Category Archives: Agriculture

Oregon Wineries Go Green – Part II

The first part of this article explained most of the certifications and criteria that make Oregon wines green.  This article is about what wineries do to earn these certifications.

As the types of certifications grew in number, what they stood for became increasingly confusing to consumers.  The Oregon Wine Board, in an effort to make it easier for consumers who wanted to buy green wines to do so, developed Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine so consumers only need to look for only one symbol.

This symbol means that both the vineyard where the grapes were grown and the winery where the wine was made have been certified sustainable.

Currently the following wineries/vineyards have been certified:

A to Z Wineworks / REX HILL Vineyards

Adelsheim Vineyard

Amity Vineyards

Anam Cara Cellars

Anne Amie Vineyards

Argyle Winery

Bethel Heights Vineyard

Carabella Vineyard


Cristom Vineyards

Dobbes Family Estate

Domaine Drouhin Oregon

Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyard

King Estate Winery

Montinore Estate

Panther Creek Cellars

Patton Valley Vineyard

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

Ponzi Vineyards

Sokol Blosser Winery

Soter Vineyards

Stoller Vineyards

Three Angels Wine Cellar, LLC

Torii Mor Winery

WillaKenzie Estate

Willamette Valley Vineyards

Wooldridge Creek Winery

Youngberg Hill Vineyards & Inn

Zenith Vineyard

In addition to these there are many others that have one or more of the individual certifications.  Seventeen wineries have completed the Carbon Neutral Challenge process to reduce their carbon footprint to zero.

As of 2010, there were 848 vineyard and 418 wineries in Oregon.  The National Agricultural Statistics Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, indicated in its 2011 Report that 17,500 acres of grapes from 72 grape varieties were harvested in Oregon.  This is an enormous amount of land, all efforts made to reduce the impact winemaking has on the environment on this scale can’t help having an impact.

Sokol Blosser, one of Oregon’s oldest vineyards/wineries founded in 1971, was the first in the U.S. to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for its gravity-flow winemaking techniques, energy-efficient heating and cooling, and waste-water reclamation to reduce negative environmental impact.  Sokol Blosser is also certified organic by Oregon Tilth.

Stoller Vineyards is the first LEED Gold Certified vineyard with its amazing gravity-flow winemaking techniques; energy-efficient heating and cooling, and waste-water reclamation to reduce negative environmental impact.

King Estate winery has more solar panels than any other winery with 4,000 panels on just four acres.  They produce enough energy to run the winery and produce enough extra to power 100 homes.

Soter Vineyards, one of the wineries to complete the Carbon Neutral Challenge, has increased recycling and composting; installed solar panels and a more efficient cooling system for fermentation tanks; reduced weight of the wine bottles by 50%; and retrofitted pumping systems with energy-efficient motor as a result of its participation in that program.

Willamette Valley Vineyards was the first winery in the world to use cork certified through the Rainforest Alliance to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard.  From its beginning Willamette Valley Vineyards has managed the vineyard to control runoff and erosion.  One of its more unique features it that it gives its employees a gallonage stipend of biofuel to use in the cars they use to commute.

The few individual wineries mentioned here are far from the only ones making meaningful contribution to the environment and their communities.  Some on the interesting things being done include:

Using recycled glass and recycled paper products for their packaging materials

Cleaning and drying grape seeds, stems, and skins to use as feed for cattle or as compost

Providing an organic garden for employees and other employee benefits.

Using native flowers as cover crops to attract pollinators

Offering a 10 cent refund for bottles returned for the winery

Oregon’s wineries have become green and are passionate about it.  They encourage each other to try new things and adopt new practices.  With its 15 approved winegrowing regions, Oregon is likely to be a favored place for growing grapes with an eye toward being kind to our Mother Earth for years to come.



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Oregon Wineries Go Green – Part I

Oregonians are a quirky group.  We are fiercely independent, innovative, concerned about the environment, and above all else, we are passionate.  It seems that Oregon wineries are into being green!

When I began looking at Oregon’s green wineries the first thing I needed to understand was, what people generally mean when they say green wine.  A green wine has one or more of these traits: the grapes were organically grown, the vineyard used biodynamic practices, the wine is in environmental packaging, the wine is transported and shipped in environmentally friendly ways, and the winery that made the wines has an environmentally friendly infrastructure.  A simpler statement is that a green wine is made in sustainable, organic, biodynamic, and/or natural ways.

When used to describe wine, the word sustainable means that the wine is made with a focus on three things: environmental stewardship, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.  Organic is a term with which people in general have become familiar.  It means that no fungicides or pesticides are used in the vineyards.  Crop rotation, cover crops, compost, and biological pest control reduce the need for both.

Both biodynamic and natural are terms that have meanings specific to the wine industry.  Biodynamic wineries and vineyards treat the vineyard as a self-sustaining organism.  Herbs, minerals, manure, and composts are used instead of their artificial counterparts.  The well-being of all the integrated parts of the vineyard is considered in any action.  Natural means that nothing is added and nothing is removed from the wine.  The wine is made without additives, using native yeasts, and with only minimal or no filtration.

A number of organizations oversee and encourage green wine making in Oregon.  There are currently 6 certificates available:  Salmon-Safe,  Live- Or LEED-Certified,  Solar Power,  Carbon-Neutral,  Social Charities, and  Organic/Biodynamic.  One part of the work of the Oregon Environmental Council is to help the wineries reduce their carbon footprints.  Low Input Viticulture & Enology, Inc. (LIVE) is among the oldest agencies, having begun certifying wineries in 1999.  LIVE not only certifies that a vineyard/winery uses sustainable vineyard practices and actively works to be a good steward of the land, but it is also involved with issues concerning worker health and safety.  In addition to its own certification, LIVE has become an umbrella group for Salmon Safe (which certified its first vineyard in 1996) and Oregon Certified Sustainable.  LIVE also administers the Carbon Reduction Challenge.  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifies that strategies were incorporated into the vineyard and winery that protect human and environmental health.  These strategies might include ways to save water, be more energy efficient, and maintain indoor environmental quality.  Oregon Tilth is a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes  biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture through sustainable approaches to agricultural production,  processing, handling, and marketing.

Oregon wineries are serious about being green.  They are making exciting changes that will have a lasting impact on Oregon.


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Vegetable Farming in the Willamette Valley in Danger

Canola, originally named rape, has been grown for human use for hundreds if not thousands of years.  It is grown for the oil in its seeds, which can be used for food, to produce bio-diesel and other industrial products and even be added to animal feeds.  There are arguments about its safety when used for cooking, these may or may not be valid.  However, an indisputable danger comes from its pollen.

An Oregon State University study published in 2006, “Outcrossing Potential for Brassica Species and Implications for Vegetable Crucifer Seed Crops of Growing Oilseed Brassicas in the Willamette Valley,” ( makes it clear that growing canola for seed would be a disaster for the farmers growing vegetable seeds in the Willamette Valley.   Canola can cross breed with many vegetables, such as radishes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, kohlrabi, kale, and other crops.

The Willamette Valley is one of the best places on earth that is ideal for growing specialty seeds and maintaining seed purity.  The seeds produced here are sold to farmers all over the world.  Seed production brings over $32 million into the state each year, if the invasive canola is planted, it would end organic seed productions in the Valley.  Not only that, but it would make fresh market vegetables unacceptable to markets that do not permit genetically modified crops.  It would be nearly impossible to restrict the pollen to the designated areas.  Two things are possible: 1) pollen could be spread by bees, birds, cars, animals…into the protected areas 2) in the nearly the same ways seeds could migrate and begin growing along roadsides and with crop areas.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has agreed with all of this in the past.  Canola could not be grown in an area approximately 48 miles wide by 120 miles long – 3.7 million acres.  Without following the required practice of holding hearing and receiving public input, ODA simple announced a “Temporary Ruling” reducing the protected area to only two million acres (  This will allow canola to be planted before the temporary ruling expires.

ODA claims that this sudden change is necessary so that canola farmers can make plans to get their crop in the ground during September.  Since the State has waited ten years to allow canola into the Valley, what is behind this sudden rush?  What is the source of the pressure that caused ODA to dramatically reverse its previous position?

An ironic twist to all of this is that Monsanto could then sue farmers with contaminated, unmarketable crops.  Monsanto has previously successfully sued farmers for patent infringement when their crops tested contaminated.  This is an intolerable result for someone who has already lost an entire season’s crop.

A large group of Oregon farm organizations, corporations, and individuals filed for a stay of the temporary order.  On Thursday, August 16th the Oregon Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay.  It will make a final ruling the week of August 27th.  It is imperative that those who care about the future of agriculture in the Willamette Valley contact Governor Kitzhaber immediately.  This decision will have a lasting effect of the lives and livelihoods of many people without the world.



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