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Sonoma County Winegrowers seek 100 percent sustainability

  • Chris Rojas, left, and Abel Martinez remove debris from rows of vines at Rawah Vineyards, at Twomey Cellars, in Healdsburg on Wednesday, January 15, 2014.
    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

A wine industry trade group set out Wednesday to make Sonoma County the first place in the nation where all of its grapes are grown with sustainable farming practices.

Sonoma County Winegrowers unveiled a plan to become the nation's first 100 percent sustainable wine region through a three-phased program to be completed within the next five years.

"We realized it was really time for Sonoma County to put a stake in the ground to be a leader in sustainability," said Karissa Kruse, president of the growers' group.

The group, which represents more than 1,800 growers, announced the plan at its annual Dollars and $ense trade show at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa.

"We've come up with a plan that will bring nationwide, even worldwide, attention to Sonoma County wine grapes and grape growers," said Brad Petersen, board chairman of Sonoma County Winegrowers. "We have the opportunity to be the first wine growing region in the U.S. to accomplish this feat at a time when producers, consumers, distributors and the media are all asking for it."

Today, about 60 percent of the county's vineyards, representing about 37,000 acres, are in the process of seeking certification under the California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing, known as CSWA, Kruse said.

"I don't necessarily care where we start, I care where we end up," Kruse said.

In the first phase, growers will assess their operations, examining more than 200 factors ranging from land use, water quality, energy efficiency and carbon emissions to their employment practices, including health care benefits and training for employees.

Within four years, the group hopes to have all of the county's 59,000 acres of vineyards under assessment for their sustainable practices.

In phase two, Sonoma County Winegrowers will work with vineyard owners to achieve certification.

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