plantings we use the best tools technology can give us and up to date viticulture, balanced by our 30 years of experience and passion. Anyone who comes to Iron Horse can see and feel our love of the land. We irrigate and frost protect with advanced treated wastewater, recycled water from the winery and accumulated rain water. Green Valley Creek, which runs across the property, is now at a stage where California Fish & Game is attempting to restock it with steelhead trout.
For erosion control, we seed the hills with cover crop and then overlay with fresh hay - the bales broken down by hand and spread in a thick golden layer. We have let all the creek beds revert to their natural state. We no longer burn our grape vine prunings, but chop and mulch them into the soil.
As an estate winery with 300 acres - more than half of it covered with vines and the rest with oaks, redwoods, maples, and fruit trees, flower beds, 10 acres of organic vegetables, wild blackberries and grasses, our net carbon use is probably negative - even after factoring in tractor work, cooling, heating, electricity and natural gas to power the tools of the trade (refrigerated tanks, presses, pumps).
Where we potentially stumble is with packaging and shipping. We have foresworn Styrofoam, but our wines are transported across country in refrigerated containers. We do our best to strike a balance. For example, it's a small sacrifice, but we are resisting the heavy glass bottle craze; I lapsed for one vintage when I couldn't resist bottling our single vineyard wines in heavier glass, but those massive bottles, though beautiful and impressive, and meant to convey quality through their heft, unfortunately require more fuel to create and transport.
A case of 12 standard glass bottles weighs 38 pounds, while some of the heavy bottles create cases weighing 54 pounds. So, we gave them up. We are now looking at samples of even lighter glass. We ship in re-cycled corrugated cardboard boxes. All of our dies of our logo for branding wood boxes are now heirlooms. We are moving to recycled tote bags instead of cardboard carriers for the wine we sell out of our Tasting Room.
We recycle our glass, cardboard, household newspapers, office paper, and plastic bottles. Our extensive gardens are maintained with recycled water.