The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v { }  107 lights or night cooling units, this contributes directly to wine quality and sales." SIP Sense and Sensibility Program Manager Beth Vukmanic Lopez started with SIP Certified in 2009, one year after the introduction of SIP's pilot program. She tells us, "The foundation of the organi - zation goes back to 1994 with the forma- tion of the Vineyard Team, a 501c3 non- profit umbrella group of far mers who were interested in learning more about farming sustainably. The group completed their first self-assessment book, based upon a 1,000- point system, which proved very popular." Adds Vukmanic Lopez, "SIP was designed to set a higher bar of sustain - ability. There is a list of prohibited, do-not- use mater ials, of high-risk pesticides and herbicides, but we find that SIP managers are even more motivated by the idea that this is the right thing to do, despite the time and effor t it takes to fill out a 100- page check-list, subject to inspection. For instance, tracking water usage or check - ing well pump efficiency is simply good b usiness practice. Pro-active mildew and disease management results in healthy grapes of higher quality, which earn you points and maybe higher grape prices, and most likely better wines. Newer, more efficient approaches to controlling weeds or retaining labor are all par t of sustain - ing the profitability of a company and its emplo yees. Conser ving native landscapes for wildlife can be essential to pest con - trol while contributing to relations with surrounding communities—all the things necessar y to sustain a wine grape grow - ing business in the longer term. "The hallmark of SIP is how it goes beyond organic programs to include things like biodiversity, quality of life, and latest technology. And this year we are adding SIP Certified certification for winery facilities." v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v Ancient Peaks Ancient Peaks co-owner Doug Filipponi and Director of Winemaking Mike Sinor shared the story of their 800-acre Margarita Vineyard, located in the southernmost and coolest pocket of Paso Robles (the Santa Margarita AVA), just 14 miles from the coast. The prop- erty, committed to biodiversity, actually totals 14,000 acres—well over 13,000 of the acreage set aside for cattle grazing, hay cropping and conservation of native flora and fauna. Filipponi began by saying, "When my partners [the Rossi and Wittstrom families] and I bought this ranch in 1999, Robert Mondavi Winery was also bidding for it. And so instead, the Mondavis leased the land from us and planted grapes. We expected it to be a 35-year relationship, but it lasted only until 2004. Subsequently, we bought back the lease from Constellation Brands, and we have been farming and producing wine from it ever since." Adds Sinor, "From the beginning, the Mondavis planned the entire Margarita Vineyard for sustainability because they saw that this place—with its amazing range of raised ancient seabed, shale, granitic, rocky alluvium as well as volcanic soils—was special, and needed to be kept that way. There was to be no removal of living oak trees, no rerouting of waterways, no plowing up or reshaping of entire hills. There would be preservation of indigenous plants, and re-seeding of native grasses, to complement what row crops and owl boxes usually do, to harbor beneficial insects, birds and other wildlife. "In the early 2000s, new thoughts on the usage or complete avoidance of soft chemistries were being tried out. In Margarita, vineyard blocks were designed around separations and setbacks from creeks, with four distinctive wildlife corridors so that natu - ral wildlife—lions, deer, bears, etc.—can continue on foot-paths unobstructed. Make no mistake, though, this approach to vineyard planning originated as part of the Mondavis' overall quality initiative. The goal was to grow special wines. But the key part of it was sustainability, which has become a way of life throughout much of the Central Coast." Ancient Peaks 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Margarita Ranch–Paso Robles—Deep, dark purplish ruby; compact blackcur - rant/berry aroma with a dollop of black cherry, tinged with star anise- lik e Asian spice and chalky mineral notes; medium-full, velvety and fluid with rounded tannin; the dense fruit fleshed out with a chalky mineral feel, and a shake of bitter chocolate/cocoa power. Ancient Peaks 2013 Oyster Ridge, Santa Margarita Ranch–Paso Robles 75% Cabernet Sauvignon/15% Syrah/5% Petite Sirah/5% Malbec From the Margarita Vineyard's section of uplifted ancient seabed—a highly calcareous, visibly white oyster shell outcropping—yielding a vivid, concentrated multi- faceted profile (raspberry, blueberry, violet, mineral), defty sculpted into svelte, layered, thick and seamlessly knit sensations on the palate. Ancient Peaks team: Owner Doug Filipponi, VP of Operations Amanda Wittstrom Higgins, Owner Karl Wittstrom, Director of Winemaking Mike Sinor and Owner Rob Rossi. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANCIENT PEAKS

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