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Why Expanding Beyond Wine Is Making These Brands More Sustainable

Why Expanding Beyond Wine Is Making These Brands More Sustainable

View from top of Soter Vineyard, Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon

For centuries, winemakers have made wine. For the most part, they left it at that. 

But in recent decades, wineries have winemakers who make wine, but have also found a way to run restaurants, open hotels, and operate biodynamic farms on their estates.

Why? Increasingly, wineries are finding that broadening their vision beyond the cellar and vineyard reaps unexpected rewards for their brands and the community at large. Sustainability—economic, environmental and cultural—is becoming an increasingly important part of a winemaker’s paradigm. 

This isn’t, after all, the 15th century anymore (or even the 20th). Globalization and the ever-increasing number of wineries and choices out there make attracting a range of people—some of whom may not even drink wine!—essential to success. And for brands who are invested in environmental and social responsibility, thinking outside of the bottle offers new ways to create holistic, eco-friendly businesses that support more people and more businesses. 

Château Angélus Fuels the Economy and Inspires Women 

Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal is a busy woman: she runs a winery, two eco-friendly Michelin-starred restaurants, a boutique hotel, and a farm that literally and metaphorically feeds all of the operations. 

De Boüard-Rivoal is the third woman (and eighth generation) to manage the Bordeaux winery specializing in Premier Grand Cru Classé Château Angélus, with the self-appointed task of launching and strengthening their non-wine businesses. Under her direction in 2018, Angélus began the organic certification process, and she sees these other initiatives as an outgrowth of that vision, explains Angélus’ executive vice president, Yves de Launay.

Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal of Château Angélus

“At our core we are a winery, but in the last several years we have become something that encapsulates so much more,” says de Launay. “Our expansion now includes an agricultural operation that threads together Château Angélus’ vineyard and cellar with two Michelin-starred restaurants—Le Logis de la Cadène and Le Gabriel—and most recently a working farm, La Ferme 1544.”

La Ferme encompasses 25 acres, supplying Le Logis, Le Gabriel, and other restaurants across the area with everything from produce to poultry. The programs—and the manner in which they all connect—are fundamental to de Boüard-Rivoal’s vision of holistic sustainability, de Launay says. 

All told, these operations provide jobs for 170 people and fuel the local economy, with an increasing number of visitors and revenue for small businesses in the surrounding area.

Her leadership is also symbolically important. 

“Stéphanie herself, being the third woman in the history of the family-run company to preside over the estate, is making an impact in a number of ways,” de Launay says. “Having her in the driver’s seat alongside her father helps to attract more female talent to the industry. Not only does Stéphanie’s visibility encourage more women to take on leadership roles in wine and across the economy, it also normalizes seeing women at the top.”

Soter Vineyards Feeds and Builds Community

Tony and Michelle Soter founded Soter Vineyards in 1997 with the goal of “not just working for a living, but working with a purpose. A purpose not measured in quarterly profits, but generational impacts,” says director of consumer sales and marketing Julia Bandy. 

That vision became foundational for the building out and development of Mineral Springs Ranch (MSR), the Soters’ 250-acre biodynamic farm and vineyard. About 20 percent of the vineyard is planted to vines, with the rest devoted to the winery and tasting room, a vegetable farm and orchard, a pasture for grazing animals, an apiary, and riparian areas where Oregon Oaks and other indigenous species thrive. 

The programs at MSR have sprouted several holistic community-building programs that feed MSR and their partners, Bandy says. 

“We trade a local organic dairy farmer space to farm grains for his cows in exchange for organic manure to build our compost programs,” she says. “Our vegetable farm and animal program support our Provisions Tasting Experience, allowing guests to not only taste and sample wines grown and made here at MSR, but to enjoy organically farmed produce, sustainably raised meat, and wild foraged foods from the farm.”

Food not used in the winery tasting room or the culinary program goes to Soter’s staff, or is donated to the local food bank, YCAP (Yamhill Community Action Partnership).

Soter also partners with environmental programs that promote biodiversity. 

“We are one of the inaugural vineyards working with the Oregon Bee Project to enhance the habitat for native pollinators, which includes over 700 species in Oregon,” Bandy says. “We also participate in the Oregon Oak Accord, a voluntary conservation effort among Willamette Valley landowners, including vineyards and forests, to preserve native oak habitat.”

Ceretto Supports Culture With a Hazelnut Micro-Lab, Restaurants, and Art Installations

Riccardo Ceretto founded Ceretto Casa Vinicola in the 1930s, and when his sons Bruno and Marcello took over in the 1960s, the winery began expanding the vision of the winery, selecting only the best areas of Barolo and Barbaresco to plant vineyards, and they promoted the notion of the cru model in Italy. 

“With Burgundy’s century-old wineries in mind, the brothers painstakingly mapped-out the lands of the Langhe and tested soil quality, eventually buying vineyards whose terroir showed the most promise,” Roberta Ceretto, estate owner and director of marketing, says. “Ceretto has since evolved well past this roadmap and made it its own, having applied Burgundy’s lessons to Alba. The family willingly shares its findings with fellow winemakers and today the region works together to battle climate change and to engage in organic practices.”

The notion of harnessing the land for its full potential has always been central to their vision. The estate launched a hazelnut candy and nougat micro-lab called Relanghe in 1994 with the goal of highlighting Nocciola Piemonte I.G.P. and raising awareness of the iconic hazelnuts grown in Langhe. 

The Ceretto family also operates restaurants –the trattoria-style La Piola and Piazza Duomo, which has received three Michelin stars. The restaurants are supplied by the Ceretto family’s organic 12-acre farm, Orto

“La Piola, located in Alba’s town center to encourage conviviality and togetherness, is a trattoria serving traditional Piedmontese dishes and regional wines,” Roberta explains. “Piazza Duomo came about when young chef Enrico Crippa collaborated with the Cerettos, who wished to establish a gastronomic landmark in the Langhe area. The partnership was formed at first bite, and Piazza Duomo has become one of the most notable restaurants for food lovers all over the world.”

The third generation—Alessandro, Federico, Lisa, and Roberta—are infusing the culture of Ceretto with expressions that reflect more than “just” the land it springs from, she explains. 

“Ceretto welcomes famous artists and passing visitors to leave their mark on its wineries and restaurants through sculptures, paintings, exhibitions and its promotion of art in its vineyards,” Roberta says. 

Indeed, the evidence can be seen everywhere: From The Cube at Bricco Rocche Winery,  to L’Acino at Monsordo estate, The Barolo Chapel in Brunate, the fresco by Francesco Clemente that welcomes guests to its Piazza Duomo Restaurant, and the Protect Me Everywhere sculpture at Bricco Rocche Winery (a gate made by Valerio Berruti framing the vineyard through a couple’s embrace).

The Cube at Bricco Rocche

In the end, it’s about sustainability and wholescale preservation, through organic and biodynamic farming practices and cultural connections. 

“The territory of the Langhe hills is fundamental and my family has always had the firm will to put this concept before singular products or productions,” says Roberta, “Ceretto has always been synonymous with great wines, but today, Ceretto embodies much more: contemporary art, haute cuisine, architecture, and all-round culture.”

Terroir-driven wine that reflects not just the land it grows in, but the culture and value of its people can be so much more than “just” fermented fruit.