Recently, the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission announced that it wants every single vineyard and winery under its purview to be certified sustainable within the next five years. There's some question what the method of enforcement will be—since the program is voluntary, running over refusenik farmers with tractors or bunging them into big tanks of bad juice and laughing at them as they splash around helplessly is probably right out. But the whole plan's a noble goal, and would make Sonoma the first wine region in the country to hit that target.
What sustainable means is another question. Essentially, it's an approach to farming (and winemaking) that uses economically feasible, environmentally sound and socially equitable methods. That, obviously, covers a lot of ground—but generally speaking what the goal includes is reducing water and energy use, minimizing pesticide use, recycling natural resources, maintaining wildlife habitats, providing employee education and other strategies. Given there are over 1,800 vineyards in Sonoma County, some 1,500 individual growers and/or owners and more than 59,000 acres of vineyard land in the county—according to the estimable Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers—it's an ambitious project. But it's also an impressive one. And until every last renegade vine is on board, here's a quartet of sustainably produced Sonoma wines to tide you over.
2011 Benziger Sonoma County Chardonnay ($15)
Ripe tropical fruit notes characterize this aromatic white. Benziger uses strategies such as integrated pest management (IPM)—including using beneficial insects to eat target pests—and various others in its vineyards.