Long before we ever imagined having a vineyard we took our first steps on the path to sustainability. In elementary school chorale singing Woody Guthrie’s, “This Land is Your Land,” created a vision of stewardship in our 10 year old selves, though we wouldn’t have known to call it that then.
In high school Bill was president of the Ecology club and raised funds and awareness by selling terrariums (remember those) and having the first stock offering in school history. He joined 2,000 others in 1977 to protest the Seabrook Nuclear Power plant in New Hampshire and was inspired by people baking bread in passive solar powered ovens.
Donna learned sustainability in her grandmother’s garden which was planted with intention and in her kitchen and sewing room where absolutely nothing went to waste. She also helped lead early Earth Day activities at Cathedral High School in Springfield MA in the mid 70s. As married adults, our kitchen gardens were organic and were the sites where we made our first compost.
When we built our Tasting Room we wanted to mitigate the impact of our building by employing passive energy saving techniques and by putting solar panels on the roof. We have since almost tripled our energy producing capacity.
But one thing remains clear – if we weren’t farming, living, and working on this land, it would be a forest. All of our efforts are informed by that reality. We drive tractors that burn diesel, our tasting room encourages people to drive cars and visit us, our staff drive to work, and our business ships thousands of 45 pound cases all over the country. We have a long way to go and the efforts above have only partially gotten us out of a hole we dug for ourselves.
When we started Winderlea there was never any question that we would farm organic. In our quest to find ways to manage the phylloxera on the vineyard we met growers who were having success with biodynamic® farming and they were kind enough to introduce us to the practice. We were immediately attracted to its whole farm ethos. Today, we are inspired by younger farmers who continue the DIY custom and who we join to make preps whenever we can. In 2015 we became Demeter Biodynamic® certified because we felt it was important to back up our assertions with independent inspection.
And, with the addition of the Worden Hill Vineyard property we’ve realized a dream to add more farm animals to our properties to assist with farming. In addition to the bees and the chickens we’ve had on the farm since 2012, in 2022 we added a flock of heritage Shetland sheep that flex in size from 40 to 80 depending on the time of the year. These hard working and hardy sheep graze (mow), and provide us with their precious manure as a natural fertilizer. We gratefully share the vineyards with these beautiful creatures who are cared for by a loving shepherd, Jared Lloyd and a couple of Great Pyrenees/Maremma Sheepdogs “in training.”
As you can see, our perspective on sustainability was almost exclusively environmental. We wanted to be good employers, good neighbors, good members of our community writ large and small but we had no idea how to gauge how we were doing. Then we learned about Certified B Corporations whose mottos is, “People Using Business as a Force for Good.” When we first learned about B Corps we decided we didn’t have the bandwidth to apply for certification, but we saw their standards and how they rated companies and we started working in that direction.
B Corps are evaluated on Governance, Employer practices, Community, Environmental, and Customer impact. As you might imagine, there are subcategories within each of these. One of the differences with B Corp certification is that each question is evaluated on a scale from 0 to 10. Most other certifications are binary; you either meet the standard or you do not. B Corps need to meet a certain standard, but are also able to see how we score on the scale and how we compare to our peers. It’s a process that encourages and rewards improvement.
In 2015, we finally felt ready to apply and became the second certified winery in Oregon (behind Rex Hill / A to Z) and the fourth in the world with Sokol Blosser rounding out the 5 top shortly thereafter. Currently, over a third of all certified wineries in this country are in Oregon and form a wonderful community inspiring and supporting one another.
The bar is always being raised and we feel that with these two certification practices we will continue to learn how to be better and will be evaluated on our progress. Of course, feedback is critical to our success and we invite your observations on our progress as well at email@example.com.
We were introduced to iSalud! upon our arrival in Oregon and our first harvest in 2006. A vineyard steward cut themself while picking and we saw first hand how the steward was whisked to a clinic for treatment and payment was managed through a grant for care from iSalud! The next day, we saw a iSalud! Mobile clinic roll into a vineyard to provide flu shots for the season. We needed to learn more, and we did. We attended our first iSalud! Pinot noir Auction, that raises the funds to support this mission, that November and we’ve been supporters ever since. In our first few years as Vintners, we did not have wine or any reputation, to become one of the esteemed Vintner Circle winery members of iSalud! We wanted to find other ways to support the cause and made the decision to donate our tasting fees to iSalud! Upon the opening of our tasting room in 2008 through 2011, we donated 100% of our tasting fees to iSalud! Since 2012 we have continued with the same financial contribution through a monthly donation. This is the reason we don’t waive our tasting fee for a purchase of wine (except for our wine society members). We’ve had the opportunity to tell virtually everyone who walks into our tasting room about iSalud! and its absolute necessity for our vineyard stewards and the health of our industry. The relationship between vintners and physicians, united in a mission to benefit our essential workforce is unique to Oregon. No other state in the country has such an effective and far reaching program to support their vineyard steward population. As a iSalud! Vintner Circle Member supporting the iSalud! Oregon Pinot noir auction and our monthly cash contribution from tasting room fees, we have made iSalud! the foundation of our philanthropic work in the Willamette Valley. You can learn even more about iSalud! Here.
We hope you’ll join us one year at the auction, it’s the BEST party of the year in the Willamette Valley!
We were drawn to Oregon, and the Willamette Valley in particular, not only for the grapes but for the community. As iSalud! was established to address the healthcare needs of our vineyard stewards, AHIVOY was established in 2019 to strengthen the Oregon wine community by empowering vineyard stewards through education. Founded and led by successful Latinx wine professionals, the Asociación Hispana de la Industria del Vino en Oregon y Comunidad (AHIVOY) provides education and professional development opportunities to vineyard stewards in the Oregon wine industry.
In partnership with Chemeketa Community College and Linfield University we have developed a wine industry professional training curriculum to further technical grape and wine knowledge while also creating awareness of potential career, entrepreneurial, and leadership opportunities in the wine industry.
Winderlea is funding one scholarship per year for a vineyard steward to participate in AHIVOY’S wine industry training curriculum. This is funded through Winderlea tasting fees. You can learn more about AHIVOY here.
The Roots Fund was created to nourish and enrich the lives of communities of color in the wine business through mentorships and scholarships in support of classes and internship opportunities in wine regions around the country and the world.
Since 2021, Winderlea has made a monthly contribution to the Roots Fund in the support of scholarships. This is funded through Winderlea tasting fees.
You can learn more about The Roots Fund here.
Winderlea donates 2% of annual revenue to mission driven non-profit organizations.To request a charitable donation from Winderlea, please fill out the linked form and we will be in touch.
Shop our 2023 Giving Season Catalog!