As a testimony to what has been a long-held tenet of the country's oldest continuously owned and operated family winery, Wente Family Estates has received certification for its sustainability with respect to vineyard, winery and company practices with the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing designation.
Created by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Association in cooperation with the California Association of Winegrape Growers, and launched officially in January 2010, this certification program represents an evolution and formalization of the eight-year-old Sustainable Winegrowing Program (SWP).
CCSW certification now includes a third-party verification of a winery's adherence to a process of continuous improvement in its adoption of sustainable winegrowing practices. It is the first statewide program available to both wineries and vineyards. To be eligible for the program, participants must meet a set of 58 prerequisites that are among the 227 best management practices from the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Self-Assessment Workbook.
In 1883, Carl H. Wente founded Wente Brothers winery with a 48-acre estate in the Livermore Valley. Early on he was an advocate of sustainability, and the family is documented historically with articles on the wisdom and benefits of farming in a holistic way.
Today, five generations later, the family continues to lead the way with respect to stewardship of the land. In the early 1990s, before the advent of the SWP program, the Wente family established their own "Farming for the Future" credo, which took into account the health and well-being of its employees, the local community and the planet.
The 4th and 5th generations, consisting of CEO Carolyn Wente, Chairman Eric Wente, Vice Chair Phil Wente, Senior Vice Presidents Karl and Christine Wente, developed a system of practices that enhanced the vitality of the soils on their 3000 acres of estate vineyards in both Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco, creating a balanced sustainable ecology that minimized water use and reduced non-organic waste.
This philosophy carries over to both the vineyards as well as the three estate wineries--Wente Vineyards, Murrieta's Well and Tamas Estates, The Course at Wente Vineyards, The Restaurant and The Concerts, their olive groves and ranch land for cattle, including every aspect of the family operation.
Also in 1985, the family was a key proponent of the South Livermore Valley Plan, a system that promoted permanent agriculture in the valley through a controlled development plan.
The Tri-Valley Conservancy is an organization that the Wente family has played a key role in, helping to preserve open space to the tune of 1500 acres.
"This certification represents the culmination of over 127 years of commitment to sustainable practices by my family's winery," Carolyn Wente said. "We are proud to be among the eighteen wineries and vineyards who achieved certification early on in the program, and we will continue to improve our practices in every way at every touch point of our business."
The Wente family offered these statistics relevant to the many sustainable initiatives at Wente Vineyards:
• More than 10 million gallons of water used in the wine production facility are recycled and re-used each year to irrigate the vineyards and for dust control. A water treatment pond is on the property and contributes to the reclamation of all production water used in the winery's facilities.
• Wente Family Estates encourages the growth of native grasses and beneficial flowering species. By maintaining an ecological balance in the vineyards, pests are naturally controlled. In 2000, Wente Family Estates was awarded the Integrated Pest Management Innovators Award by the California Environmental Protection Agency.
• Approximately 9,000 tons of grape pomace is composted annually. Compost is incorporated into vineyards to increase the level of organic matter in the soil and improve the soil's quality and water holding capacity.
• Over 50,000 lbs. of cardboard are recycled each year. More than 50,000 lbs. of glass bottles are collected and recycled from tasting rooms, restaurants, catering and concerts. Plastics from used shrink-wrap and label spools are gathered and recycled. More than 9000 lbs. are recycled annually.
• As part of Wente Family Estates' commitment to sustainable practices, all four tasting rooms are designated drop-off spots for ReCORK America, a program focused on collecting and recycling used corks. They are recycled into flooring tiles, building insulation, automotive gaskets, craft materials, soil conditioner and sports equipment.
• The Wente family manages 1,600 acres of sustainable open-range land not planted to vineyard, with 100 head of cattle providing grass management and soil fertilization.