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Cooperative Winemaking Goes Green

Carlton Winemakers Studio

If you build a cooperative winemaking facility, they will come. Prophetic words in winemaking circles. The only thing lacking is someone with the vision and drive to make it happen. Enter Eric Hamacher and Ned Lumpkin.

In 2000, the winemakers opened Carlton Winemakers Studio in Carlton, Oregon, a sleepy farming town in Yamhill County, southwest of Portland. The Dundee Hills of Yamhill County resemble the Burgundy region of France like no other place on the planet. A farming region for more than a century, about 30 years ago someone recognized the similarity, and Yamhill County started its slow rejuvenation from agricultural hard times to vintners’ paradise.

Rolling hills, rich volcanic soil, and a balance of sun and rain created an ideal microclimate for the temperamental Pinot Noir grape. Hamacher, an oenologist who studied at UC Davis, researched options carefully before breaking ground for the environmentally aware facility. Built alongside a railroad track in a former grass seed field, the building resembles one of the big rambling barns traditional to the area. It’s the first winery in America to earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. It’s also registered with and certified by the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

To qualify, the winery features state-of-the-art equipment in a gravity-driven building, along with natural light, passive solar heat, natural air flow and a variety of recycled materials. Recycling practices are followed in the production process. Each winemaker using the shared facility operates independently with separate cellars and his or her own staff, but all enjoy the benefits of state-of-the-art equipment.

Hamacher confesses he had a mission. “I wanted others to be inspired by the design of the building and consider the idea for themselves,” he says. “We have a stunning winery that happens to be green, and it’s a terrific, cost-effective place to work and make remarkable wines.”

Many of the West’s master winemakers agree. Tony Soter, an early master of California’s Pinot Noir, believed in the project from the start and used the facility to make his first Oregon-crafted Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Other luminaries of Oregon’s winemaking world followed, including Jack Bagdade, Andrew Rich and Lynn Penner-Ash. “This is truly an artist’s studio for winemakers, a place for vintners to experiment and share, and it’s all done with the environment in mind,” says Hamacher.

More on Sustainable Wine from GO Network:
Cheers to Biodynamic Wine
Boxing in Green Wine
Biodynamic Wine in Napa Valley
Think Pink

Current Members of the Carlton Winemakers Studio: