April 18, 2023
Contrary to the popular lyric brought forth by childhood Muppet, Kermit the Frog, sometimes it IS easy being green…or at least Riverwood Winery makes it look easy. This Weston winery was built and designed with sustainability in mind. From recycling, restoring, preventing and planning, all steps went into mind for the Naatz family.
In 1996, owners David and Ginah, along with their son Andrew, purchased an antebellum farmhouse in Weston, Missouri. During the restoration process of the house and surrounding lands, they discovered an old vineyard. This interesting find started the ideation for what is now Riverwood Winery.
The winery opened in 2007, housed in a former Weston school constructed in 1954. Both the house and schoolhouse lend way to the truest form of recycling – taking living history and transforming it into new buildings to live and enjoy.
Both of these buildings utilize green practices. The house has updated geothermal heating and cooling, energy efficient appliances and several old techniques for energy saving implemented in the restored home. David and Ginah even utilize a hybrid car.
The winery uses rooftop solar panels to provide more than 30% of its energy for the tasting room and production facility. Floor drains in the facility lead to a septic system which allows wine byproducts, such as the lees, to be consumed by flowers and plants outside the winery. The facility has LED lighting and motion sensors installed to reduce electricity consumption. All 2400 acres were created with intent to lower their footprint and reduce waste.
Home to many
The Naatzs have done more green thinking than just their winery and home. They realize they share a home with a vast array of wildlife and have accepted the responsibility of maintaining the shared space. These quiet contributions to conservation are imperative to local wildlife.
Native grasses, wildflowers and other plants thrive in the marshy wetland area behind the tasting room. During 2020, they eradicated any non-native species and restored the space so that local pollinators can thrive. Bees, insects and butterflies all enjoy this space and it is listed as an official Monarch Waystation by the University of Kansas Monarch Watch organization. Winery visitors can go on walks and enjoy the wildlife scenery as well.
Birds also enjoy this space, as both native and migratory species find it a safe haven in the wet marsh and bottomland forest. The tasting room and vineyard are both located squarely within the National Audubon Society’s Iatan/Weston River Corridor Important Bird Area. Geese, trumpeter swans, bluebirds, meadowlarks, bald eagles and more enjoy this carefully curated space.
The vineyard is located three miles from the Missouri River bluffs. Next to the vineyard, there is a twenty-two-acre space that complements the same intent and likeness of the habitat area behind the tasting room. This ecological diversity allows for the growth of great fruit. In addition to sowing wildflowers and other native grasses across an additional fifty-plus acres of undisturbed meadows, there are forty acres of second growth woodlands. This area was part of a 2022 forest improvement project to thin growth and girdle trees, allowing more sunlight on the forest floor for improved wildlife shelter.
Shades of green
Riverwood Winery grows varietals that are native to Missouri such as Norton, Frontenac and Marechal Foch. The grass between vines is mowed to prevent erosion on any sloping terraces. No synthetic pesticides are used on their vines and in 2023 they plan to eliminate the use of herbicides beneath the trellises. Instead, the growth will be burned, allowing the nutrients to return to the soil and vines.
Other sustainable practices they have implemented include going paperless with their receipts and recycling their tasting room bottles with local facilities. All of their wines have natural corks, which is 100% renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. Natural cork also reduces waste and harmful processing materials that can harm wildlife and the environment. It is a good environmental solution for wine closures, showing the smallest CO2 footprint.
Riverwood Winery believes that although they are a small winery that they can make a big impact by being a leader in the sustainability movement. This winery has offerings that all species can enjoy and benefit from, not just humans. They celebrate Earth Day, every day.
Visit Weston and enjoy the tasting room, accompanied by their carefully curated wildlife habitat. Share your wine and wildlife pics with us by tagging #missouriwine #mowine and @missouriwine on social media. Cheers!