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Squeezing Water from Wine: Constellation Brands Takes on the Drought

In the face of California’s ongoing drought, Clos du Bois – owned by Constellation Brands, a Connect the Drops signatory – has taken strong steps over the last few years to reduce the amount of water it takes to produce and bottle its premier wines.

Since its inception in 1974, the winery has prided itself on being “a champion of sustainability,” and throughout the years, Clos du Bois has undertaken many successful projects to ensure a healthy ecosystem in its vineyards, from planting native trees and shrubs to wetland restoration, to building healthy soils, to powering its winery with close to 100 percent solar energy.

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Water sustainability is particularly important for Clos du Bois because Sonoma County’s hundreds of wineries draw from the Russian River system, a closed-loop system which also supports the region’s salmon fishery, and is increasingly under stress.

The winery is making good headway to take on California’s drought and ensure sufficient environmental flows remain in the region’s surface waters by minimizing groundwater withdrawls.

These efforts align well with Constellation Brands’ overall water strategy and priorities.  Clos du Bois’ parent company has made water conservation a priority across its brands, achieving water intensity averages for its wine that beat the industry average.  When accounting for water used during the wine making process, Constellation Brands uses 11 percent less water per liter of wine produced than the average of its competitors.

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An important step that Clos du Bois took on its water efficiency journey was to evaluate water usage throughout the facility. Through this evaluation it determined that one of the biggest uses of water was the bottling system, which required a continuous flow of water to cool the pump system. Clos du Bois decided to replace two of the bottling vacuum pumps with closed loop water systems, saving more than 410,000 gallons of water per year.

Clos du Bois also designed and installed water-saving glycol heating skids for some of its larger fermentation tanks. This allows the winery to replace the water normally used to maintain the fermentation temperature with a reservoir of warm glycol. The project has resulted in an estimated savings of 300,000 gallons of water annually.

Additional facility projects have saved close to 75,000 gallons of water per year already, and the winery is continuing to implement new water conservation technologies.  For instance, Clos du Bois is currently installing a new barrel processing line that will reuse the final rinse water as the primary rinse in a three-stage barrel cleaning process.  The new line will reduce water consumption by 33 percent, and with an inventory of 30,000 barrels, water savings will be significant. Clos du Bois is also focusing on water use outside of the facility and is saving over 1,000,000 gallons of water annually through modifications to its irrigation schedule.

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Clos du Bois achieves further water savings by treating all of its winery process waste water and reusing it in the estate vineyards for either irrigation or frost protection. Using treated process waste water in its vineyard has helped reduce the amount of ground water pumped for the vineyard by over 13 million gallons per year.

Minimizing ground water withdrawals helps to ensure long-term sustainability of ground water resources for the community and minimizes disruptions to surface waters that are hydrologically connected to the basins.

Through all of these initiatives, Clos du Bois has achieved an overall water reduction of 36 percent since 2013, surpassing the company’s internal facility reduction goal of 20 percent. And it continues to achieve reductions today. For its efforts, Clos du Bois earned the 2015 Internal Sustainability Award, which is awarded by the parent company, Constellation Brands, to one facility worldwide.

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