Creating and Consuming Wine, The Ethical Way
Have you ever poured a bottle of Raptor Ridge and noticed the “LIVE Certified Sustainable Grapes” on the back label? Perhaps you’ve even heard some of our staff talking about “organic” or “biodynamic” farming and wondered what these things mean for the land and for the wine? Well, today we’ll be looking at sustainable farming practices prominent in the Willamette Valley.
First, a collective amount of credit is due to many Willamette Valley wineries that have adopted and have continued to practice some form of sustainable farming for the past 30+ years. As a whole industry, they are leaders in environmental responsibility. Even though the third-party certification process can take 3 years to complete, more and more wineries every year are following suit to achieve LIVE, Biodynamic, or Organic certification.
Wine that receives Organic certification is strictly regulated and precluded from using synthetic additives. Synthetic pesticides and herbicides are not allowed for use on vineyard sites if wine is to pass Organic certification qualifications. Any kind of pesticide that has been determined to be harmful to the environment or to people is not allowed at these vineyard sites. Organic farming also focuses on preventative methods for pest control and soil fertility practices that protect the integrity of the land. In the Raptor Ridge portfolio, these sites include Temperance Hill vineyard and Logsdon Ridge vineyard.
Biodynamic practices adhere to many of the same standards as Organic farming but go beyond these measures to treat a site as a complete, living organism. These practices focus not only on the macro-ecology of the land, but also on the microorganisms that are so important to soil and plant health. These microorganisms are added to the soil using a preparation of enlivened compost that’s left to sit underground inside a cow’s horn through the winter. Biodynamic farming also adheres to farming in concurrence with cosmic rhythms that influence the earth, such as lunar cycles. One of our popular vineyard designated wines, Meredith Mitchell, started using biodynamic practices in 2015, and was certified Biodynamic in 2018. Though the first vintage we were able to use the certification was 2019, the already delicious fruit from this site has developed even more depth of character since adopting biodynamic practices.
Lastly, our Chehalem Mountain Estate is LIVE certified. Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) refers to a set of sustainable agricultural practices that are certified through the International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC). This set of standards requires participants to show continuous improvements in diversification of the ecosystem and reduction of fuels and chemicals used on site. Each year, we complete a checklist of over 200 parameters and an accompanying set of reporting documents. The annual process enables third-party inspectors to verify, through on-site visits, that sustainability goals are being met. This certification, which takes at least three years to complete, focuses on holistic practices. These include adherence to a rotational vine spray program aimed at avoiding pest resistance without using heavily toxic pesticides, non-chemical weed control, native pollinator and beneficial insect conservation, and establishment of an on-site “eco reserve” of protected undeveloped property.
As different as these certifications may seem, they all have the same goal: to create more accountability and environmental responsibility from farm to finished product, and to deliver wines with a sense of purity and integrity. This responsibility extends to us, as consumers, to support and maintain the agricultural programs that reinforce conscientiousness for our earth and our future.
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