Belmar native, Kevin Parker, former Global Head of Deutsche Asset Management Company, a top 10 asset management platform responsible for $750 billion in AUM, identified climate change in 2004 as a megatrend that would drive financial markets in the coming decades.
Today he is CEO/Founder of Sustainable Insight Capital Management with offices in NYC, Sydney and London. In his spare time, he founded the Kingsbridge National Ice Center in the Bronx, and sits on the investment committee for the Metropolitan Opera.
Along the way, in 1997, Parker teamed with Englishman Robert Eden to realize the epitome of sustainable passion, dreams and acumen, when together they bought Chateau Maris, and converted the venerable Domaine to biodynamic farming. Located in the Languedoc region in the South of France, a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean Sea, Chateau Maris can proudly declare that it runs environmentally efficient year round with ‘zero’ carbon emissions.
It took Chateau Maris seven years to evolve its fully organic vineyard into a long-term sustainable
operation. The estate even successfully adopted a pre-industrial farming technique by engaging plough horses rather than mechanical means of cultivation. “We are now fully certified by the leading organic and biodynamic associations in Europe,” shares Parker.
Chateau Maris is also singularly unique among wineries throughout the globe in that its 9,000-square-foot building -- representing eight years of passion, five of which were devoted solely to planning and research -- is built almost entirely with bricks of organic hemp straw. The hemp straw allows forsignificant reduction of carbon emissions from construction and also captures and stores carbon dioxide.
“Hemp,” notes Parker, “has been one of the hardiest, most versatile, natural raw materials abundantly used in
the U.S. during Colonial times and is now coming into its own once again as a construction material.”
Further, the expansive, 15,000-case wine cellar is built into a hillside topped with soil that is planted with local vegetation that grows with little water. Rainfall is collected and utilized, and the winery also recycles its gray water by filtration through a natural pond system. All lighting is energy-saving LEDs, and there will be solar panels and a windmill to enhance natural power supplies.
The difference between organic and biodynamic is more than semantics. Organic cultivation coexists with the natural environment in which it is performing, rather than dominating or altering it. Biodynamic is organic, but organic is only part of the overall mission. Biodynamic wine cultivation is where the entire vineyard and property is viewed as a whole, and the vintner (called a “vigneron” in France) seeks to restore optimal vitality to the land and its crops by encouraging the natural collaboration between the existing flora, fauna and soil.
Chateau Maris Brand Ambassador, Jacques Herviou, states, “We are not organic as a marketing ploy but are organic for the preservation of our vineyard and in order to produce better wine. The same can be said for the hemp winery.
I knew from the start that customers are not buying wine because it is organic but because it’s delicious and well-priced (and I cannot blame them). I find that wine directors are very interested in the hemp winery – the biodynamic farming method which really sets us apart from everything they taste. Most of them are also concerned about doing something positive with their buying power.”
The estate produces a diverse range of outstanding reds with blends from Grenache, Carignan and Syrah plus a Grenache Gris white.
After pioneering sustainable farming eighteen years ago, Chateau Maris has earned coveted worldwide distinction. Maris recently took Silver and Bronze medals at Millésime Bio, the largest and most important trade fair for organic wines in the world, held in Montpellier, France in January 2015.
Parker concludes, “It’s been a long journey of committment to the environment and sustainability. We are doing well by doing good and it’s gratifying to see that the consumer today truly cares about the health and quality of what they’re putting in their bodies, and that the environment is respected. We are finally where we envisioned being when we started nearly two decades ago.”
Chateau Maris wines may be purchased in New Jersey at the following locations: All Bottle King locations; Coolvines in Princeton, Westfield and Jersey City; Wine Library in Springfield; and Spirits Unlimited in Red Bank.
Publisher’s Note: Mr. Parker is a graduate of St. Rose High School, Belmar, 1977, and is our most successful classmate. Congratulations Kp!