Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certification
Commitment to Quality
SIP Certification speaks to the farmer’s commitment to protecting both natural and human resources. Growers and winemakers recognize that mindful fruit production and care for workers’ well-being are important components of quality wine.
Whole Farm System
The comprehensive rules for SIP Certification (known as Standards) address many interrelated elements of the whole farm system. Habitat conservation, energy efficiency, pest management, water conservation, economic stability, and human resources are some of the key elements of the program. The Standards look at the farm in its entirety: the worker, soil fertility, cover crops, wildlife, native plants, irrigation, and more.
In order to qualify for certification, growers must have their practices verified through in-depth records and on-site audits by accredited independent inspectors. A separate Certification Advisory Committee then determines eligibility based on blinded reports from auditors. During the evaluation process, the name of the vineyard remains anonymous.
In 1996, our local grower group, the Central Coast Vineyard Team, pioneered the innovative and award winning Positive Points System – the first self-assessment utilizing a whole farm, integrated approach to vineyard management. Since its inception, over 1,000 evaluations representing 60,000 acres have been collected. As a tool, the PPS helped educate and guide hundreds of growers towards adopting practices that protect both human and natural resources, and the framework has been modeled by other notable organizations.
In 2002, our members discussed the possible shift from self-assessment to third-party certification. From dialogue came action, and in 2003, a group of dedicated growers and advisers began developing a set of standards. It took us four years to develop the Standards and over 30 environmental, regulatory, and academic representatives independently reviewed our work. Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certification was launched in 2008 with 3,700 SIP Certified acres in three counties, establishing a distinguishing statewide certification. There are currently 27,000 acres eligible for SIP Certification and 350,000 cases of wines bearing the SIP seal.
Values & Trust
The farmers and wineries show their dedication through daily practice of sustainable farming methods and by investing in certification. Wine lovers interested in showing their dedication to these shared values can do so by choosing SIP Certified wines. The SIP Certified seal assures that the farmer has completed a process verifying that the fruit was grown with respect for the land and the wine was made with SIP Certified fruit.
How Are SIP Certified Wines Different from Organic Wines?
Wines earning SIP Certification go beyond the USDA Organic certification process. While you’ll find many organic wines that are also SIP Certified, the SIP process addresses additional farming methods, looking at sustainable practices on every level of the winegrowing process, from farm labor to agriculture – from energy conservation to water quality. It’s an additional way for consumers to know they’re buying sustainable wines that give back to the land and community on every level.