Tolosa Winery: A leader in sustainable winegrowing

This week I paid a quick visit to Tolosa Winery in the Edna Valley, just on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo. Tolosa is one of the bigger wineries I’ve visited and certainly has a more formal, corporate feel. The grounds are beautiful, especially as the leaves begin to change colors as autumn sets in (I’m from Chico, California, an area where leaves turn all types of beautiful colors every year; needless to say, I’ve been having some withdrawals from fall colors since I moved to SLO). It is not quite the homey escape from reality that Wolff Vineyards is, but it is a beautiful, crisp, clean-cut, professional environment to experience a true San Luis Obispo wine.

“We ate at the Cracked Crab last night in Pismo and we had a bottle of [Tolosa wine]. The girl said ‘Oh, they’re just right over the hill,’ so we decided to drive out here today,” a man from San Juan Capistrano told me as he and his wife were leaving after their tasting. “Plus, the drive is just beautiful,” added his wife (the couple declined to have their names or picture used).

What drew my attention to Tolosa was reading about their use of sustainable practices both in powering the winery and growing the grapes themselves.

In August of 2009 the winery installed “a Sun Power high efficiency 539-kilowatt (a 640 horsepower equivalent) ground mounted sun tracking system,” according to the winery’s website. The newly installed system:

  • uses 2,508 high-efficiency Sun Power solar panels installed on Sun Power T0 Trackers.
  • uses a GPS system to track the sun during the day increasing energy capture by up to 25% over fixed-tilt systems.
  • significantly reduces land use requirements for a solar power system.
  • will produce enough power to offset 90 to 95% of the winery’s electricity demand for the next 25 years.
  • is expected to displace more than 32 million pounds of carbon dioxide (smog emissions) over the next 30 years, equivalent to removing more than 2,600 cars from the road.

There is even an online live performance monitor where you can track the amount of energy produced by Tolosa’s solar power harvesting system.

All of Tolosa’s vineyards are SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified. The list of sustainable practices used in the vineyard will send a chill down the spine of even the person most dedicated to the denial that global climate change is upon us. Just a fraction of these practices and their results, according to an information sheet provided by the winery, include (but are not limited to):

  • A Tolosa vineyard has fewer pesticides applied to it than the average suburban lawn.
  • The wine produced from Tolosa’s vineyards is purer than the water coming out of most taps and in bottled spring water.
  • All waste produced by the winery (grape seeds and skins, among other things) is recycled, composted, or recovered.
  • All of the water used by the winery is recovered and biologically processed until it is used a second time to water the vineyards.
  • The winery uses low-risk fungicides in protecting our crop from fungal diseases and unique agricultural practices to passively minimize botrytis and mildew pressure, which reduces the number of protective sprays needed and increases the effectiveness of those sprays when required.
  • Tolosa vineyards uses cover crops that reduce erosion and compaction, build soil fertility, and provide a habitat for beneficial insects.
  • The wine industry’s most efficient presses and refrigeration equipment were built for Tolosa.

For a complete list of Tolosa’s sustainable practices, visit their Web page highlighting this highly admirable feature of the winery.

Tolosa offers a wine club with an array of membership options and long list of benefits and rewards. They host events at the winery and offer wine tasting every day from 11 a.m. to five p.m.  and guided tours if scheduled in advance (I highly recommend a visit to their beautiful tasting room).

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