Funding Secured for Sustainability Program in New York

Jancis Robinson recently wrote an article published for that recognized the US grape and wine industry as a leader in sustainability practices.  She noted that US practices go beyond “forswearing agrochemicals and applying sensitive farming methods,” and include consideration for biodiversity, planet-friendly packaging, and concern for the welfare of workers and the community.  These are all key objectives of the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing program, which make it stand out as a national leader for viticulture sustainability certifications. 

The wine press has taken note of New York’s leadership role in advancing sustainable practices in the vineyard and within the winery. recognized Silver Thread Vineyards for their effective implementation of these principles not only on their own vineyard but as part of their participation as board members with the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.  And Linda Jones McKee of Wine Business Daily, published an extensive article last week that highlighted the robust sustainability program implemented by Hunt Country Vineyards and their new line sustainably produced wines labelled “Uncharted Terroir.” 

NYWGF hosted a virtual tasting in October moderated by Whitney Beaman, Program Manager for Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, which featured sustainable produced wines from five wineries in the Finger Lakes and Long Island.  I recommend watching the on-demand rebroadcast of the tasting.  The winery panelists engaged in juicy cross talk where they compared notes on how they are adapting their viticulture practices to the changing climate.  And pay attention to Rich Olsen-Harbich’s passionate commentary on the importance of sustainability certification programs putting equal value on worker safety as they put on care for the grapes; it echoes Jancis’ observation of what distinguishes sustainability in the US. 

Anyway, I guess after all this build-up that I am actually burying my own headline.  NYWGF recognizes that sustainability is an important of distinction for our industry and a formal certification system would help to recognize the excellent practices already occurring across state.  We have secured grant funding from the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, United States Department of Agriculture, and the State of New York along with a generous matching funds commitment from John Ingle of Heron Hill Winery to launch a sustainability program for New York in 2021. 

Our first step in this process is to create a business plan for the program to ensure its long-term sustainability.  While we have about two years of funding in-hand, we think that it is important to establish a clear strategic direction and program design to ensure it can become a statewide and self-sustaining program.  We are releasing an RFP today seeking proposals from qualified consultants to assist with developing a business plan.  Proposal will be due on December 23 and the project will begin in early January. 

Picture of Sam Filler

Sam Filler

Since his appointment to Executive Director in 2017, Sam Filler has led the New York Wine & Grape Foundation in supporting sustainability efforts and has spearheaded marketing initiatives to elevate the image of New York wines.