Environmentally Responsible Wine Making Practices
NEWS FLASH: Already well-known for the quality and taste of its wines, Sonoma County is about to become the first 100% Sustainable Wine Region in the country. Customers will be able to purchase wines from the region with full confidence that all Sonoma winegrowers are committed to such “green” issues as best land use, water quality, carbon emissions, energy efficiency, air pollution, even health care, training, and pay equity for employees.
Attention to the environment comes naturally to real winemakers - they are all about sustainability, taking care of the land that nurtures their vines. Ask any down-to-earth winemaker and he or she will claim to be a farmer first. A farmer whose job is to take care of the environment so the grapes can flourish and make wine that expresses the health and beauty of the land.
Sustainable practices, traditional winemakers proclaim, “are just how my father and my grandfather farmed,” and all over the world many are still practicing that same stewardship of their land or are returning to those practices: avoiding chemical fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides in the vineyards, or using modern technology in the service of sustainability, installing solar panels in the wineries, water-saving devices, windmills, etc.
Wine drinkers, too, seem more and more interested in where and how the grapes are grown, and who makes the wine, and how it is made, especially in this day of brand wines, wines made in industrial facilities and doctored by tinctures and tinkering into uniformity of color, syrupy texture and bland taste. They don’t want the addition of oak sawdust and acid pills and a mysterious concentrate called “Megapurple.” Even the casual wine drinker is seeking out wines that actually come from somewhere, wines that are an expression of a particular place crafted by a farmer/winemaker whose wines are made from estate grown grapes bottled in the estate’s winery and aged in its cave, wines that have a story, wines of character. (Look for the words: Estate Grown on the label!)
Every real winemaker will tell you that good wine “happens” in the vineyard. And many will proudly show off the critter partners whose aid they enlist: the llamas, goats, sheep, pigs and Highland Cattle who nibble down the weedy greens growing between the rows of vines and recycle them into natural fertilizer, the flocks of geese and chickens picking off leaf eating insects, the thousands of ladybugs or tiny wasps released to devour other insects that attack buds and grapes, the family dogs trained to sniff out vermin, the grub eating armadillos, and the owls and kestrels who live in nesting boxes stationed around the edges of the vineyards and swoop down on rodents or chase off grape eating starlings. They all work together to produce the best wine possible, in the most environmentally-responsible way.