Red Caboose Winery has two goals: make great wine and do it using green principles.
Located just 90 miles southwest of Dallas, the Meridian, Texas, winery is achieving both.
Wines produced by Red Caboose have been earning awards in competitions around the country, including recent selection by Wine Business Monthly for its prestigious list of “The Top Ten Hottest Brands in 2012.”
“We feel good about what we’re doing with the wines,” says owner Gary McKibben, who is in business with his son Evan, the winemaker. Together, they produce 5,000 cases of wine each year, and that number is expected to double next year.
The pair, who had no prior experiences in winemaking, are pleased with the success of their business, but they feel even better about their efforts to be environmentally-friendly.
McKibben, a commercial architect who has always focused on sustainability, says it was a top priority for him from the very beginning.”
A Strong Philosophy
“Our winery design philosophy is green,” he says.
In practice, that philosophy is an interesting combination of simplicity and advanced technology. Red Caboose uses geothermal cooling and heating, solar energy, rainwater harvesting, composting and recycling.
“We designed the winery to be energy efficient and sustainable,” McKibben says. The Red Caboose is the only winery in Texas, and perhaps the country, to cool, refrigerate and chill with geothermal, which means they are using the earth’s energy.
The Water Issue
The winery harvests rainwater and keeps about 20,000 gallons in tanks on site.
“All of that comes from our roofs,” McKibben says.
McKibben says that most of the winery’s water comes from wells. During a normal summer, the collected rainwater supplements the irrigation needs and eases the stress on the wells. During a drought, the rainwater collection system becomes even more vital.
The availability of water is a growing issue in agriculture across the country. McKibben has done the math and knows that, in the past nine years, more than 8.8 million gallons of water have fallen on the winery’s roofs.
“We’re going to start saving even more of that water,” he says. “That not only saves money on our irrigation, but it saves money on electricity to pump water, and the grapes get a good source of high-nitrogen, neutral-pH water.
It’s better than well water.” Gravity moves the rainwater from the storage tanks through the irrigation system.
“We do the same thing in our winemaking,” he says. “We transfer our wine through gravity, which preserves the quality of the wine.”
Chilling And Heating
Using the earth to chill and the sun to provide electricity may be a high-tech approach, but it’s also a simplistic approach, McKibben says.
In fact, when McKibben first began researching the art of winemaking, he found himself inspired by the earliest principles of wine-making. He read antique books and looked into the methods used more than 100 years ago.
“Electricity has only been around 130 years, but wine has been around for 6,000,” he explains. “That’s where we got started. We went back to the basics of making wine and focused on growing the healthiest, best quality grapes we can possibly grow. You can make wine without electricity, but you can’t make a good bottle of wine with bad grapes.”