Note: There are 21 member wineries in the SLO Coast Wine Collective that are SIP Certified, Certified Organic, Certified Demeter Biodynamic, or source from vineyards that are. We unfortunately were not able to include all of them in this piece, so please check out the full list at the end of this article.
In recent years, there is not only consumer demand for knowing how your food is farmed, but the health of farmworkers and neighbors to farms is also something that demands transparency. For many SLO Coast vineyards, the decision to farm and produce wines using sustainable, organic, and biodynamic practices is part of their brand’s DNA and for others, it is a practice they adopted in recent years to ensure healthy vines and wines for years to come.
Sustainable Vineyards and Wineries on the SLO Coast
Sustainability addresses the 3 P’s – People, Planet, Prosperity – ensuring that both natural and human resources are protected. Holistic practices address habitat, water, energy, soil, recycling, air quality, packaging, pest management, social equity, and business management. Sustainability certification is determined by third party organizations (e.g. SIP Certified) and certified vineyards and wineries must adhere to a rigorous set of standards that are verified by a third-party inspector.
For Joshua Klapper of Timbre Winery, the decision to source fruit from certified sustainable vineyards was one that was forward thinking, “As a business centered in agriculture, and parents to young children, we felt it was important to support efforts in sustainably so that we are leaving to our children the best world we can.”
Timbre approaches their whole business from a sustainable perspective and Klapper adds, “We have tried to cut down on waste by doing many small things. We stopped using imported foil capsules on our wine bottles long ago as they served no real purpose except waste. Additionally, for local consumers, we have created a growler program so that people can buy some of our wines in reusable containers.”
It’s really about a collective community for Klapper and he points out that, “I have found that the most interesting and passionate people in the wine business today are proponents of sustainable farming and winemaking. I am proud to be part of a region that holds sustainability in such high regard. A good friend and vineyard manager told me that his focus on sustainability has helped him become a more efficient and better farmer, and I would agree with that assessment based on the countless sustainable vineyards we source at Timbre.”
For wineries like Laeititia, sustainability is at the core of everything they do. Laetitia was one of the first SIP Certified vineyards and continues to evolve their practices. They use goats instead of herbicide for weed control and ensure that all of their employees receive a comprehensive benefits package, and contribute to the community in which they work, live and play.
Sustainability is at the bedrock of Tolosa Winery’s brand ethos. Also a SIP Certified member, Tolosa is an active member of the community and a steward for social and environmental change. Tolosa marketing manager, Collette Van Gerwen, explains their ever-evolving efforts, “At the beginning of 2020, we became partners with the Porto Protocol and we have pledged to eliminate our use of fossil fuels by the year 2040 – and will absolutely, positively not fail! We schedule annual clothing and food drives as well as beach cleanups. We have a long history of supporting different programs at Cal Poly and we’re starting to explore more opportunities to support local youth programs.”
The beauty of sustainable vineyards and wineries as Beth Vukmanic, Program Director of SIP Certified points out, “Sustainability does not have a finish line. Our Standards are a living document; they evolve with new science and technology so can continually improve and raise standards for what it means to be sustainable.”
Biodynamic Farming on the SLO Coast
Biodynamic wine takes a more spiritual and cosmic approach to winemaking adhering to the philosophy that everything in the world is interconnected and the vineyard should be farmed as a single being with a closed system independent of imported materials. Demeter is the certifying body in biodynamic farming. Biodynamic farming follows the lunar calendar which dictates when to perform certain farming practices. No manufactured additives can be added to these wines, soils, etc.
Bob and Louisa Lindquist of Sawyer Lindquist and Verdad wines are passionate about biodynamic farming and appreciate the philosophy of creating balanced growing systems. Bob explains, “We feel that biodynamic farming is the gold standard of organic farming or ‘natural wine’.” He mentions that most consumers understand the principles of organic farming and that Biodynamic really takes those practices to the next level. More importantly he adds, “It’s a natural process with no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides…it’s clean wine!”
Mike Sinor of Sinor-Lavallee Wines, his decision to employ biodynamic farming practices was inspired by a trip to Burgundy in 1996 where it was being experimented with at top domaines. Mike was intrigued by the process and was excited to learn more about it. He farms his Bassi Vineyard organically with biodynamic inputs because as he says, “These practices are observed, first and foremost, because they help make better wine. No stone is unturned in that pursuit. What is great for the wine is also good for the land and the surrounding environment, so the rewards are ample for keeping everything in balance.”
Explaining the practices of Biodynamic farming isn’t always the easiest conversation with consumers and Sinor says, “When people first hear about Biodynamics they get distracted by some of the seemingly strange practices (filling cow horns with cow excrement, burying them according to the moon/planets then spraying that material in homeopathic levels) In the end anyone who appreciates the Farmers Almanac and has an open mind will learn its not that strange.”
The SLO Coast Wines commitment to the environment and the overall wellbeing of its people and lasting effect on the world is evident in the passion that many of these winemakers and vintners have for the land. Applying the practices of sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and biodynamic methods create structure and provide a roadmap for farming for a better future. As our world continues to change and evolve, we can find comfort in the folks of SLO Coast Wines doing their part to respect and honor the land they farm and the wines they work with.
Absolution Cellars (sources fruit from sustainable/organic vineyards)
Aequorea (sources fruit from SIP Certified vineyards)
Baileyana Winery (SIP Certified)
Center of Effort (SIP Certified)
Chamisal Vineyards (SIP Certified, working towards Demeter Biodynamic certification)
Claiborne & Churchill (SIP Certified)
Croma Vera (sources fruit from SIP certified vineyards)
El Lugar Wines (sources fruit from SIP Certified vineyards)
Kynsi (SIP Certified)
Laetitia Vineyard & Winery (SIP Certified)
Niner Wine Estates (SIP Certified)
Oceano Wines (sources fruit from SIP Certified vineyards)
Piedra Creek Winery (in process of SIP Certification)
Ragtag Wine Co (sources fruit from SIP Certified vineyards)
Saucelito Canyon (farms sustainably)
Sinor-LaVallee (in process of Demeter Biodynamic certification)
Stephen Ross (SIP Certified and sources fruit from SIP Certified and organic vineyards)
Talley Vineyards (SIP Certified)
Timbre Winery (SIP Certified)
Tolosa winery (SIP Certified)
Verdad & Lindquist Family (Demeter Biodynamic, Organic, and SIP Certified)
Wolff Vineyards (SIP Certified)