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Washington Vineyard is Setting the Sustainability Standard   

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Situated on the southwest corner of the Red Mountain in Washington, the Terra Blanca vineyard overlooks the stunning Yakima Valley. Besides the views and being an event destination, Keith and ReNea Pilgrim did not start an ordinary vineyard. 

This family-owned Salmon-Safe AVA winery is a perfect representation of simple, sustainable farming practices that have been around for generations. By learning their story, we can appreciate the origins of sustainable farming and understand how to pick biodynamic wines when we shop. 

The family’s Washington location for their winery is on the American Viticultural Areas list. This means it’s a designated appellation with conditions and soil determined to be of a higher quality for growing wine. Having an AVA label on a wine bottle shows the grapes grown within specific climatic or geographic features that are more distinguished from other regions. 

Terra Blanca’s wine has a structure similar to many European wines. This is due to geography. The high-quality minerals in the soil help sustain the vines naturally. Also, only French oak barrels are used to age the wine. Terra Blanca Vineyard specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon. However, they produce a range of white, red, and dessert wines with a polished flavor and a solid finish. This quality is made possible from the knowledge passed from early European sommeliers and enologists. 

Another great certification Terra Blanca has attained is from Salmon-Safe.

Salmon-Safe is a nonprofit organization that certifies and accredits environmentally-conscious practices of farmers. Salmon has been known as an indicator species, meaning that if salmon are thriving, then the watershed has excellent potential for a high diversity (biodiversity) index. Look for this certification at your local grocery store.

Salmon-Safe’s mission is to transform land management practices for pacific salmon to thrive in West Coast watersheds. Since 1996, AVA Certification programs have defined and elevated successful land management practices while protecting water quality and fostering habitat conservation throughout the West Coast.

Image Credit: Terra Blanca Vineyards.

Because farmers play a crucial role in helping restore native salmon fisheries and maintaining healthy watersheds, Salmon-Safe has worked with farmers in Oregon, Washington, and California since their origins to standardize fish-friendly guidelines. Particularly now, it’s vital to build and farm in environmentally conscious ways during this trying time of climate change. When being administered into the Salmon-Safe program, farmers agree to practice within the following five guideline categories:

  1. Optimize water use
  2. Maintain healthy riparian and in-stream habitat conditions. 
  3. Use long-term soil conservation techniques.
  4. Exercise nutrient and pest management practices that protect water quality
  5. Contribute to overall habitat quality and productivity on the farm.

Terra Blanca hits the mark on these standards and has set its own bar of excellence. How was Terra Blanca able to make these sustainable decisions?

Keith is a trained geologist and a student of viticulture and enology who built upon the plethora of research and resources from the past, making assessments for sustainable solutions and innovations. Keith and his wife, ReNae, were also the first wine curators in Washington to age their wine in caves. The caves used to store the barrels were constructed using upcycled materials from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory project (LIGO), a large-scale physics experiment attempting to detect cosmic waves. 

There’s a misconception that sustainable practices are a recent fad. People have largely lost sight of sustainability rather than a new pursuit, but sustainable living often goes to indigenous and basic practices. We can appreciate sustainable practices as something rooted in our society by learning from our elders and those who lived before us.

Everyone wants to enjoy pleasures with as little guilt as possible. If your wine came from a biodynamic farm and had specific certifications, it’s not harming the planet. Instead, biodynamic farming improves soil quality and water biodiversity. 

Now that you know some certifications to look for when you shop, ensure you get your wine from a producer who has the future in mind. Considering the land being planted and the care of the earth was once an anomaly. The stories of farmers remind us that sustainability has been around for years and is for everyone. Like architects who could benefit from looking to ancient cities for urban planning, Keith and ReNae Pilgrim benefited from some of the original successful wineries. 

Through sustainable practices, the developed estate serves as an example of how sustainability is more than functional and will continue to be woven through the coming years. The Pilgrims will leave their purchased land for their daughters and the next generation better than they found it.

Image Credit: Terra Blanca Vineyards.

For Further Reading

  • Salmon-Safe Certification Standards for Farms. Salmon-Safe Inc.
  • Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard. Wine Yakima Valley.

2 thoughts on “Washington Vineyard is Setting the Sustainability Standard   ”

  1. What a great read! It’s so interesting to learn how this vineyard strives toward sustainablity and the implications it could have on even larger vineyards. I will definitely be more concerned about the sustainability of the respective vineyard before making my future wine purchases.

    1. There are lots of links to sustainable vineyards through these certification standards. Unfortunately, we have come across a few (non-certified) that while they market as sustainable on the surface, they’re just greenwashing. Still, your local sommelier can clear up some of the confusion, too. Thanks for reading!

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