I was standing in a winery tasting room the other day and I looked down at a pamphlet on “Salmon Safe” wines. My immediate reaction was that this was a joke. First, I thought what salmon is going to drink wine? Then I thought about the fact that pairing Salmon with some wines can be unsafe for your palate.
What I didn’t think about was that vineyards, and winemaking can be hard on salmon habitat. I’m a bit of a throwback from the ‘70s when we used to throw our chemical waste into the rivers because it would wash into the sea eventually. Nobody even thought that it would affect the fish.
So, armed with a little pamphlet, I went on line and started doing some research. Of course the concept of salmon safe vineyard management came right out of Oregon and has spread throughout the western United States. The first vineyards to be deemed salmon safe were in the Willamette valley of western Oregon.
Founded by the Pacific Rivers Council, Salmon Safe is now an official 501 (c) 3 organization based in Portland. Their mission is to transform land management practices so that salmon can thrive in these Pacific Coast watersheds. The organization has grown and paired up with several other like minded organizations throughout the United States and Canada.
Let’s just say I’m a vineyard owner and I want to make my little piece of paradise Salmon Safe. What would I do? The answer appears to actually be quite easy. There are several organizations who are offering support in becoming Salmon Safe. In Oregon and Washington the organization to reach out to is called LIVE, or Low Impact Viticulture and Enology. Their website address is www.liveinc.org .
The next question I have as a consumer is how do I know if I’m drinking a Salmon Safe wine? The best way to find out is by going to www.salmonsafe.org and finding out for yourself.
Several of my favorite vintners from the Willamette Valley to Walla Walla, and everywhere in between are becoming Salmon Safe. Some are almost completely Salmon Safe because of their vineyard management practices, and many are on their way. Over 200 vintners from the region currently participate in the program.
A great example of a winery that produces almost exclusively Salmon Safe Wines is L’Ecole in Walla Walla. All of their estate vintages are listed with this designation. On the other hand, wineries such as Chateau Ste. Michelle have a harder time due to the number of wines they produce. Currently Ste. Michelle offers only their Cold Creek and Canoe Ridge labels with the designation.
My opinion on this whole concept remains pretty simple. I’m not much of an environmentalist. I’m not very good at recycling and I don’t see myself ever driving a Toyota Prius. However, if I know that I’m pulling the cork on a bottle of wine that didn’t impact the salmon habitat I figure that will be one more salmon I get to eat later.
For those who are environmentalists in this region I still wouldn’t admit it openly. However, if you can help make a really good bottle of wine that saves the habitat I’m all for it.