Exploring Sustainable Wine Production
Sustainability in Oregon wine country: a tradition of reverence for our land
From our mystical coastlines to the lush valleys of rolling vineyards, vintners in Oregon wine country see the power of our land in each drop we pour. It’s why we place reverence for the Earth at the heart of everything we do. And it’s why we’re so proud to be leaders in stewardship and sustainability.
A dedication to sustainable production
Our reputation in the wine industry goes beyond the 75 different grapes that we cultivate and bottle. Our winemakers infuse a tradition of sustainable production into every bottle.
Representing just one per cent of total US wine production, Oregon boasts 52 per cent of all Demeter-certified biodynamic wineries in the country. And that care our winemakers put into the land shows up with each sip. While 75 per cent of Oregon wineries produce fewer than 5,000 cases annually, our wines made up an impressive seven per cent of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines from around the world in 2020.
Oregon wineries are constantly developing their sustainability practices, going beyond eco-friendly production to verify a commitment to the lands that grow our grapes.
They enjoy several third-party sustainability certifications, such as the internationally accredited LIVE certification that verifies the environmental and socially responsible wine production.
Multiple Oregon wineries are USDA organic certified as well, meaning wines are minimally processed and produced by soil without synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilisers. Others are Demeter Certified biodynamic, a label that verifies these vineyards work to operate in alignment with the ecosystem and undergo at least two years of Biodynamic stewardship.
Our state also has many wineries with Salmon-Safe certification, ensuring reduction of soil erosion and runoff, better water quality, and protection of the rivers and streams that contribute to our state’s rich biodiversity.
Oregon wineries: a history of sustainability
As a state, Oregon has implemented some of the most protective land-use policies in the country, including anti-pollution farming practices that went into law as long ago as 1889. More recently, in 1967, the Beach Bill granted public access to all 362 miles of Pacific coastline, and the groundbreaking 1971 Bottle Bill requires a deposit on beverage containers which can be redeemed by consumers when they are returned to stores.
In 1973, winemakers pushed for vineyard zones – often disregarded for not being prime farmland – to be preserved through Senate Bill 100. It has allowed many vineyards in the Willamette Valley to flourish without the impending threat of development.
Today, we’ve seen 50 vineyard and forest landowners sign the Oak Accord in an effort to restore 1,500 acres of the Willamette Valley, where more than 97 per cent of historic native oak woodlands and savannas have disappeared.
So many of the wineries in Oregon take great care to celebrate and protect the lands they tend. Here are a few of the vineyards doing wonderful things to honour their Oregon roots and put environmental stewardship into practice.
Tucked into the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon, biodynamic winery Cowhorn has built the first Living Building Challenge tasting room in the world. This international certification upholds the most progressive and rigorous standards of green buildings. The building also received LEED certification, joining a select few buildings that are net-positive or net-zero energy.
King Estate Winery in the Willamette Valley is the largest certified biodynamic vineyard in North America. It has also become known as a raptor release site. They’ve installed raptor boxes around the property, working with these birds of prey, as well as rehabilitated barn owls, screech owls, and American kestrels as a form of natural pest control. The property has more than 40 acres of oak woodlands, preserving a habitat for around 200 species of plants and animals, six of which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The Ponzi sisters run this Willamette Valley winery, maintaining LIVE certification for sustainability and prioritising healthy soil by using cover crops instead of chemicals. They’ve also developed a sustainable, four-storey winery that maximises the land’s natural slope to create gravity-flow processing of the wine, meaning there is no need for additional pumps and pressure.
Sustainable farmers in the Willamette Valley come together with two leaders of Oregon’s sustainable winemaking movement, Bree Stock, MW, and Chad Stock, to create the personal wines crafted at Limited Addition. These farmers and vintners are pioneering new standards for low-intervention winemaking, developing alternative varieties through slow, intentional farming and winemaking efforts.
Willakenzie Estate is located just south of Portland, and puts the concept of place at the heart of everything they do. They are among the signatories of the Oak Accord, mostly Willamette Valley wineries, on a mission to restore the precious and vanishing ecosystems of Oregon’s historic oak woodlands and savannas.
Proudly leading the way
Sustainability is more than just a mission for Oregon wineries. It’s a key pillar of how we grow and operate our businesses. Oregon is leading the way in terms of sustainable production, an effort that can be tasted in each drop of the wines our lands produce.
The Oregon Wine Board is proud to support wineries as they find new ways of bringing environmental stewardship into the heart of our state’s viticulture. We invite you to explore our activities further and taste the difference of our state’s wines for yourself. One sip, and we’re sure you’ll agree: well-loved land makes for an extraordinary vintage.