Sonoma County Becoming Nation's First 100 percent Sustainable Wine Region
SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA — Sonoma County wines are renowned throughout the world for their award-winning quality and superb taste. And in the near future, consumers will be able to purchase any Sonoma County wine with confidence knowing that all of the region's wines are grown and made in the nation's first 100 percent sustainable county.
The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, also known as Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), is leading Sonoma County as it becomes the nation's first 100 percent sustainable wine region through a three-phased program to be completed within the next five years.
Many of the region's multigenerational wine growers and winemakers have been practicing sustainable farming techniques and winemaking practices for decades. This initiative demonstrates their seriousness and commitment to ensuring all vineyards and wineries across Sonoma County will soon be sustainable.
“Our county's grape growers and winemakers have long been at the forefront of creating and utilizing sustainable practices in the vineyard, in the winery and in running their businesses, so this is the next natural step in their continued evolution,' said Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, an organization representing 1,800 wine growers throughout Sonoma County.
“Sonoma County has great leaders who have championed the wine industry's sustainable efforts, and I'm proud of the unparalleled partnership between Sonoma County Winegrowers and Sonoma County Vintners that enables us to put this stake in the ground for sustainability as a wine region,' she added
The first phase of this effort will focus on helping winegrowers assess their sustainable vineyard practices through trainings and educational sessions focused on more than 200 best management practices such as land use, canopy management, energy efficiency, water quality assessments, carbon emissions, healthcare and training for employees, and being a good neighbor and community member.
Although many vineyards and wineries are already implementing sustainable practices, the goal is to assess, and collect the assessment data of 15,000 vineyard acres per year for the next four years until every acre of planted vines are under assessment for sustainability. As vineyard acres are assessed, phase two will involve the Sonoma County Winegrowers working with vineyard owners to achieve certification.
Once the winegrower program has kicked off, focus will be expanded to work with wineries and winemakers to roll out sustainability assessments and certification all with a goal of 100 percent sustainability for the wine industry in Sonoma County in 2019.
The key of sustainability is continuous improvement. Once all of the county's vineyards and wineries are recognized as sustainable, improvement plans will be developed to provide access to new production models, techniques and approaches.
To ensure against “greenwashing,' third-party verification and certification programs will be used such as the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance's Code of Sustainability.
Another critically-important factor to this initiative is transparency, which will be accomplished through regular progress updates, an annual Sonoma County Wine Region Sustainability Report Card and a vineyard and winery real-time tracker on the SCW website.
“I commend the growers and wineries of Sonoma County for pursuing this bold initiative. It speaks volumes about their love of the land and their commitment to environmental stewardship, their community and their consumers,' said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “It is a unique branding proposition and I wish them great success.'
Sonoma County's wine industry is primarily comprised of multi-generational family businesses, which by their very structure, are sustainable. There are 59,218 acres planted to vineyards, which accounts for only 6 percent of Sonoma County's total acreage.
In fact, more than 40 percent of Sonoma County's vineyard parcels are less than 20 acres, with 80 percent of the county's vineyards less than 100 acres.
“Having spent the last 40 years farming around a thousand acres of vineyards throughout Sonoma County, I am really excited to participate in this major initiative to make our county 100 percent sustainable,' said Duff Bevill, Bevill Vineyard Management.
“I have long felt that sustainability is the best approach to ensure we protect our land for future generations, improve the quality of life for our employees, and enhance the community where we live and work,' Bevill added.
Sonoma County has some of the world's most prized grape growing areas in the world with the first vineyards dating back to the 1820s. The region's unique combination of rich geological history, fog patterns generated by its 50-plus-mile Pacific Ocean coastline, and topography has given rise to 18 unique American Viticultural Areas (AVA).
Each AVA offers distinct climate, soils and temperature areas perfect for growing world-class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and more. Sonoma County is also home to more than 425 wineries whose wines are renowned throughout the world.
In a recently released report, Sonoma County's wine industry brought an economic impact of $13.4 billion in 2012. This includes providing 54,297 full-time equivalent jobs, directly and indirectly, from winegrowing and winemaking in Sonoma County.
“When traveling around the world as an ambassador for my family's winery, I am constantly asked about our sustainable practices by customers, retailers, sommeliers, and media,' said Katie Jackson, family representative, Government Relations and Community Outreach at Jackson Family Wines.
“Today's wine consumers are passionate about sustainability and support brands who share their values, so I am truly excited about this initiative and proud to know that soon our efforts will be displayed in each bottle of wine labeled Sonoma County,' Jackson added.
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About Sonoma County Winegrowers Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, dba Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), was established in 2006 as a non-profit marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world's premier grape growing regions. With more than 1,800 growers, SCW's goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County's grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers around the world. For more information about SCWC and its programs, visit www.sonomawinegrape.org
About Sonoma County Vintners Sonoma County Vintners (SCV) is the leading voice of Sonoma County wine, dedicated to raising awareness and building understanding of Sonoma County as one of the world's premier wine regions, noted for its heritage of artisan winemaking, distinct growing regions, and extraordinary quality. Founded in 1944, SCV represents more than 200 wineries and affiliates of all sizes throughout the county. Learn more about SCV at www.sonomawine.com.
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Sonoma County Winegrowers
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
Sonoma County Tourism