It’s a term that has come into vogue as our awareness of the environmental challenges facing our planet grew over the last several decades.
But for a winery owner interested in crafting a business model that is viable in a long-term way, and who is interested in making a contribution to his local community and perhaps even leaving something of a legacy, sustainability encompasses much more than considerations of whether our carbon footprint and waste stream are creating net ecological impacts.
There are wineries that have lasted for centuries. Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace is one that comes to mind. I am no expert on its sustainability model, but what I do know makes sense. It’s family run. It makes wine so different from what everyone else is making that you know they are driven by passion and being true to what they – and their terroir – love. They are not hobbled by trying to figure out what the trend of the day is. They are not driven by corporate values of growth above everything. The wines are not cheap, but in my estimation they are always great values.
I started Vin du Lac over ten years ago. But the first wines were sold 10 years ago this coming July, when Michaela Markusson and I rolled up the orchard shed garage door and set up a table with a little cashbox to make change. We sold about a case of wine that day. That time was so special that for me our real tenth anniversary is coming up in a few months.
The amount of money, time and energy that my family and friends and employees have put into this humble little place is exhausting if I let myself think about it. And that’s why I am thinking about sustainability instead. I am thinking about the next ten years – and beyond. How do we achieve long-term financial stability? How do we fit into our community and what is our role in helping craft a sustainable development model for our special lake valley? How do we get some time off and make sure we are enjoying ourselves? How do we stay in love with what we are doing?
I’m working on all that. Like Zind-Humbrecht, we’re going to stay a family-run place. We’re going to make fewer wines, and focus on what we really love, and what really shines from Chelan and other Washington Vineyards. We’re going to ease up on the push for growth and focus on being better – not bigger. We’re going to put resources into our place and our people – instead of producing more and more pallets of wine. We’re going to take a more active role in the community. We’ve started doing that by sponsoring numerous outdoor recreational events – a personal passion of mine – that draw enthusiasts to the community who support our local economy but also will appreciate and help us preserve the natural beauty of Lake Chelan. We’re going to be more active advocates of a vision for the Valley that preserves what makes this place special.
Change too can be exhausting. But when it is driven by vision, opportunity and hopeful promise it can be energizing and inspiring.
That’s where I’m at. I’m falling in love with my place all over again.
If you follow this blog, you’ll read in the coming months about how I and my great team at Vin du Lac are shaping the sustainable future of our winery. It’s pretty exciting. You might get inspired and fall in love with us all over again too.
Vin du Lac Winery