Sustainability matters to Santa Barbara’s wine industry. Natural forces play a huge role in the winemaking process and what influences the environment is what eventually ends up in the bottle. For many winemakers and grape growers, being eco-conscious is much more than a quality-driven or commercial concern. Their dedication to green practices is fueled by a desire to protect and preserve natural resources for the betterment of the community and future generations.
WHAT MAKES A WINE GREEN?
There are a variety of ways wines can be categorized as “green.” The spectrum begins with “organic” wines. That label simply means the wine is made with organically grown grapes. Studies have shown that organic wines have more health benefits than non-organic wines due to their heartier skins.
“Biodynamic” wines take the sustainability factor up a notch, integrating science with the spirit of nature—like taking cues from moon cycles. The biodynamic style of organic farming is based on principles introduced by the famous philosopher and scientist, Dr. Rudolf Steiner, in 1924. According to the Biodynamics Association, biodynamism is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition.
“Natural” wines are very on-trend now. Natural wines are organic and what makes them “natural” is the absence of additives and processing aids. Intervention during the fermenting process is kept to a minimum and there’s no filtering. As a result, natural wines have a rawer quality and tend to look cloudier. These wines are well suited to purists and more adventurous palates!
“SIP Certified” wineries are the highest level of green. Not only are they natural, organic or biodynamic, the “Sustainability in Practice” certification program looks at every aspect of the business, including farm labor, energy conservation and water quality.
The following Santa Barbara wineries have all earned their SIP Certification and we’ve noted some extra organic and biodynamic credentials.
Ampelos Vineyard and Cellars was the very first vineyard in the U.S. to be certified in all three practices: biodynamic farming, organic farming and sustainability in practice (SIP).
Brave & Maiden Estate farms their Santa Ynez vineyards sustainably.
Byron Vineyard and Winery produces pinot noirs from a few legendary vineyards, including their estate Nielsen Vineyard first planted in 1964, which served as a model of sustainability for the region.
Cambria Estate Winery prides themselves in keeping the land wild and taking sustainable farming measures like rotating cover crops, composting and water conservation.
Fiddlehead Cellars specializes in cool-climate pinot noir and sauvignon blanc made by pioneering female winemaker, Kathy Joseph, who has long been committed to sustainable viticulture. For a behind-the-scenes look into Kathy Josephs’s storied history, tune in to Episode 6 of “Two Glasses In” podcast.
Foxen Vineyard & Winery ascribes to a sustainable and minimal intervention philosophy to let the natural character of the grapes and vineyards shine through in each vintage.
J. Wilkes are SIP Certified and handcrafted by winemaker Wes Hagen, rated as one of the most 100 Influential Winemakers in the United States.
Presqu’ile Winery uses sustainably farmed grapes from their Santa Maria Valley vineyards and their house chef Julie Simon sources ingredients from their newly planted permaculture garden.
Riverbench Vineyard & Winery is committed to sustainable winegrowing practices that are environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically feasible. They are best known for sparkling wines produced from their 40-year old vineyard on the bank of the Sisquoc River in the Santa Maria Valley.
SUSTAINABLE WINE TOURS
If you’re interested in learning more about sustainable wines and sipping at the source, Sustainable Vine specializes in bespoke green wine tours. Depending on your party size, door-to-door travel is provided in a Tesla or Mercedes sprinter van. All tours include private, personalized tastings at a few sustainable wineries and a picnic lunch. If you’d like to support their independent small business today, consider buying a gift certificate.