In this 2017 photo, wine barrels are shown at a vineyard adjacent to the Walla Walla Vintners winery in Walla Walla. (AP Photo/Nicholas K. Geranios, file)

In this 2017 photo, wine barrels are shown at a vineyard adjacent to the Walla Walla Vintners winery in Walla Walla. (AP Photo/Nicholas K. Geranios, file)

More sustainable Washington wines are on the way

Labels will indicate grape growers met guidelines in 9 areas, including water, pest and labor practices.

By Emry Dinman / Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

WALLA WALLA — A decades-long mission to tout sustainable practices in the Washington wine industry may soon come to fruition. When completed, consumers will be able to look for a Sustainable WA logo on bottles of red, white or otherwise.

A collaboration between the Washington Winegrowers Association, Washington Wine Industry Foundation and the Washington State Wine Commission, the Sustainable WA label would formalize longstanding sustainability practices in the state, said Katlyn Straub, communications specialist for the Winegrowers Association.

Though final metrics are still being worked out, grape growers hoping to receive the Sustainable WA certification will have to meet performance guidelines in nine different areas, including water management, pest management and even human resources such as labor practices, an increasingly common facet of agricultural certification programs, Straub said.

Though a grower would not need to receive perfect scores in every area, they would need to have a sufficient average score across various criteria to receive the Sustainable WA label.

For more than 20 years, Straub said, the Washington wine industry has realized that sustainability best practices were an aspect of the final product that growers and winemakers could “hang their hat on.” Industry groups developed two sustainability guides, VineWise and WineryWise, that taught growers how to meet best practices, she said.

“Washington’s always had this sustainable-by-nature tagline,” Straub said. “You can’t have an industry that’s been thriving 100-plus years that isn’t sustainable.”

But in recent years, the sustainability of wine has increasingly proven to be marketable, Straub said.

“Sustainability has been a buzzword for a while now, but intentional sustainability practices has become quite a topic within many (agricultural) industries, including the wine industry,” she said.

Data from Wine Intelligence, an industry analytics group, showed that consumers were increasingly demanding sustainability claims in the products they were drinking, she said, leading many in the state’s wine industry to push for a formalized certification program.

Dozens of professionals in the industry across various disciplines, from growers to marketers, began collaborating on this new program, and the industry raised around $200,000 to fund its launch. Sure Harvest, a California company that helped develop the VineWise and WineryWise programs, was contracted to create state-specific metrics for a Washington sustainability certification program.

“Washington is different from California and Oregon, and some of the programs out there don’t really fit for our growers,” Straub said. “They wanted a statewide program that allowed for intentionality and regional nuance.”

Unlike the informal VineWise and WineryWise programs, the Sustainable WA certification would require an independent audit of vineyards by third-party auditors every three years, Straub said, to verify that growers are meeting requirements.

After two years of development, the first certification program will soon be tested by six growers participating in a beta version looking at the certification metrics and providing additional feedback. At least one grower will be from the Walla Walla Valley, Straub said, and program managers are working to ensure the certification is obtainable across different regions and differently sized operations.

“We want to show that the program is affordable for all levels of growers,” she said.

This initial certification program will only be for grape growers, though industry groups eventually want to add a label for sustainable wineries, Straub said. For now, wine made from certified grapes will be able to use the Sustainable WA logo on their bottles.

Industry groups will continue to take feedback from growers as the certification program is finalized in the coming year, Straub said.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

An egg-producing chicken is in a pasture at Wilcox Family Farms, Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Roy, Wash. Eggs have been one item that can be hard to find on grocery store shelves during the outbreak of the coronavirus, even though the closure of restaurants and large corporate kitchens has led to a decreased demand for food service egg products. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
State asks live poultry sales to end because of bird flu

The 30-day closure is not mandatory. There are still no reported infections in Snohomish County.

King County Superior Court Judge Roger  Rogoff stands in court, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Seattle. Rogoff announced Monday that a settlement had been reached in a lawsuit brought by survivors and family members of people killed in a 2014 Oso, Wash., landslide against the state of Washington and a timber company that logged an area above the site of the slide. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Former judge to head office probing Washington police shootings

The state’s new independent office will review cases where police use deadly force.

Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis, wearing an eagle feather honoring her Native American heritage, smiles as she speaks with media members after being named to the state Supreme Court Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Olympia, Wash. Montoya-Lewis was appointed to the bench by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who said she will be the first Native American justice to serve on the state's highest court. Montoya-Lewis, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta and a descendant of the Pueblo of Laguna Indian tribes, will be sworn in next month to fulfill the remaining year of Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst's term, and the seat will be open for election in 2020. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
State Supreme Court Justice Montoya-Lewis on medical leave

Officials with the court didn’t release additional details, citing the justice’s desire for privacy.

Police: Arby’s manager in Washington peed in milkshake mix

He said he did it for sexual gratification, and he’s “almost sure” he threw the tainted bag away.

Andrew Cain Kristovich (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Oregon fugitive with Snohomish County ties arrested in Nevada

Andrew Cain Kristovich escaped from a federal prison camp in April. He was considered armed and dangerous.

FILE - In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max jetliner was indicted Thursday, Oct. 14,2021 by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines to keep canceling flights at high level for weeks

Flight cancellations since April will continue. The chaos has been damaging for Seattle’s hometown airline.

FILE - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks March 23, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Months into a complex trial over their role in flooding Washington with highly addictive painkillers, the nation's three largest opioid distributors have agreed to pay the state $518 million. Ferguson announced the deal Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
DNA from 372 state sex offenders added to national database

Officials have been unable to collect samples from some offenders, including three in Snohomish County.

FILE - Randy Weaver, the object of the Ruby Ridge siege, visits with the media at the main FBI roadblock outside the Freemen compound in Montana on April 27, 1996. Weaver, patriarch of a family that were involved in an 11-day Idaho standoff in 1992 with federal agents that left three people dead and served as a spark for the growth of anti-government extremists, has died at the age of 74. His death was announced Thursday, May 12, 2022, in a Facebook post by daughter Sara Weaver, who lives near Kalispell, Montana. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
Randy Weaver, participant in Ruby Ridge standoff, dies at 74

The 11-day standoff in the Idaho Panhandle mountains transfixed the nation in August of 1992.

Barbara Williams, center, holds an umbrella for her mother, tribal chair Cecile Hansen, right, as they prepare to join other members of the Duwamish Indian Tribe in performing an "honor song" Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008 near a location in Seattle where bones were found during construction activities near the Pike Place Market. The song was performed because the tribe felt at the time that the remains could have been from an ancient member of the tribe, but city authorities said later in the day that the remains appeared to have been from a small animal. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Duwamish Tribe sues again for federal recognition

Tthe lawsuit demands the court set aside the denial of recognition in 2015 by the Obama administration.

A pod of transient orcas, known as T124As, surfacing near Tacoma. (Craig Craker/Orca Network)
Sightings of mammal-eating orcas increasing in Puget Sound

The killer whales enjoy a diet of harbor seals, sea lions, porpoises and the occasional bird or squid.

FILE - Bill Gates discusses his book "How to Prevent the Next Pandemic" at the 92nd Street Y on May 3, 2022, in New York. Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates posted on Twitter on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, that he tested positive for COVID-19. He said he was experiencing mild symptoms and was following the experts' advice by isolating until he is healthy again. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Bill Gates says he has COVID, experiencing mild symptoms

The billionaire philanthropist said he will isolate until he is again healthy.

FILE - Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin enters the house chambers at the state Capitol building on Jan. 10, 2022 in Boise, Idaho. McGeachin, a GOP candidate for governor, on Monday, May 9, 2022, called on incumbent Republican Gov. Brad Little to call a special session to eliminate rape and incest as legal exceptions to Idaho's abortion law. The law would go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger, File)
Idaho lieutenant governor wants harshest U.S. abortion ban

Janice McGeachin is angling for state lawmakers to eliminate exceptions for rape and incest.