Ceja Vineyards, Carneros Brewing win California green-business award

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The Ceja family’s wine and beer ventures in Los Carneros winegrowing region straddling Sonoma and Napa counties on Wednesday, March 22, received a state award for environmentally conscious agribusiness.

California State Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma, CPA, presented the third annual Environmental and Economic Equalizer Award to Ceja Vineyards and Carneros Brewing Company during the opening ceremony of California Ag Day at the Capitol in Sacramento.

Ceja Vineyards is a family-owned winery founded in 1999 by Amelia, Pedro, Armando and Martha Ceja – first generation Mexican-American vintners in the Napa and Sonoma valleys. Brothers Jesus, Pedro, Armando and Manuel Ceja started Carneros Brewing Co. in 2011, opening the microbrewery and tasting room in 2013.

Each year, Board Member Ma searches throughout her BOE district to find an agricultural business practicing environmental stewardship to honor forward-thinking entrepreneurs.

“The power of the California dream helped the Ceja family become successful business owners, contributing to California’s standing as the fourth-largest producer of wine and sixth-largest economy in the world,” Ma said in a statement. “Their dedication and hard work proves that we can save the environment while contributing to California’s thriving economy.”

Ceja was one of the first Mexican-American owned wineries in California. The family settled their roots in Napa Carneros with 15 acres in 1983, planting their first vineyard in 1986. The initial harvest in 1988 was dedicated to growing pinot noir grapes. Today, 115 acres are farmed, including 125 established olive trees.

“We have been dedicated to sustainable farming practices and best business practices for over three decades in the grapegrowing industry,” Dalia Ceja, Director of Marketing and Sales. “We have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the predominantly migrant workforce — the Compassions. Farmworkers are and will always be the true artisans of the wine industry.”

Here are some of the Cejas’ eco-friendly agricultural practices that caught the state board’s attention:

• Water is recycled from the winery back into the vineyards in Sonoma Valley, and a drip irrigation system is utilized throughout the estate vineyards.

• Cover crops are used to bring nutrients to the soils and to provide a habitat where beneficial insects thrive while damaging insects are eliminated.

• All paper and glass products in tasting rooms and the production facility are made from recycled products.

• Organic fertilizers and pest controls are the main arsenal against pests.

• Solar panels are being installed throughout entire production facility.

At the brewery, the focus is on water and energy conservation and sustainable hop growing and brewing practices. The brewery is in the process of building a unique water treatment plant and a two-stage recyclable water heating system, while a high-efficiency fluorescent lighting system is already in place.

For further sustainability, the spent grain and brewing solids are used by local farmers for cattle and hog feed.

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