Talk to any wine grower and I can almost guarantee that they believe that the climate is changing and the planet is getting hotter. They do not spend a lot of time lamenting about the cause of said change, but they are understandably preoccupied with the impact of the rather sudden and increasingly drastic effects.
Apparently, there are some out there that doubt whether the causes of the changes to our planet are man-made despite the overwhelming assessment by the scientific community. While that boggles my mind, that is not the subject of this post. Rather, the focus here is on what is being done about trying to reverse the potentially catastrophic changes to the earth that most predict are a generation away (if not sooner).
A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed a few wines that were SIP (Sustainability In Practice) Certified and vowed at that time to take a deeper dive into the program and the concepts behind it. As such, I called Beth Vukmanic Lopez, the Program Manager at SIP Certified with a few questions about the program.
Before the call, I did a bit of digging and discovered that the concept of “sustainability” is a bit of a moving target, as the term can have different meanings among diverse audiences. Beth acknowledged this inherent ambiguity by embracing the fact that “sustainable” is an ever-evolving concept; as the planet continues to change and science advances, the SIP Certification requirements adapt as well.
The underlying premise, though, remains constant: participants in the program have an overwhelming desire to address the needs of today without jeopardizing the needs of the future. Or more simply put, many of the members seeking SIP Certification want to leave the planet better than they found it.
Originally, when the program started as a self-assessment for vineyard managers, but now is overseen by a board of directors and assessed by third-party evaluators to ensure adherence to the rigorous requirements. Originally designed to cover solely vineyards, a SIP Certified program for wineries debuted in 2016.
Here are a few SIP Certified wines that I sampled over the course of the last week:
2016 Santa Barbara Winery Riesling 2.3 Lafond Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills: Retail $24. Not quite as rare as a Riesling from Napa, but rare nonetheless from an appellation dominated by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The 2.3 represents the percentage of RS by weight, thus rendering this decidedly off-Dry. Golden in the glass with aromas of citrus, peach, and pear. The sweetness melds in nicely with the acidity, adding weight on the midpalate. Solid. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2016 Talley Vineyards Chardonnay Arroyo-Grande Valley, CA: Retail $34. The label states that this is the 30th-anniversary bottling for Bryan Talley and his Central Coast winery just outside of San Luis Obispo, which boggles the mind a bit. One would be hard-pressed to ascertain that this wine spent much time in oak, but there it sat, according to the website, sur lie, for 13 months in barrel—but it was only 14% new and 25% one-year-old wood, so a majority in neutral oak barrels. The result is a creamy yet vibrant mélange of bright fruit and rich mouthfeel. Refreshing yet deep, this is a beautifully contrasted wine. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2015 Talley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley, CA: Retail $36. As I mentioned in the previous note, Bryan Talley and his family have been making wines on the Central Coast for 30 years. Wow. I still can’t grasp that, but there is no doubt that they know what they are doing. A translucent crimson in the glass with Bing Cherry, spice, and earth on the nose. Fruity and tart on the palate from the jump, with cherry, earth, and depth. Well above average finish. Another stellar wine. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2016 Tangent Albariño Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley, CA: Retail $17. Once a rarity, more winegrowers are planting the Iberian variety Albariño in the U.S. and coupled with one of the better vineyards in the country, makes for a bottle of exciting wine. This wine is true to its roots: aromatic and lively on the nose with citrus, but also peach and even pineapple. Luscious on the palate while maintaining its tartness. This is really a delightful wine. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Tolosa 1772 Pinot Noir Edna Valley, CA: Retail $68. When I grabbed this Pinot from my samples pile, I knew nothing about it other than it was SIP Certified and it came from Edna Valley, near San Luis Obispo (SLO), a region known for top-notch Pinot Noir. The “1772” on the label, though, stoked my Google flame, and I started searching. I discovered that the “1772” refers to the year of the founding of the mission in SLO, and also refers to the higher end wines from Tolosa. I also ascertained that Tolosa is owned by the same folk who own Alpha Omega in Napa. Now, I have only visited Alpha Omega once and while I was impressed with the wines, I was a little unsure about the Napa ostentatiousness that exudes from the tasting room. Again, I have only been there once, it is a beautiful spot, but there is also certainly a je ne sais quoi that screams “this place was not built with you [meaning me] in mind.” And that is fine, really, as is this wine. Really. In fact, it is better than that rather inane evaluation. Delicate yet big berry fruit, plenty of earthy elements, bright acidity, and a solid finish make this wine a winner, for sure. But it is in a rather B.A.B. which makes me wonder what is meant by “sustainability” but I digress. Bravo, really close to a Whoa. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
Next week, I will delve a bit deeper into the SIP Certified process as well as some of the differences between the “competing” certifications (e.g., organic, biodynamic, etc.).