If you are purchasing wines from Oregon or Washington, you may notice that some of these wines are marketed as “Salmon Safe.” This means that the vineyard and/or winery has been certified by Salmon-Safe, an independent, non-profit organization whose goal is to keep the West Coast habitats of wild Pacific salmon clean, so that they can spawn and thrive. They accomplish this by introducing land management techniques that help conserve the salmon’s habitats. Why do we need wines (and other consumables) to be certified as Salmon Safe? Back in the 1800s, tens of millions of Pacific salmon swam in the Columbia and Snake Rivers (the largest North American river that runs to the Pacific Ocean and its largest tributary.) Today, only about 10,000 return.
What does this have to do with wine, you may wonder? In order to grow grapes, vineyards in Oregon and Washington use chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, and often need to use irrigation techniques to water their vines. Vineyards and wineries need to address such concerns as what sort of sediment and other runoff are entering the streams and rivers from their properties. During irrigation the water mixes with the chemicals and runs off into local watersheds. Additionally, erosion from this irrigation is also a problem, as well as methods of pest control.
The good news is that more than 220 vineyards in Oregon and Washington have been certified as Salmon Safe for their ecologically sustainable viticulture practices. The Salmon Safe certification program is operated in partnership with Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE). (LIVE is certified through the International Organization for Biological Control, the international standard for sustainable agriculture.) Vineyards and wineries are certified by Oregon Tilth, a West Coast certifier of organic farms. To learn more about the guidelines for Salmon Safe certification, click here.
Oregon and Washington Vineyard and Wineries
Below are just a few of the vineyards, wineries and wines that have been certified as Salmon Safe.
The wines of Amity Vineyards have won both national and international awards. This Salmon Safe vineyard is located in Yamhill County, where Pinot Noir wines that rival those of Burgundy are created. They also produce Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Blanc wines, among others. Be sure to sample their 2008 Estate Pinot Noir, which has aromas of black cherry and cranberry, followed by flavors that include vanilla and spice. Also try their 2008 Estate Dry Riesling, with aromas of floral and stone fruits, and flavors of citrus and pineapple. For more information on this Salmon Safe vineyard, click here.
Willamette Valley Vineyards
Certified Salmon Safe (as well as sustainable by LIVE) since 1997, these Oregon vineyards produce outstanding wines. They are especially dedicated to creating Pinot Noir wines, although they also have excellent Chardonnay, Riesling and others. Try their 2008 Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, with aromas of plum and cherry, and flavors that include chocolate and raspberry. For more information on this Salmon Safe vineyard and its wines, click here.
Pepper Bridge Winery
Located in Walla Walla Valley, this estate winery produces many award winning wines. Certified Salmon Safe, they practice sustainable farming on all of their vineyards. Their 2007 Merlot is excellent, with aromas of currants and plums, followed by flavors of chocolate and fruit. Their 2006 Walla Walla Valley Reserve has aromas of caramel and clove, and flavors that include red currants and dark fruits. For more information on this Salmon Safe winery and its wines, click here.
This is just a partial list of the Oregon and Washington wines that have been certified as Salmon Safe. For a complete list of Salmon Safe wines, click here.