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SONOMA COUNTY TO BECOME NATION'S FIRST 100% SUSTAINABLE WINE REGION
Source: Sonoma County Winegrowers news release

Sonoma County wines are renowned throughout the world for their award-winning quality and superb taste. And in the near future, consumers will be able to purchase any Sonoma County wine with confidence knowing that all of the region's wines are grown and made in the nation's first 100% sustainable county.

The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, also known as Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), announced today that Sonoma County is committed to becoming the nation's first 100% sustainable wine region through a three-phased program to be completed within the next five years. Although many of the region's multigenerational wine growers and winemakers have been practicing sustainable farming techniques and winemaking practices for decades, this initiative demonstrates their seriousness and commitment to ensuring all vineyards and wineries across Sonoma County will soon be sustainable.

"Our county's grape growers and winemakers have long been at the forefront of creating and utilizing sustainable practices in the vineyard, in the winery and in running their businesses, so this is the next natural step in their continued evolution," said Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, an organization representing 1,800 wine growers throughout Sonoma County. She added, "Sonoma County has great leaders who have championed the wine industry's sustainable efforts, and I'm proud of the unparalleled partnership between Sonoma County Winegrowers and Sonoma County Vintners that enables us to put this stake in the ground for sustainability as a wine region."

The first phase of this effort will focus on helping winegrowers assess their sustainable vineyard practices through trainings and educational sessions focused on over 200 best management practices such as land use, canopy management, energy efficiency, water quality assessments, carbon emissions; healthcare and training for employees and being a good neighbor and community member. Although many vineyards and wineries are already implementing sustainable practices, the goal is to assess, and collect the assessment data of 15,000 vineyard acres per year for the next four years until every acre of planted vines are under assessment for sustainability.

As vineyard acres are assessed, phase two will involve the Sonoma County Winegrowers working with vineyard owners to achieve certification. Once the winegrower program has kicked off, focus will be expanded to work with wineries and winemakers to roll out sustainability assessments and certification all with a goal of 100% sustainability for the wine industry in Sonoma County by 2019.

The key of sustainability is continuous improvement. Once all of the county's vineyards and wineries are recognized as sustainable, improvement plans will be developed to provide access to new production models, techniques and approaches.

To ensure against "greenwashing," third-party verification and certification programs will be used such as the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance's Code of Sustainability that involves 15 chapters and over 200 best practice assessments for growers and wineries, focused on environmental, social and economic viability and continuous improvement with verification by a third-party certifier. Another critically-important factor to this initiative is transparency, which will be accomplished through regular progress updates, an annual Sonoma County Wine Region Sustainability Report Card and a vineyard and winery real-time tracker on the SCW website.

"I commend the growers and wineries of Sonoma County for pursuing this bold initiative. It speaks volumes about their love of the land and their commitment to environmental stewardship, their community and their consumers," said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. She added, "It is a unique branding proposition and I wish them great success."

Sonoma County's wine industry is primarily comprised of multi-generational family businesses, which by their very structure, are sustainable. There are 59,218 acres planted to vineyards, which accounts for only 6% of Sonoma County's total acreage.

In fact, more than 40% of Sonoma County's vineyard parcels are less than 20 acres, with 80% of the county's vineyards less than 100 acres. "Having spent the last 40 years farming around a thousand acres of vineyards throughout Sonoma County, I am really excited to participate in this major initiative to make our county 100% sustainable," said Duff Bevill, Bevill Vineyard Management.

He added, "I have long felt that sustainability is the best approach to ensure we protect our land for future generations, improve the quality of life for our employees, and enhance the community where we live and work."

Sonoma County has some of the world's most prized grape growing areas in the world with the first vineyards dating back to the 1820s. The region's unique combination of rich geological history, fog patterns generated by its 70-mile Pacific Ocean coastline, and topography has given rise to 16 unique American Viticultural Areas (AVA).

Each AVA offers distinct climate, soils and temperature areas perfect for growing world-class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and more. Sonoma County is also home to around 450 wineries whose wines are renowned throughout the world.

In a recently released report, Sonoma County's wine industry brought an economic impact of $13.4 billion in 2012. This includes providing 54,297 full-time equivalent jobs, directly and indirectly, from winegrowing and winemaking in Sonoma County.

"When traveling around the world as an ambassador for my family's winery, I am constantly asked about our sustainable practices by customers, retailers, sommeliers, and media," said Katie Jackson, Family Representative, Government Relations and Community Outreach at Jackson Family Wines. "Today's wine consumers are passionate about sustainability and support brands who share their values, so I am truly excited about this initiative and proud to know that soon our efforts will be displayed in each bottle of wine labeled Sonoma County."


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