This edition of The Sign Post points to a better tomorrow. It’s about Sonoma County’s groundbreaking commitment to sustainability, and the Sonoma Valley farmers who are helping to lead the charge. It’s about appreciating and preserving the land we inherited, and passing on something even better to future generations. Deeply rooted in our history, this story is also about the future, and the ambitious goal of having every Sonoma County vineyard certified sustainable by 2019. To get there, let’s start at the beginning.
California’s first grape growers settled in Sonoma Valley in the mid-1800’s. They planted vines mostly to reproduce the wines of their European roots. And, while their environmental practices may have left a lot to be desired, the goal was the same as it is today – to nurture a vineyard, a living, and a sense of family and community they could pass on to their children.
Now fast forward to the 1970’s when a burgeoning environmental movement inspired a few ecologically minded local growers to look for more sustainable approaches to grape growing. Sonoma Valley’s first families of wine growing got in early. Folks like Phil Coturri who reminisces here with legendary winemaker Richard Arrowood about how he came to organic farming.
Fast forward again to 2014 when acceptance of sustainable food and farming, both by farmers and consumers was, pardon the pun, in healthy growth mode. The coup de grace for Sonoma came when the Sonoma County Winegrowers announced their plans for every vineyard in the county to be certified sustainable within five years. This was seriously unprecedented. But the farmers here were (and are) determined to pass on a better growing environment.
Today the signs of responsible farming are everywhere, from windmills and owl boxes to native cover crops and flocks of weed eating sheep. But there’s a whole science to sustainability that you can’t readily see. California’s biggest environmental concern today is water. Fortunately, grape vines are an incredibly water efficient crop that actually produce better wines when you keep them thirsty. But every drop counts, so farmers here are at the technological leading edge of water conservation.
Since making their commitment to sustainability, Sonoma’s winegrowers have continued to raise awareness of sustainable farming throughout the county. A good example here in Sonoma Valley can be found at St. Francis Winery, where you can take one of several new Vineyard Adventures. It’s essentially a self-guided sustainability tour that offers up a deep dive into sustainable practices as you stroll through pristine vineyard rows.
But even if you can’t make it here for a Vineyard Adventure, you can still get a taste for why sustainability matters by opening a bottle of Sonoma Valley wine. Pour a little in your glass and breathe in the beautiful aromas that bring you to the fresh ocean breezes that blow through the valley. Taste a vibrant wine that was grown in a way that nurtures the environment and local community. Feel the sense of satisfaction that comes from buying a wine that supports the sustainable agriculture movement. Then raise a glass to the next 100 years.
For more information about Sonoma County Winegrower’s sustainability efforts, visit sonomawinegrape.org/sustainability.