Why am I not surprised that Mike Benziger of Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen won a Growing Green Award in a new category, one of water steward no less? The Benzigers have been on the cutting edge of the green revolution for decades so it makes sense the winery would be recognized by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which announced its awards today.

Before detailing the winery’s water smarts, it’s important to also recognize the Benzigers for being boldly eco-conscious back in the 1990s when others were not. Many wineries were reluctant to put their organic or biodynamic status on the front label and instead put it in small print on the back, afraid they’d be relegated to the organic sections of grocery stores otherwise. I always respected the Benzigers for being so solidly green from the onset, before the highbrow organic and biodynamic tastings made news in the mid -1990s, making it a safer commitment.

As for the Benzigers’ water wizardry, the winery was awarded for its water reduction and water recycling. With a wetland and pond treatment system, the winery recycles an average of 2 million gallons of water per year. The winery also significantly decreases water usage with new grape sorting technologies, water sensors and cover crops that reduce runoff.

Benziger was selected from a pool of 170 that included diverse growers, entrepreneurs and business leaders across the country.