August 1, 2009

BEEHind the Vine: Cuvaison

Since 1969, Cuvaison Estate has been hand-crafting classic Napa Valley wines. From vine to bottle, they aren't only producing vintages with elegant attributes, they're also doing their best to maximize sustainability. We had the opportunity to go BEEhind the Vine with Cuvaison's President, Jay Schuppert to chat about some their current initiatives (and of course a few other fun tidbits you'll want to know!)

Q: You began your career at Cuvaison in the sales/marketing division. Tell us a little about your journey with the winery and your where your passion for wine evolved from.

I joined the Cuvaison team 11 years ago starting out as their Sales & Marketing Director, and in 2002 was promoted to President. My background began with shifting positions at a mountain resort in Aspen, where I began as a disher, moved up to be their Executive Chef for 12 years and then served as General Manager for an additional 2 years.

Following, I decided to start all over again and worked for Hyatt as their Department Head in Maui. While there, I helped open their restaurant and was consumed by the wine purchasing aspect of it. After a few years, I got out of the restaurant business and moved back home to California where I got a job with a wholesale wine distributor and ran territory for 3 years - thats where I learned my skills from the wine side. I became one of their top sales people, when next thing I new Kendall-Jackson came knocking on my door and I went to work for them.

Despite all the shifts in my path, I've always been true to myself to do what it is I wanted to do. Cuvaison is home.

Q: You've just launched 2 new tasting rooms at both your properties. Can you elaborate a bit on the goal of those venues and the reason for the remodel?

We built the tasting rooms for a two reasons - there was a demand, and we wanted to implement our green initiatives into their design. When we went to build them, we put alot of effort into making them as efficient as we possibly could - including the insulation (which is made from recycled denim) and the 1,400 solar panels used which generate about 80% of our electricity. Everything was taken into consideration.

Q: Cuvaison has been certified by an array of green organization, including the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. Tell us a bit more about what these sustainability efforts actually mean.

We are a certified green business, which more than anything describes how we manage our energy and waste use, conversion of energy and recycling. It was a good time for us to think about what type of impact our business had on our staff, our neighbors and the land around us.

How you handle recycling is especially important. At Cuvaison we wanted to reduced our enviornmental footprint, so we purchased equipment that conserves energy, and even traded out equipement to be more energy efficient in the production facility. We also recycle all the water we use down in Carneros, which goes into a system where it cleans the water enough to where we can reuse it for such things as fire prevention and vineyard irregation.

We're excited about the green initiatives with our winery and our employees. The level of engagement from them is so important, too. We even encouraged our staff to do more ride sharing and saved 17,000 miles last year in doing so!

Q: You've also recently teamed up with the National Cork Recycling Program. Why did you become involved with this organization?

This is another small thing that can make a big difference. There are 13 billion corks used each year and most end up in landfills. We want to make people aware that there is a place where they can send their corks where they'll be grinded and use to make other materials.

We are also going into local restaurants and providing them recycling kits and signage so customers are aware of the ability to become involved.

Q: Is sustainable winemaking becoming more prominent among the industry as a whole?

Other wineries are defintiley doing their share too. In fact, we saw other wineries taking steps and knew "if they can do it, we can do it." Its viral.

Q: Now on to a few fun questions... what is your favorite Cuvaison wine and why?

I'm really proud of our Pinot Noirs. They are phenominally elegant, balanced and have refreshing qualities. They have beautiful feminine characteristics that take you away from the big powerful characteristics of other varietals, like Cabernet. I love the nuance in wine, and Pinot Noir gives you that nuance.

Q: If you're not sipping Cuvaison, what are you uncorking?

I also love Northern Italian wines, and I even belong to a Spanish wine club.

Q: You're about to enjoy the last meal on Earth - what would it be and how would you pair it?

It would have to be a beautifully aged Burgundy Grand Cru with Duck Confit, cooked to perfection - a little rosy on the inside and complimented with plum sauce.

Q: Cork, sythetic or screw cap?

I'm a traditionalist, I like the cork. It gives me that feeling that opening a bottle of wine is a festive occasion, and it always excites me when I hear it "pop." You don't get that with synthetics, not to mention they aren't recyclable. Screw caps get thrown away too. Someone should implement a screw cap recycling program.

For more information or to purchase Cuvaison wines, visit You can also follow the winery on Facebook and Twitter.


Anonymous said...

Great interview, Stacy! Cuvaison is doin' it right - great wine AND leadership in sustainability. Hats off to them, and to you for bringing them to everyone's attention.