California Winegrowing Report Reflects Increased Rise of Sustainable Practices

California Winegrowing Report Reflects Increased Rise of Sustainable Practices

The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance has unveiled its 2006 Progress Report indicating a 24 percent increase since 2004 in the number of California wineries and vineyard businesses working to adopt practices that are sensitive to the environment and society at large.

Industry leaders presented the results at a press event held at Fort Mason in San Francisco, attended by the media, government officials, members of the wine community from throughout the state and other key stakeholders.

The report indicated that 1,165 vineyard and winery enterprises in the alliance -- a partnership between the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers -- have evaluated their sustainable practices for 33 percent of California's 522,000 total winegrape acres, and 53 percent of the state's total annual wine production of 273 million cases. More specifically, winegrowers increased their performance for 31 of 38 pest management criteria by nearly 8 percent.

"The California wine industry has embraced sustainable winegrowing because it is comprised predominantly of families and businesses committed to the land and their local communities. Their passion for making the finest quality wine is tied directly to the state's climate and soil which are ideal for wine. Preserving valuable natural resources and being a good neighbor are part of the legacy that they are passing on to future generations," said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, President and CEO of Wine Institute.

"The widespread participation of the wine community in this program has been impressive and continues this industry's unprecedented work in measuring its sustainability and documenting its progress publicly," said Karen Ross, President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. "The California wine community's environmental commitment also contributes to the state's appeal as a great place to live, work and visit, and resonates with consumers who desire high quality wines produced in a sustainable manner."

Wine Institute and CAWG launched the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program in 2002 to help the state earn a reputation as the world leader in the adoption of sustainable winegrowing practices. The two groups created CSWA to implement the program with the goals of promoting environmental stewardship and social responsibility in the state's wine community. Since the program's launch, CSWA has held 188 educational workshops statewide, according to CSWA Managing Director Ann Thrupp.

Pest management performance was measured and documented in the 2004 Sustainability Report, and then measured again after CSWA conducted 75 educational workshops throughout California focusing on this area. Performance improved for 31 of the 38 pest management criteria by nearly 8 percent. But greater increases were indicated for several practices including: use of reduced-risk pesticides, up 18%; employee training, up 16%; predatory mite releases, up 44%; and weed monitoring, up 22%.

The centerpiece of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program is the best management practices self-assessment workbook, of which the second edition is now being released. Growers and vintners assess and report their viticultural and wine production practices, using 14 workbook chapters of 227 types of sustainable practices from the ground to the glass. The program provides participants confidential, customized reports to compare their practices with regional and statewide results to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement.

The most significant addition to the second edition is a new Air Quality Chapter, developed with the guidance of a vintner-grower committee of 50 experts as well as external reviewers. The new chapter was created with matching funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The grant was also used to hold workshops and establish air and water quality demonstration sites in more than 10 vineyards throughout California to showcase innovative technologies and practices.

"The California Sustainable Winegrowing Program brings growers and technical advisors together to recognize sustainable farming practices and to identify collaborative approaches to further conserve and protect natural resources. The winegrowing industry should be commended for taking the lead to find solutions that protect the environment while rewarding quality wine production," said Daniel Mountjoy, Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations for NRCS.

An additional element to the program is a newly revised web site at www.sustainablewinegrowing.org, which features an online edition of the workbook where participants can self-assess their sustainability and receive reports on their individual results. The new online system allows participants to link to other web-based resources and develop and save action plans for improving practices.