Deerfield Ranch Winery focuses on what we call “clean” wine. Clean wine is low in both sulfites and the histamines that are created by the yeast. What this means to you is that you can enjoy Deerfield wines without the fear of the dreaded red wine headache or a sulfite hangover the next day. You can read more about it here, but the gist is that the yeast produces histamines to protect themselves when they encounter toxins in the fermentation process. We make sure the yeast only find what their looking for when doing their job in the fermentation tank by feeding them a healthy diet, sorting our grape three times to ensure only beautiful fruit is present, and by maintaining rigorous sanitation procedures.
We have our own water treatment facility we recycle 98% of all water that we use. You take a tour of the facility with the winemaker on Cellar Rat TV. In conjunction with our own well, we’ve created a model for what a sustainable winery can be. We recently added a state-of-the-art ultra violet light sanitation system that completely sterilizes all of the water at Deerfield without the need to use any chemicals. The system passes the water through three ultra violet light chambers that irradiate the water in a continuous flow with ultra-violet light (trust me, NOT a bad thing) so that no microbes come out the other end. We’re thrilled to add this to the winery because it guarantees us that the water we use in the winemaking process is completely pure.
Making clean wine isn’t just about one thing though. It requires a concentrated and thoughtful effort at every stage of the winemaking process, from the vineyard to the bottling truck. It’s worth the effort though. I personally am terribly affected by sulfites in wine. We use sensitive equipment to gauge exactly how much oxygen is dissolved in the wine and then add only enough SO2 to seek out and bond with the oxygen, leaving behind only inert SO3. Often when our wines are first release the SO2 is lower than 10 parts per million which is below the human threshold. That number even decreases as the wines age. For those people (like the winemaker’s wife, PJ) who suffer from headaches that make drinking red wine an awful prospect, Deerfield offers a delicious revelation. If you are one of those people, go ahead, try a glass of Deerfield! You won’t be the first person to discover that you can enjoy red wine again.
You’ve probably heard the words “organic”, “biodynamic” and “sustainability” floating around the wine industry. But what do these terms really mean? Each of them represents different ideologies that overlap in certain areas, yet each contains their own distinct notions about how agriculture can better nourish people while contributing to the health of the ecosystem. In this article, I talked about the concepts behind biodynamic farming as they compare to organic farming. Sustainability is a concept that relates to both biodynamic and organic farming in that it seeks to promote environmental stewardship. At the core of sustainability is the forward-thinking goal of developing business so that it may benefit humanity, while maintaining and improving the surrounding ecosystem so that precious resources are there for future generations. To name a few things, sustainability means conserving water, utilizing renewable energy sources, limiting waste, and lowering one’s overall carbon footprint. A sustainable vineyard is a field of grapevines that can be harvested year after year, in perpetuity, without negatively impacting any other ecosystem or community.
“The Three Es” are the cornerstone of sustainability. Sustainability recognizes that for a business to be sustainable it must not only respect the environment, but it must also be economically viable and welcomed by the community. In the view of sustainability, a business needs to be Environmentally Sound, Economically Feasible and Socially Equitable. In the long-term, any endeavor that lacks one of these qualities will fail. Sustainability strives to balance each of these essentials so that a business may continue to function over a long period of time.
Surrounding each of the ideas of organic, biodynamic and sustainable farming are institutions that try to promote them. The now ubiquitous term “organic” took decades to get to a point where it could only be used on product packaging if it was certified by one of several organizations recognized by the government. Deerfield’s vineyards and winery are certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) which was founded in the 1970s. CCOF guidelines are among the most rigorous and its seal of approval is one of the most prestigious. Of all the wineries in Sonoma County, only two are certified by CCOF. Sustainability is still a developing idea and the use of the term is yet to be well regulated. Formative organizations like the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) are beginning to offer sustainability certifications for wineries and vineyards.
Ultimately, a shift towards sustainably made products will have to come from increased consumer demand. That demand for sustainably made goods will only be created if consumers have a clear idea of what sustainability is and have confidence that if a product says it’s sustainable, it reflects those ideas in how it’s made. The sustainability movement is making progress to that end: The Global Wine Sector Environmental Sustainability Principles is an international organization aimed at creating legitimate credentials for sustainability that are recognized by governments worldwide. It has affiliate programs in four winegrowing countries including South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and the U.S.
It is more difficult to apply one set of rules for sustainability than it is for organic farming because what makes an industry sustainable can vary dramatically. What it takes to make a fishery sustainable would probably be very different than what it would take for a paper mill. For this reason, the CSWA has formulated a cycle for continuous improvement that involves assessment, planning, implementation and auditing, which could be applied to any industry. As usual, the wine industry is leading the pack in affecting positive environmental change.
Deerfield Ranch Winery is doing its part in the global movement towards sustainability. In fact, it’s a model for sustainable winemaking practices. One of the main obstacles facing the wine industry today is water usage. Deerfield’s solution to this concern was to construct our own bioreactor, which you can take a tour of with the winemaker here. It allows us to recycle 98% of the water we use so that we may irrigate our crops. Combined with techniques like steam barrel cleaning, Deerfield has an unparalleled level of water conservation. Also, all of our organic waste is collected and composted to provide fertilizer for the vineyards. Deerfield has proven how a winery can be a steward to its surrounding environment by its care of a rare wetland known as the Kenwood Marsh, the last remaining wetland in the Sonoma Valley. The Deerfield Ranch Winery granted a permanent easement to Sonoma County so that the marsh will remain untouched for future generations and the Rex family has set up a non-profit organization known as the Kenwood Marsh Checkerbloom Society to protect the endangered Checkerbloom plant and restore and maintain the Kenwood Marsh. Last year, the Sonoma County Water Agency granted Deerfield its Sonoma Valley Groundwater Management Program Water Conservation Award in recognition of Deerfield’s conservation efforts.