Thanks to NWEI volunteer Erin Butler for the following Guest Blog post as well as for sharing this information on sustainable wineries in Oregon and Washington. 

One of the many pleasures of living in the Pacific Northwest concerns our wine culture and proximity to vineyards. Is there any way to make this experience even more pleasurable? How about knowing all the strides Oregon winemakers are taking to make their product more environmentally friendly? The majority of Oregon winemakers see themselves as stewards of the land; after all, they derive their livelihood from the fruits of the earth.

While LEED is a fairly familiar word in sustainability, other buzzwords abound in the wine industry. These include LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), Salmon Safe, OCSW (Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine), and Oregon Wine Industry’s Carbon Neutral Program. Chris Serra, the Executive Director of LIVE, shed some light on some of these different sustainable acronyms and organizations in the wine industry.

According to Serra, “LIVE is a certification of vineyards and wineries in the northwest, and therefore has a very specific type of membership, namely vineyard and winery owners and managers.” It’s similar to the LEED certification process but just for the wine industry, where they can “really drill down into the details of winemaking and vineyard management.” LIVE actually partners with Salmon Safe, which is an organization that focuses on certifying ecologically sound watershed management to help native salmon spawn and thrive. So, because vineyards are land, they affect watersheds. If a vineyard is LIVE it is also Salmon Safe.

The Carbon Neutral Challenge was a pilot program managed by the Oregon Environmental Council, and LIVE helped set up the certification process…In an attempt to unify all this wonderful, sustainable energy in the wine industry, the Oregon Wine Board attempted to combine certifications under one name: Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine (OCSW). These certifications include LIVE, Organic, Biodynamic, Salmon-Safe, and Food Alliance.  Chris Serra explains, “The idea is that a winery could source grapes from say, a LIVE vineyard and an Organic vineyard and blend them together in a LIVE winery, then put the OCSW label on it. This label would be backed by consumer marketing dollars.”

While there are a number of wineries in the Willamette Valley striving for goals in sustainability, Torii Mor, Stoller and Left Coast Cellars are a few operations of note. Check them out the next time you’re in wine country.

Torii Mor: Located in Dundee, Torii Mor is only two of LEED Gold certified wineries in the Willamette Valley. It garnered its 42 points through sustainable site development, water and energy efficiency, material selection and Indoor Air Quality.

In addition, Torii Mor is both a LIVE Certified Vineyard and Winery. Part of its certification is from its Gravity flow winemaking process. The winery is built to avoid using pumps that interfere or damage the fermentation process and also avoid using energy to move the wine from tank to tank. An example of the process can be found at Willakenzie’s website, which happens to be the first LIVE certified winery.

Stoller: Stoller winery is located in Dayton, and it is the first LEED Gold certified winery in the United States. Like Torii Mor, it integrates gravity flow winemaking techniques in addition to a passive solar design to reduce carbon emissions. The winery is built into the hillside, and in conjunction with air vents, the naturally cool evenings keep this building at an optimal temperature throughout the entire day. In addition, solar panels and wastewater reclamation increase this winery’s sustainability quotient.

Stoller is an Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine, Salmon Safe, LIVE and a participant in the Carbon Reduction Challenge.

Left Coast Cellars: Located in Rickreall, Left Coast takes land stewardship very seriously. They participated in the Carbon Neutral Challenge (now dubbed Carbon Reduction Challenge) along with 14 other wineries. Aided by solar panels and gravity fed irrigation, this winery was up to the challenge. In addition, they consider biodiversity and indigenous flora on their 306 acres, 100 of which are dedicated to grapes. Most of the vines are planted on west facing slopes, leaving 200 for fields of wildflowers, cultivated gardens, old growth white oak trees, fruit orchards and waterways. You can read more about their push for sustainability here.  The attention to detail in the landscaping is evident moments after driving through their beautiful gates. With wildflowers and grasses, xeriscaping has never been so beautiful. 

To celebrate Earth Day, LCC introduced its “Bee Sustainable” Earth Month Pinot Noir. A 1.5 liter magnum bottle can be filled for $45 and refilled for $30. Think of all the wine bottles being saved, not to mention money.

These are just a few of the many wineries in the Willamette Valley that are making concerted efforts to be good stewards of the land. Another topic for further study in sustainable wines: urban wineries. You can bike to these! Oregon Wine Press wrote a great article on these ventures.