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Oregon Grape Growers Provide Model for Sustainability

July 20, 2008

By Dan Radil, The Bellingham Herald, Wash.

Jul. 20–We seem to hear the term “sustainability” quite a bit these days, maybe so much so that we’ve become numb to its meaning and purpose.

Simply put, sustainable practices provide assurance that the land we use is turned over to future generations in as good or better condition than it was received. And because the quantity of land we have is finite, it makes perfect sense for agriculturalists, including wineries, to follow sustainable growing practices.

In the United States, Oregon leads the way in sustainability standards for growing grapes. Oregon has three levels of sustainability, and each level demands more rigorous standards and quality controls for certification.

The first level, Oregon Certified Sustainable, requires growers to make their wines using responsible agricultural practices, with independent third-party verification necessary before the OCS brand can appear on the label. Nearly 20 percent of Oregon wineries have achieved OCS status.

The second level, Oregon Certified Organic, is a designation given to wineries that meet stricter production standards and pass on-site inspections. The standards are set by an international organization of farmers, gardeners and consumers whose purpose is to protect buyers of organic products.

Certified Biodynamic requires the third and highest level of sustainability standards, and grape growing and winemaking practices under this category must be performed completely free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers before certification is granted.

One of the best places in Bellingham to find sustainably produced Oregon wines is the Community Food Co-op, 1220 N. Forest St. The co-op also carries a nice selection of other domestic and international wines, and you don’t have to be a member to buy them.

Next week, I’ll take a look at local distribution of wines from Oregon, along with a few recommendations.

Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at www.danthewineguy.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Bellingham Herald, Wash.

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