Early Sustainability Advocates Remain Believers   View email in your browser

Sustainability Effort Celebrates 15 Years
February 2018

Early adopters: Jerry Lohr (left) and Steve Lohr

Jerry Lohr's father was farming soybeans sustainably long before anyone used the term. The South Dakota-raised founder of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Jerry Lohr inherited his father’s reverence for healthy soil and was an early advocate for sustainable practices in his California vineyards. When Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers began discussing joint sustainability efforts, Lohr was at the table. The organization that emerged from those talks, California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), is now celebrating its 15th year of education and advocacy. In light of that milestone, it seems fitting to reminisce with Jerry and to look ahead with his son, Steve, J. Lohr’s chief executive and the current chair of CSWA.
 

Jerry, you were an outspoken early supporter of CSWA. Why did this seem like a good idea to you?
 
I’m 81 years old but I’m still a South Dakota farm boy. My grandparents would never leave any soil bare in winter so our farm was much more prosperous than others. Nobody was talking about sustainability then, but the neighbors’ land blew away in dust storms and ours didn’t. So I was an early adopter of no-till methods in our vineyards.
 
Over fifteen years ago, we had a group called Wine Vision that wanted to get a formal sustainability effort going, but there were two schools of thought: Some wanted to be able to earn a “certified” sticker that you could put on your bottles. Bob Gallo (of E & J Gallo) and I strongly pushed for a different concept, the idea of continuous improvement.


Steve, what do you recall of those early discussions?
 
There were many conversations about bringing wineries and growers together to spread sustainable practices statewide. Some people were tentative. Many weren’t sure what sustainability meant, if it was going to increase costs, or if it should be more of a regional effort. But, frankly, a statewide program made sense because we had two organizations—Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers—with the financial and technical ability to expand the effort statewide and make some real change. One thing that distinguished our program in the beginning is that we focused on both vineyards and wineries.
 

Has the program evolved over the years?
 
Steve: When it first started, it was strictly self-assessment. The CSWA handbook, which is quite a tome, gave people a road map to improve. One major advance came in 2010 when we went beyond self-assessment to “certified sustainable” via a third-party audit. That change helped a lot of people because these auditors see a lot of similar organizations and have great outside perspective. Certainly, it helped retailers, restaurateurs and distributors who wanted to say, “This vineyard or winery is sustainable” and know that the supplier’s claim had been third-party verified.


What impact do you think CSWA has had over its 15 years? Have you seen changes in attitudes among your fellow vintners and grape growers?
 
Jerry: Dramatically. Employee relations, recycling, every facet of the industry has changed. We are beyond the early-adopter stage. The industry in general has embraced sustainability, and certainly the young people coming into the industry are very keen on it and wanting to experiment. There are still people who don’t want to do the paperwork but are following sustainable practices anyway.
 
Steve: There was some resistance to certification initially. Some growers were afraid that if they didn’t jump on the program, wineries might not take their grapes. But I have to give credit to our staff at CSWA. They have done hundreds of workshops over the past 10 years, leading people through self-assessment and answering questions, and now there’s a high rate of adoption for sustainability. Today 127 wineries and nearly 1,100 vineyards producing more than 200 million cases a year are certified sustainable through our program.

Classroom al fresco: CSWA workshop

Steve, what do you hope to accomplish during your tenure as CSWA chair?
 
At the most basic level, continued communication with trade, media and consumers about how hard we work in California to be sustainable—to do the right thing for the environment, the people we employ, and the community. We’re leading the world in sustainable business practices. At CSWA, we routinely look at what similar organizations are doing in other countries, and our program is among the most rigorous, comprehensive, and transparent.
 

Jerry, do you have any advice for Steve in his role as CSWA chair?
 
To build as strong a base as you can, to listen to what younger people want to do and then to integrate those ideas. It’s about keeping people moving together and keeping momentum. Constant improvement is key, as is sharing with the rest of the industry. Those who are early adopters need to share what they learn.
 

How has your participation in CSWA changed
J. Lohr Vineyards & Winery?

 
Steve: We started our own sustainability committee in 2008. Between J. Lohr Vineyards and J. Lohr Winery, there are 21 of us on the committee, and we get together every quarter for an afternoon to talk about what we are doing to advance our sustainable practices. It gives us greater focus. Sustainability has become part of our daily lives.


Copyright 2018 Wine Institute

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What’s New?

CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE Annual Report Just Released:
The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) has released its first annual CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE report, highlighting the accomplishments of the 127 wineries and 1099 vineyards in California that are Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE). In 2017, the certification program saw a 46% growth in the number of certified vineyards and 20% growth in the number of certified wineries. Read the full press release HERE.
Third-Party Programs Approved to Assist Growers with Compliance in Napa County and Sonoma Creek Watershed:

Vineyard properties in Napa County and the Sonoma Creek watershed with five or more acres planted to winegrapes are required to comply with a new water quality control permit adopted last year. The Regional Water Board approved Third-Party Programs to assist growers in complying with the new permit. The Third-Party Programs include the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) program, the Sonoma and Napa Resource Conservation Districts (RCD) LandSmart program, and the California Land Stewardship Institute's Fish Friendly Farming program. Learn more about using the CSWA program HERE.
Seasonal Recipes

Enjoy Wine Institute's fresh, seasonal, easy-to-prepare recipes with California wine pairing suggestions HERE

White Wine Poached Pears Stuffed with Chocolate, Dried Plums and Hazelnuts

Did You Know? 

74% of the total California wine case production is produced in a CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE winery!
Resources • Publications

California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Workbook:  Download individual chapters or the entire workbook to learn more about sustainability in your vineyard or winery HERE.
Workshops & Webinars:

March 14:  Sustainable Winegrowing and Certification Webinar,10:00–11:30 am

April 17:  Sustainable Winegrowing and Certification Webinar,10:00–11:30 am
Down to Earth: a monthly newsletter celebrating the commitment of California vintners and growers to sustainable winegrowing and winemaking.
 
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