Harry Peterson-Nedry, RR Winery & Ridgecrest Vineyards
CEO Insights offers a personal and business viewpoint from major leaders in their respective industries. Interviews are conducted with CEOs of publicly-traded multi-national corporations, successful privately-held organizations as well as transformative technology companies. All are in service of building a more sustainable, socially supportive, economic system.
Kate Gaertner sat down with Harry Peterson-Nedry, the founder of RR Winery and Ridgecrest Vineyards, the first established vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, to discuss his personal and business views on climate change. Last year, Harry sold his stake in Chehalem to focus exclusively on making premium wines with his daughter Wynne Peterson-Nedry, under the label RR Wines. Harry’s 40 years of wine-making are beautifully represented and internationally well-regarded in his RR Pinot Noir wines, where they consistently rate between 91-94 points by the Wine Enthusiast and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Below are highlights on Harry’s views, thoughts, and mitigation strategies around the business impacts of global warming.
Harry believes that grape growing is an industry that can serve as a “canary in the coalmine” on climate change. “The wine industry will see and has seen first, changes in the climate that were predicted. We can validate that. We have validated it for the past 20 years.”
Kate: What impacts from climate change most concern you?
Harry: For my business, with climate changing so much, our business and the wisdom of putting it where it is [Willamette Valley] and touting all the excellence of where we are doing it, is no longer valid.
[Personally], I’m much more concerned about my daughter’s generation and the generations after her. I think wars are going to be fought. There’s got to be something as a catalyst, to bring people together, even ‘traditional foes’; everyone working together on something that affects them, because climate change affects the entire globe. People cannot get away from it [its impacts]. There is going to be change and we need to stabilize things.
Kate: What sustainability strategies do you incorporate into your business practices?
Harry: In the business, we are very much focused on reducing our carbon footprint, which translates in such measures as: using glass bottles that weigh less to cut-down on both material use and shipping emissions, to using alternative vessels that are recyclable and reusable, to how we farm and what we use in framing from a chemical standpoint, which to be clear, does not rely in any way on petrochemicals. We dry-farm all our grapes to preserve our water resources. We use aluminum capsules over cork to close our wine bottles. For our new venture (RR Wines), we have co-located our wine processing and bottling production at a shared facility that another 16 wine brands use, sharing machinery and optimizing those efficiencies. From a people perspective, we rely more aggressively on video conferences with our B2B customers to market and sell our wines. We also support telecommuting of our workforce to support their personal carbon emissions reductions. “This flexible approach to business supports human productivity and happiness while cutting down on CO2 emissions in the course of conducting business.”
Kate: When you began your business 40 years ago, did you set-out to build a sustainable winery/make wines in a sustainable way?
Harry: No. That wasn’t me. I came in as a chemist from Dow Dupont with a mentality of “oh yah, there must be a chemical to help me grow vines and make wines”, but I quickly learned that chemistry is not a sustainable way forward in wine-making.”
Kate: What does sustainability mean to you?
Harry: Sustainability is about the full-circle of things. It’s about “recycle, reuse, reduce”. It is also related to thinking outside of the box: thinking creatively about problems needing to be solved. We have to realize that we’re making the air we breathe, the weather we don’t like. We are killing off the animals. Sustainability is about this full-cycle. It’s about preserving a balance. Sustainability doesn’t mean that there won’t be change but we preserve the good things from changing out of existence.