DeLille Cellars is now working with our vineyard partners, and with our own estate, Grand Ciel Vineyard, to apply for certification with L.I.V.E. (Low Input Viticulture & Enology - http://www.liveinc.org). LIVE is a non-profit organization that promotes and certifies sustainable vineyard practices. We are planning that soon, all of our fruit will be grown in a green and sustainable manner so that we can continue to make the best, most natural and authentic wines for many years to come. We are dedicated to do our part so that we have the best possible world in which to make them. We are also applying to be certified by Salmon-Safe (http://www.salmonsafe.org). Important to the Northwest, Salmon-Safe is an independent nonprofit organization devoted to restoring agricultural and urban watersheds so that salmon can spawn and thrive.
Grape growers have always been a strong advocate for green farming. No other product besides wine has ever been described in terms of the soil or “terroir” from which their product is grown. Because this concept of terroir is so important to fine winegrowing regions around the world, it is natural for us to want to protect and preserve the soils and environment that give us so much.
It is important to note that Washington State due to its own nature is one of the most environmentally friendly wine growing regions in the world. In large part because of the lack of moisture in Eastern Washington, mold and mildew pressure is much lower than most vineyard regions. This means that we can cut down on the use of sulfur and copper as compared to other areas. Our sandy soils stop pests like phylloxera, so we can plant vines with natural rootstocks. Our colder winters also prohibit other pests like sharpshooters from spreading, so we can control them without harsh chemicals. Stating this, Washington State is not without any pests and disease issues that may threaten our crops and need environmentally sound solutions.
As the need for green agriculture has become more and more self evident, it has taken on three different techniques over the years. These are organic, biodynamic and sustainable farming. Organic farming is the original, and it has certainly made great strides towards protecting the planet and giving us wholesome healthy products. However, organic farming is designed for traditional crops and is ridged. It doesn’t take into consideration problems unique to grape growing and our own unique region. We haven’t seen the highest level of wines come from these farming techniques. In contrast, biodynamic farming is now producing some of the finest wines in the world, especially in France. Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming that has its basis in a spiritual world-view (first propounded by Rudolf Steiner), which treats farms as unified and individual organisms. This philosophy emphasizes balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil, plants, animals as a closed, self-nourishing system. The importance of biodynamic cannot be denied, but my travels have taught me to feel that it still favors old world issues. It is also for those who are committed to holistic practices even when they are not always quantifiable.
Sustainable agriculture is the pragmatic solution to green farming. It simply refers to the ability of a farm to produce food indefinitely, without causing severe or irreversible damage to ecosystem health. In 1989, the American Agronomy Society adopted the following definition for sustainable agriculture: "A sustainable agriculture is one that, over the long term, enhances environmental quality and the resource base on which agriculture depends; provides for basic human food and fiber needs; is economically viable; and enhances the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole."
The four cornerstones of sustainable farming are 1) to be environmentally sound, 2) economically viable, 3) produce a high quality product, and 4) safe and harmless human working environment. It just makes sense that you need all four goals to sustain a farm or vineyard.
In essence, sustainable farming involves the integration of a business into its environment, while at the same time sustaining or even improving the quality of the environment. This goes much further than simply reducing chemicals. It takes the best principles of all green farming and puts them into a workshop and workbook form that starts a process to reduce the farmer’s carbon footprint and become a greener producer.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) A system of controlling insect and diseases by a thorough understanding of the life cycle of the pests and the plants. This includes pest’s predators. Chemical controls are used as a last resort.
Use of Organic Fertilizers It has long been known that the addition of nitrogen through synthetic fertilizers acts like steroids to the plant that promotes growth but not sustainable health to the plant. Organic fertilizers, such as compost, compost teas and manures release nitrogen and other helpful components at a slower more natural pace and helps build healthier soils with better microbiology.
Biodiversity A monoculture like a farm is not found in nature and is unbalanced. Planting cover crops and assorted grasses and wildflowers can correct this imbalance and are better for the soils. They can also provide a natural habitat for pest predators and again reducing the need for pesticides.
Canopy management and Leaf Stripping Getting good airflow through the vines can prevent molds and mildews without chemicals.
Hawk, owl and bat houses To naturally prevent gophers and rodents.
Water Management through drip irrigation Monitoring the amount of water and where it goes can soften the impact on the environment. This is paramount for Salmon-Safe certification.
Use of 'Soft' Pesticides and Reduced Pesticide Rates If a pesticide application is necessary, growers are encouraged to use the most environmental sound material available. Such materials as organically certified oils. Furthermore, the minimum rate of pesticide per acre necessary to achieve control is encouraged. This includes using 'every-other-row' spraying.