As longtime stewards of the land, we are committed to better understand and nurture the land we farm. We are driven to help protect the ecosystems that sustain our businesses and ensure we operate responsibly with respect for the environment. Not only does this result in producing the best quality wine possible, it is the right thing to do for our company and our community.

Over 40 years of innovation includes research dedicated to water and pest management, planting systems, mechanization, trellising and training systems, cover crops, pruning and cold hardiness. The research trials have taken place on our own or our growers’ estates and, often, in cooperation with Washington State University.

Conservation in our Wineries

Our technical leadership in finding sustainable solutions to all facets of the winemaking process is a vital component of our success, and a crucial responsibility to our community. We understand that the environmental impact of our business extends beyond our facilities, and continually work to close the loop on our product lifecycle, from composting and waste water management to post consumer disposal of our products.

Water & Biodiversity

While water is necessary for production, we work to reduce water usage in our wineries, develop ways to treat or reuse water used, and to take positive steps in partnership with others to conserve water in our communities while protecting biodiversity. From irrigating estate vineyards to treating wastewater at our manufacturing facilities, we have a long history of innovation that allows us to be more efficient with the water resources we consume.

Examples include:

  • Conservation of hot water and increased efficiency of tank heating systems
  • Re-use of winery gray water
  • Use of water-conserving nozzles on cellar hoses
  • Implementation of enhanced heat exchangers which reduce water needs in the fermentation cellars
  • Employee education on water conservation during performance of job duties
  • Maintenance of water-efficient landscaping on winery grounds

Recycling & Packaging

We actively seek ways to reduce the material resources needed to meet our packaging needs while maintaining product quality. By changing the way we package our products, we consume fewer resources, reduce emissions and generate cost savings.

Examples include:

  • Expanded use of EcoBottle packaging, requiring less glass to make our wine bottles
  • EnviroStars certification for Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Woodinville facility—a King County, WA program that certifies businesses for their efforts in preventing pollution and reducing hazardous waste
  • Recycling of glass, paper, cardboard, pallets, cork, aluminum, cell phones, batteries, and fluorescent bulbs
  • Production of select marketing and packaging materials using recycled paper and, in some cases, vegetable-based inks. Preference is also given to local and regional vendors to reduce transportation needs, and thus, our ecological footprint

Sustainability in our Vineyards

When the primary source of your business originates from the natural world, it is imperative to maintain that source in the most sustainable way possible. Whether through sharing best practices with our network of growers or providing grants in conjunction with Washington State University, sustainable farming enhances our business and the reputation and longevity the of Washington State wine industry.

We are committed to developing, practicing and sharing sustainable viticulture across the company’s 11 wineries, which harvest grapes from more than 3,700 company-owned acres in Washington, California and Oregon.

Pest Management

Ste. Michelle’s vineyard operations use a number of integrated pest management techniques to minimize damage from pests that are harmful to grapevines.

These techniques include:

  • using cover crops specifically designed to attract certain insects, creating an environment in which “beneficial bugs” (bugs that feed on harmful bugs and fungi) can thrive;
  • maintaining and expanding the registered virus-free mother block of disease-resistant wine grape vines; and
  • increasing the use of environmentally friendly pest control agents as well as company reliance on materials such as biodegradable soaps, oils and plant extracts.

Soil & Plant Management

Ste. Michelle mitigates soil erosion through the use of green covers of beneficial native grasses and cereal grains that also provide habitat for insects that are beneficial to its vineyards. Vineyard managers take a site-specific approach, and match cover crop types and soil mixtures to the needs and characteristics of each vineyard block.

Water Conservation

Drip irrigation, which became prevalent in the 1970s, has had a dramatic effect on grape and wine quality, while minimizing water loss by delivering water to the plant’s roots (as compared to overhead systems that water the entire vineyard). All of Ste. Michelle’s vineyard operations, as well as more than 95 percent of the company’s contract growers, employ drip irrigation and enhance their effectiveness through the use of weather stations and soil moisture-measuring probes that monitor water use and eliminate wasted water in the vineyards.

Protecting Biodiversity

Erosion and runoff from hillside vineyards can deposit silt in streams, reducing the ability of salmon, native to the Pacific Northwest, to spawn and thrive. An independent Salmon-Safe program helps vineyards protect and restore salmon habitat by planting trees beside streams, growing cover crops that control run-off and applying natural methods to control weeds and pests. Vineyards that meet the program’s rigorous standards earn certification and are permitted to bear the Salmon-Safe label. Beginning with its 2009 vintage, Chateau Ste. Michelle added the Salmon Safe certification to its Cold Creek and Canoe Ridge Estate single-vineyard wine labels.

Ste. Michelle’s Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars became a “Napa Green Certified Land” and “Napa Green Certified Winery” in 2010. The Napa Valley Vintners developed these rigorous programs to implement sound, sustainable practices for protecting and enhancing the ecological quality of the region. Of the more than 500 wineries in Napa Valley, fewer than 10 percent of wineries are certified under this voluntary program.

Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) and Organic Vineyards

LIVE, a nonprofit organization, offers third-party sustainability certification that promotes the use of sustainable, environmentally safe, economically feasible and socially acceptable control methods.

In 2009, LIVE certified Ste. Michelle’s vineyards at Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek, Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate and Northstar. Today, they are the largest vineyards in Washington State bearing that certification.

In addition to the sustainable farming practices used in all of Ste. Michelle’s Snoqualmie vineyards, 378 acres are certified organically grown by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, an accredited agent for the USDA National Organic Program. The certified organic acreage has grown to 431 acres. Snoqualmie’s Naked line of wines uses these certified organic vineyard blocks as its source for organically grown grapes.

Industry and Community Leadership

In addition to working to reduce the environmental impact of our wineries and vineyards, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates uses its leadership role in the wine industry and local communities to expand awareness and environmental education through a variety of practices.

VineWise Self-Assessment Tool

Ste. Michelle has taken a leading role in engaging with other wine grape growers in Washington State, to set standards for sustainability and to protect the region’s reputation for high-quality wines and environmentally responsible production practices. In 2007, Ste. Michelle spearheaded the creation of VineWise, in conjunction with the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers. VineWise provides wineries with information and tools to help evaluate business practices and implement sustainable management strategies.

Today, we have taken this voluntary tool a step further by integrating VineWise self-assessment into our grower relationships. The majority of the assessment areas are already included in long-term contracts—the contracts plus routine on-site visits by our team mean that we are constantly reviewing and improving grower practices.

Self-assessment topics include:

  • Business Plans
  • Chemical Management
  • Contracts
  • Crop Insurance
  • Human Resources
  • Lending
  • Marketing Plans
  • Pest Management
  • Soil Management
  • Vineyard Site Selection
  • Viticulture
  • Canopy and Crop Management
  • Harvest
  • Vineyard Productivity
  • Water Management
  • Whole Farm Ecosystem