Grower Spotlight on Sustainability: Rosenthal Vineyards
With a long-standing reputation for professionalism and quality winegrape production, Lake County winegrape growers take sustainability seriously. Most growers use sustainable practices, participate in sustainable seminars and tailgates, and support the Master Vigneron Academy®, which has graduated more than 80 vineyard supervisors since it was established by the Lake County Winegrape Commission in 2012.
Over the past few years, the number of Lake County vineyards that have earned a Sustainability Certification has increased substantially with a total of 53 certified vineyards in 2018, 71 certified vineyards in 2019, and 102 certified vineyards today, which comprise nearly two-thirds of planted vineyard acreage.
Rosenthal Vineyards, owned by Monica and David Rosenthal, is one example that has met the stringent requirements to be Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA).
“Farming sustainably is something we have naturally strived to achieve year after year,” says long-time viturculturist and winemaker, Dave Rosenthal. “We are proud to have achieved official recognition for our environmentally conscious farming efforts.”
Rosenthal and his wife, Monica farm and manage the wine grapes located on two adjoining parcels in Middletown in the County of Lake. Rosenthal’s parents, Janet and Pat (deceased) Rosenthal, purchased the Hoodoo Creek Ranch parcel in the early 1970’s which ‘kick started’ his professional winegrowing career.
“We had to revive the abandoned 20-acre vineyard block found on the Hoodoo Creek Ranch,” says Rosenthal. “More than 40 years ago, my folks, siblings, (two sisters, one brother) and I worked long, hard weekends to bring that field back into production. Suddenly I found myself at UC Davis studying winemaking and viticulture.”
“Fast forward to the mid ‘90’s, and my wife, Monica and our kids are working the grape vines,” continues Rosenthal. We bought an adjoining parcel and doubled the vineyard acreage making the wine grape growing segment of the operation more economically sustainable.”
The Rosenthal farming operation is small by industry standards totaling just under 40 acres of wine grapes although the total acreage between both parcels spans well over 100 acres.
“Part of farming sustainably is allowing for open space and wildlife corridors,” Rosenthal comments. “Although the individual vineyard blocks are fenced to keep deer and wildlife from eating the grapes or destroying vines, the areas in between provide room for South Lake County critters to thrive amongst the oaks, pines and manzanita.”
As a graduate from UC Davis with a degree in winemaking, Rosenthal is the Winemaker and General Manager for Yokayo Wine Company in Ukiah. In addition to his ‘day job’ and farming wine grapes, he and his wife also manage R Vineyards, a small wine brand featuring grapes grown from the Middletown Hoodoo Creek and Rosenthal vineyard blocks.
The sustainably farmed Hoodoo Creek block includes a three-acre section of gnarling, head-pruned Zinfandel vines originally planted in 1937. These grapes, made into wine, are now featured in the 2017 vintage of Old Vine Zinfandel; a limited production ‘R Vineyards’ wine recently awarded a Double Gold Medal at the 2020 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
The Certified Sustainable program provides independent third-party verification of farming practices including the soil health, water and energy conservation, habitat preservation, natural pest control, fair and equitable management of crews, and other key areas that provide benefits to the land, natural resources, and communities. Introduced in 2010, Certified Sustainable is administered by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA). For more information about sustainable winegrowing requirements or to become certified visit sustainablewinegrowing.org.
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