Sustainable winegrowing practices protect our soil, air and water – elements that breathe life, and ultimately flavor, into our grapes and wines. Being good stewards of the land and good neighbors are principles our wineries and vineyards live by each and every day. Adopting environmentally and socially responsible practices and making them an integral part of how we do business is our way of ensuring the health of our land, our communities and our industry for generations to come.
/ Sustainability Practices
Healthy soils are vital to healthy vines. California grape growers use cover crops between vine rows to add nutrients, control vine growth, attract beneficial insects and prevent erosion. Many growers also use compost, including grape pomace recycled from wineries, to build organic matter in the soil. Compost creates a beneficial environment to hold and maintain nutrients in the soil and soak up and hold water.
Because most California vineyards are in rural areas, managing a vineyard involves caring for not only the vines but also the surrounding habitat. Many vineyards are designed with green corridors to ensure that wildlife–deer, fox, coyote–have access to forestland and water. Growers avoid planting around existing trees and away from waterways and vernal pools. They often work with community and government groups to restore streams, wetlands and riparian areas.
A variety of plants and animals is a sign of a healthy ecosystem. California winegrowers protect trees for owls, falcons and other natural predators that help reduce otherwise harmful rodents. Native habitat and plants are preserved for beneficial insects that control pests. Biodiversity builds long-term stability of the ecosystem by enhancing recycling of nutrients, encouraging pollination, controlling pests and disease, regulating water flow, enabling microclimate and storing of carbon.
California winegrowers use beneficial insects, such as predatory mites, spiders, wasps or ladybugs, in vineyards to help control the population of harmful bugs and insects. This is accomplished by introducing insect populations into the vineyard and/or providing habitat, such as cover crops and native grasses, to attract beneficial native insects.
If you see a chicken in a California vineyard, it’s probably not because it’s escaped the coop! Growers use chickens to control destructive insects such as cutworms, as well as weeds and other insects. Growers also use sheep to naturally control weeds and they erect nesting boxes and perches for birds of prey that hunt down vine-eating rodents.
Keeping their feet in the vineyard and continually monitoring for harmful pests is a way of life for California winegrape growers. By mapping their vineyards and keeping detailed records from year to year, growers anticipate when and where problems might occur. This means that inputs are used minimally and only when absolutely necessary to support natural controls.
Most California vineyards use drip irrigation, a highly efficient watering method which conserves by giving growers precise control over when and how much water to apply. Drip lines can supply vines with just the right amount of water they need and in the right location to help focus energy into producing grape clusters, not excess leaves or vegetation. This results in more concentrated, higher-quality fruit.
California winegrowers use a variety of tools to measure water needs and use, such as weather stations to monitor evapotranspiration, probes that track water availability and depletion in the soil, devices that quantify plant leaf water stress and flow meters for wells and pumps. These tools provide data that helps growers precisely determine the vines’ water needs and apply water efficiently and only when necessary.
Growers continually walk their vineyards to monitor vines for water stress by examining leaves, shoot tips and tendrils, and evaluating overall vine health to determine the vines’ water needs. They also check irrigation systems to ensure there are no clogged lines or emitters to improve efficiency. California growers know that the more time they spend in the vineyards, the healthier their vines will be.
Harvesting grapes at night and in the very early morning keeps grapes cooler, reducing the need for energy-intensive refrigeration at the winery. It also keeps vineyard workers from having to pick in the heat of the day. Grapes that arrive at the winery in a cool state are better able to retain their shape and acidic integrity–a key factor that influences the structure and ultimate wine quality.
Many growers have invested in more energy-efficient pumps, and also installed flow meters to track water use and cost-effective pumping. Growers consciously limit the passes that tractors and other equipment make through a vineyard to save fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit soil compaction which can threaten the absorption of water and nutrients.
Solar panels are often strategically placed in California vineyards to provide power for motors, drives, irrigation pumps and even the opening and closing of vineyard gates. Along with solar arrays to capture the beautiful California sunshine, biodiesel farm equipment and electric-powered vehicles are often used.
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Sustainable winegrowing practices in both vineyards and wineries help California vintners make high quality wines and provide a healthy and beautiful environment for employees, neighbors, and wine country visitors. Sustainable winegrowing can include biodynamic or organic farming practices. Some examples of sustainable practices include:
- sheep and beneficial birds to control weeds and pests
- cover crops, drip irrigation and process ponds to conserve water
- composting, recycling and reuse to minimize waste
- protecting air and water quality
- preserving local ecosystems and wildlife habitats
- practicing environmentally preferred purchasing
For more information, visit: www.sustainablewinegrowing.org
Wines made with organically grown grapes come from vineyards that follow the guidelines set by the National Organic Program.
- no synthetic pesticides or nonorganic chemicals
- natural alternatives to soil enrichment, pests, weeds and vine disease management
Additionally, wines labeled organic cannot have added sulfites to prolong shelf life; they must be certified to contain no more than 10 parts per million. For more information visit: www.ccof.org the USA’s largest organic certifier.
Biodynamic farming treats the vineyard as a closed loop, employing organic practices and natural alternatives for eliminating waste and promoting a healthy ecosystem.
- no synthetic pesticides or nonorganicchemicals
- compost teas and natural preparations to enrich soil and promote microorganisms
- insectaries to control pests
- planting and pruning determined by the phases of the moon
For more information visit: www.demeter-usa.org
/ Green Programs
For more information on the below programs and certifications, visit our Green Programs page.