Why did you decide to certify your vineyards through Sustainable WA?
Marissa Dineen (MD): Dineen Vineyards is known for growing premium grapes and producing wines in the premium bracket. We have employed sustainable wine-growing practices for many years and decided to certify our vineyards through Sustainable WA to showcase deliberate commitment.
The emphasis on monitoring vines, watering judiciously, using minimal sprays, employing natural forms of fertigation, and ecologically sound pest management reflects our dedication to healthy vines. Our hands-on approach to grape growing, with most work done manually, underscores the importance of taking care of our crews as they are another set of eyes on the vineyard.
We view our commitment to sustainability as an integral element in ensuring the translation of quality from vine to grapes to bottle. As the cliché goes, great wine is made in the vineyard. We also believe it reflects our core values of stewarding the land in an environmentally sound way and caring for others; treating people with respect.
What does sustainability mean to you? Do you see this as a way to differentiate your grapes?
MD: At Dineen Vineyards, Sustainability lies at the core of our values and the mission of cultivating exceptional wine grapes. It is about cultivating and nurturing everything that encompasses our vineyard—the Place, the Ecosystem, and our People—both for today and the next generation.
Place: Wines, for us, represent a sense of place. Drawing inspiration from the French concept of “Terroir,” which emphasizes the complete and natural environment of where the wine grapes are grown. Our vineyards are endowed with unique and excellent soils, climate, aspect, and elevation—these are the raw materials we’ve been given. Our responsibility is to steward and care for our land to preserve its unique qualities.
Ecosystem: Everything in our vineyard is interconnected—the soil, sun, wind, surrounding habitats, climate, microbes in the soil, and the people working with the vines. To truly care for our place, we recognize the importance of tending to the entire ecosystem in a mindful and intentional manner. Through a walk around our vineyard, we can demonstrate how we nurture the vines and the ecosystem harmoniously; this includes composting for nutrition, pruning and using water sensibly to keep the vines in balance, and encouraging natural predators to discourage unwanted pests.
People: With many tasks performed by hand, people are integral to our process. Our dedicated and skilled crew, with their long tenure, forms the heart and soul of our operation. We prioritize creating a great working environment for them—ensuring safety, fostering a sense of fun, and providing opportunities for learning and development.
Quality: Our primary objective is to grow the very best wine grapes from this property, both now and into the future, and sustainability plays a key role in achieving this goal. By caring for the land, the ecosystem, and our people, we cultivate healthy vines and grapes with a distinctive profile. The result is evident in the quality of our fruit and, consequently, wines made with our grapes. The balance achieved in acidity, texture, tannins, and structure creates a more harmonious and exceptional final product. Sustainability isn’t just a practice; it’s a commitment to excellence in every aspect of our viticultural journey.
Why is a certification important to your business? How will you utilize this certification for your business?
MD: Certification holds significance for Dineen Vineyards as it serves as tangible evidence of intentional and sustainable management practices. The rigorous 3rd party audit, covering over 100 criteria, validates the commitment to aspects ranging from pest and soil management to people and business management. Documentation, continuous improvement, and learning are integral to running a successful growing operation and to the certification process.
From a marketing perspective, certification reinforces that our vineyard is dedicated to high standards encompassing quality, environmental stewardship, and social justice. The Sustainable WA seal reinforces this message.
Beyond the seal, consumers are increasingly interested in understanding the origins of their food and drink. We have tailored our marketing approach to cater to these preferences and share the “how and why” we use certain practices in the vineyard with grape buyers and consumers alike. We do this through a combination of newsletters, social media and events such as “Adopt-a-Vine”, “The Harvest Experience” or “Wines in the Vines” vineyard tours that showcase sustainability throughout the growing year. By connecting with and educating consumers, we aim to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the journey from vine to glass.
Why is it important for WA to have its own certification program?
MD: Washington, with its unique “terroir,” distinct from other wine regions, requires a certification program that considers the specific growing conditions of the state. The concept of terroir, encompassing factors like soil, topography, and climate, is vital in the wine industry. Having a certification program tailored to Washington ensures that the distinct characteristics of the state’s terroir are recognized and upheld, contributing to the authenticity and quality of its wines.
Why should a winery consider purchasing certified grapes?
MD: Certified grapes, marked by the sustainability seal, represent a commitment to the three pillars of sustainability: People, Planet, and Profitability. For Dineen Vineyards, the focus on people and planet directly influences grape quality, aligning with consumer preferences for high-quality and ethically produced products. The seal serves as a mark of assurance for winemakers and consumers alike.
Additionally, the element of profitability is crucial for the longevity of operations. A reliable supply chain, coupled with sustainable business practices, ensures a seamless transition between generations and upholds the trust and quality associated with the brand, as exemplified in the case of Dineen Vineyards. As the second-generation owner of our farm, I am grateful to my parents for their dedication to the highest standards. It’s now my job to not only uphold these standards but to continuously learn and improve.
This Q&A is part of our Sustainable WA Grower Stories series, which highlights the importance of the Sustainable WA certification program from the perspective of wine grape growers in Washington. Learn more about Sustainable WA at sustainablewa.com, and keep your eye out for the Sustainable WA label on wine bottles signifying a commitment to all aspects of sustainability.