Seated under the refracted sunshine of a lightwell, Dave Hooper wears a worn, frayed cap that he is not particularly proud of. As Winery Operations Manager at Cave Spring in Niagara, a pristine hat isn’t really an option. “Fixing equipment, managing people, making wine, health and safety, food safety—” the list goes on, as Dave explains why his headwear never stood a chance.
You focus on growth, not wastewater. Those issues go ignored until you’re bursting.
Started in 1986, Cave Spring has grown from a 2,000 case winery to their present capacity of 70,000, and they haven’t done it by focusing on water management. “It’s just not feasible.You focus on growth, not wastewater. Those issues go ignored until you’re bursting.” This is the trade-off that cellar managers are forced to make, compromised not by disinterest but by more pressing priorities. When it comes to water and wastewater management, many winery operators simply don’t know where to begin. “We want to buy a solution, rather than parts we cobble together. We are not experts in wastewater, lighting, etc., and the minute it becomes work, or complicated, what happens?” The short answer is that it doesn’t.
Farmers don’t take a lot of risks, and we’re farmers at heart.
But Cave Spring—and Dave—want to do more. “We feel it’s time we put our money where our mouth is.” Rainwater capture systems have been put in place, as well as natural lightwells to illuminate the office. Thinner bottles are being used to conserve resources. Lighting alternatives for the cellar are being explored, as is a surface that will allow for more efficient cleaning. But finding reliable solutions to the more technical problems still remains an issue. “Everybody has the solutions, according to them, and everybody tells you something different. In this industry, you can find information to back up any practice you want.” There is money in solutions—in sustainability—and wine makers have become wary of who they can trust. “We want to make sustainable choices, but they have to make sense.”
We want to make sustainable choices, but they have to make sense.
For more information on how water and wastewater management issues affect Ontario’s wineries, see our briefing note or condensed summary: