Sustainability and wine has become inextricably linked with Sonoma County. In fact, Sonoma County continues aim for being a 100% sustainable wine region by next year.
According to the latest report card published in the Sonoma County Winegrowers’ 4th Annual Sustainability Report, 92% of the county’s vineyard acres have completed the sustainability self-assessment — the first step in achieving certification. In addition, 72% of the vineyard acreage in the county — more than 42,083 acres — has been certified sustainable.
Recently, Sonoma County Winegrowers announced a plan to indicate its sustainability efforts on wine labels. To showcase this achievement, the Sonoma County Winegrowers debuted the sustainable label at the Sonoma County Winegrowers’ annual 27th Annual Dollars & $ense Seminar and Tradeshow. The organization’s initial pilot program partnered with Ferrai-Carano Vineyards and Winery and Dutton Estate Winery. The new Sonoma County sustainably grown logo label is now visible on 24,000 cases, or 284,700 bottles, of the 2017 vintage bottled and ready for sale.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TBB) -approved label went through extensive consumer testing and proprietary research to measure effectiveness. Brand guidelines were developed and adopted before the TTB-approved label was made available to qualified Sonoma County growers and winemakers starting with the 2017 vintage.
“This is such an exciting time for our sustainability program. Our growers have truly adopted sustainable winegrowing just as research shows consumers are 92% more likely to buy a sustainable wine when given a choice between it and a non-sustainable grown or made wine, and 63% are willing to pay a higher price for sustainable wine,” says Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers. “Now it is clear why Doug Bell, the global wine buyer for Whole Foods, stood here in 2015 and left us with one message — put sustainability on the bottle!”
Impact of Wildfires
While Kruse provided a variety of good news for growers and their families during the annual Dollars and $sense Seminar and Tradeshow, the fires and subsequent impact remained top of mind as many growers and their workers personally suffered from the fire’s devastation. Kruse noted that despite some public perceptions of total ruin, the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office says latest estimates show the fires caused just $1.1 million in damage to the area’s winegrape crop, which is valued at more than $586 million. Just 92 acres of the more than 60,000 vineyard acres sustained damage. However, the fires impacted everyone living in Sonoma County, with many agriculture workers suffering particularly severe impacts due to the region’s high costs and lack of affordable housing.
In light of this, the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation (SCGGF) announced a partnership with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau to establish a housing recovery fund for agricultural workers and their families who were displaced from their homes by the fires. Since the fund was announced on Oct. 18, 2017, more than $700,000 has been raised from contributors in Sonoma County, throughout California and around the world.
In December, the Foundation began distributing funds to individuals and families who were totally displaced by the fire, incurred damage to their homes, or lost wages during the historic disaster.
The funds were distributed in the form of Visa gift cards to purchase new household items, food and supplies, and to help pay utilities. To address the need for temporary or new housing, funds have also been paid by the Foundation directly to landlords for rent. As the immediate needs are met, any remaining funds will be used by the Foundation to address the long-term need for affordable housing for ag workers, especially given the total loss of homes from the fires in Sonoma County.
“We greatly appreciate the generous donation of $74,000 in gift cards to the Farm Worker Residents of Burbank Housing who were impacted by the fires,” says Larry Florin, chief executive officer of Burbank Housing. “Ag workers struggle to keep up with the rising cost of living in the North Bay and wildfire recovery which is why your donation was so important. As we delivered your gift cards from door to door, the smiles on their faces and the empty spaces under their Christmas trees made it clear what an impact your generosity would have this holiday.”