Ten years ago, the big push in the Oregon wine industry was to encourage sustainable farming practices among vineyards.
This led to the creation of the Low Input Viticulture and Enology program, which certifies vineyards that adhere to strict sustainable farming practices. Since then, LIVE has certified 137 vineyards in Oregon and Washington, comprising 4,629 acres of grapes.
Now, according to the Statesman Journal, the environmental focus has turned to the facilities where those sustainably grown grapes are processed. This year, LIVE extended its certification program to include wineries as well as vineyards.
“It’s not just our vineyards anymore but the whole thing, from the grapes to the bottle,” said Ted Casteel, the co-owner of Bethel Heights Vineyard.
Fourteen Oregon wineries have achieved the new certification, which takes into account water and energy usage as well as worker health and safety.
For instance, at Domaine Drouhin, solar panels generate power and the winery was built into a hillside on several levels so that gravity could be utilized to move wine from fermentation tanks to the barrel room, eliminating the need to use electric pumps, tasting room manager Mark Bosko said.
At WillaKenzie Estate Winery, everything that can be recycled gets recycled — even carbon dioxide. The winery has figured out a way to capture the gas released during grape fermentation and reuse it to put air-tight seals on its tanks.
“It’s not 100 percent efficient, but to the extent that we can do it, we do,” owner Ronni Lacroute said.
In an effort to reduce the winery’s carbon footprint and become more environmentally friendly, Lacroute asked her staff to think of creative ways to eliminate waste. Recycling carbon dioxide was her winemaker’s idea.
“We’re doing whatever we have thought of, but there’s always something more we can do to fit in with the environment and be sustainable in every direction,” Lacroute said.
WillaKenzie isn’t alone. From collecting and recycling rain water to using recycled-paper labels to eliminating foil and corks from bottles, Willamette Valley wineries are responding to the call for sustainability by finding creative ways to reduce their impact on Earth.