For decades, Lake County winegrape growers have been at the forefront of sustainable winegrowing efforts. The Lake County Winegrape Commission is committed to fostering sustainability – to ensure Lake County vineyard operations continue to work toward the goal of certified sustainability – of being environmentally sound, socially equitable, and economically viable.
The Lake County Winegrape Commission’s Research & Education Committee continues to focus on the Sustainable Winegrowing Program (SWP). In 2012, the LCWC implemented two new programs: Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW-Certified) and the Master Vigneron Academy (MVA). These programs build on the Commission’s core promotions of “Got Elevation?” and “Lake County Rising.”
Today Lake County is home to more than 30 wineries and 180 growers with over 9,400 acres producing winegrapes. “We have gone from historical to traditional to professional,” notes Peter Molnar, Past Chair of the LCWC. “Sustainable growing efforts are central to Lake County’s approach. While more than 70 percent of Lake County growers have participated in the Code of Sustainable Winegrape Practices Self-Assessment Workbook, the LCWC wants to see our growers take the next step in sustainable winegrowing by obtaining third-party certification.”
To that end, the LCWC recently launched a pilot program in collaboration with the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) designed to assist owners of small vineyards become certified sustainable through reduced administrative fees and a cost share model to assist with the auditing process.
Vineyards are at the heart of producing world-class wines. Lake County winegrapes lend themselves perfectly to quality programs, and they provide a great value to North Coast wineries. But ultimately it comes down to the people. Owners, managers, foremen, and experienced vineyard workers are key to bringing out the best of our vineyards.
“Lake County has a dedicated cadre of professional winegrape growers,” said LCWC President Debra Sommerfield. “They are focused on quality, they work hard, and they care about their land, their workers, the environment, and our community.”
The areas of human resources and employee development pertain to all three “E’s” of sustainability — economically viable, socially equitable, and environmentally sound. Attracting and retaining excellent employees in vineyard operations is key to productivity and profitability. Enhancing employee professional development contributes to social equity. By appropriately developing, managing and rewarding employees, the Lake County vineyard can create a sustainable competitive advantage that will help improve productivity, efficiency, and innovation.
To support and enhance our vineyards, the LCWC has developed the Master Vigneron Academy (MVA) to increase the quality of Lake County winegrapes and wines by educating and training a core of experienced vineyard managers and foremen in industry-leading viticultural practices and leadership. The MVA provides professional development and advancement for a most important component of long-term wine quality – a professional vineyard workforce.
Key features of the Sustainable Winegrowing Program
- LCWC employs a Vineyard Certification Coach to assist growers with the certification process.
- LCWC works closely with the local CSWA auditor to facilitate third-party certification.
- LCWC shares the cost of certification – i.e., 50/50 of auditor & application fees.
- LCWC works with a range of vineyard sizes and growers.
Why should vineyards become CSWA-certified?
- Sustainability is good for the grower, industry, and consumer. Certification adds credibility and avoids “green-washing.”
- Certification documents environmental stewardship: Bottom line 3E, image/perception, community, environment and employees.
- If your vineyard is not certified, you will be left behind by your neighbors.
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