Cooper Vineyards Appeals To Wine-Lovers & Environmentalists
Co-owner Jeff Cooper talks dreams, wine and environmental ethos in Louisa, Virginia.
“Winemaking starts in the vineyard,” Jeff Cooper tells me. “Much as for a chef, good ingredients are a must.”
Seated upstairs in co-owner Jeff Cooper’s private suite and sharing a bottle of Cooper Vineyards’ Coopertage Blanc, I couldn’t agree more. The décor is contemporary – track lighting, clean lines, and rather eclectic artwork – but what’s brought me out to these Vineyards this day is the attention garnered by the facility’s recent receipt of their new LEED Platinum certification status.
While I didn’t know much about the specifics of the LEED Platinum certification prior to sitting down with Jeff, I did know that Cooper Vineyards is the first East Coast winery to be recognized with such a designation. As impressive as such an undertaking seemed to me, as Jeff went into greater detail regarding exactly what this certification entailed, I grew ever more fascinated by the design and the concepts utilized.
In 1998, physician Geoffrey Cooper began to set in motion his dream of owning and operating his own winery. He checked soil survey maps to pinpoint the best site for growing grapes and he purchased thirty-six acres, which would later increase to one-hundred-fifty. A long-time supporter of environmental causes, preservation and making use of renewable resources was high on Jeff’s list in terms of how he intended to settle, build and go forward.
Cooper Vineyards has been open since early in 2011, and April of that same year marked the grand opening of their tasting room, which boasts an extensive use of reclaimed and locally sourced materials, such as stone from the Shenandoah Valley and native cypress wood. Additionally, the building’s concrete and stone is seventy-five percent recycled. While the solar panels are expected to provide fifteen percent of the facility’s electricity, Jeff says that on a sunny day the panels produce closer to eighteen to twenty percent of the energy used and the structurally-insulated (SIPS) panels for the roof and walls provide seventy percent greater insulation than traditional framing. The geothermal HVAC system’s hoses stretch beneath the parking lot so as not to disturb the earth more than necessary.
As we begin our tour, sensor-operated lights illuminate the stairwell leading into the cellar, which subsequently turn off again when we are gone. Jeff talks a bit about the more active role he prefers to take in the running of the winery. He’s responsible for spraying the vines and it is a task he very much enjoys. While the winery does employ winemakers, Jeff continues to be involved in the maintenance and production processes. They typically bottle six-thousand cases a year and about a thousand cases at a time.
Beyond the cellar door is a clear view of the vineyards and production building and around the corner Jeff points out the rainwater harvesting drains that are used to filter rainwater for irrigation and toilets.
In the interests of reducing heat gain, the building’s roof is reflective and the parking lot is gravel instead of pavement. There are also bike racks situated on the perimeter of the parking lot, yet another enticement for the locals to help reduce their carbon footprints by leaving their vehicles at home.
I ask about the interesting artwork and am told that local artist Clifford Earl displays various pieces and that Concrete Ideas designed and created the tasting bar. In this same area a pellet stove is situated, which helps to heat the tasting room in the winter by burning wood-waste pellets obtained from a plant in Bumpass.
Partitions in the bathrooms are fashioned from wheatboard, a rapidly renewable resource, and the bathroom’s lighting – as in every room through which I have passed – is delivered via light tubes and solar fixtures.
I’m given a brief tour of the conference room, complete with projector screen and 15-18 data plugs and am told that this space is available for public rental. With an outdoor tasting bar and such lush, green surroundings, I ask Jeff if the facility is available for weddings and he informs me that it certainly is.
At this point, Jeff hands me off to his capable, welcoming staff and bids me adieu, encouraging me to spend a little time at the tasting bar. While I am doing just that, a patron smiles and lifts his wine glass. “There are fifty-two weekends in a year,” he says. “I’m here for fifty of them.”
Patrons are scattered around the tasting room and out on the sizable deck enjoying the ambience and local musician Bruce Blair’s wonderfully folksy singing and guitar-playing and I wander among them, sipping a glass of Sweet Louisa: ‘grape juice with a kick.’
Naturally, one glass is not enough and before I leave, I pick up a bottle of the Cabernet Franc, which is their lightest red, the Sweet Louisa and their incredibly decadent Noche, a dessert wine infused with chocolate. Both the Cabernet Franc and the Noche have picked up silver medals in the Virginia Governor’s Cup.
I thank the staff and make my way outside – footsteps now just a little less steady than when I arrived – and notice the dog food, water bowls and tiny little paw-prints on the sidewalk. Impressive and inspiring green initiatives, beautiful vistas, live entertainment, delicious wines and local cheeses and dog-friendly, too? I am absolutely planning a return trip.
Cooper Vineyards is located at 13372 Shannon Hill Rd., Louisa, VA 23093 and online at http://www.coopervineyards.com/.
Friend of the animals, aspiring writer, bibliophile, dedicated gamer and fan of all things electronica. Cynical, satirical, yet somehow still optimistic.
By Kristina Headrick Amongst hordes of wine loving Virginians, I was lucky enough to to attend the 6th Annual Wine Expo this past Saturday. Hosted at the massive Greater Richmond Convention Center, the event benefited FeedMore, Central Virginia’s core hunger relief organization. More than a collection of wineries, the event featured vendors selling specialty foods, art, [...]February 26, 2013
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