MI Sustainable Winegrowing Trip – Day 3

Dave Bos, a Michigan native, has been working in vineyards throughout northern California for the last ten years. To kick off our final day in California, Dave treated us to a rare vineyard tour of Grgich Hills Zinfandel planted in 1890. Remarkably, the block still produces 2 tons of fruit per acre. For Dave, those vines are living proof of the value and longevity of organic and biodynamic farming practices. Dave runs a vineyard management company that specializes in biodynamic and organic viticulture. Grapes from the plots he manages are used to make some of most reputable wines in Napa.  From Dave’s perspective, sustainability programs and certifications could be designed with flexibility to incorporate organic and biodynamic growers in a manner that both allow growers to adhere to those standards while also encouraging them to participate in a program that has a wider scope.

The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) manages the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program (SWP). To date, SWP has reached 10,000 growers and vintners through over 240 educational workshops, which has resulted (as of 2012) in 1,386 vineyards and 391 wineries self-assessing their operations. We were fortunate to meet with almost the full team as CSWA for lunch in San Francisco. Kate Venugopal, Lisa Francioni, and Jodi Wilson gave us an extensive overview on what it takes to develop, implement, and manage a sustainability program and certification that covers every winegrowing region in California. Collectively, the scope of their daily efforts is daunting, and the development of CSWA over the past ten-plus years has taken considerable effort. Yet, they made it clear a sustainability program could be developed in Michigan. It would take time, organization, and commitment, but the resources, knowledge, and willpower exist to make it happen. Furthermore, they reiterated the fact that a sustainability programs and certifications provide valuable resources and knowledge that can improve vineyard and winery operations, while simultaneously reducing environmental impacts, insuring social equity, and meeting significant, and growing, demand from retail and consumers for high quality wines that follow transparent and verified standards.

By Cam Brown