While Napa Valley is known as the wine county of California, Suisun Valley is an up-and-coming area nestled between two coastal mountain ranges southeast of Napa Valley. Suisun Valley has been home to Wooden Valley Winery for over 80 years. Wooden Valley Winery has brought numerous forms of innovation to the Valley, including setting the market for the amateur winemaker world. They have also established themselves as a California Sustainable farming organization and a zero-waste facility.
Loyola Marymount University
In 1955 Mario Lanza took full ownership of Wooden Valley Winery, and ever since, it has been a medium-sized family own and operated winery. Currently, the four grandsons of Mario are running the operation, each in their own expertise. Rick, the eldest is the winemaker, Ron is the President and CEO focusing on the tasting room, Larry works on innovation for the vineyards, and Ken oversees the field with the vines.
In 2007 Ron Lanza attended an industry tradeshow with his peers from the Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association. While at the show pouring wine samples, he met amateur wine enthusiasts who fell in love with the grapes from Suisun Valley. After the tradeshow Wooden Valley began shipping grapes to the east coast, which he admitted saved their family business; now, they can't keep up with the demand from the east coast wine enthusiasts.
Ron was able to bring innovation to the Suisun Valley by making Wooden Valley the first winery to do bulk, packaging, and distribution in the Valley. As a result, wooden Valley set the market for the amateur winemaking world because they offer the highest-end grapes out of California and are located next to Napa Valley. With this innovation, they have also become a zero-waste facility and California Farming Sustainable certified due to the increased demand for their product. The specific innovative solution that Wooden Valley is fulfilling is #8: decent work and economic growth, #9 industry, innovation, and infrastructure, and #12 responsible consumption and production.
Before 2007 Wooden Valley and the Lanza brothers were feeling overwhelmed by the amount of land they had for their "small winery," they needed to figure out a quick solution on how to take care of all the vines they had. Unfortunately, it was also around this time that the wine industry was starting to slow down; people were not purchasing wine as much as they had in the early 2000s, mainly due to the recession. The short-term solution for the Lanza Family was to sell a couple of pieces of land that they had owned, including the property that Ron's family was living in. The brothers were desperate, and at a time of desperation, thankfully came a blessing in disguise.
That happened to be the same year Ron met the wine amateurs, allowing Wooden Valley to sell products to the East Coast. The winery was now able to offer bulk, packaging, and distributing of the wine and grapes. Ron told me that he was inspired to innovate the Valley because they were in a crisis. If they didn't go into shipping wine and grapes across the country (now across the world), then the family-owned winery would have probably gone under. However, during desperation, the family needed help the most; they decided to think out of the box.
The Lanza family has been in the Suisun Valley for over 80 years; they literally have roots planted there. Therefore they have always wanted to give back to the valley, meaning becoming a California Sustainable Farming organization and virtually producing zero-waste. They want their grandkids and great-grandkids to grow old in the Valley; therefore, the valley inspired them to give back to the valley. The Valley has been able to give their family so many gifts that they wanted to give back.
The overall impact of the innovation that Wooden Valley brought into the Valley was remarkably positive. As a result, the Valley is booming, and more wineries are expanding into Suisun Valley. In addition, the process of shipping and distributing the grapes and wine has put Suisun Valley on the map, not just impacting the growth of Wooden Valley but Suisun Valley as a whole.
The short-term effects that were brought by this innovation include: bringing more jobs to Suisun Valley and economic growth for the Valley. In addition, the Valley has been booming, more tourists from the east coast have been visiting, and some wineries from Napa are adding second locations in Suisun Valley.
The most significant long-term effect that the creation has added is saving Wooden Valley; if the Lanza brothers didn't move forward with their grapes' distribution, who knows what would have happened to their family business. If it weren't for the innovation, they wouldn't be where they are today, a successful winery that has people from all over the world coming to visit. The distribution of the wine and grapes has brought innovation in shipping the product now globally, the Lanzas have had to figure out their distribution and operations methods.
In addition, Wooden Valley has applied and been approved to receive certification from the California Sustainable Farming Association. To be approved, they have had to review their water conservation by adding a drip system, cover crops managing soil erosion, and zero-waste. The winery puts the waste that they do produce into a pond to allow it to be aureate. Once that step is completed, it is spread back into the field after converting into fertilization. Since the winery could become a zero-waste facility and gain its certification, more of the “larger” wineries have wanted to work with them. They sell their grapes to wineries that distribute globally and have high environmental standards that Wooden Valley has had to cooperate with.
The demand from the east coast has also affected the amount of staff that the winery could afford, and they were able to expand their tasting room in Suisun Valley. In addition, they are bringing more tourism to the Suisun Valley, affecting the infrastructure at the winery and economically growing the Valley. Without this opportunity to ship grapes and wine globally, the likelihood that Wooden Valley winery would still be in business would be improbable.
The innovation of distributing wine and grapes benefits society and the environment positively. The job market in Suisun Valley has grown due to the increased demand for the product from the region. Wooden Valley has been able to offer excellent pay to their employees and benefits, which they would not have been able to do without the innovation.
Environmentally the winery has become a zero-waste production facility; they are using every bit of the grape. The waste that is produced by the grapes is converted into fertilizer and used to produce more grapes. Before the innovation, the winery had more waste since the wine and grapes were not moving because the demand wasn't there. However, that has now been virtually eliminated.
Ron Lanza, President & CEO
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Suisun City, California, US
Business Website: https://woodenvalley.com
Year Founded: 1933
Number of Employees: 11 to 50