Sonoma County Leads the Way in Sustainable Viticulture

By Colm O’Neill

A Five Year Project Reaches Conclusion

Sonoma County is celebrated across the United States as one of the largest and most popular wine producing regions in the country. Its vast array of vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms make it a must-see for any wine connoisseur, and one of the highlights of Northern California. Sonoma County can now add another feather to its cap, as it wraps up its five-year project to make all of its 430 wineries, the vast majority of which are family owned and operated, 100% sustainable. This achievement makes Sonoma County the first fully sustainable wine region in the world.

Behind this daring initiative is Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers. Her vision for the project is to see each vineyard reduce its carbon footprint, through such means as replacing the use of pesticides with organic alternatives. One example of the innovation that Sonoma County wine-producers are bringing to the world of sustainable production can be found at Green String Farming at Cline Family Cellars. Green String Farming carries the motto “50 percent for humans, 50 percent for nature”, and is focused on improving soil health and biodiversity, allowing them to grow healthier crops. Among the various practices they have introduced to achieve sustainability, are the composting of grape skins from harvest, and the use of crushed rock to nurture the vines and soil — fighting pests and disease with natural predators, rather than pesticides.

Many Paths To Success

The scale of this undertaking cannot be overstated, as the area of land devoted to vineyards in Sonoma County amounts to an incredible 60,000 acres. There is no single answer on how to achieve sustainability, rather it comes in many different forms: from the introduction of educational programs that acquaint young people with sustainable practices, to exciting new developments in the ways in which wine can be packaged. The underlying goal remains the same, to reduce practices that are harmful to the environment, while continuing to produce the highest standard of wine.

The innovations Sonoma County have shown in the way of sustainability are truly unprecedented, and a good reason to raise a glass in celebration. More important is the example they have set for other wine regions. They have shown that sustainability is the way of the future, and provide encouraging evidence that wineries and vineyards across the globe will soon be a leading light in the world of sustainable produce.