California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance Launches Third-Party Certification Program:

Jan 14, 2010, 09:05 ET from California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance

2009 Sustainable Winegrowing Progress Report Also Released

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), established by Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers, announced today the introduction of a statewide certification program that provides third-party verification of a winery or vineyard's adherence to a "process of continuous improvement" in the adoption and implementation of sustainable winegrowing practices.  The news was shared at a morning press conference at the Merchant's Exchange Building in San Francisco.  Open to all California wineries and vineyards as a voluntary option, CSWA's new program, Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing, requires applicants to meet 58 prerequisite criteria to be eligible for the program, assess winery and/or vineyard operations, create and implement an annual action plan and show improvement over time.

The goals of the new certification program are to enhance transparency, encourage statewide participation and advance the entire California wine industry toward best practices in environmental stewardship, conservation of natural resources and socially equitable business practices.  Three years in the making, the certification program is the first statewide program available to both wineries and vineyards.

"Third-party certification helps California's wine community speed efforts to create a healthier environment, stronger communities and vibrant businesses," said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, Wine Institute President and CEO.  "The program reflects the California wine community's commitment to continually produce the finest quality wine and grapes with practices that are environmentally and socially responsible."

"The scale on which California's wine community is adopting and expanding sustainable practices is truly impressive, as the state is the fourth leading wine producer in the world," said California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) Board Chairman Kim Ledbetter Bronson of Vino Farms in Lodi.  "CSWA's mission is to bring recognition to the California wine industry as a change leader in the global marketplace and serve as a model for other industries."

To date, 1,566 vineyard and winery organizations representing 68.1 percent of California's 526,000 wine acres and 62.5 percent of the state's 240 million case shipments have evaluated their vineyards and wineries with CSWA's Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Self-Assessment Workbook.  Wine Institute and CAWG established the Sustainable Winegrowing Program in 2002 and incorporated CSWA a year later as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to continue implementing the program.

"When you discuss sustainability within the California wine community, it is not just a statement of a program but an imbedded philosophy that we live by each and every day," said CSWA Board Chairman Chris Savage, Senior Director of Environmental Affairs at E. & J. Gallo Winery.  "It is the commitment to this philosophy and the very positive impact it has on our businesses that will ensure the continued growth of the California wine industry long into the future."  

"With a majority of our industry already involved in CSWA's Sustainable Winegrowing Program, the new certification option evolved as the appropriate next step," said CSWA Executive Director Allison Jordan.  "Every organization is at a different point in the sustainability journey so our program allows businesses to use their own baselines to determine a set of goals based on their region, operation and other factors, and then focus their resources on the practices that will make the most difference for their company, the environment and the community, continually improving year after year."

Seventeen companies have received certification for some or all of their vineyard and winery operations after participating in a pilot program to test the certification requirements and offer feedback.  They are: Clos LaChance Wines; Concannon Vineyard/Concannon Winery;  Constellation Wines U.S.; Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards; Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines; Fetzer Vineyards/Bonterra Vineyards; E. & J. Gallo Winery; Goldeneye Winery; The Hess Collection; Honig Vineyard & Winery; J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines; Kunde Family Estate; Meridian Vineyards/Taz Vineyards; Monterey Pacific, Inc.; Roberts Vineyard Services; Rodney Strong Wine Estates; and Vino Farms.


CSWA also released its 2009 Wine Community Sustainability Report at the January 13 event, measuring the California wine industry's adoption over five years of 227 best management practices from the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Self-Assessment Workbook.

For participants who have self-assessed their operations against the 227 best management practices in 14 areas from the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Self-Assessment Workbook, the 2009 report indicates that a majority of the 227 practices showed an improvement in average self-assessment scores since the 2004 report.  The strengths of the state's industry are practices for viticulture, soil management and ecosystem management.  Areas identified as opportunities for improvement include energy efficiency, materials handling, waste reduction and environmentally preferred purchasing.  Practices receiving scores in the middle ground are vineyard water management, pest management, winery water conservation and quality, human resources, neighbors and community, and air quality.

CSWA has increased participation in its Sustainable Winegrowing Program.  The 1,566 California vineyard and winery organizations in the Sustainable Winegrowing Program represent a 66 percent increase in the number of wine businesses participating since the 2004 Sustainability Report.  Since the program's launch in 2002, it has held 200 self-assessment workshops and 184 educational events with 9,239 workshop attendees.

A comprehensive press release on CSWA certification and the 2009 Wine Community Sustainability Report is available online at  In addition, a three-minute video providing overall background on California's sustainable winegrowing practices can be viewed and downloaded in various formats at:

Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers are the primary funders of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, and have received additional support from American Farmland Trust, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA's Risk Management Agency, California's Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The next Sustainability Report will be published in 2014.

SOURCE California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance