Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Don't Miss This Article: Biodynamics Goes Big


Hats off to Betsy Andrews and the team at Seven Fifty Daily for this great article about many of the world's biggest Biodynamic vineyards.

The feature builds on the panel of experts who appeared at Demeter USA's International Biodynamic Wine Conference, for the breakout session Scaling Up: Implementing Biodynamic Viticulture on a Large Scale.

That panel featured wineries with more than 100 acres of Biodynamic vines including Eco Terreno in Sonoma, King Estate and Montinore Estate (both in the Willamette Valley) and Emiliana in Chile. The panel was moderated by Dave Koball, who established the 290 acre Biodynamic vineyard at Bonterra more than 20 years ago and now manages Eco Terreno's vines in Alexander Valley.

This latest article includes Gerard Bertrand, in southern France, which has 1,482 acres of Demeter certified vineyards - the largest in the world.

(The second largest is Cantina d'Orsogna, a cooperative in the Abruzzo in Italy with 864 acres, whose wines were poured at the conference Grand Tasting).

Emiliana has 674 acres of Biodynamic vines in Chile, making it the third largest in the world.

In the U.S. King Estate is the largest with 471 (although it only makes about 3,000 cases from these vines alone; the rest of its grapes are blended with conventional grapes purchased from other growers.

The southern Oregon winery was just awarded a Wine & Spirits Top 100 winery of the year and will be featured in the Wine and Spirits Top 100 tasting in October, pouring its Biodynamic wines.

Alois Lageder, another winery attending and pouring at the International Biodynamic Wine Conference is also featured in the article. The northern Italian producer has 135 acres of Biodynamic vines and is converting many of its growers to Biodynamic practices.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Climate Action Summit News Hub

Trying to keep up with all the Climate Action Summit news? Try this link.

A Letter to Steve From Your Pro-Sustainability Penpal

A NOTE: Dear Steve Dutton
In response to your letter:

I'm sorry that you're upset about being named in two of my blog posts. It wasn't slander to publish factual data about pesticide use. My goal is not to single out individuals, but rather to question the communication and enforcement of sustainability certification systems that apparently didn't communicate clearly enough to you that it wasn't okay to use Mancozeb. 

I removed your name from my second blog post except for the listing of the PUR Mancozeb data. And I've added a note that you stopped using Mancozeb in 2017. 

And I've emailed your winery to see if you and I might connect after harvest. It would be great for us (after harvest sometime) to speak in person - coffee? lunch? 

I am very grateful that you've taken stopped using Mancozeb and for the example you're setting for your county's sustainability movement. And I'm particularly happy about what you are doing in terms of your contribution to the health of your neighbors, your workers and, especially, your family.

I also want to let you know, as head of the Sonoma Farm Bureau, of the large contribution organic and Biodynamic growers in Sonoma make to the county's economy. According to the crop report, they brought in $13.6 million in revenue, more than all of the county's organic dairy operations combined. 

Is it time that Sonoma County's promoters call some attention to this valuable tourist resource, since that organic farming appeals to visitors (especially honeymooners and Millennials) interested in agrotourism?

[Postscript: I originally published a much longer blog post as a response, but have decided to break up what I have to say in a series of shorter, more focused posts.]

For the others in Sonoma and beyond who are still using Mancozeb, you may know that the authorities have been considering banning Mancozeb since the National Academy of Sciences raised issues of its toxicity back in 1987. The EPA moved towards stopping its use as far back as 1989, but reversed itself after industry supplied data and politics changed the regulatory landscape and pro-industry voices dominated.

Many more recent scientific studies, including three from UCLA in the last 9 years, have now even more firmly established that Mancozeb can increase the risk of getting Parkinson's 75% to 200%. Those who are affected are not just applicators but residents, too, according to the studies' authors.

In 2014, the Department of Pesticide Regulation assessed its priorities on the most dangerous chemicals posing health risks.

California's DPR lists it as a carcinogen, a toxic air contaminant, and a top health risk.

In 2014, its committee report found that Mancozeb was #1 on the list of the top 10 human health risks.


That is why I've been focusing on it. I hope that the Sonoma Certified Sustainable movement will tackle this chemical head on and make a concerted effort to make sure that no grower uses it.

Agriculture Pesticide Mapping Tool, Statewide Mancozeb use (2016)
HOW SONOMA COMPARES

In 2016, there were 4,441 pounds used on 3,018 acres of Mancozeb used in Sonoma vineyards, according to the Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Statewide the numbers were 15,050 pounds on 10,064 acres. So Sonoma, with roughly 11 percent of the vines in California, uses about 1/3 of Mancozeb applied statewide. That's three times more than the average.

ON SUSTAINABILITY: I Am For Sustainable and Regenerative Farming

The headline of your published letter says "Dutton disagrees with anti-sustainability movement link."

I'm not sure where that came from, but I certainly am not anti-sustainability. I am anti certification systems that are not transparent and accountable and are failing to enforce their standards. This is what caused your dilemma, which I am now somewhat sympathetic to. (You didn't know, and when you found it, you took action.)

This issue - of trust and accountability by sustainable certification systems and programs - is what I'm really talking about in the two blog posts about the Dark Side of Sonoma's Sustainability. It is hard, for anyone, to understand how a substance prohibited under FFF and CSWA - especially a dangerous one - is used, especially on vineyards that are certified sustainable.

I am happy when growers plant cover crops, use sheep to mow the weeds, and practice other sustainable approaches. Bring on the efforts to reduce the vineyard road generated dust. Don't let sediment choke salmon and waterways. Bring on carbon conscious farming and green awards. Down with over fertilizing and over irrigating. Down with fertigation with fossil-fuel intensive chemicals. Down with degenerative systems.

I am also for organic systems that prohibit the use of toxic chemicals because health and communicating health risks has been a major part of my career.

You say in your letter that I must be writing about the failures of these certification processes or systems because I have a financial interest in a different certification program, citing the fact that  I worked with Demeter USA as a consultant this year. 

That is pretty darn funny. I worked with them because I believe in organic and regenerative farming.

I believe in it so much so that I left my handsomely paid freelance Apple gig last year to work on the Demeter's first International Biodynamic Wine Conference, held in May in San Francisco (a priceless experience). The conference brought together Biodynamic wineries from the U.S. and around the world, becoming the world's largest gathering of Biodynamic wine professionals in its first year. More than 47 wineries participated, including 9 from Sonoma. You can see how much fun we had in the photos. (Wish you could have joined us).

My consulting time at Demeter was for four months, half time, and even then, at half my usual rate - and I ended up working much more than full time, so essentially, I have worked pro bono for Demeter for thousands of dollars that I was never paid for in terms of money. So much for my financial benefits. 

Furthermore, to imply that these certification groups are in competition, is not in the spirit of the game. We are all in collaboration here because the real foe is climate change - not other people's certification standards. We are all moving the ball down the same field.

My real career has been in health and health information systems and in marketing and journalism. My latest clients in health have been Stanford School of Medicine and the Stanford Cancer Institute. I've worked with the world's leading cancer experts (Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Stanford, etc.) while at DNA.com, where I was the editor in chief of Jim Clark's high profile genetics startup. I launched all the genetics content on WebMD for both consumers and clinicians. I wrote 100 page reports on genetic and cancer risks for DNADirect. I created the first web site for the California Medical Association. I have worked with more than 200 health care institutions as well as on A-list projects on health for Dr. Koop and Al Gore. It is my awareness of the role that agrochemicals play in disease that motivates me - and the inspiring people who choose to farm with as few toxics as possible.

This spring, as a journalist, I covered the glyphosate trials in San Francisco for Civil Eats and PRI. I listened to the world's leading cancer risk assessment experts (many of whom are former top federal health officials from the U.S.) present all the medical evidence about Roundup to a federal judge and their rationale for why they labeled it a carcinogen.

I have been publishing articles about the use of pesticides in vineyards here on this blog since 2010, since there are few publications today that are willing to report on this topic. I have also featured stories about solutions and organically and biodynamically grown wines because I see them as a healthier path for residents, workers and owners, and consumers.

Publications don't cover pesticides in vineyards because they are financially fragile and often beholden to the wine industry and its advertising dollars. (Examples: SF Chronicle, Sunset, Press Democrat and Napa Valley Register). For them, touting the benefits of sustainability alone (without looking at the chemicals used) has been just fine. (It has also been fine for Big Wine and its relationship with Walmart and other big corporate retailers with sustainability requirements.)

In wine I am both a journalist (at times) and a consultant, neither of which is self sustaining financially. Occasionally I write for wine industry magazines (my new article on green wine trends is coming out in Beverage Media next month) and I am the co-organizer (also pro bono) of a Women of the Vine & Spirits webinar on Oct. 18 for the industry featuring organic and biodynamic experts as well as WOTVS member wineries.

I am participating in a tasting and discussion about biodynamic wines later this month at Baygrape, an Oakland wine shop, with Esther Mobley from the Chronicle.

We in the organic and biodynamic world all need to do more education for trade, consumers and media to cultivate awareness and appreciation for these wines, which have often been misrepresented. (By the way, note to Esther Mobley on her recent article about green wines: No lunar calendar required under Demeter standards.)

The Women of the Vine & Spirits webinar is geared to a mainstream industry audience in order to help them understand trends (Waitrose in the U.K. just reported a 57 percent increase in organic wine sales) and the business case. (Both Shaw Organic and Earthwise, owned by Bronco and Delicato, respectively have just released new organic brands). It is open to the public.

Our wine industry in the U.S. is lagging in terms of organically grown wines (our organic vines are at 2 percent; compare that to 10 percent in Italy, France and Spain). And there may be business consequences.

IN THIS TOGETHER

Another aspect of your letter suggests that because I worked for one certifier, I would consider other certification systems to be competitors. Not so.

While organic regulations cover materials, and sustainability programs have tackled regenerative practices, the only standard that I have found that combines both organic and regenerative is Demeter. However, it's just one of the multitude of organizations working on these issues.

CSWA was in fact a conference sponsor of Demeter USA's recent wine conference and I was proud that they felt moved to be a sponsor.

And we all know, especially this week here in San Francisco with the Global Climate Summit taking place, how dire the consequences of not solving our issues (and increasing our resilience in the light of climate change) are. Where we have common ground, we need to stick together.

UNITED

Our work together should be collaborative and synergistic. I would like to remind everyone that organic and sustainable are not separate camps. They're overlapping, not competing.

Many of the sustainability movement pioneers - including Bonterra founder Paul Dolan, who wrote the first book on sustainability (True to Our Roots) - came out of the organic movement. (Today he's board chair of Demeter USA).

Andy Hoxsey, the biggest organic grower in the North Bay (with more than 500 certified acres in Oakville and Yountville in Napa) helped establish the CSWA standards, showing other growers across the state how to use less water and fertilizer in the program's early days.

Last night I took a look at the many certified organic or biodynamic wineries that ALSO participate in sustainability certification. Here's a list:

CSWA Certified

Sonoma
Benziger Family (BD)
DeLoach Vineyards (BD)
Eco Terreno (BD)
Merriam Vineyard
Preston (FFF)
Puma Springs (BD)
Quivira (FFF)
Ridge (FFF)
Turtle Vine

Mendocino
Haiku Vineyard
Yorkville

Napa
Grieve Vineyard
Hall
Morgaen Lee
Napa Wine Co., Yount Mill
Pelissa
Rock Cairn
ZD Carneros

South Bay
Cooper Garrod

SIP CERTIFIED
Ampelos Vineyard

LODI RULES
Bokisch Vineyards

(I'd like to include the FFF but their web site doesn't feature a master list of certified vineyards yet; FFF says a new web site will launch next week).

As the head of the Sonoma Farm Bureau, I hope you know that there are more Demeter certified Biodynamic wineries in Sonoma than any other county in the U.S. All of these growers and vintners minimize their impact on climate.

I'd like to emphasize the sustainability standards that these growers adhere to, which is summarized in the Demeter USA Farm Standard:
"The heart of a Biodynamic farm's fertility system is the sequestering and recycling of carbon....the integration of animal agriculture also assists in reducing petrochemical inputs compared to conventional agricultural practices. These factors, in addition to Biodynamic farming's focus on soil health, water quality, and biodiversity combine to make it one of the highest paradigms of sustainable agriculture."
SONOMA'S ORGANIC AND BIODYNAMIC VINEYARDS' ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION: MORE THAN ALL OF SONOMA'S ORGANIC DAIRY OPERATIONS COMBINED

I hope that the Sonoma Certified Sustainable movement, the Sonoma Farm Bureau, and the Sonoma Winegrowers would be looking out for the interests of both Biodynamic vineyards and wineries and those of Sonoma's organic growers in the county as much as any other grower they serve.  In a recent county crop report, organic wine grapes in Sonoma were valued at $13.6 million, ahead of the entire organic dairy industry in the county. 

Their contribution is 2.5 times as much as all the organic fruits and nuts grown.

It's also more revenue and crop value than all of the vegetables - organic or conventional - grown in 2015 in Sonoma County. And it's 300% more than all of the apples grown in the county.

2015 Crop Report
HEALTH AND SUSTAINABILITY 

Ideally we would become a state where more than 2 percent of the vineyards are certified organic (better for kids' health) and where every farmer is farming regeneratively (better for climate change and health). Where childhood cancer rates, autism, ADHD, Parkinson's, and other diseases that come from using toxic substances in growing grapes are eradicated, not increasing, as they are today.

(More on that soon: I'll be publishing an interview with Dr. Michelle Perro, Petaluma pediatrician on her new book, What's Making Our Kids Sick? and talking about what pediatricians are concerned about in vineyard chemicals).

Perhaps it's a good moment to wish "Happy Climate Action Summit Week" to all the farms who are on the path - at different stages and in different ways perhaps, but on the path - to farming sustainably. We're all supporting California's pioneering work in building regenerative and resilient systems. And we know that's healthy for all of us.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Wine & Spirits Top 100: The Organic Among Them

This year's Wine & Spirits Top 100 awards were announced. Of all the trade tastings throughout the year, this tasting is my favorite, as it really does have the best wines - and from a wide variety of regions, styles and producers.

This year, there were 35 U.S. wineries and of those, 9 make some or all of their wines from certified organic vines.

U.S.

Big Basin Vineyards (organic estate)
Donkey & Goat (one BD grower)
Drew
Heitz Cellars (some of its estate is organic)
King Estate (some of its estate single vineyard wines are from BD vines)
Matthiason (its estate is now organic)
Radio Coteau (on the path to BD certification)
Raymond Vineyards (some of their Napa wines are from BD vines)
Roederer Estate (has some organic vines, but no single wine made from them)
Storybook Mountain (100% estate and 100% organic grapes

Foreign 

There are probably more from abroad, but these are the ones I know of that farm organically or biodynamically:

Felton Road (New Zealand)
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht (France/Alsace)
Domaine Sigalas (Greece/Santorini)
Gulfi (Italy)

Grab your ticket here.

DPR Webcast Next Week: Environmental Justice and Pesticide Safety

The Department of Pesticide Regulation is sponsoring a lunch and learn talk next Tuesday that will also be online for remote attendees to participate via an online stream.

Featured are:

• Nayamin Martinez, MPH, Director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network, who will talk about the IVAN online reporting system for pesticide-related incidents; bilingual farmworker advocacy and outreach; and communicating pesticide safety information at the local level.

• Martha Sanchez, DPR's Environmental Justice Liaison, who will discuss DPR's Environmental Justice Program; using pesticide illness data to focus outreach efforts; multilingual pesticide safety outreach (urban and rural communities); and working with county partners.

See the session agenda here.

Here's the webcast link.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sonoma Ecology and Biochar Experts Appear in Dirt Rich at Green Film Festival

David Morell of the Sonoma Ecology Center, Josiah Hunt of Pacific Biochar,
unnamed participant (sorry), and director Marcelina Cravat
Sonoma was well represented at the Green Film Festival in San Francisco on Sunday.

Eldridge resident David Morell from the Sonoma Ecology Center and Santa Rosa resident Josiah Hunt from Pacific Biochar spoke after the screening of Dirt Rich, which was executive produced by Petaluma resident Doug Gayeton and the Lexicon of Sustainability. Marcelina Cravat directed the film.

Paul Hawken praised the film as:
"Touching, instructive, endearing, astute, grounded, heartwarming and remarkable. Adjectives cannot describe how skillfully Dirt Rich portrays the emergent wisdom of the new breed of earth stewards, scientists, smallholders, agronomists and activists who brilliantly husband land (and animals) in order to midwife a regenerative civilization."
Sonoma has really taken a leadership role in advancing the use of biochar. Eco Terreno, an organic and biodynamic vineyard in Alexander Valley, was among the first wave of Sonoma wineries to explore using it and to make their own.

 

The California fires are featured in another film of interest to the wine community that screened yesterday. The spectacularly visual documentary The Human Element is a journey with legendary climate change photographer (his work is regularly in Nat Geo and NYT) James Balog.

Here's Balog on the film:

<


More info on the film is here.

The Green Film Festival continues this week with screenings at various locations.

Tonight the festival screens the two hour documentary Decoding the Weather Machine with PBS/Nova at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, next to the Coal and Ice multimedia exhibit at Fort Mason. You can watch the film online but the screening will feature the film's producers and climate scientists.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Oct. 20 - Head to Hopland, in Wine's Organic Heartland, to Fill Up Your Trunk

When I first got into organically grown wine, Hopland was a great awakening for me - here were wines I could afford to drink that were better (for $10-15) than what I could find in any supermarket or wine shop in Berkeley ($20 and up). (Sadly it continues to be that way.)

 The gateway to the Ukiah Valley in inland Mendo (and thus only a half hour north of Healdsburg), this little burg becomes a bustling hub twice a year as winemakers open their doors. Only this year it's different. They'll be opening their bottles all in one big central location, which is now called Harvest Days.

So no more driving from winery to winery...you can get your comparative tasting and try all the wines under one big tent.

And there's more to drink - choose from locally made cider and beer. So you can have all three. And local bites from produce, meat and cheesemakers. Plus a food truck.

Spend the night there too and plan to visit the wineries on Sunday, when you shop and save (they usually have weekend specials - good deals). There'll be live music both days.

Here's a list of the participating organic producers - almost all of the wines (Frey is the one exception) are "Made with Organic Grapes" from local growers. Alas, you won't find these wines at your local wine shop or at Whole Foods (mostly not) and only Bonterra at Safeway. So get thee to the countryside where the getting is good.

SATURDAY TASTING 

• Bonterra (all)*
They sell 25% of all the organically grown wine purchased in stores in the U.S. For a reason. Taste and price. (You can also find them at Costco for about $10, but Costco carries just the most popular varieties they make; you'll probably find a broader selection at the event.)

• Campovida (most wines)
Try the Filigreen Farm grown Pinot Gris (from coveted Biodynamic grapes - this is a very special grower in the Anderson Valley)...and the Dark Horse Primitivo.  

• Terra Savia (all)*
They are specialists in Chardonnay and sparkling wine. And also make fine, organic olive oils in their own mills in Hopland. (Put them on your to visit list).

• Yorkville Cellars (all)
Try all the Bordeaux varieties - they make bottlings of each and every one.

It's a whole different kind of wine country - where you can find wines are $20 and under! (* wineries with $20 and under wines).

And don't miss McFadden Vineyards and Blue Quail* in the downtown Hopland (about 1 block long). Best wine club to join if you're looking for a winner. You may be able to customize your shipment, too.

The event web site is here.

Tickets are $40 in advance or $50 at the door. Get tickets here.

SUNDAY TOURING

If you're going to tour around on Sunday, you'll want to visit Testa, which has organically grown wine, but more exciting from a touring point of view - a picturesque old barn and gorgeous old vines. These are the real Italian immigrant planted vineyards. (Come back in November for the event where the nonas - the Italian grandmothers - cook. One of my favorite wine country experiences - the real down home stuff!)

Campovida is also a spot not to be missed - it's a luxurious and gorgeous farm, vineyard and retreat center...a dream place. Their winery makes small lots of wines - very boutique and artisanal wines. (They also have a great tasting room in Oakland in a brick warehouse district - hip, yes.)

LODGING

It's a bit pricy, but VIchy Hot Springs is the best place if you're looking for more than just a hotel room. It has a nice pool and bubbly (though not hot) springs plus a jacuzzi (hot) - all in a sprawling, natural setting outside of Ukiah.

WINE SHOPPING

Two spots merit a stop for wine shopping. One is SIP Mendocino which specializes in a wide variety of wines from both the inland valley and the Pinot-centric Anderson Valley. The proprietress is a great resource and knows all the wines quite intimately. Finer wines can be found there.

For everyday wines, I love to visit the Ukiah Natural Foods Coop which has, hands down, the best collection and selection of high quality table wines from organic grapes. Mendocino is roughly 25% organic (in the vineyards) and many locals who grew for Bonterra began their own small labels which you can find here. Go wild. (You won't see this selection again when you go home.)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Dark Side of Sonoma's Sustainability Movement: Part 2 - Reactions and A Mancozeb Honor Roll


Last month's blog post on the Dark Side of Sonoma's Sustainability got a lot of attention - more than 6,000 page views on my site (and counting) - which, for me, was quite unexpected.

The reactions ranged from:
Satire by Ron Washam (the Hosemaster of Wine) which is now posted on Tim Atkins' site (international audience)
• An email - and an invitation to lunch which I look forward to - from Marimar Torres (who still, in her own winery's sustainability handout, doesn't seem to be able to bring herself to say she has surrendered her organic certification and still erroneously says on her web site that she is biodynamic)
• A blog response from the Sonoma County Winegrowers

All this is good, because now we have a public conversation - and hopefully all kinds of conversations - about some of these big issues.

I also have my own reaction - which was to dig a little deeper into the pesticide use report data about Mancozeb, because it's such a toxic material. A certain grower [previously mentioned in my earlier post] is certainly not the only one using it in Sonoma County.

(Again, to repeat from my earlier article: Pesticide Action Network classifies Mancozeb as a Bad Actor - i.e. seriously bad stuff - and a carcinogen, developmental and reproductive toxin, and a probable endocrine disruptor. It's highly toxic to fish. The National Academy of Sciences urged the EPA to ban it starting in 1987, calling it one of the most potent carcinogens in agriculture. It is legal to use it; however it is prohibited by California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) after the first year of certification and it is prohibited under Fish Friendly Farming (FFF).

In addition, I wanted to see how effective the two main certification groups used by the Sonoma Certified Sustainable group - FFF and CSWA - were in curtailing the use of Mancozeb.

Both programs say the material is not permitted, but the data shows that growers certified under each program were still using it in 2017-2018.

ANTI-SUSTAINABLE? NO

Some people misinterpreted what I wrote, thinking it was all about bashing sustainability. But, as I wrote in the original post, there are many positives. What I take issue with is the programs' lack of transparency and accountability. And enforcement.

We want to trust that these sustainability programs will do us proud and move growers to more regenerative practices. But can we trust them?

UPPING THE ANTE: REGIONAL WATER BOARD PERMIT STANDARDS NOW TIED TO SUSTAINABILITY CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS

There's a newly added and more serious dimension to these certifications.

As of 2017, regulators are requiring growers to meet the new North Coast water quality permitting requirements. Regulators are leveraging FFF and CSWA programs to help growers meet these requirements. (Read more news coverage here).

So it's not a bad time to ask: how well are these programs being enforced?

And does enforcement last beyond initial certification date? How well are growers being monitored for ongoing compliance?

And who's overseeing these certifiers?

Organic certifiers must face (and pay for) annual certification audits from the federal government's National Organic Program. It's the law. Even seemingly minor infractions - like an employee sharing a document with a co-worker who is not authorized to view it - are grounds for terminating a certifier's entire operation.

The biodynamic certifier Demeter USA, a nonprofit, is reviewed by Demeter International officials.

CSWA says it is overseen by SCS Global Services.

GREEN MARKETING

A whole other issue is marketing.

Should program compliance - with water quality and other legal farming requirements - enable vintners to put green labels on their wines?

FFF does require growers to do more than just meet the legal standards (which are extensive), but how much more is a bit fuzzy. I've yet to see a sustainability program that compares and contrasts what's compliance related versus what is additional frosting on the cake - i.e. how what the program requires exceeds the legal requirements. It would be great to see the delta.

In short, do you get a merit badge for doing a little bit more than what the law demands? And just what is that little bit more? (Or is it a lot more?)

Many recent surveys from the wine industry ask respondents if they're willing to pay more for sustainable wines and survey respondents say they are. So are growers and vintners hoping that they'll be getting higher price points for these wines?

ENFORCEMENT: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES

On the issue of enforcement...we can return to an illustration of the transparency and accountability issues at hand.

In response to my previous article, the Sonoma County Winegrowers wrote a blog post. In it, the author says, "As soon as [a certain grower] learned that Mancozeb was on the Certified Sustainable red list, he stopped using it that day. Something that wouldn't have necessarily been on his radar if he wasn't actively involved in his sustainability program."


That [a certain grower] was using Mancozeb, which was prohibited under his type of vineyard certification (FFF), should have been on the grower's radar from Day One and the grower's use of it should have immediately been on the certifiers' radar.

If a grower had been certified by an organic or biodynamic certifier, he or she would have lost their certification immediately and would not be able to display the certification on any of their products.

I'm very glad that [a certain grower] stopped using Mancozeb (2,154 pounds of it on 1,077 acres during the year from March 3, 2017 through March 3, 2018).

But is that grower going to be expelled from FFF for it?

Are the Sonoma Winegrowers going to stop that winery from labeling its bottles with their green label for the vintages when the grower was using Mancozeb?

COMMUNICATING STANDARDS: HOW DID A CERTAIN GROWER FIND OUT MANCOZEB WAS PROHIBITED?

There's another piece of this story that's troubling as well.

How did [a certain grower] find out that Mancozeb was prohibited under the rules?

It wasn't because someone from the wine industry or a sustainability program was enforcing the program's rules. His neighbor (who's not in the wine industry) told him.

How did his neighbor know? A chance meeting with me.

His neighbor and I connected over a different topic. But then we realized that what I was seeing on this Mancozeb topic was, indeed, very relevant to his neighbor.

I was researching Mancozeb because I found it odd that while the rest of the state's winegrowers had pretty much abandoned it, a certain small group of growers in Sonoma were still regularly using it. And then it came to light - in a later email conversation with his neighbor and me - that this grower lived near my new acquaintance.

I am not connected to the FFF certifier or the Sonoma Certified Sustainablity program. I'm just someone from Oakland with a health communications background who occasionally likes to read the pesticide use reports from time to time (more interesting than People magazine) and ponder a good mystery to research. (And I write about wine professionally some of the time and am concerned about vineyard pesticides and children's health).

Again, this whole post is not about [a certain grower] per se; it's about the promise and perils of running a certification program. And then using those standards to bottle label wines in the hopes of telling consumers that there's something more virtuous about the way these wines were grown. (When certifiers are not rigorously enforcing program standards.)

FROM PERMITS TO LABELS: A COMING GREEN MARKETING AVALANCHE?

The added dimension of growers now flocking in growing numbers to FFF and CSWA in order to meet the newly mandated regional water board permit requirements is playing out on the marketing side of things as well.

FFF and CSWA are the two main avenues for getting a water board permit that growers in the Napa River and Sonoma Creek watersheds will be using. (A third option - RCD's Landsmart program in Napa - requires growers to make their farm plans public documents, which many prefer not to do.)

Vineyards certified by FFF and CSWA in Sonoma are eligible to display Sonoma Sustainable labels on their wine bottles.

Will a growing number of these vintners then turn around and use those certificates to get marketing credit? That suggests there may be an avalanche of FFF and CSWA signs going on up on vineyards - and green stickers on wine labels.

But can we believe in the enforcement side of these programs?

Postscript: I checked the other two certifiers that Sonoma Certified Sustainable growers can use - SIP Certified and Lodi Rules.

SIP Certified has a great database of each grower, the date they were certified sustainable, and a link to a grower profile which discusses their sustainable practices. And it publishes its standards. It has far better pesticide restrictions than CSWA and FFF, but it totally mischaracterizes organic and biodynamic certification attributes in a chart posted on the site. (Click on the question on that page "How is SIP certified different than organic?").

SIP Certified also publishes answers to the question "How is SIP certified different than CSWA?" stating that "SIP Certified is a distinguishing program with a minimum threshold for eligibility - not all growers can qualify. CCSW is an inclusionary program designed to buoy the California wine industry toward more sustainable practices."
-----

POSTSCRIPT - THE MANCOZEB HONOR ROLL

The list of Sonoma Certified Sustainable vineyards is called the Honor Roll, so I thought I'd follow suit.

CSWA prohibits the use of this fungicide (after being in the program for one year). Several CSWA-certified vineyards listed here appear to be using it. (It's unclear whether they are using it within their first or subsequent years of certification since CSWA doesn't display date of entry into their program online. CSWA has plans to display more info on its web site starting in 2019).

Typically, growers who use Manzcozeb apply it at roughly 2 pounds per acre.


Total Acres in Sonoma - 2,668 

Total Pounds in Sonoma - 4,810 

Selected List of Mancozeb (Manzate Pro) Users

Using pesticide use report data from March 3, 2017 through March 3, 2018, here are Sonoma County's biggest users of Mancozeb.

The top five users account for more than 80 percent of the Mancozeb used on vineyards in Sonoma:

1. Dutton Ranch Corporation (FFF)
1,077 acres (2,154 pounds)

These grapes are sold to many wineries. Dutton stopped using it as of 2018.

 

Wineries that make single vineyard designate wines from Dutton grapes include Chappellet, Francis Ford Coppola, Kistler, Migration by Duckhorn, and Patz and Hall.

Wineries that purchase Dutton grapes include Clos du Bois, Domaine Chandon, Fetzer, Flowers, Gloria Ferrer, Hartford Family, Ledson, Meiomi, Merry Edwards, Ramey, Robert Mondavi, Rodney Strong, Schramsberg, Simi, and Sonoma Cutrer.

That these wineries were making wine from Mancozeb treated grapes was a revelation to me as I suspect it would be to consumers, some of whom think they're drinking "green wine."

2. VinePro (various clients)
607 acres (1,293 pounds) including 157 acres at Leveroni (CSWA) and 52 acres (6 different vineyards) at Merry Edwards (CSWA)

Stopped using it as of 2018.



3. Bayview Vineyards
249 acres (499 pounds) (in Sonoma)

Continued using it in 2018.

(This is the Laird Family's vineyard management company. They are also the largest vineyard owners in Napa County, with about 5% of Napa County's vineyard acreage. Except for one other grower in 2017 [Pride Mountain], Bayview is the only Napa grower using Mancozeb.)

In Napa in 2017, Bayview applied 4,731 pounds of Manzate Pro to 2,365 acres.

4. North Coast Vineyard Management (various clients)
194 acres (421 pounds) including 121 acres at Carraro (CSWA) 
Stopped using it as of 2018.



5. A. Rafanelli (CSWA)
121 acres (242 pounds)
Stopped using it as of 2018.

Other Vineyards:

Enzenauer
75 acres (150 pounds)
Stopped using it as of 2018.

Bellisimo (CSWA)
25 acres (51 pounds)
Stopped using it as of 2018.

Find the complete list of the vineyards using Manzate Pro in Sonoma here.

POST SCRIPT (added Sept. 20):

Most of the list above was compiled in March 2018 before most growers who used it would have applied it (in April). I have now obtained more current data that shows the spring 2018 usage. Here is the list of growers who continued to use Mancozeb in 2018.

None of these appear on the Sonoma Certified Sustainable web site, and that is good news. 

But unless you had access to the pesticide use reports, you would not be able to monitor this. The sustainable certification sites don't yet tell use what date a grower was certified. 

Would it have been wiser for these programs to launch their labels after they could demonstrate recordkeeping and transparency to the media and to consumers?



AT THE END OF THE DAY...

From the outside, it looks like the sustainability certification systems have a ways to go before they can match the transparency and accountability of the organic and biodynamic systems. Being a certifier is not an easy job. But if you want to use it as a marketing tool, enforcement and trust are the name of the game. It doesn't happen overnight. But will it happen?

POSTSCRIPT (SEPT. 10)

Steve Dutton wrote a letter to Lewis Purdue, who publishes Wine Industry Insight, asking Perdue not to publish any more posts by me. 

See Dutton's letter here and my response here.

Related Posts

Sustainability: Sonoma Growers Push Back on Transparency, Forge Ahead in PR

The Emperor's New (Green Marketing) Clothes: "Sustainability" Program Ramps Up in Sonoma - Headed by Marketing Professor

Sonoma Gets Its (Toxics) Closeup: What's on Those Vines? A Look at Carcinogens, Neurotoxins and More

NOTE: This blog post has been edited Sept. 11, to remove the name of "a certain grower" who complained about being mentioned and thought he was being singled out unfairly. The fact is this story was never really about this particular grower; it's about gaps in the transparency of these new sustainability certification systems. 

Prominent UK Supermarket Sales of Organic Wine Up 57% This Year


Don't miss this story from across the pond. One of Great Britain's largest supermarket chains reports sales of organic wine are booming.

Let's raise a glass of Bonterra to those hardworking organic growers in Mendocino County for fueling this green wave.

The wine buyer for Waitrose is quoted in the article as saying the selection consists of 54 wines from 18 different countries.

I'll be writing soon about a wine program here in America that features more than 500 organically grown wines on a supermarket's wine department shelves - stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Biodynamic Wine Lovers: Wave Goodbye to Montinore's Red Cap Pinot Noir - and Grab the Last of the 2015s

The most widely sold wine from Biodynamic vines in America - Red Cap Pinot Noir from Montinore Estate in Oregon's Willamette Valley - is changing its stripes.

Once a staple of Eric Asimov's lists of top 20 wines under $20, the lovely value Pinot is migrating from being a "Made from Biodynamic Grapes" wine to a wine made from a blend of both conventional and Biodynamic grapes. The winery will be increasing production - more than 100% - which necessitated a change in the composition of the wine.

All the other wines from Montinore Estate will remain 100% estate wines.

You can grab some last bottles of the purely Biodynamic vintage - the 2015 - from stores listed here on Wine-Searcher.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

An Organic Business Model? Napa's Shining Star - Ted, Laddie and Chris Hall's Growing Organic Enterprise

The news this week that Long Meadow Ranch acquired Stony Hill Vineyards was a big story. A family owned operation passing into the hands of family friends, old school Napa buddies finding a way forward to reward all for their efforts. This is what a successful community and businesses can look like.

But the acquisition is also part of a lesser noticed, but much bigger story of the longer term arc at Long Meadow Ranch. That story shows how far a commitment to organic practices coupled with business smarts can go in building, over the years, a business based on "responsible" farming.

In the wine industry, people often say "it's too expensive for me to farm organically," or "consumers don't know the difference between organic and sustainable." A few months ago, an MW candidate friend from Manhattan asked me, in all seriousness, if organic pays. She said it was a question on one of her exams. "It's a hot topic," she said.

Conventional and sustainable growers often repeat their belief there's no money in it, despite the fact that thousands of wineries around the world - and more than a hundred here in California alone - demonstrate that the opposite is true. The UCANR farm support system has published studies that show organic and even Biodynamic grape growing is profitable under current market rates. Real live examples may prove more persuasive.

The story of Long Meadow Ranch - where their motto is "Excellence through Responsible Farming" - shows how rich - both in social as well as economic benefits - the journey can be.

GROWING A VERTICALLY INTEGRATED ORGANIC ENTERPRISE


1989: Long Meadow Ranch's original Mayacamas Estate above
the Rutherford AVA. You can visit the 650 acre estate on a Jeep tour.

Ted and Laddie Hall and their son Chris already organically farm 160 acres of vineyards on three sites in two counties. But that only begins to describe what they're up to. They're actually building a vertically integrated food and wine system - an organic empire, if you will. They call it "Full Circle Farming."

Here's a brief timeline that shows how it's been built so far.

1989: Mayacamas Estate

The family owns and operates numerous Napa enterprises including the 650 acre Long Meadow Ranch estate in the Mayacamas (with 16 acres planted in vines) which was their entry point into the world of Napa estate winemaking. (For many years, Cathy Corison was their winemaker.)

There they also grow 17 acres of olive trees. They built one of the two olive oil mills in Napa; there they mill their own olive oil.

2010: Farmstead Restaurant and St. Helena Tasting Room

2010: Farmstead Restaurant and the Logan-Ives House open for dining, food
sales, and wine tasting
In addition, the family owns and operates Farmstead restaurant in St. Helena, where they feature their organically raised beef and vegetables, and sell their wine in their historic Logan-Ives House tasting room.
2010: The Logan-Ives House tasting
room and general store
Highland cattle
In Marin County, the Halls graze their Highland cattle in Point Reyes on an 800 acre property on Tomales Bay. (Happy, grass fed cows!)

2012: Rutherford Estate 


The Halls then went on to acquire their second major estate vineyard - a 90 acre property on the valley floor in Rutherford where they now grow 10 acres of vegetables and 79 acres of wine grapes. Here the focus is on Sauvignon Blanc.

They plan to build a new green winery (with a permit to make 100,000 gallons of wine annually) on 30 acres of the Rutherford site. The proposed winery will be run entirely on solar energy, employ tank cleaning systems that use no caustics, and rely on on-site rainwater collection systems, not groundwater resources.

2015: Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Estate

In order to bring Pinot Noir into their LMR wine portfolio, in 2015 the Halls bought acreage in Mendocino and now have by far the largest certified organic estate vineyard in Anderson Valley (69 planted acres) where they grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In 2018, LMR also opened a tasting room in Philo at the Madrones, a pricey hotel that's a tasting room hub for the area's high end Pinot Noir producers.

2016: Gold Medal Cabernet at Decanter World Wine Awards


Out of 378 gold medals in the Decanter World Wine Competition, only three were awarded to U.S. producers. Long Meadow Ranch's 2012 E. J. Church Cabernet, a reserve wine, was one of the three.

LMR Is Now Napa's Largest Organic Producer

Case production is 75,000 cases and all of the wine is sourced from certified organic grapes, making Long Meadow Ranch the largest organic producer in Napa Valley. (Grgich Hills is right behind, with 70,000 cases a year, followed by Frog's Leap, with 50,000 cases).

2017: Grower of the Year

For all of his accomplishments - and his values - in 2017, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers voted Ted Hall grower of the year.

THE BUSINESS SIDE

Hall earned his MBA at Stanford and pursued a high level consulting career, working at one of the country's leading firms - McKinsey & Company - until 2000. He's served on a number of corporate boards including Peet's, Dolby and Williams-Sonoma.

From those experiences, he sharpened his business acumen and the vertical integration strategy that underlies the organic empire he's building with his family.

And, along the way, he's contributed to the community via the Land Trust, the local food council,  the local St. Helena school district ag education committee, and the county's advisory committee on ag preservation.

Laddie Hall selling Long Meadow Ranch produce at the
St. Helena Farmers Market

ORGANIC AS A FAMILY VALUE

Ted Hall's mother was a fervent organic gardener in her day, a topic which he talked about at the 2013 Napa Organic Winegrowing Conference.

Here are a few excerpts from his 2013 remarks (from my archives):

Growing Up Organic
"My foundation [in being organic] grew out of being raised on a small farm in western Pennsylvania where my mother was an organic gardening pioneer in the 1940's. My grandfather raised produce and sold it at a small grocery story that he operated. The joke in my family was that my grandfather was never more than 50 yards from a compost pile."
On the Economics of Organic Viticulture
"We farm organically because it results in higher quality at lower cost. It's an economic proposition." 
"Organic is a big idea, with a different concept. It's about a system of farming. It's about the performance of a complex system. It results in higher quality and lower cost when appropriately measured."
Like others, Hall often says that organic vineyards are a better investment, because they last at least twice as long as conventionally farmed ones.

On Certification
"I've appeared in many of these [Napa organic winegrowing] conferences over the years and at the break will hear people say, well I farm organically but it's just a pain in the ass to get certified. That's complete hogwash. If you know enough about what the costs are in your vineyard and if you're managing your vineyard responsibly, you already have all the data and it's in a couple of files in your cabinet and it's not a big deal. And if you're don't know enough about what you're doing and therefore can't complete the certification processes, you probably aren't managing very well."
On Roundup
"There's nothing worse than somebody saying well we farm sustainably or we farm organically - except when the weeds get out of control - and then 'I just use Roundup.' We've all heard that, right - dozens and dozens and dozens of times. We're in a camp with Beth [Beth Novak Milliken of Spottswoode] in that we don't lead with the chin regarding organic. We think it results in higher quality at lower cost."
On Wine Quality
"What we like is when someone says wow there's an amazing profile in that wine and it's only 13.5% alcohol. We're really enjoying this. How did they do it? That's what we want."

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Long Meadow Ranch Acquires Stony Hill - Napa's Best Chardonnay to Become Organically Farmed


In a startling bit of news Monday morning, Long Meadow Ranch, a large, family owned, integrated food and wine producer, and Stony Hill Vineyards, the iconic Spring Mountain Chardonnay producer, announced that Long Meadow Ranch will acquire Stony Hill.

To read all about the reasons for the sale - and the long term friendships that underlie it - read Monday's Chronicle article by Esther Mobley. It warms the heart to hear that the famous Chardonnay producer will be handed over to family friends, not a corporation. And not just any friends, but committed to organic friends.

Long Meadow Ranch, long a major advocate and exemplar of certified organic farming in Napa, will be converting the 30 acres of Stony Hill vineyards on Spring Mountain to organic farming.

Stony Hill has always been my (and many others') favorite Napa Chardonnay. It's grown on limestone soils, unique in Napa. I've always lamented - when drinking it - that it wasn't organic. Now, in three years, if all goes well, it will be.

Read about the rest of the bigger story about Long Meadow Ranch here.

The Press: Our Organic Supplement to the Chronicle's New Wine Country Guide

The San Francisco Chronicle put together a guide to wine country that was released this week. It's called The Press and subscribers received a free copy of the 120 page book with the Sunday paper.

It's a nicely done short volume, with 52 winery profiles, from four main tourist regions - Napa Valley, Sonoma County, the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey County, and Mendocino County. Eight of the wineries featured offer organic or Biodynamically grown wines from certified vines.

I thought people might be interested in knowing which wineries in the guide have certified organically grown grapes (the guide doesn't mention this for most of the ones that are). Wines mentioned below are from certified vines.

Asterisk* means tasting is by appointment only.

Mendocino County

Campovida - Hopland Charmer (Inland Mendo)

This gorgeous, under the radar property is just a short drive off of Route 101 and has historic organic vineyard bona fides, as it was the former showcase for Fetzer/Bonterra back when that winery brand was family owned. (Events featured James Beard and Julia Child touting the glories of organic produce and wines). Now this stunning venue is run as a retreat and event center, housing a welcoming tasting room serving up artisanal wines. (Most of the current vintages were made by Sebastian Donoso, now the organic winemaker at Bonterra up the road.)

Note: Campovida also has a tasting room in Oakland.

Wines: Estate wines (Sangiovese, Viognier), Filigreen Farm grown Pinot Gris, Riesling from McFadden, Cabernet from Heart Arrow and Syrah from Fairbairn Ranch. 

Sonoma County

Preston Farm & Winery - Biodynamic Farm Gem (Healdsburg)

Preston is the very first winery listed in this region - as well it should be, because it's the kind of place everyone falls in love with at first sight. A large number of the acres are devoted to growing food, and you can buy home baked bread from proprietor Lou Preston right in the tasting room. And olive oil. And wine. Weekdays, enjoy bocce ball. Picnics are also a good idea here. You can also walk through the farm's many varied crop blocks, something you won't find anywhere else.

Wines: all of the wines are certified Biodynamic.

Skipstone* - Private Enclave (Geyserville)

There are some wineries that people might think of as Napa estates, but sometimes they're located in Sonoma. This is one. It's the home of a well to do tech mogul, who is in love with wine and values organic viticulture. With a $50 tasting fee (and $100 wines), it's not for everyone, but the experience of visiting is lovely and personal - and the wine quality is high up in the collector zone, as you might suspect, since French rock star winemaker Philip Melka consults here.

Wines: all of the wines are from the certified organic estate vineyards.

Medlock Ames - Bucolic Mountain Ranch  (Healdsburg)

The conveniently located tasting room in Alexander Valley (walk ins welcome)  is a fun stop, but the real joy here is visiting the estate (reservations required*), where the wines are grown and made on Bell Mountain. The winery was started by two Millennials (college bromance), and when one got rich (hedge funds), the two were able to launch their dream winery. The brand has a strong following with (but is certainly not limited to) up and coming wine drinkers (i.e. Millennials).

Wines: all of the wines are from the certified organic estate vineyards. 

Horse & Plow - Down Home (Sebastopol)

One of my personal favorites, this is a winery and tasting room even the locals love. That should tell you something. Casual and unpretentious, this winery is run by a husband and wife winemaking team who make some very fine wines for their own labels and others. But at their tasting room, you'll find vegetable starts, cider (by the bottle or growler), heirloom apple trees, and wines for everyday drinking as well as special occasions. (The Gardener label is pricier). You can relax on the hay bales, play horseshoes (not bocce, thank you) or bring a feast and enjoy at dog and family friendly picnic tables.

Wines: all of the wines are from certified organic or Biodynamic growers. 

Napa Valley

Frog's Leap* - An Agricultural Paradise (Rutherford)

The organic poster child in Napa, this by appointment only winery is a must see. From free ranging chickens and beautiful veggies to orchards ripe with peaches, the property is a celebration of nature's bounty. (Of course the vines take center stage.) Frog's Leap converted many of its growers to organic practices and certification, paying them a premium. The farmhouse architecture (designed by my friend Ned Forrest) is a marvel. Some of the most affordably priced, high quality wines in Napa can be found here. Example: their Rutherford Cabernet - $55.

Wines: nearly all of the wines come from certified organic vines.

Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey County

Ridge Vineyards - On Top of the World (Cupertino)

Ridge is world famous for a reason. Their wines rock. So does their farming. At Montebello, they have a great site that's been producing fine wine since the 1880s. For the last 50+ years, their emphasis has remained focused on preindustrial winemaking - i.e. no manipulation, additives, etc. They've also become a leader in organic farming, converting their 277 acres of estate vines (both here and in Sonoma) to certification. The winery also bottle labels ingredients in their wines so you know exactly what's inside. Starting with the 2016 vintage, its flagship Montebello will list "organic grapes" among the ingredients.

Wines: Due to the huge number of wines and vineyards they source from, it's best to ask which ones are from organic vines. (They have very well trained staff who will know). Three are the East Bench Zin (newish vines) and the Geyserville (from vines from the 1880s) as well as the Merlot.

Big Basin Vineyards - Redwoods (Boulder Creek)

Fancy a trip down winding mountain roads lined with redwoods? This is the spot to go. You can also dip into the tasting room in downtown Saratoga, but a weekend trip to the woods might be far more delightful. The organic vines surround the winery, housed in an old barn. There's plenty of rustic charm. Bring a picnic; tables (with a view of the vines) are provided.

Wines: Rattlesnake Rock Syrah, Grizzly Grenache or Homestead Block Roussanne are all from the certified organic estate vines.

---

To all of these wineries: thank you for being organic - and for being certified.

Monday, August 27, 2018

With the Loss of Boomers' Largesse, Can Better Tech Save Wineries from Flat Sales?

Can using digital systems for operations and marketing lift wine sales at the high end? That was the topic underlying at least one session of Wine Business magazine's Wine Information Technology Symposium held last week in Napa.

Some of the Direct to Consumer track breakout session panelists - Ridge Vineyards, Boisset Collection (Raymond and DeLoach Vineyards) and HALL Wines - were from wineries that grow a portion of their grapes organically or Biodynamically.

With the advent of IT to collect winery data, more and more wineries are hiring analysts to try to apply data findings in an effort to increase efficiency and make more informed decisions about winery strategy and planning.

Panelists on the Data Smart panel from L to R: Dana Vivier (Far Niente),
John Musto (Ridge Vineyards), and Leslie Berglund (WISE Academy)

The afternoon session "Data-Smart Selling & Management Decisions: Using Data to Move the Needle" was moderated by Leslie Berglund, co-founder and chair of WISE Academy, a leadership education and consulting company based in Napa.

"After years of steady growth, we see now that growth in the wine industry is leveling off. There's no more double digit growth in bottles about the $20 price point," said Dana Vivier, vice president of strategic planning of Far Niente, a Napa luxury wine producer whose Cabernet Sauvignon wines sell for $170-$235. "Direct to consumer is the one bright spot, according to Rob McMillan [of Silicon Valley Bank]....In these times, the industry has to fight to maintain its share of wallet," she said.

Private equity fund investment in wineries is another driver for increasing use of data, Vivier added.  "New private equity partners have forced us to look more closely at data," she said.

More and more wineries are now adding data analysts to their staffs and many have had to import talent from other industries and bring in new employees from outside of wine country, experts said.

"Cultures at wineries are changing based on access to real data," said Berglund. "Data feedback can be a positive and aspirational tool that motivates employees."

"In an environment were DTC metrics are available, business intelligence can really come into play," she added. Examples include letting tasting room staff know their daily and cumulative sales stats.

John Musto, formerly an analyst with Francis Ford Coppola, joined Ridge three months ago as a sales analyst. "To quote Danny Meyers, we're collecting data to connect the dots moving forward," he said. "We want to be ahead of customers, rather than reacting to where they're headed."

Bereglund noted that Ridge was the first winery to offer a wine club, back in 1977.

Berglund says most wineries are in the early days of figuring out what to do with the data they've collected.

While Ridge is in the process of beginning to understand the data, Musto said, data is being shared across teams to help improve.

"We can now see and share (internally) all the touch points of a consumer (using Salesforce's CRM) with our winery," Musto said. Tasting room staff can see the customer history of the customers coming for scheduled visits at the winery, he added, which he said the staff finds useful.

The conference was divided into three tracks - one for data, one for IT and one for DTC.

Presentations and recordings from many of the sessions can be found on the conference web site.

Industry Webinar on Organic and Biodynamic Wines with Top Experts Monty Waldin and Paul Dolan: Oct. 18

I'm happy to announce that Women of the Vine & Spirits will be offering a webinar Oct. 18 on the organic and Biodynamic sectors of the wine industry.


Though the organic sector is small in the U.S. - between one and two percent of sales and revenue - it's growing rapidly, while the rest of the industry is flat.

In the last year, Nielsen data shows U.S. off premise sales have grown 5% in revenue and 10% in volume from June 2017 to 2018.

Tim Widnes, beer and wine buyer for the Whole Foods Market in Mill Valley, and a longtime WOTVS contributor, and I are the co-organizers of the event. I'll also be the moderator.

This event is aimed at wine industry professionals and will cover very basic topics as well as the latest data, marketing and sales trends.

This event is open to all. It's free for members and $10 for non-members. Register online here.

This is a great opportunity to learn more about this growing sector of the wine industry for people who are new to the sector as well as for people who want to get in the know about the latest and greatest. Tell your friends, wine professors, wine lovers, sommeliers, wine store owners...

CATEGORY EXPERTS

Our stellar lineup includes experts on the organic and Biodynamic sectors as a whole:

Paul Dolan, industry veteran and a pioneer in the fields of organic, sustainable and Biodynamic wine; in 1987, Dolan founded Bonterra (the industry leader, which has a 25% share of all off premise sales in the organic and Biodynamic sector)

Monty Waldin, international organic and Biodynamic wine expert, Decanter leader for judging for Tuscan wines, and author of numerous books (Biodynamic Wine is the latest)

LEADING PRODUCERS

Panelists representing the winery perspective include:

• Anne Bousquet, President of Domaine Bousquet (the leading organic import from Argentina)
• Kristin Marchesi, President of Montinore Estate (the largest Biodynamic producer in the U.S., located in Oregon's Willamette Valley)

RETAILER PILOT

The webinar will also feature a cutting edge retailer's pilot project:

• Jeff Cameron, Wine and Beer Category manager, Natural Grocers
Natural Grocers is launching in-store wine shops featuring 100% certified organically or Biodynamically grown wines; its Denver store features 500 selections.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Labor Day Weekend's Taste of Sonoma: Find the Great Wines from Organic Vines

This Labor Day weekend marks the annual Taste of Sonoma with hundreds of wineries exhibiting wines from Sonoma's varied wine regions. This is your chance to taste them all in one spot (without driving from one end of the county to the other).

Check out these brands that produce 100% organic or Biodynamically grown wines.

• Eco Terreno
Don't miss the Old Vine Cab.

• Medlock Ames
Many, many wines to choose from.

• Westwood
High end Pinot Noirs and Rhone varietal wines.

Other wineries with a number of organically or Biodynamically grown wines:

• Quivira Vineyards
Organically grown Rhone varietals and their Fig Tree Sauvignon Blanc.

• Ridge Vineyards
Look for the East Bench Zin (and others).

Other exhibitors have fine wine from organic vines (Alexander Valley Vineyards, Benziger, Carol Shelton, DeLoach Vineyards, Imagery, and a few more) but their organic or Biodynamically grown wines are among their highest priced offerings or smaller lot wines so those are typically not poured at big tastings. (But who knows - you might get lucky.)

It all takes place at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park on Sept. 1.

Click here for details.

Santa Rosa Becomes Second Wine Country City to Ban Roundup (Glyphosate) in City Parks and Grounds

The Santa Rosa City Council voted this week to eliminate the use of Roundup, including glyphosphate on city owned properties.

The Press Democrat wrote that Brandalyn Tramel, "city purchasing agent, said the contractor had used glyphosate 'sparingly and as a last resort' since 2014."

Megan Kaun, a former Santa Rosa resident (who now lives in Sebastopol), began campaigning against the use of the chemical in a park where her children played in 2015, organizing local residents to pull weeds so that the carcinogen would not be used in the park.

After the city council vote, Kaun said (in an email), "I still can't believe it happened! After 3 years of 'collaborative arguing' with the city, it turns out that banning pesticides [herbicides included] was as easy as making a call to their landscape contractor. Go figure."

"That being said I knew it would never have happened without supporters spreading the word about the issue and putting pressure on our politicians and civil servants. Now if we could only get the county to stop spraying roadside ditches."

"I had a long conversation with the Recreation and Parks superintendent and it seems like their non-toxic maintenance plan moving forward is sound. They will use two organic products (tested and approved by NonToxic Irvine) - Suppress and Finalsan - and will also do more weed whacking and hand pulling."

Kaun had earlier organized parents to weed a local park her children played in, as an alternative to having the city spray Roundup there.
A weeding party - parents weeded the park to prevent the city
from spraying Roundup on the grounds where their children play
Novato, another North Bay community, also voted to end the use of glyphosate this month. A year ago Petaluma said it was exploring alternatives to the herbicide.

Benicia, the city in which the school groundskeeper got cancer from using a glyphosate based herbicide, has already banned its use. (This is the famous case in which Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million including $250 million in punitive damages this month). Richmond has also banned glyphosate from city grounds.

Though the city will no longer use glyphosate on city grounds, area vintners do use large quantities of the herbicide.

In 2016, wine growers in Sonoma used more than 74,000 pounds of it on Sonoma vineyards over 48,000 acres.

Local citizens are still concerned about impacts on children and schools from vineyard chemicals.

In a letter to the editor of the Press Democrat, Reuben Weinzveg wrote this week that "over 100 schools in Sonoma County are within 1/4 mile of a farm that uses pesticides [agrochemicals]. The majority of these farms are vineyards, which is worrisome because 98 percent of the vineyards in Sonoma are treated with synthetic pesticides [agrochemicals]."

Sebastopol banned glyphosate from most school grounds and city parks in 2000.