The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2011

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Page 78 of 132

SUSTAINABILITY The Hallmark of the Future WENTE VINEYARDS ACHIEVES SUSTAINABILITY CERTIFICATION by Thomas Wilmer / photos by John Montgomery T The famed Course at Wente Vineyards was awarded the Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary in 2009, in honor of the winery’s commitment to property-wide sustainability, including environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management and water-qual- ity management. he beauty of certification in the world of sustainability is that it validates and verifies the efforts of the winegrower and producer. The certification process also provides invaluable tools to measure and quantify multifaceted practices. Wente Vineyards recently received official certification from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Association after undergoing a rigorous third-party verification process that included 58 prerequisites from among the 227 best-management practices from the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing. Karl Wente, Fifth Generation Winegrower at Wente Vineyards in California’s Livermore Valley, says, “Certification offers the benefit of an excellent matrix for monitoring and mea- suring all facets of operations, including water usage, economic viability, energy efficiency and recycling programs.” “Actually we have always been sustainable Wente Sustainability Facts ■ All four of the winery’s tasting rooms are designated drop-off spots for Cork ReHarvest, a program focused on collecting and recycling used corks. ■ The winery recycles over 50,000 lbs. of cardboard, more than 50,000 lbs. of glass bottles and more than 9,000 lbs. of used plastics annually. ■ Approximately 9,000 tons of grape pomace are composted each year at the winery. Compost is incorporated into the vineyards, which improves the soil’s quality and water-holding capacity. in our practices,” adds CEO Carolyn Wente. “The CCSW [Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing] certification represents the culmi- nation of more than 127 years of commitment to sustainable practices by my family’s winery.” At The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, com- posting and water conservation are integral daily operations, with cooking oils recycled for use as biodiesel fuel. In 2009, the prestigious international Certified Audubon Cooperative Fifth Generation Winegrower Karl Wente continues the family winery’s 128 year-long commitment to sus- tainable practices. Today, the family manages 1,600 acres of sustainable open-range land not planted to vineyards, where 100 head of cattle provide natural grass management and soil fertilization. Sanctuary award recognized exceptional conservation practices at the Wente golf course, including small-habitat restoration efforts, introduction of drought-tolerant plants and extensive green-waste composting. Maintaining sustainable field management practices ensures that you put back what you take out, Karl notes. “It’s a process of making informed decisions about how you fertilize and add vigor to the soil,” he says. “We use green waste from the golf course and waste streams from our horse farm as well as the pomace from the grape seeds and skins. Utilizing Mother Nature’s fertilizer—how could you not love it?” Other natural products include stylet oil to treat powdery mildew on the vines, as well as experimentation with other essential natural oils such as black pepper, cinnamon and clove. Additionally, the waste stream from local fisheries is hydrolyzed and put directly into the vineyards’ drip systems as a natural fertilizer. For the most part, Karl says, “It’s simply a matter of smart decisions and processes, such as introducing beneficial insects to maintain a balanced ecosystem with healthy grapevines that subsequently require minimal intervention.” Karl concludes, “All of the sustainable certification requirements make smart busi- ness sense and generally serve to conserve expenses and thus increase our bottom line. If you’re not sustainable in your business practices, you probably ought to start thinking about an exit strategy!” 78 / the tasting panel / may 201 1

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