October 1, 2019

Kudos Sonoma. Now What?

Earlier this year I attended a press dinner in Sonoma wine country put on by the Sonoma County Winegrowers. The purpose of the dinner was to share updates from the destination – ranging from the status of their 5-year plan to become the first 100% sustainable wine region in the United States to the new augmented reality app that helps wine labels come to life immediately, engaging the consumer with stories, video, and information on Sonoma Wine Country’s sustainability quest.

In 2014 Sonoma County Winegrowers announced their goal to move towards 100% sustainability. Fast forward and their vineyards are now 92% sustainable. What does “sustainable” mean? In Sonoma this means that the vineyard has to apply for and receive certification from at least one of four third-party sustainability programs: the California Sustainable Winegrowing AllianceFish Friendly FarmingSustainability in Practice and Lodi Rules.

This all sounds great, right? Well, many industry folk on social media did not agree. Accusations of greenwashing began. Greenwashing is essentially a PR spin about the environmental friendliness of a product/service or in this case, Sonoma County. The accusation is that Sonoma County is focusing on their achievements in the area of “sustainability”, yet their use of glyphosate, an herbicide that is the main ingredient in Roundup is high. So what’s the real deal? To begin with, I am not an environmental scientist, and will not delve into a deep conversation that is above my skill set. I am a wine educator (with a WSET Diploma certification) and a member of the wine press, so I do know quite a bit about wine. My opinion here might be an unpopular one. But hey, what’s life if you don’t take chances and make yourself uncomfortable?

I am of the opinion that the first step is to acknowledge the accomplishments of Sonoma County, no matter how big or small you believe them to be. For that, I say: KUDOS SONOMA. I am here to celebrate all of the steps towards your goal of becoming 100% sustainable. Celebrations of the journey are an important part to help move forward into bigger, bolder goals. These are all things that push the needle in the right direction, especially when you look at the long-term implications for our environment. The question now becomes: Now What? What are the next steps to tackle the use of glyphosate on Sonoma vineyards? Will organic certification become a priority? Perhaps the next goal?

It is worth noting that in 2016, Sonoma County Winegrowers received the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), the state’s highest environmental honor that is administered by the EPA. And, according to Karissa Kruse (president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers), use of glyphosate on Sonoma wine country vineyards decreased 17% between 2016 and 2017 in Sonoma County. According to Karissa, Sonoma Winegrowers are now moving towards a Climate Adaptation Certification, in which vineyards will track carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions.

Are there other winegrowing regions doing more? Of course. Are there other winegrowing regions that are doing less? Definitely. My trade and media colleagues seemed to paint a picture of Sonoma and their (dis)regard for the environment. I support and I stand with Sonoma. Sonoma wine country is such a wonderful place and a place I still associate with the “farmer” who grows grapes and maybe pours their own wines in the tasting room (I have had this experience in Sonoma). I look forward to following Sonoma's journey towards 100% sustainability and for other future environmental goals that they set.

With all this being said, let’s talk about the lovely Sonoma wines I enjoyed that evening.

Hanna Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2017
Grass in a glass!
Patz & Hall Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2016
Buttery and creamy on the nose but with an unexpected lift and freshness on the palate.
Macrostie Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2017
Deep, robust flavors. Really lovely.
Walt Wines Pinot Noir Bob's Ranch Sonoma Coast 2016
Punchy! I smell the red fruit + dirt that is my marker for a Pinot Noir.
Seghesio Zinfandel Alexander Valley 2015
Dirt/earth on the nose and prune on the palate.
Medlock Ames Cabernet Sauvignon Kate's & B's. 
Such a lovely Cab nose.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer based out of Los Angeles.

Since March 2020, Brianne has educated and entertained over 5,000 people through her “Virtual Vino” online wine tastings.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping others Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions.

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected, distinctive wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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Sample Policy

As a wine writer, I frequently accept samples for review on my  website and on my social media channels. Please contact me at brianne@briannecohen.com to discuss sending samples for review. I promise to always be honorable with the samples. I will evaluate all wines in good tasting settings and with no distractions.

All reviews are my opinions, and mine only. Because of the volume of samples I receive, I cannot promise that all samples received will be reviewed, but I will do my best.

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