Until I spent some time in California’s wine country last year, I didn’t understand how dedicated the region as a whole is to sustainability. I knew there were some wineries dedicated to organic or biodynamic winemaking, but I had no idea that the industry as a whole placed such an importance on not only making sustainable wines but on preserving the biodiversity of the vineyards, making sure the waterways are clean and safe, and conserving energy. I’m not saying every single winery is involved in this, but many, many more than I ever imagined are.

The Wine Institute, the organization that sponsored my trip last year, just sent me the newly published book “Down to Earth: A Seasonal Tour of Sustainable Winegrowing in California” by Janet Fletcher with stunning photography by George Rose.

The preface of the book explains what sustainable, organic, and biodynamic winegrowing are in simple terms and then introduces readers to the various sustainable certifications that are available to California wineries.

The evolution of the modern sustainability movement by California winegrowers is explained through the profile of fifteen winegrowers who care deeply about sustainability. These winegrowers know that their most important resource is the dirt their vines grow in, and it’s in their best interest, not only as businesspeople but as humans, to take the best care of that dirt and its surrounding ecosystems as they can.

For me, the most useful part of the book the introduction to wineries I’m unfamiliar with, wineries whose vintages I will now seek out on my wine store shelves with confidence because I know they're made with a devotion to sustainability. Some of the wineries you may be familiar with like Robert Mondavi Winery because of the Mondavi name or its size or Bonterra Vineyards because you read this blog and I mention it frequently. Others, like Ampelos Cellars of Lompac, Calif. that has a triple certification for its biodynamic, organic, and sustainable farming, are unfamiliar to me and perhaps you, too.

The book ends with twelve seasonal recipes (three for each season) with, of course, wine pairings suggestions for each recipe.

“Down to Earth” is an encouraging book. When you read about all the sustainability initiatives you might not have been aware were happening at these wineries – large and small – you get a sense that there’s one industry in our country that’s whole heartedly embracing taking care of the earth and its creatures and creating a better product because of it.

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