A Seal of Approval

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” -          Margaret Mead

This past December, Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing (LISW) sponsored a very special visit by one of the world’s leading experts in the field of sustainable viticulture - Dr. Cliff Ohmart.  Dr. Ohmart has been working in the field of sustainable viticulture for over 20 years and is one of the earliest innovators in the field of Integrated Pest Management, designing the first computer database system for commercial agriculture. Most notably, Cliff is the senior author of the Lodi Winegrower`s Workbook which is used in the famous Lodi Rules sustainable certification program in California. Today he is the vice president of SureHarvest, a private company that provides solutions for growers and food companies pursuing sustainability strategies and third-party sustainability certification. He’s also the author of the “bible of sustainable viticulture” entitled A View from the Vineyard. It’s a book everyone interested in sustainable winegrowing should read.

With a grant from NYS Wine and Grape Foundation, LISW enlisted Dr. Ohmart to review our program and provide us feedback. According to Dr. Ohmart, his review of LISW was the first time a sustainable certification program in the United States was analyzed by an outside party. He was also impressed that the LISW was formed “from the bottom up” as our program was developed through input from growers and wine producers. Most sustainable programs are not begun in this way – they are started either by private companies or formal grower organizations without a great deal of input from the stakeholders themselves. After a careful analysis of the entire program, here are Dr. Ohmart’s most important conclusions:

“LISW is a robust and well-constructed program that compares very well to other existing sustainable winegrowing certification programs, which are all located in the western US. Its goals are clearly stated and the farming practice standards are aligned with most of them.”

“LISW’s certification process is straightforward and the website provides all of the information necessary for a grower to apply for and accomplish the steps required for certification. The LISW website is well designed and easy to navigate, both for the visitor as well as a LISW-certified grower. It contains links to all of the important information about the LISW certification program, the forms required for certification, and how to become certified.”

Why is this important? For one, it validates that the guidelines we laid out for LISW are correct and are working to help growers achieve more sustainable goals. We’re on the way to making the sustainable practices required by LISW the standard in the region. We also feel strongly that by following LISW guidelines we will help protect our sole source aquifer as well as improve the environmental conditions of our surrounding creeks, bays and ocean. Many of us feel we will also make better and more distinctive wines by following these guidelines.

This spring for the first time, many members of LISW (including Bedell Cellars) will begin to use a sustainable certification seal on their labels. This logo can only be used by those member vineyards that have completed and passed a rigorous vineyard inspection. It’s an important thing to look for;  when you see it on a wine you’ll know that the grapes were grown under the LISW program. Certified member wineries can begin to use the LISW seal beginning with the 2012 vintage.

In just two years, LISW has emerged as a legitimate and serious program that already compares very favorably with programs that have existed for a much longer period of time. The 2014 vintage will mark the third season of LISW with 10 vineyards achieving certification in 2013. Current membership consists of 18 vineyards and wineries with over 700 acres under the LISW certification program.

The East End of Long Island is renowned for its bucolic beauty and our wine is distinctive for its purity, vibrancy and intensity. By embracing sustainable practices, we will help to ensure that our quality of life as well as the quality of our wines will improve for many years to come and help lead us to a cleaner, greener island.

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For more information on Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing visit www.lisustainablewine.org