Tightrope Winery celebrates Earth Day with "Sustainable Certification," the first awarded by the new Sustainable Winegrowing BC organization

Local winery sustainable 1st

Just in time for Earth Day, Tightrope Winery on the Naramata Bench was awarded certification as the first "Sustainable Certified" winery and vineyard in BC.

Sustainable Winegrowing BC (SWBC) was launched in April 2020 with the goal of pioneering sustainability certification for vineyards and wineries in British Columbia. They are working to validate the vigorous efforts of the wine industry to be more sustainable and showcase the benefits for them and their communities.

Sustainability has always been a goal and priority to Graham and Lyndsay O’Rourke, owners of Tightrope Winery.

With a young family, and utilizing the property for both their home and their winery, they wanted to ensure it was a healthy, environmentally-friendly space for themselves and future generations.

Graham helped create the framework for sustainable certification standards as a founding director of sustainable winegrowing in BC.

“Sustainability for us means Tightrope being socially and environmentally responsible with all of our inputs. Everything we do from start to finish, from growing, making the wine, bottling and selling it,” O’Rourke explains.

"As a farmer, it needs to matter. We work off the land and should work to be connected with it and support its future viability. It is something we should all be doing and concerned about. We need to ensure what we’re doing isn’t detrimental to the future of our soil."

This isn’t a new passion for O’Rourke. He was educated and worked in New Zealand where environmentalism and sustainability were an important part of his experience and schooling.

“I came back to Canada and began working with Mission Hill and questioned why they didn’t have programs like that here. I established an in-house program with Mission Hill and in 2008 a dozen or so of us like minded people in the community got together to talk about it further,” which eventually served as the foundation for SWBC.

Some of the benefits of their winery and vineyard sustainability efforts include targeted irrigation management to help solve water availability issues in the Okanagan Valley and working with fungicides that don’t affect the peripheral environment. Both the winery and their vineyards achieved SWBC certification.

“My wife Lyndsay and I started the vineyard in 2007 and began winemaking in 2012 and from day one we have been concerned with the environment and have worked to minimize our impact. We hope with that time there is potential to show and help others understand what is possible,” says O’Rourke, mentioning several other wineries and vineyards in the valley are working towards getting certification or learning more about it.

“We are the first, but we want the whole industry to grab on and run with this. We worked a long time to put this together and it requires commitment, but this is a good program and it is very well thought out for our valley which has its unique difficulties and challenges.”

Tightrope Winery offers 11 different wines but O’Rourke recommends the Viognier to try for Spring. It is crisp and bright with notes of papaya, pink grapefruit, honeysuckle and elderflower.

“The approach for a lot of the industry has been geared to their own sustainability as a business but now it's time to be more responsible as a community. We have been getting better, but there is still room to grow."

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