You can celebrate Earth Day every day in Oregon with a glass of wine. After all, what is wine if not the natural product of clean air, land and water?
There are lots of ways for winemakers to reduce their impact on the planet. In Oregon, wineries that want to go above and beyond when it comes to environmental sustainability will often seek LIVE certification — Low Input Viticulture and Enology. LIVE-certified winemakers reduce the overall amount of raw materials used in production such as water, fuel, fertilizer and chemicals. LIVE, one of two sustainable certification agencies in the United States, has also partnered with Salmon Safe to address issues of watershed health. Wineries with either of these certifications maintain strict sustainability practices both in the growing of their grapes as well as the production of their wines. These winemakers and grape growers are taking extra care to reduce their impact on the land and maintain ecosystem health.
As for what’s in the bottle, what you’ll find is that these wines often express a much stronger sense of the land that they come from — the terroir — with an undiluted, especially cared-for quality that deepens the wine’s connection with the ground from which it came.
There are more than 300 LIVE-certified wineries in the Pacific Northwest (and counting!), which means it’s easy to taste organic wine in Oregon. From Portland, head west towards Tualatin Valley to find four organic wineries within 15 minutes from each other. It’s a gorgeous ride for anyone by car or bicycle and makes for a great day of exploring.
Dion Vineyard33155 SW Riedweg Rd. Cornelius, OR 97113
Dion Vineyard has been in Kevin Johnson’s family since 1973, and for decades they sold most of their fruit to other wineries until Kevin, an aeronautical engineer by training, decided to move home and try his hand at winemaking.
Under his direction, Dion Vineyard became LIVE certified in 2009. For Kevin and his equally talented marketing guru/assistant winemaker wife, Beth, sustainable farming has a direct impact on the expressiveness of his wines. With fewer inputs, the land and soil can shine through into the bottle more clearly. They are still small and have just opened their tasting room, but their passion for wine and commitment to sustainability is evident.
Kramer Vineyards26830 NW Olson Rd. Gaston, OR 97119
Kramer Vineyards is located high in the hills of the Yamhill-Carlton region. Second-generation winemaker Kim Kramer is rapidly becoming the Queen of Sparkling Wine. She’d probably balk at that title given her laid-back and down-to-earth demeanor, but her passion for producing sparkling wines makes her one of its biggest champions in the Willamette Valley.
But Kramer Vineyards is more than just sparkling — the Kramers’ Pinot Noir grapes are some of the oldest around and they have produced stellar wines for years. The Kramer family has a robust sustainability program that includes solar panels, reusing materials on their newly remodeled tasting room, and a wood stove in the tasting room to reduce use of electricity.
Patton Valley Vineyard9449 SW Old Highway 47 Gaston, OR 97119
Just down the road is Patton Valley Vineyard, whose commitment to environmental sustainability is as legendary as its Pinot Noir. Patton Valley’s commitment to sustainability began with an “aha” moment, rather than a sense of obligation or a response to a trend. Early on in their winemaking career, co-owners Dave Chen and Monte Pitt were sorting grapes and realized that they never washed the grapes — no one does — and that everything on the grapes at the time of pressing went into the wine. It was this moment that kindled their commitment to not putting anything on their grapes that they wouldn’t be willing to drink.
Apolloni Vineyards14135 NW Timmerman Rd. Forest Grove, OR 97116
You’ll find Apolloni Vineyards just outside of Forest Grove. Owner and winemaker Alfredo Apolloni has winemaking in his blood. His family has owned and operated vineyards in Italy for generations, and he still has cousins making wine in the old country today. He sought out this piece of property on the outskirts of Forest Grove because the climate was so similar to his family’s land in Italy. Their commitment to the LIVE program extends to the new wine cave they built deep into a hillside — a geothermal barrel cave utilizing natural underground heating and cooling.