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We close out our look at the Central Coast Vineyard Team and their Sustainability-in-Practice certification with the final installment of our interview with Kris Beal, the program’s director. This week, we focus on the growth of the program and what it means for consumers when they see the SIP Seal on bottles of wine. Plus, our panel reviews SIP wines from Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County.

If you missed either previous segment, you can get a basic overview of the Central Coast Vineyard Team from Part One along with reviews of SIP wines from Monterey County and the Arroyo Grande Valley. Or you can find out a bit about how the program has help production for growers and read our reviews of SIP wines from the Edna Valley in Part Two.

The SIP program has grown tremendously in just a few years. Are you actively recruiting wineries and growers or do they come to you eager to be part of the program?

The growth of this program has far exceeded our expectations, and it has been very rewarding to watch the program grow. We are out there giving talks and presentations, but it is a totally voluntary program. Growers don’t have to do it and many don’t want to do it since it takes plenty of time, energy, and resources to become certified. So it’s not like we are out there selling the program or trying to coerce people into participating.

However, people are finding a need for verifiable sustainability claims, and they are coming to us to get involved. Just two years ago, we were at around 14,000 acres in the program, and even that was beyond any of our expectations. So to be at 27,000 statewide acres today is amazing.

With all the enthusiasm for the program, do you see any limit to how many wineries can be involved given your resources as a non-profit?

I think there will be a natural slowing of the growth. I don’t think it’s for everyone, given what the program requires in terms of the farming level and what it requires beyond that to achieve certification. But I think that’s good. The intent of the program from the beginning was for it to be a differentiator.

So given that differentiation, what are a few of the main reasons you would encourage people to buy SIP Certified wines over bottles without the certification?

First off, there’s some great SIP Certified wine available. We’ve been very pleased with the quality of the wines carrying the SIP Certified Seal [on the label]. So what I like to say is that you can get a great bottle of wine and you can feel really good about how it was produced and how the company is treating its land and its people. To get that SIP Seal, that producer had to go through a lot including a review by an independent body and a site audit. Plus, all the certification standards were peer-reviewed by some very smart people, so you know you can trust the rules and requirements.

With two bottles of wine of the same quality, from the same AVA [or growing region], odds are that you won’t have to pay more for the SIP Certified wine compared to [a bottle without it], and when you buy that SIP wine you know the company that made it is taking care of its land and its employees.

Reviews of SIP Certified Wines from Paso Robles & Santa Barbara County

 

 

Winery: Ampelos Cellars

Grape(s): Pinot Noir

Region: Santa Barbara County

Year: 2008

Special Designation: Rho

Price: 40-45

Review:

Aromatics of cherries, baked currants, and raspberries meld with suggestions of all-spice and licorice on the nose. Flavors of cherry, red currants, and raspberry emerge on the palate with accents of clove, cocoa, and herbs. With an pleasant acidity and interesting layers, fans of complex Pinots will enjoy this bottle.

Rating: 90

Winery: Ampelos Cellars

Grape(s): Grenache

Region: Santa Barbara County

Year: 2008

Special Designation: Delta

Price: 30-35

Review:

A bouquet of bing cherry, bramble fruit, and spice greets the senses. A sip reveals flavors of cherry and blackberry accented by suggestions of sweet spice and pepper. A light, approachable red, that’s smooth with a few lively highlights, it’s ideal to pair with a chicken pizza or a pasta in a light tomato sauce

Rating: 89

Winery: Ampelos Cellars

Grape(s): Syrah

Region: Santa Barbara County

Year: 2008

Special Designation: Gamma

Price: 30-35

Review:

Aromas of blueberry jam, cherry, and red currants come together with notes of dark chocolate and spice on the nose. With a sip, bramble fruit and cherry flavors with accents of cocoa and earth emerge. A rich red wine with supple tannins, if you enjoy dark, slightly earthy reds, this is a bottle to try.

Rating: 88

Winery: Cass

Grape(s): Viognier

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2011

Special Designation: (none)

Price: 20-25

Review

A bouquet of apricot, banana, melon, and floral suggestions rises up from a glass. Notes of apricot, granny smith apple, and citrus fruits come together with hints of minerals and springtime flowers on the palate. A crisp Viognier, if you enjoy lively, floral whites, this is a wine for you.

Rating: 88

Winery: Cass

Grape(s): Syrah 80% Grenache 20%

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2011

Special Designation: Oasis Rose

Price: 20-25

Review

Aromas of strawberries and cherries accented by suggestions of herbs and sweet spice can be discovered on the nose. Ripe raspberry, strawberry, and watermelon flavors emerge on the palate along with a hint of spice. Light, fairly crisp, and fruit driven, fans of easy-drinking Roses will enjoy this wine.

Rating: 87

Winery: Cass

Grape(s): Roussanne

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2011

Special Designation: (none)

Price: 20-25

Review

Aromatics of spring time flowers, banana, lemon, and light spice rise up from a glass. The palate delivers flavors of tropical and citrus fruits that mingle with suggestions of white blossoms and white pepper. A round, floral wine that ideal for food, fans of rich whites with a slightly chalky character will enjoy this bottle.

Rating: 88

Winery: Halter Ranch

Grape(s): Petit Verdot 25%, Cabernet 25%, Syrah 24%, Merlot 15%, Malbec 12%

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2008

Special Designation: Ancestor

Price: N/A

Review

Aromatics of currants, cherries, and blackberries mingle with notes of dark-chocolate on the nose. A sip reveals flavors of bramble fruit and black currants complicated by suggestions of anise, dark-chocolate, and oak. A rich red, with supple tannins, fans of dark, concentrated Bordeaux-style blends should try this bottle.

Rating: 89

Winery: Halter Ranch

Grape(s): Grenache 44%, Syrah 28%, Mourvedre 20%, Picpoul Blanc 8%

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2011

Special Designation: Rose

Price: 15-20

Review

Sweet red berry aromas rise up from a glass. Cherry, watermelon, and cranberry flavors dominate the palate along with hints of spice. A laid-back wine, that’s quite approachable, it’s ideal for fans of easy-going Roses.

Rating: 87

Winery: Pomar Junction

Grape(s): Viognier

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2009

Price: 20-25

Review

Aromatics of pears, perfume, and citrus fruit greet the senses. The flavor profile opens up with notes of pear and tangerine accented by robust floral highlights. Nice and round on the palate with a fresh acidity, it’s ideal for fans of lively, floral whites.

Rating: 88

Winery: Pomar Junction

Grape(s): Zinfandel

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2009

Price: 30-35

Review

The nose offers aromas of cherries, dark raspberries, and blueberries along with notes of spice. The palate delivers flavors of red berries and jammy bramble fruit accented by hints of white pepper and all-spice. This is a bottle for fans of smooth, ripe Zins with modest spice.

Rating: 89

Winery: Pomar Junction

Grape(s): Pinot Noir

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2009

Price: 30-35

Review

Aromas of ripe red fruits along with hints of roast meat and vanilla rise up from a glass. With a sip, flavors of plum and strawberry drift across the palate accented by suggestions of sweet spice and earth. It’s a light, approachable Pinot that’s ideal for fans of a more laid back style.

Rating: 86

Winery: Riverbench

Grape(s): Chardonnay

Region: Santa Barbara County

Year: 2010

Special Designation: Estate Grown

Price: 20-25

Review:

A bouquet of tropical fruit, apple, and sweet spice greets the senses. Flavors of apple, mango, and passion fruit mingle with suggestions of clove and vanilla. A rich Chardonnay, with a welcoming acidity, fans of lush, balanced whites will enjoy this wine.

Rating: 90

Winery: Riverbench

Grape(s): Pinot Noir

Region: Santa Barbara County

Year: 2010

Special Designation: Estate Grown

Price: 25-30

Review:

Aromatics of red berries, smoky oak, sweet spice, and minerals rise up from a glass. A sip reveals flavors of raspberries and strawberries accented by notes of all-spice, earth, and smoke. A fairly bright, balanced Pinot, if you enjoy lively fruit with a moderate earthy character, give this bottle a try.

Rating: 89

Winery: Riverbench

Grape(s): Pinot Noir

Region: Santa Barbara County

Year: 2010

Special Designation: Mesa

Price: 45-50

Review:

Lovely red berry aromas meld with suggestions of vanilla and earth on the nose. Flavors of cherry and strawberry with accents of bacon, spice, and earth emerge on the palate. A Pinot offering light, lush fruit and a welcoming acidity, fans of approachable, layered reds will enjoy this wine.

Rating: 90

Winery: Robert Hall

Grape(s): Viognier

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2010

Price: 15-20

Review

Aromas of honeysuckle and citrus blossoms meld with suggestions of peach and dried apricot on the nose. A sip reveals flavors of peach, tangerine, and mango with accents of minerals and springtime flowers. A light and fairly crisp wine, if you enjoy approachable , floral whites, give this bottle a try.

Rating: 87

 

Winery: Robert Hall

Grape(s): Sauvignon Blanc

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2010

Price: 10-15

Review

The nose offers up aromas of tart pineapple, lime, and granny smith apple. The palate delivers lively notes of citrus fruits and green apple with accents of minerals and pistachios. A light white that’s rather dry, if you enjoy a tart flavor profile, give this bottle a try.

Rating: 86

Winery: Robert Hall

Grape(s): Orange Muscat

Region: Paso Robles

Year: 2010

Price: 10-15

Review

Aromatics of orange blossoms, tangerine, honey and sweet spice rise up from a glass. A sip reveals flavors of tropical fruits accented by highlights of orange, sweet spice, and floral notes. A fairly light, floral wine, fans of semi-sweet whites will enjoy this bottle.

Rating: 88