Organic Wine Trail

of the

Santa Cruz Mountains

The CCOF-certified organic vineyards of the Santa Cruz Mountains

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Organic viticulture and winemaking overview
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) defines organic agriculture including viticulture and winemaking as a “holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs...” (IFOAM 2005).

Organic viticulture bans use of synthetic chemical products in order to not add to the environment any substances that are not derived directly from nature. In addition, organic growing seeks additional environmental protection by avoiding soil erosion and pollution, increasing the soil's microbial activity, etc. Comparisons of organic and conventional farming show that organic vineyards reduce input of fertilizers by up to 50% and achieve yields typically 20% lower.

Organic viticulture
Only natural cultivation procedures are used, with no use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. This encourages growth of healthy plants, decreases use of materials containing pollutants, eliminates contamination of the soil, and promotes a diverse ecosystem. Some other items:

· Cover crops and composts (including kelp or compost) enrich the soil.

· Weeding is done mechanically or by hand.

· Fungal diseases (most notably powdery mildew) are prevented or treated with sulfur and Stylet oil.

· Grape pests, if not tolerated, are managed using natural (beneficial) predators, including predatory insects, pheromones, soaps and oils.

Organic certification for vineyards
The certification standards for organic growing are specific and rigorous, and a vineyard can be certified organic only after 3 years of conforming to the protocol. In the United States, organic certification is governed by the Department of Agriculture, which sets uniform standards for certification of food and wine. All the members of the Organic Wine Trail are certified by the California Certified Organic Farming Commission (CCOF), which is headquartered in Santa Cruz and is the first organic certifier in the country.

The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) maintains a list of products that are approved for organic agriculture in the United States. Suppliers have to be organic: for example, cow manure cannot be obtained from a farm that uses antibiotics to treat the animals. Organic certification does not allow use of genetically modified organisms. Inspections for certification take place once a year, and detailed records must be kept. Vineyards are examined for green covers and for the states of pests and diseases, there is periodic analysis of the plants, and products added in the vineyard are required to be fully traceable.

Organic Wine and Wine Made with Organically Grown Grapes

Vineyards that grow organically and produce organic grapes do not necessarily make organic wine. The addition of sulfites that help keep the wine from spoiling is allowed if the label says “Made with Organically Grown Grapes” rather than “Organic Wine.”