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California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance Announces New Certification Program for Wineries and Vineyards

January 13, 2010

Three years in the making, a new statewide certification program, Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing, was announced today at a press conference in San Francisco by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA). The new certification provides third-party verification of a winery or vineyard’s adherence to a "process of continuous improvement" in the adoption and implementation of sustainable winegrowing practices. The new program is the first statewide program available to both wineries and vineyards.

Open to all California wineries and vineyards as a voluntary option, CSWA’s new program requires applicants to meet 58 prerequisite criteria that are among the 227 best management practices in the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Self-Assessment Workbook to be eligible for the program, assess winery and/or vineyard operations, create and implement an annual action plan and show improvement over time.

John Heckman, director of FiveWinds International, said the goals of the program are to development third-party verification options for the Sustainable Winegrowing Program (SWP), maintain California’s global leadership position in sustainability and to increase transparency and enhance credibility with key stakeholders.

During the press conference, CSWA board chairman Chris Savage, senior director of environmental affairs at E&J Gallo Winery, moderated a Certification Pilot Panel with panelists speaking about their experiences with the Sustainable Winegrowing Program. Panelists included Bill Cooper of Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards, Kim Ledbetter Bronson of Vino Farms, Neil Roberts of Roberts Vineyard Management and Steve Smit of Constellation Wines U.S.

“When you discuss sustainability within the California wine community, it is not just a statement of a program but an imbedded philosophy that we live by each and every day,” Savage. “It is the commitment to this philosophy and the very positive impact it has on our businesses that will ensure the continued growth of the California wine industry long into the future.”

“For Vino Farms, participating in (the Sustainable Winegrowing Program) was the next obvious step,” Bronson said. She said that participating in the program will ensure their continuous improvement and that Vino Farms has taken even little steps, such as switching to florescent lights and rechargable batteries as part of an ongoing effort to practice sustainability.

Roberts said the SWP “gives all the tools in the toolbox to make a better decision.”

If you can measure performance you can improve your bottom line, said Savage.

In addition to announcing the new program, CSWA shared results from the 2009 California Wine Community Sustainability Report. Bobby Koch, president and CEO of Wine Institute said it was meaningful to make the announcements of the new program and the sustainability report results together.

For participants who have self-assessed their operations against the 227 best management practices in 14 areas from the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Self-Assessment Workbook, the 2009 report indicates that a majority of the 227 practices showed an improvement in average self-assessment scores since the 2004 report. The strengths of the state’s industry are practices for viticulture, soil management and ecosystem management. Areas identified as opportunities for improvement include energy efficiency, materials handling, waste reduction and environmentally preferred purchasing. Practices receiving scores in the middle ground are vineyard water management, pest management, winery water conservation and quality, human resources, neighbors and community, and air quality.

CSWA has increased participation in its Sustainable Winegrowing Program. The 1,566 California vineyard and winery organizations in the Sustainable Winegrowing Program represent a 66 percent increase in the number of wine businesses participating since the 2004 Sustainability Report. Since the program’s launch in 2002, it has held 200 self-assessment workshops and 184 educational events with 9,239 workshop attendees.

The full 2009 Wine Community Sustainability Report is available online at www.sustainablewinegrowing.org/sustainabilityreports.php. In addition, a three-minute video providing overall background on California’s sustainable winegrowing practices can be viewed and downloaded in various formats at: http://inr.mediaseed.tv/EcoWine_36816.

Members of Wine Institute and CAWG are the primary funders of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program, with additional support coming from American Farmland Trust, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA’s Risk Management Agency, California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The next Sustainability Report will be published in 2014.

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