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Guest Post – California’s Push for Sustainable Viticulture – By Kelly Noble

California’s Push for Sustainable Viticulture – By Kelly Noble

Viticulture (from the Latin word for vine) is the science, production and study of grapes which deals with the series of events that occur in the vineyard. When the grapes are used for winemaking, it is also known as viniculture. It is one branch of the science of horticulture. (source)

Sustainable Viticulture.

With the popularity of organic and sustainable growing and living practices becoming bigger and bigger in the mainstream, it is easy to see why sustainable viticulture is growing in popularity as well. The sustainable viticulture movement can be largely attributed to the green revolution of the 1950s and the earth movement of the 1980s. But, it was not until the new millennium did the idea of sustainable viniculture really start to catch on. Now consumers and growers are both becoming more concerned with what is in the foods and beverages they buy as well as the best ways to produce the highest quality products with the lowest environmental impact.

Sustainable growing should not be confused with organic growing practices as organic is governed by a set of rules and bylaws whereas sustainable growing is more a practice to grow with the earth in mind. In 1989, the American Agronomy Society adopted the following definition for sustainable agriculture: “A sustainable agriculture is one that, over the long term, enhances environmental quality and the resource base on which agriculture depends; provides for basic human food and fiber needs; is economically viable and enhances the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.” (source)

When it comes to sustainability growers should consider the 3 E’s:

  • Environmental Quality

  • Economic Vitality

  • Equal Opportunity

It is easy to see that there are many benefits to sustainable viticulture. It is better for the environment because of the reduced use of chemicals and pesticides. It will also help to promote long term soil fertility, promote a healthier ecosystem surrounding the vineyard which can also help in producing more fertile soil for the long haul. Of course the reduction of air and water pollution will help push sustainable viticulture into the forefront as well. Apart from all these environmental benefits the marketing power from producing a product that the public is growing to hold in high regard will help many wine makers set themselves apart.

No wine region is more on board with sustainable viticulture as the vineyards in California. Sustainable winemaking is nothing new in the California’s wine country, but what was once labeled a trend seems poised to turn into an industry standard as more and more wine drinkers are asking for sustainable wines. According to the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, “California’s 2,275 wineries produce over 90 percent of U.S. wine” which means the popularity of sustainable viticulture in California could really push the rest of the country and maybe the world to take notice of sustainable growing and wine making practices. “The scale on which California’s wine community is adopting and expanding sustainable practices is truly impressive, as the state is the fourth leading wine producer in the world.”~ Kim Ledbetter Bronson CAWG Board Chair, Vino Farms (taken from the 2009 California Wine Community Sustainability Report)

Below I have highlighted just a few of the Vineyards and Wine Makers in California that use sustainable viniculture practices:

Adobe Creek:

Not only does this small vineyard in the Southeast corner of Sonoma Valley practice sustainable viniculture but they also donate a portion of each bottle sale to the Adobe Creek Restoration Project (also known as United Anglers of Casa Grande).

J. Lohr:

One of the better known wine makers in California, J. Lohr in the central coast and central valley is a leader in sustainable growing practices. They have excelled in all aspects of environmentally friendly growing practices and was one of the first vineyards in California to earn the Certified California Sustainable Wine Growing distinction from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.


Since 1968 Fetzer has been striving to make high quality innovative wines while still protecting the environment and eco-stems they work in. They have taken strides to not only practice sustainable viticulture but also are environmentally responsible from the inside out. “In 1995, Fetzer completed construction on a 10,000 sq foot administration building made almost exclusively of recycled materials. The building is one of the world’s first large-scale uses of rammed-earth construction and 100% of energy used is from renewable resources such as solar, wind and geothermal energy. In fact, we were the first in California to purchase 100% green energy for all winery operations.” (Source)

For a full list of the vineyards and wine makers in California who are practicing sustainable viticulture please check out the Sustainable Winegrowing Program Participants.

With the continued push to create more environmentally friendly wines I am sure we will start to see more and more vineyards and winemakers who practice sustainable viticulture. Watch out for more environmentally friendly wines in a wine merchant near you!

About the guest blogger: Kelly Noble is the Relationship Manager for, a foodservice equipment and supply provider that also specializes in industry education. She has been an avid wine drinker and home cook for over 8 years and writes the Wine & Dine blog which focuses on her recipes, food trends and favorite wines.

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