Not only does the Pacific Northwest thrive as one of the most coveted wine regions, it's also making waves for impressive and effective efforts in the realm of sustainability.
Oregon-based A to Z Wineworks, which was acquired by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in September 2022, was recently awarded prestigious status for its climate action work. The winery hopes that receiving Silver Status Membership with International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) is merely the start of the progress ahead.
A to Z joined IWCA last year, inspired by the group's efforts to address the climate crisis by reducing carbon emissions and becoming Net Zero by 2050. Highlights of the winery's sustainability practices include:
- Improvements in water infrastructure, which saved more than 1.5 million gallons from 2021 to 2022.
- A commitment to capital investments that include reducing Global Greenhouse emissions next year by adding at least 10 EV charging stations and working toward solar power installations on campus roofs.
- Maintaining LIVE and Salmon-Safe certifications, farming all Estate vineyards organically and biodynamically.
A to Z is also committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030, and it transitioned to using ultra-light glass bottles of 438g for the majority of brand volume.
Amy Prosenjak, President of Oregon Brands Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the largest winery in the Pacific Northwest, said the recent addition of the brands A to Z and REX HILL to their portfolio — which already includes Erath Winery — gives Ste. Michelle a substantial presence in Oregon.
"We will continue to provide quality wines, including the state's signature variety of Pinot Noir, grown and crafted sustainably and thoughtfully from our team of wine growers and winemakers with over one hundred years of combined experience in Oregon," she said.
In terms of the recent IWCA accolades, Prosenjak said, "It was important to partner with an organization dedicated to the important work of reducing carbon emissions. The practice of sustainability is entrenched in our core values, and IWCA is the ideal group to help lead our efforts in the Pacific Northwest. The Silver Status Membership recognizes our commitment to tracking and reducing our carbon impact with the ultimate goal of becoming Net Zero by 2050."
Ste Michelle Wine Estates' Chief Winemaker Juan Munoz-Oca leads the winemaking and sustainability efforts in all brand wineries in Washington, Oregon and California. He finds it incredibly encouraging to see consumers care about sustainability.
"I think this will help inspire even more producers to find value in sustainable certifications, a great first step toward a future where unsustainable is unthinkable," he said.
In Washington, which is the country's second-largest wine-producing state (of 80-plus varieties from 20 AVAs), Ste Michelle Wine Estates is excited about the development of a third-party independent sustainability certification called Sustainable WA.
"This is a very exciting development," Munoz-Oca said, "and I look forward to calling all Washington vineyards 100% sustainable certified."
For Sustainable WA, the first statewide certified sustainability program, vineyards are currently getting certified; the first bottles will be out in the market next year. Two Mountain Winery has been very involved in this new program, as has Walla Walla's Seven Hills Vineyard (which sources to many wineries). Other wineries with sustainability at the forefront of their mission include Hedges Family Estate, Amavi, Pepper Bridge, Cayuse, Analemma, Syncline, Wilridge and many more. Sustainable WA, which covers the pillars of sustainability (environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable), is a rigorous, science-based program that aims for continuous improvement.
"A little homework goes a long way," Munoz-Oca said when asked what advice he has for folks wanting to invest in sustainable wine. "Simply paying attention to back labels is a great first step. Keep an eye out for certifications like LIVE (low input viticulture and enology), Salmon Safe- and soon Sustainable WA-certified, as those are all good indicators of the producer's commitment to sustainability."
Gift-giving tips: When it comes to gifting those you love with wine, be sure to check out Chateau Ste Michelle's collections and support local businesses like Kitchen and Market; they now have locations in both Pike Place Market and Mercer Island, where they stock locally-sourced wines like a three-pack from Mark Ryan Winery. Also, Seattle-based There's a Wine for That! makes deliveries of sommelier-selected wines — prime for any occasion — easy, fun and guaranteed delicious.
Corinne Whiting is a freelance writer for Seattle Refined. Follow her work and adventures here.