It was great to open “ The Best of 2019” issue of Quench, and see not one but two articles on sustainability. We are starting to realize that WE are the solution to the problem, if a solution is to be found. For too long, we have expected someone else: either government or business, to fix our problems. It hasn’t worked so far and it won’t in the future.
At Southbrook we have tried to think of what needs to be done, and have tried to provide an example of what is possible, though frequently we need to think outside the box.
At Southbrook we have, in no particular order
Rather than buying Carbon off sets to make us feel better about high energy use, we have taken that money and invested it in energy reduction and in Ontario’s first winery Net Metering project. Net Metering means that when the sun shines our meter runs backwards. These investments should furnish a net reduction of 85% of our electrical consumption
We have led the way in lightweighting our bottles. The bottle we use most: roughly 60% of our production, weighs 405 grams. More interesting, it is made in Ontario from glass sourced from the LCBO’s “Bag it Back program”, by people living and paying taxes in Ontario. 85% of the glass in each bottle is recycled, so only 15% or roughly 60 grams, has to be sourced from new sand, a declining resource. These bottles are more expensive than the industry standard (mostly) Chinese bottles, but we feel strongly that if we expect people to buy our wine, we should use suppliers that stand for the same as we do
To speak to Michelle Bouffard’s article where she references LEED, Stratus was the first LEED winery in the world, which they achieved in 2005. At Southbrook we received our Gold level in 2008, and we were pleased to see Tantalus join our ranks in 2010.
Reducing carbon output is incredibly important, but it is not the only thing. Often tillage is higher in Organic Agriculture, meaning more diesel consumption. However which is better: an extra 10 litres of fuel or 250 ml of Glyphosate? Until recently Glyphosate was viewed as harmless but today most people know that under its trade name Roundup, it is far from benign.
Remember I said it is up to us to solve the problem? In our wallets, we have more power than any Government. We need to THINK about any action we are about to take and base our buying decisions on the ethos of the company we are supporting. Almost every winery makes what they think is the best wine they can. Without it being good, nothing else matters
After that, here are some other things to think about:
Local is always good. Like the greenbelt? Help preserve it by buying what is produced on it. Like lower taxes? Support someone who is paying taxes in the same jurisdiction as you are. Like Fair Trade ? Support companies who support those principles, though remember that North America, Europe and Australia may not join as they are expected to already be in compliance.
Organic and Biodynamic are a certified way to know what is happening on the farm. There is too much Greenwashing happening when people say ‘it’s too expensive to certify”. By the way one of the central tenets of Biodynamic agriculture is the use of Manure in the fields: I don’t think it is possible to be certified without it
How would I sum it up? 3 rules
1. If it doesn’t taste good, don’t drink it
2. If it tastes good, buy from someone whose values align best with yours. This requires thought
3. If it tastes good and their values align, try to buy from someone to whom the purchase would be important. This usually skews to a small producer. A bottle purchased from someone who makes 1,000 case year is much more meaningful to them than one purchased from a 2,000,000 case a year company
These are my principles. I would love to hear if you agree. Remember that our wallets have more power than the Government, and Corporations will listen and change behaviour if we back up our words with actions. Take back your power and we will make the difference!!
This past Sunday, we did the retrospective of the Ontario Chardonnays that were poured in London in 2010. I must admit that I was a bit worried that some might be over the hill. They ranged from 2005 to 2008 vintage, and while they were all top notch in the day it was still a risk. As we Coravined the wines, each wine seemed better and better. The colour on all looked good, and the bouquets seemed fresh and youthful. The palates carried through with the same theme. I won’t go into them wine by wine, but overall they were in fine shape. Tasting older wines is a tough job as the characteristics you look for have changed. You drink young wines for their sheer exuberance, while you appreciate older wines as a contemplation. What was happening when these wines were young? America had a young, hopeful President, Canada was trying with our neighbours to work our way out of financial troubles and these wines were trying to show what Ontario was capable of in the world of wine.
The wines showed great depth of hazelnut, butterscotch canned peaches and fresh lemon. I would love to open any one of them to share with friends. My suggestion of matching with roast turkey or chicken was met with “ how about just on their own”? I would agree
My conclusions? If you have some quality Ontario Chard in the cellar, there is no rush to drink them. If you don’t have any in your cellar, you should rush to get some! If you are interested in trying this tasting, we will be repeating this twice as part of 4C in July. You don’t have to have I4C tickets to join us: more info will follow.
Last Friday, I got to go back to my roots. I was invited to speak to a couple of classes of Kindergartners at a local school about Monarch Butterflies. This year we have given out over 1,000 packs of seeds. The response was amazing, and we hope everyone will send us lots of pictures.
Many of you remember that Southbrook started in Richmond Hill as a roadside stand in the 1980’s. One of our biggest crops was pumpkins. Each year would welcome about 10,000 school kids, from Kindergarten to grade 4 out to the patch to walk in the field and learn about farming and nature.
What do you talk about to a class of very young children? You can't go into great detail, even though these kids knew a lot more than I expected (They had some very involved and dedicated teachers). I talked about the importance of milkweed and how amazing the butterflies are. I told them how not only butterflies are important, but bees are as well. I showed them Carol Pasternak’s great book: How To Raise Monarch Butterflies, and our new Solitary Bee House.
What was I trying to get across ? I told them that the big people in their lives like their parents have to pay attention to the big things like jobs, homes and cars. I told them that means they have to look out for the little things like Butterflies and Bees. I also told them that because they are little, it’s easier for them to look down so they can see what is happening on the earth
People ask me what they can do. All of life’s problems seem so huge: climate change or energy use as examples and anything that I can do seems so unimportant. We can all do something important. Whether it is talking to kids, planting a diverse butterfly garden or thinking about cutting back on waste (do I really need that straw? ), it is all significant. Every step is important, especially if we tell others what we are doing and why.