Making Planet Oregon pinot noir became a pet project after the Soters decided to spread the gospel, one bottle at a time, of eco-friendly wine making.
// Photo by Joseph Eastburn
Planet Oregon, on the other hand, is basically a vehicle for sharing with consumers the earth-friendly wisdom Soter and his wife, Michelle, gained from the Carbon Neutral Challenge, a 2007 program sponsored by the Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) and the Oregon Wine Board. But before taking the challenge, Soter thought he was already ahead of the game.
“I’ve been doing organic grape growing since the mid 1980s in Napa,” he says. “I certified several vineyards there and I’m bringing the same sensibilities to what we do here.” But in spite of his good intentions, his concept of sustainability was limited.
He credits veteran Oregon winemaker Susan Sokol Blosser “for opening my eyes to the greater meaning of sustainability,” and OEC executive director Andrea Durbin for encouraging his leadership role in the Carbon Neutral Challenge. Soter Vineyards was one of 14 wineries of an original 30 that were able to complete the arduous 18-month challenge. The challenge not only changed Soter’s outlook but the way he did business.
“Here we have somebody who is one of the world’s best winemakers who’s firmly committed to stewarding the land and resources in a wise way and integrating all of that in a fine wine,” Durbin says.
Carefully monitoring inputs and outputs and considering the impact of every decision, Soter increased recycling and composting, installed solar panels and a more efficient cooling system for fermentation tanks, and retrofitted pumping systems with energy-efficient motors. The weight of the wine bottles was reduced almost by half.
Durbin says other Oregon industries are also reducing their carbon footprint, seeking to do the right thing while reducing energy and fuel bills. In the Oregon nursery industry, 20% are currently participating in a carbon challenge, while members of the state’s craft-brewing industry are bellying up to the bar for a challenge of their own.