Dan, Susan, and Doug Boeschen
A Sip Wines Winelight
I’ve recently discovered an unexpected side effect to all the interviews I’m doing with these amazing wineries for Sip Wines: it’s starting to make me feel a bit, shall we say, under-accomplished. It’s kind of like when I watched the 2016 Summer Olympics and Simone Biles absolutely destroyed all reasonable expectations of modern gymnastics, taking home what seemed like a hundred gold medals, and then I realized that she was 19 and I was 33, and I was sitting on the couch eating Cheez-its and like, what had I done with my life up until that moment. You know what I mean, right? (And really, my life has been great, that’s not what this is really about, but at age 19 the most amazing thing I had accomplished was winning some award for a painting I did in 9th grade.)
POINT BEING: I keep interviewing people from Sip Wines winery partners, and my mind is perpetually blown by how much each one of them is accomplishing ON TOP OF running their own business, which is already something I would be way too terrified to endeavor as a risk-averse former lawyer. Hopefully you’ve been following our Winelights series and have gotten the chance to read about some of our amazing partners… in which case you’re already prepared for the awesomeness that is our next featured winery: Boeschen Vineyard and Estate.
I honestly don’t know how Doug Boeschen found time to even talk to me, with everything they have going on, but I’m thrilled that he did. Doug is the General Manager of Boeschen Vineyards, started by his parents Dan and Susan Boeschen when they “flunked retirement,” as they like to say. I can only dream of failing at something so spectacularly as to end up with a vineyard like Boeschen…
If you somehow missed it, I shall gently remind you that our theme this week is sustainability—so obviously Boeschen is doing some legit work in that space. But before I get into that, I just need to briefly delve into the history of their estate, because it’s kind of amazing. Like, the summary sounds like either the beginning of a joke, or the beginning of a novel filled with intrigue (at least the way I like to tell it). Check it out:
What do the mistress of a prominent businessman, a Russian princess, prunes, walnuts, camellia flowers, and Christmas trees all have in common?
Answer: They all lived at what is now the Boeschen Estate. Seriously, you can’t make it up! I’m desperately hoping that they decide to publish a book about that history, because I’ll be first in line to read it. But for now, let’s focus on the Boeschen family and what makes them awesome.
The driving principle of Boeschen is stewardship, in the broadest and most holistic sense of the word. To best communicate what this means for the family, I think it’s helpful to refer back to a definition of stewardship: “The careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.” In this case, “stewardship” refers not only to the Boeschen land, but also the people working and living on the land, and the impact that their activities have outside their sphere —and that right there is exactly what sustainability is about. The Boeschen family takes seriously the responsibility of running their business with a mind to all aspects of it in their care.
In their case, it makes a lot of sense that they would be so tuned in to their overall environment—Boeschen Estate is comprised of both an 11-acre vineyard and the winery itself, and two of the three families involved in the business actually live on-site. It’s a level of interconnectedness that not many operations have, existing as essentially a microcosm of impact that reflects the state of our world globally.
So, it makes perfect sense that Boeschen’s vineyard and winery are both Napa Green certified for sustainability (including a Fish Friendly Farming certification for the vineyard). They’re doing it all: using a no-till approach in the vineyard, utilizing beneficial insects and predatory birds instead of pesticides for crop protection, minimizing water use through efficient irrigation systems and vineyard inputs, minimizing waste through conservation practices, and generally remaining sensitive to the constantly changing ecosystem. Oh, and also they’re running 100% on solar energy, saving nearly 60,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every year in energy production. NBD.
Beyond all that, there’s something in particular I want to focus on that makes them really unique, and it’s also something that they have in common with… hobbits.
No, it’s not because of their height, or propensity to go barefoot, or pursuit of shiny rings. (To be clear, we discussed none of those things on our call, and I have no reason to believe that any member of the Boeschen family is short-statured, barefoot, or particularly covetous of fine jewelry.) Actually, the winery part of Boeschen exists almost entirely underground, and that’s quite unusual in the wine industry. Oh sure, cellars are pretty common (Doug actually described the hills of Napa as “Swiss cheese” from wine caves) but I’m not just talking about storage. This operation is BALLER, a state of the art underground facility where they make and store all their wine. It’s super cool, literally--having an underground facility means a temperature variance of around a single degree in most instances, and results in huge energy savings from not having to regulate the temperature artificially.
Then there’s the corresponding reduction in carbon footprint, because they basically produce their wine in the exact same place that they store it. There are essentially no transportation costs, of materials or product. Of course, Doug recognized that they’re able to accomplish this in part because of their small size; larger-scale wineries would be hard-pressed to find adequate space to run such operations, not to mention the cost that they would incur of moving existing facilities underground. (Still, there’s an added benefit that wineries may want to seriously consider going forward, and that’s the potential protection that an underground facility offers from wildfires. Doug described a terrifying moment this fall when fire was converging on their property from four different directions, and although they were fortunately spared, he also speculates that being underground likely would have offered substantial protection.)
As if I weren’t already impressed enough by Doug, the way we ended our conversation was truly inspiring. I usually like to ask our winery partners for a final thought on the industry as a whole--observations, ideas for improvement, calls to action, that sort of thing. And I’ll say that overall, the responses I’ve gotten have been surprisingly positive, particularly given the level of cynicism that seems to permeate the world (or at least my Millennial psyche) these days. But Doug’s response was striking, not because it expressed optimism, but because of the tone of quiet confidence he had when expressing that optimism with respect to sustainability. In fact, Doug voiced sincere pride in where the wine industry currently stands, in many ways a true leader as compared to other industries. Based on our conversation and my research, I truly believe that his pride is well-founded (at least in his part of the world, although here’s hoping it spreads). This isn’t to say Doug is a Pollyanna--of course he recognizes that there is still much work to be done, but he certainly doesn’t seem discouraged by that reality. Rather, his parting thought to me was a belief bordering on certainty that change is only moving in one direction; in terms of achieving industry-wide sustainability standards, the question is only how long it will take.