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California Sustainable Winegrowing 2006 Progress Report Released

by Mary-Colleen Tinney
December 11, 2006
The 2006 Progress Report from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), established by Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), indicated a 24 percent increase since 2004 in the number of California wineries and vineyard businesses working to adopt "green" practices that are sensitive to both the environment and society. The report was unveiled at a press event held at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

The report indicated that 1,165 vineyard and winery enterprises in the CSWA program have evaluated their sustainable practices for 33 percent of California's 522,000 total winegrape acres, and 53 percent of the state's total annual wine production of 273 million cases. More specifically, winegrowers increased their performance for 31 of 38 pest management criteria by nearly 8 percent.

"We're talking about the important way the state's vintners and growers contribute to the environmental and economic leadership of California," said Bobby Koch, president and CEO of Wine Institute at the event. "We want to continue to be known for growing world class wines. We also want to be known for the way in which we grow them. What we're striving to do is to be good neighbors, to preserve the resources, to protect the environment and to operate in a more efficient manner."

"I really commend the growers and vintners who set out to create this program more than five years ago, and did it because they realized that California's population is spilling into the countryside," said Karen Ross, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. "I really believe this program, with the way that documents our processes and reports on it in a public way, is an invitation for our neighbors and core consumers to learn more about world class wine and the people that produce them."

Wine Institute and CAWG launched the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program in 2002 to help the state earn a reputation as a leader in the adoption of sustainable winegrowing practices. The two groups created CSWA to implement the program with the goals of promoting environmental stewardship and social responsibility in the state's wine community.

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"Every time that I pick up a news report or a new review on sustainability, I am encouraged because I am so proud of the fact that the wine industry took a leadership role. When we found that we were having problems with our neighbors and our community, the wine industry just didn't try to patch it up and fix it, they actually took a stand for sustainability," said Paul Dolan, chairman of Mendocino Wine Company and board chairman of Wine Institute.

"This management model has not only made a huge difference in California with other agricultural industries, but also with other businesses in general because this conversation with sustainability is pervasive," continued Dolan. "We've gotten to that point now where we're starting to recognize that it's not just a good thing to do, but that it really is going to make a difference whether or not businesses survive."

Since the program's launch, CSWA has held 188 educational workshops statewide, according to CSWA managing director Ann Thrupp. There have also been 88 targeted education workshops since 2004, which have reached over 5,000 vintners and growers.

Thrupp attributed the level of participation on the part of wineries and growers on "the increasing recognition that adoption and involvement in the sustainable winegrowing program really makes good business sense. There's also a strong and growing interest in using environmentally packaging. People are paying more and more attention to social responsibility," said Thrupp.

"We're really excited about the number of new elements that really reflect the progress that we've made in the last few years," said Thrupp. One new element is the release of the updated version of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program centerpiece, the best management practices self-assessment workbook. Among other revisions, the second edition of the workbook includes a new chapter on air quality and new criteria to prevent erosion.

Growers and vintners assess and report their viticultural and wine production practices, using 14 workbook chapters of 227 types of sustainable practices from the ground to the glass. The program provides participants confidential, customized reports to compare their practices with regional and statewide results to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement.

Pest management performance was measured and documented in the 2004 Sustainability Report, and then measured again after CSWA conducted 75 educational workshops throughout California focusing on this area. Performance improved for 31 of the 38 pest management criteria by nearly 8 percent. But greater increases were indicated for several practices including: use of reduced-risk pesticides, up 18 percent; employee training, up 16 percent; predatory mite releases, up 44 percent; and weed monitoring, up 22 percent.

Another new element is a newly revised website at, which features an online edition of the workbook where participants can self-assess their sustainability and receive reports on their individual results. The new online system allows participants to link to other web-based resources and develop and save action plans for improving practices.

The website and reports are also viewable by the public, part of CSWA's commitment to having a completely transparent process. "It's a one-stop shop for the public, participants and program management," said Jeff Dlott, president of technical consulting firm SureHarvest. "The program has made a huge commitment to transparency, and that is right out there on the website."

"California agriculture is generational, and that is certainly true in the wine business," said fourth-generation grower Randy Lange of LangeTwins Wine Estates. "I have a responsibility to the fifth generation and the sixth generation. I have a responsibility to the soils that I farm, and that responsibility goes beyond my family because there's no guarantee that my family will be the operators a century from now."

Lange also told vintners and growers to be patient with the process as it evolves. "This is a generational change that is occurring. It starts with the people in this room and it's going to take a lot of time to make these changes occur. It's a time investment, and it's a generational investment."

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