WCBN-RP-35-1-Good-neighbor-jasonhaasFor enhancing Paso Robles’s civic life and boosting its wine-world renown, Tablas Creek Vineyard is the recipient of the 2016 California Green Medal Community Award. The winery donates generously to local charities and arts organizations, sponsors local youth sports and leads efforts to promote the wine region. Jason Haas, a partner and the general manager, discusses some of these efforts and recent initiatives to reduce the winery’s carbon footprint.
Why engage in so many community projects?
One thing that has made Paso Robles successful is that the wine community works hand in hand with the locals. It’s a very close relationship. We decided early on to sponsor arts in the community. My dad (Robert Haas) was on the board of Cal Poly’s Foundation for the Performing Arts Center for close to a decade and founded Winery Partners of the Performing Arts Center, which has raised almost half a million dollars. We try to support local organizations doing good work in our community.
We were also a founding supporter of Must! Charities, an umbrella group that helps organize and leverage donations to improve the lives of the less fortunate in our community. And we try to be involved in winery organizations that make a bigger difference than any one winery can make. I’m a past president of Rhone Rangers, a member of Wine Institute, on the board of Family Winemakers of California and currently chairman of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.
When there’s an issue facing the larger region or communities we’re part of, we don’t stay on the sidelines. My dad was instrumental in getting 11 new AVAs approved in Paso Robles
You’ve put in solar panels twice at Tablas Creek—first time in 2006, and then again last year, with an even larger installation. Are you persuaded that this investment pays off?
Whether it takes 10 years or more to make back the investment, it really seems like a no-brainer. If there’s a natural resource we have in abundance in Paso Robles, it’s sun. We’re willing to wait to find out the return, but in the long run, it won’t be a negative. I can’t tell you for sure how much of our energy use they offset, but it’s more than half, and we have a long-term goal of 100 percent.
What accounts for most of your energy use?
Refrigeration for the winery. Paso Robles is hot in summer and you need to keep your cellar and wine cold. Our winery expansion in 2010 included some innovative features, like a night-air exchange system. In one of our fermentation rooms, we have 1500-gallon wooden upright tanks that have a web of stainless steel tubing inside. They’re connected to glycol hoses, so you can chill a single tank rather than chilling a whole room.
You’ve installed a free charging station for electric cars and a Tesla charging station. What’s the message here?
They’re in front of the tasting room, so it’s for people who are coming to visit. There’s certainly some symbolism to it. It’s a sort of shorthand for some of the other sustainable activities we’re doing. The Tesla charger cost nothing; Tesla funded it. We paid for the regular charger because we wanted to support that. Plug-in electric cars are going to be a significant part of making transportation sustainable in the future.
You’ve eliminated a lot of packaging material for your semi-annual wine-club shipments. Explain how.
Almost 20 percent of our wine-club members pick up their shipments at the winery. Packing their wine in shipping boxes seemed like a waste of materials. So we pack theirs in a six-bottle, cloth, carrying bag that they can re-use.
Any other packaging changes you’ve made for environmental reasons?
We switched to lightweight glass, which reduced the weight of each case by 26 percent and reduced the amount of glass weight by 45 tons a year. We can fit more pallets on a truck before we get to the truck’s weight limit, so that means fewer trucks going out. And getting glass to us costs less because the empty cases weigh less.
We’ve been pushing to move more of our production from bottles to reusable stainless-steel kegs. This year we’ll keg up a little more than 20 percent of our production for restaurant and other on-premise accounts that pour our wine by the glass. We’ve eliminated 38,000 bottles, capsules and corks.
Reprinted courtesy of Wine Institute & the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance
www.wineinstitute.org and www.sustainablewinegrowing.org.