Friday, January 2, 2015

J. Lohr: A legacy in California's Wine Industry

Visit J. Lohr's website
"As a company, it is important to embrace sustainability on a cultural level, and once you start thinking in this way, you will find more and more opportunities to make positive changes," ~ Kathryn Teissier du Cros – J. Lohr, Sustainability Coordinator

The Birth of a Legacy

Forty years ago, Jerry Lohr planted more than just wine grapes on California’s Central Coast; he planted the seeds that would become a family legacy. A pioneer of California’s wine industry, Jerry set down roots on the Central Coast in the late 1970s. With a farming background to spur his passion and engineering expertise to drive his research, Jerry took a chance on the untapped terroir, now-acclaimed as one of the premier winegrowing regions of the wine industry.  

Today, Jerry Lohr is still very active in the business he built forty years ago, but he doesn’t do it alone. With his three children by his side, Mr. Lohr has an “experienced and dedicated team” caring for his company’s three vineyards and two tasting rooms. From those at the administration level to the winemakers to those serving J. Lohr’s established wines in the tasting rooms, everyone employed at J. Lohr has become an essential part of their “extended employee family.”

J. Lohr’s Vineyards and Wines

Spanning three winegrowing regions, Paso Robles, Monterey County and Napa Valley, J. Lohr taps into each area’s unique terroir to craft “flavorful” wines:
  • Paso Robles, CA – The largest of J. Lohr’s three vineyards, Paso Robles provides the perfect marriage of climate and soil to produce most of their red varietals and blends.
  • Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco boasts one of the longest growing seasons, making it an ideal location for J. Lohr’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs.
  • Though the smallest of the three estates, Carol’s Vineyard, nestled in the St. Helena appellation of Napa Valley, is no less important or impressive as the other two. Named after Jerry’s late wife, Carol’s Vineyard provides the ideal growing conditions for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc varietals.
Sustainability Practices at J. Lohr: More than just their “bottom line”

As the Sustainability Coordinator, Kathryn Teissier du Cros oversees all facets of J. Lohr’s sustainability campaign. She studied international relations at Simmons College, and earned the Lowell Teacher’s Scholarship to pursue her masters in sustainable and environmental management from the Harvard University Extension School. Since joining the J. Lohr team in 2011, Kathryn has worked in collaboration with the company’s CEO and Chairman, Steve Lohr, and “acts as a liaison between all areas of the winery in matters of sustainability.” She collects sustainability data, writes reports, facilitates employee education and manages our certification efforts. She is also in charge of our Employee Wellness Program, which focuses on health education and initiatives like their “Walking Wednesdays” and “Bike to Work” days. Quoted as saying, “taking care of people is a huge part of being sustainable,” Kathryn embodies Jerry Lohr’s philosophy that people are at the heart of a successful business.

When asked about the sustainability practices already in place at J. Lohr, she shares, “One of the things we recognized early on is that the term “sustainability” itself needs to have meaning to be credible to consumers. Without figures and data and concrete practices to back it up, sustainability is just a word.” Which is why J. Lohr was one of the first California vineyards to “pilot the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance’s certification program, and why we have worked to achieve CSWA certification for all 3,700 acres of our estate vineyards, as well as our winemaking facilities.”

Highlighting one of J. Lohr’s myriad sustainability practices, the company unveiled the “largest solar tracking array in the wine industry” in February of 2009. According to Tessier du Cros, “since inception, our system has been over-performing. It was intended to produce 75% of the electrical needs of our Paso Robles winery and tasting room, but the array is actually producing close to 85% of our electrical needs.” The energy reduction from this system, over a 25-year period, is equivalent to “planting 512 acres of trees, or eliminating the air pollution that comes from driving 97 million road miles” (J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, 2014).

Implementing sustainable practices over their impressive 3,700 acres of vineyards has not been a “quick fix” nor has it been cheap, but, as Kathryn points out, “When we committed to this path, one of the things we realized is that sustainability isn’t something you ever finish—it’s an ongoing commitment.” She further validates the company’s decision to implement a sustainability campaign as “it’s important to make the switch from short-term thinking about ROI to a more long-term approach. Implementing an important sustainable practice might cost more in the short-term, which can be daunting, but it also might save you significant money in the long-term.”

When asked about the wine industry as a whole, Kathryn boasts, “I think the wine industry is as conscious of the importance of sustainability as any agricultural industry. Great wineries are often multigenerational and estate-driven like we are. This makes you think long term, and it instills a desire to leave the land in even better shape for the next generation.” As was at the heart of the Iroquois Indians’ belief that whatever we do to the land, we must do so with the “next seven generations in mind,” so, too, is it at the heart of J. Lohr’s sustainability campaign. “Long-term thinking isn’t just focused on finances; it’s about the health and vitality of your business, employees and your vineyard” (Teissier du Cros, personal communication, June 29, 2014).

If you are contemplating a shift towards more sustainable practices for your vineyard or winery, I’ll leave you with this closing thought:

“One of the things we have learned is that if you do your homework and make thoughtful decisions, being sustainable can often be as good for your business as it is for the environment,” ~ Kathryn Teissier du Cros – J. Lohr, Sustainability Coordinator

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