Paraiso, the oldest estate in Monterey’s famed Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, has passed an exhaustive independent audit of its farming practices, clearing the way for official certification as a “Sustainable Vineyard.”
There is much debate in the wine industry regarding various “going green” business models. On the grape growing side, one emerging “farming for the future” trend is “sustainable viticulture.” And while “sustainability” may seem a new buzzword to some, to the Central Coast Vineyard Team, it is an area in which they’ve already invested well over a decade. The non-profit CCVT has painstakingly created rigorous rules and protocols, putting real meaning and real teeth into “sustainability.”
A pilot program to test and certify volunteer vineyard properties is currently underway. Paraiso, as a founding member of the group in 1996, was among the first to submit the copious documentation required on every aspect of its viticultural systems and face the independent auditor responsible for maintaining the strict new standards.
Due to the Smith family’s two-generation history of careful, conscientious stewardship of their Santa Lucia Highlands vineyard, Paraiso passed with flying colors. Pending a final board review of the results, Paraiso will be able to declare its eventual 2008 vintage wines as officially certified â€œSustainably Grown.”
The CCVT is a collaborative partnership of growers, wineries, consultants, researchers and natural resource professionals. The goal of sustainable viticulture is to integrate environmentally sound practices, social equity and economic feasibility into decision making on a system-wide level. As such, it is a more encompassing, “bigger picture” philosophy than site-specific terms such as “organic” and “bio-dynamic.” Basic key components of sustainable winegrowing include natural conservation, human education, water quality protection, erosion control, habitat restoration and conservation, cover crops, and safe and efficient use of soil amendments.
At Paraiso, as an example, Vineyard Manager Daryl Salm points out that “one key element of the program is making our soils more sustainable. This involves minimal use of water and soil amendments; we employ barley, clovers and natural grasses as cover crops, and use composting. And we significantly reduce our ‘carbon footprint’ through ‘minimal till,’ carefully planning passes through the vineyard by farm equipment so as not to compact soils, while also effecting savings in fuel use and emitted hydrocarbons. The interdisciplinary nature of these techniques relies heavily on ongoing education of our employees; in sustainability, the human factor is as important as any specific technique you use in the field.”