Women of the Watershed at Head High Wines

March is Women's History Month!

In honor of Women's History Month, we wanted to introduce you to some of the incredible women in our SeaTrees community and showcase the key roles they play in making us who we are today. 

Join us in celebrating the women who have partnered with SeaTrees to regenerate coastal ecosystems around the world through innovative brand partnerships and groundbreaking restoration projects. Stay tuned throughout the month as we update you on these Women of the Watershed.

From the Sea to Sonoma

Head High Wines is a long-time SeaTrees partner who has supported us since the brand's early days back in 2015. We were initially drawn to their mission of being one of the most environmentally conscious wine brands in the world and responsible stewards of the land. They were the perfect fit as a SeaTrees partner for even the brand’s name (think “head high” like a wave) pays homage to the source of the climate that allows for their grapes to grow. 

But their commitment to our Ocean Planet isn’t the only reason why we think they’re #grape. Not only does the ocean play a vital role in how they make their wine, but they have also recently undergone the process of becoming Ocean Positive with SeaTrees, meaning they are going beyond carbon neutral and sequestering more carbon than they create. Through this process, they were able to make changes to their manufacturing to significantly lower their impact, and then wiped out that impact with SeaTrees Tokens - becoming the first ever Ocean Positive wine!

From the sea to the glass, the success of this incredibly eco-friendly wine is largely due to the women involved in the Head High family. Co-Founder Prema Behan, Director of Marketing Nancy Simpson, and Head Winemaker Britt Richards have played key roles in growing this brand into what it is today, using innovative practices while constantly committing to regenerating our Ocean Planet. 

We caught up with these women in wine to learn more about what the ocean means to them. 

Meet Prema Kerollis Behan - Co-Founder + GM of Head High Wines

Can you start by telling us a bit about where your and co-founder Bill Price’s love of the ocean came from?

Growing up in Nor Cal and Marin County, I went to Stinson Beach every week and have always lived by the ocean. Some of my earliest memories are jumping in the ocean with my dad and tide pooling, all of which gave me reverence for the coastline. I was a beach bum and attended UC San Diego, continuing my connection with the ocean. My partner Bill has an integral love of surfing even more so, and grew up in the water from So Cal to Hawaii, which is where his love of the ocean formed. He has always been committed to a healthy ocean and environment. 

That’s where Head High got its ethos, from our love of the ocean, Bill’s love of surfing, and the need to make high-quality wines at affordable prices - wines we would drink with no gimmicks - while sourcing beautiful fruit that allows us to make our wines.

Part of making these high-quality wines has to do with the wildness of the California coastline and what the ocean provides to the land. The ocean creates the climate in Sonoma County, and specifically, allows us to grow amazing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - we couldn’t do what we do making wine without a healthy ocean nearby.

Why did Head High Wines pursue the Ocean Positive certification?

This gave us the opportunity to be the 1st ever winery certified as Ocean Positive. It also allowed us to live out our values, and we couldn’t pass up that opportunity to really understand the importance of a healthy ocean. Whatever it would have taken, we would have done.

What has the process taught you?

That everything we do as a company affects everything. We can’t separate out any part of our business that doesn’t have an impact on, or is impacted by, the ocean. We also hope that through this process, we can become a leader in the space, encourage others to do the same, and continue to support this initiative in the wine industry. 

Meet Nancy Simpson - Director of Marketing and Strategic Accounts Manager, Hawaiian Islands

Can you tell us a bit about the Head High Wines and Sustainable Surf / SeaTrees partnership?

The connection really started with Bill’s love of surfing, and finding a partnership opportunity that he could connect Head High Wines to having fun and doing good all at the same time. Then we wanted to dig deeper into why the ocean is so integral in what we are doing here making wine in Sonoma County, and realized we can’t make these amazing wines without the influence of the Pacific Ocean - the summer fog cooling the vines every night, constant breezes wafting in from the San Francisco bay, up the Russian River and over the mountains of Sonoma County. This is what makes this region so perfect for growing these grapes, allowing us to make incredible wines that bring people together.

Sustainable Surf and the SeaTrees projects let us quantify our commitment to being the first Ocean Positive brand partner winery, and we needed to know that what we were striving for was authenticity and that when we give back it is to an organization that aligns with our brand ethos. The fact that we can trace specific projects that we are supporting from Hawaii, where Bill’s love of the ocean began, to the shores of California where we grow our grapes, is important. We want to believe in our partners, support their work and collaborate every chance we get. Because we are so aligned, this happens regularly, and is important for replicating new partnerships between our organizations. It is a beautiful thing when the moon and stars align, and we can all win and capture the powers of the ocean.

Through our relationship with Sustainable Surf, we have built a network of other ocean-related groups we support including the Boardriders Foundation, Surfriders Foundation, Duke’s Oceanfest and regional events surrounding the great outdoors and people who love wine. When it comes down to it, you can feel good about every bottle of Head High Wines you drink and know we are actively pursuing ocean conservation through actionable initiatives such as:
  • Sourcing our wine bottles within 100 miles of the winery
  • Utilizing screwcap closures to minimize cork use
  • Silkscreened labels utilize no paper
  • Use of recyclable cardboard cases and packing materials
  • Custom crushing our grapes at local wineries
  • Making small-batch wines
  • And sourcing fruit from Sonoma County vineyards close to where we make our wines

Meet Britt Richards - Head Winemaker at Head High Wines 

Can you tell us a bit about the wine-making process and how the ocean climate is involved?

The winemaking approach I take is a very less is more attitude. I like to allow the grapes to sing and really showcase their varietal structure and aromatics.

Grape structure is heavily influenced by the climate. Maritime climate drives a balance in ripening for varieties such as Pinot Noir because the diurnal swings are not as drastic, and they can hold onto the bright acidity we are striving for.

What does it mean to be an environmentally conscious wine brand?

It's not just the actions we take but a mindset in the way we approach our business. We assess everything from vineyards to wineries to packaging, all with that in mind. And at the end of the day, where we do have a carbon footprint, we figure out how to best neutralize it, like through SeaTrees by going Ocean Positive.

SeaTrees is lucky to partner with incredible women like these from Head High who have such a strong love and respect for our Ocean Planet. We can't wait to share more stories with you throughout the rest of the month on the Women of the Watershed

To learn more about the Ocean Positive process, check out our website. And stay tuned for a full breakdown of Head High Wine's footprint wipeout in our 2022 Annual Report coming out next month!