RIVERSIDE, Calif. - At South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, grape byproducts find new uses in vineyards and skin treatments.
At Leonesse Cellars, owls and hawks, not chemicals, kill rodents.
The wineries are among a handful of businesses in Temecula Valley Wine Country that try to be more sustainable in their care for the land.
Besides protecting the environmental, sustainability "helps me in my pocketbook," said Ben Drake, a Wine Country vineyard and crop manager.
Allison Jordan, executive director of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance in San Francisco, said sustainable wineries have safer workplaces and more productive employees because worker training is a big part of sustainability.
The alliance, a joint venture of The Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers, last month announced a voluntary certification program for wineries that want to prove their commitment to sustainability.
Wineries in the program must undergo audits of their practices and be willing to improve their methods. Those certified as sustainable will be able to display special logos and will be listed on the alliance's Web site.
Interest in sustainability is growing, according to the alliance. Currently, 1,566 vineyards and wineries representing 62.5 percent of California's 240 million wine case shipments have evaluated their practices using the alliance's sustainability workbook.
But in Temecula, where the number of wineries is minuscule compared with other regions in California, only a few wineries practice sustainability, Drake said.
Leonesse owner Mike Rennie said he's been into sustainable farming for the past seven or eight years. He also runs a farm-management company and encourages his clients to embrace sustainability.
Besides the hawks and owls, Rennie said he plants cover crops at Leonesse to prevent erosion and put organic material in the soil. He said he avoids applying pesticides and uses natural sulfur instead of chemicals to control grape mildew.
South Coast uses a drip system for vine irrigation and digs down five feet in the vineyards to absorb more rainwater, owner Jim Carter said in an e-mail.
Grape skins, leaves, seeds and stems are composted and used in the vineyards. In addition, a substance extracted from grape juice known as lees is used in a spa treatment, Carter said.
Jordan said she expects sustainability to become more popular with wineries statewide.
"We're seeing certainly a trend in consumers asking questions and being really concerned about how products are made and grown," she said. "It certainly seems to be the case with wine as well."
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