Jowler Creek Winery Awarded Top International Honors for Taste and Sustainable Winegrowing Practices
Jowler Creek Winery, a Green Business Network member, earned a gold medal from the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT®) 2019 International Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing competition this month.
The recognition program was created to applaud wineries that are taking a leading role in implementing sustainable practices and sharing their lessons learned. Also winning a gold medal in 2019 was E. & J. Gallo Winery from Calif.
Where other competitions may focus on the end product—the wine itself—this competition focuses on taste and a winery’s real-world application of the three tenets of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social.
Recognition of the winery was based on its ongoing sustainable programs that address three key factors of sustainability – environmental, economic, and social aspects — as well as superior wine taste. Jowler Creek submitted an extensive self-assessment application and provided sample bottles of wine for judging.
In announcing the award, Chris Chilton, director of Marketing & PR for BRIT noted the following:
“From their work in the field and wine production to Jowler (Creek’s) social programs for its workforce and community outreach with the Eco Trail program, they are to be commended.” He added, “The bottle of Estate Norton was also a fine example of how taste matches such a great program. Honestly, it raised the eyebrows of the judges.”
Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery’s Sustainable Practices
Jowler’s path to becoming Missouri’s First Green Winery began a decade ago when they began searching for a system to control weeds while simultaneously reducing erosion. This led to the idea of grazing sheep under the grape vines. Though skeptical at first, owner Jason Gerke agreed to try the idea and has since fully embraced the goal of increasing production while reducing the carbon footprint of the vineyard and winery.
Jowler often tell their guests that being green means making choices throughout the year to positively impact the environment, being efficient with the resources they have available and improving their wine quality to sustain their business. The fact that their family’s home is in the middle of the vineyard, and just yards away from the winery, leads them to try and do everything they can to protect the environment and sustain their business for themselves and the next generation.
For them, it is a lot of little things that they hope add up to have a positive, sustainable impact. Here’s a list of many of the tactics they have implemented over the years to improve the environment, their product and their bottom line.
In the vineyard:
- During the growing season they maintain a small flock of sheep to “mow” under the Norton vines, helping eliminate the use of herbicides, minimize soil erosion, decrease dependence on fossil fuels and improve soil health.
- Their flock of free-range laying hens helps control crawling insects naturally, enabling them to reduce or eliminate insecticide use in the vineyard. They also produce delicious free-range eggs that are sold by the dozen in the tasting room.
- Bat houses encourage bats to naturally manage pests and maintain biodiversity in the landscape.
- Grape vines are self-pollinators and don’t require honey bees to set the fruit. However, their honey bee colony helps improve the cover crops between the rows and surrounding ecosystems that help vines via increased biodiversity and improved soil health. They also produce raw honey that can be sold in the tasting room.
- Their automated drip irrigation system uses 30 – 50% less water than conventional sprinkler methods by providing precise water volume to the vine’s root zone. It helps them conserve water by reducing erosion and evaporation while improving overall soil health.
- Solar power is used to electrify the fence surrounding the vineyard.
- All skins, stems, and seeds from the winemaking process are composted and spread between the vines, to provide nutrients and organic soil amendments.
- As members of the Missouri Conservation Stream Team, Jowler Creek help keep the local watershed cleaner and safer. They work to keep the creek free of waste and harmful run-off, and seek to effectively manage the creek’s natural ecosystem.
In the winery:
- A 5-kilowatt array of solar PV panels offsets electric power needs for the tasting room. Since January 2011, their solar array has offset 24,868 kilograms of CO2. That’s equivalent to the carbon removal capability of nearly 5 acres of trees in the U.S.
- Tesla and Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) chargers are available for customers to use on-site.
- The winery uses a 100% electric-powered Nissan LEAF to run errands and deliver wine around town.
- Oak alternatives—such as toasted staves from Missouri-based coopers—are used in lieu of barrels.
- Wines are bottled in lightweight, recycled glass bottles which use less energy to manufacture and transport.
- While they use more than 30,000 glass bottles each year when bottling their wine, they partner with community recycling programs including Ripple Glass and the Mid-America Regional Council Solid Waste Management District to recycle as much packaging material, keeping it out of local landfills. They have the goal of being a zero-waste-to-landfill winemaking facility within three years.
- Purchased grapes used to make their wines are sourced from local, family-run farms.
- Platte-Clay Energy Cooperative regularly monitors energy usage, provides energy audits, and developed ways and to enhance the facility’s energy efficiency, including energy star appliances.
- The tasting room and production area are sided with 90% recycled steel and framed with wood that is certified to the requirements of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Program.
- Products used to build the roof are in accordance with the ENERGY STAR cool roof certification.
- The walls and roof are insulated with spray-foam to create an air-tight seal.
- Walls are painted with environmentally responsible Zero-VOC formula paint.
- WaterSense plumbing features and low-flow nozzles are installed to conserve water.
- They’ve incorporated numerous native plants and grasses into their landscaping to provide the resources necessary for Monarch Butterflies and other pollinators (including their resident bees!) to produce successive generations and sustain their migration.
- The tasting room and production area is lit with fluorescent lighting, which uses 2/3 less energy.
Five additional wineries – two from the U.S., two from Italy, and one from Portugal, also won awards based on their strong sustainable programs. BRIT’s 2019 platinum winner is Casa Ferreirinha, a Portuguese brand in Douro Wines. In addition to Jowler Creek, gold medals were awarded to Sandeman from Portugal; Tasca D’Almerita from from Italy; and E. & J. Gallo Winery from Calif., USA. A silver medal was awarded to Ruffino of Italy.
History of BRIT Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing Award
In 2010, recognizing the natural connection between botany and winemaking, BRIT created the International Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing to applaud wineries that are taking a leading role in implementing sustainable practices and sharing their lessons learned. At this time, it is the only international award of its kind. The bases for the competition include: innovative sustainable practices in the categories of air, water, and land in both winegrowing and winemaking; social responsibility practices; economic responsibility; and wine taste. All wineries that are actively demonstrating a commitment to sustainability are encouraged to participate.