July 28, 2022
They proudly call it, “By the industry, for the industry,” in reference to the newly announced Sustainable WA commitment to environmental stewardship.
In the first certified program specifically for Washington vineyards, the science-based program offers certification options for vineyards with plans to add winery certification in the future.
“Market research shows high demand for sustainable products and this program will help protect the Washington wine brand,” said Vicky Scharlau, Executive Director of Washington Winegrowers.
“Sustainability is part of our culture and our nature. Our Sustainable WA Certified logo can be used on wine labels only when that wine contains at least 75% certified-sustainable grapes.”
With full launch of the program finally underway after two decades in the making, “This program is environmentally sound, socially equitable, and economically viable,” said Program Manager Katlyn Slone, noting, “It ranges from pest and disease management to sustainable water management, the prioritizing of worker health, and safety and tracking of various inputs.
“Sustainable WA is built on the tenet that sustainability is a journey that involves ongoing evaluation and continual improvement. It takes a rigorous and balanced look at all the pillars of sustainability without leaning too heavily on one as balance is the priority.”
The program is the 2022 version of an educational sustainability program called Vinewise/Winerywise effort begun 20 years ago with the intent it would eventually be scaled up to certification level. Since 2019, a committee composed of some 40 growers, vintners, and industry professionals worked that program into today’s version with a small group of volunteer growers participating in trial testing to provide feedback before full launch.
Vineyards certified under the Sustainable WA program commit to using sustainable viticulture techniques and must pass a third-party audit (and future audits) to ensure quality operational standards that bring a message of continued advancement.
A major wine producer
Washington follows California as the second highest wine-producing state responsible for close to 10 percent of U.S. wines grown over some 60,000 vineyard acres.
“We’re not in Beta mode anymore and the program is already underway,” said Slone, “and growers can sign up for audits which will be conducted in July and August depending on the harvest season which looks like it will be later this year due to weather.”
Describing the whole program concept and process as a journey involving continuous improvement toward implementation of sustainable best practices, she described ‘sustainable’ as much more than just a buzzword and outlined the program benefits to growers.
“There’s been a recent push toward sustainability which changes as research, science, and technology change, so for growers, the program is committed toward making sure the most current practices are being used. Third-party audits ensure compliance and allow growers to be credible when they tell the public they’re sustainable.”
According to those who formulated the program, it was built and specifically tailored toward Washington’s climate. “Every wine growing region is a bit different, the soil, the weather, the terroir, and our program was formulated with local variables in mind. It’s balanced and focused on our growing region.”
Sustainable WA also represents a positive for wineries as part of their chain of custody. “They pay a bit more of a premium for grapes that have been certified in order to use the logo on the wine bottle that represents wine growing, wine making, and wine sustainability in Washington.”
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