How Loving Oregon Led Us Beyond Sustainable Agriculture To Supporting Systemic Change In Response To The Climate Crisis

Soter Vineyards, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Guest blog by Tony Soter, Founder of Soter Vineyards 

I don’t know how to do anything else in life other than grow grapes and make wine. For 40 years and counting we have managed to sell what we make with enough profit to keep doing what we love. Some days that seems like accomplishment enough, but there is so much more to Soter Vineyards than grapes and wine.

My life partner, Michelle, and I always had other dreams, like owning a farm, growing food, and raising a family that cares deeply about the earth. We have spent the last few decades learning and teaching others how to care for the land we cultivate. Our entire staff of 30 people are committed to continual learning and practicing sustainable farming and winemaking.

This commitment is how Planet Oregon was born. It is a wine brand with a mission greater than what is in the bottle, and a reach beyond the confines of one property. 

Since its inception with vintage 2009, Planet Oregon wines have grown from bottling 500 cases to 20,000. In terms of acres of land now under sustainable certification, we’ve gone from three acres to 103. We are not alone of course, but leading can be lonely sometimes. Since the 1980’s we have advocated for transitions to organic agriculture and are still pushing that rock uphill.

I learned of Oregon Environmental Council when, in the dark winter of 2008-2009, they started an initiative asking Oregon winemakers to strive for Carbon Conscious farming and production. I embraced the challenge, but hardly had a clue what to do. With OEC’s help we received a grant to hire an engineering firm to audit our activities, learned to count carbon use in its many ways, and learned ways to mitigate our climate impacts.

This enabled us to account for activities in a new ledger, with values that were not measured only in dollars. And for the first time, we were able to begin to responsibly manage our behavior because we could account for our actions in a new currency.

I have come to believe this was transformative for us as a company. While we still have far to go, we are committed to making progress. We want to be part of the solution… part of the transformation that saves the planet and our way of life.

Planet Oregon Wines are giving back a dollar for every bottle sold in Oregon as a donation to OEC and have been doing so since our first vintage. It’s a wine with a mission, a wine that will always work to repay the debt to OEC for raising our awareness and assisting our ambition.

To date, we have two Planet Oregon Wines both made from Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. One is a classic supple and vibrant red wine redolent of Oregon summer berries. The other is a sparkling rosé with a perfume of rose petals and enough fizz to cause a commotion. It’s wonderful to be able to be part of creating such life affirming wines and tell the story of their creation. More importantly, we know that, in turn, these wines inspire actions in support of our planet.

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