When Shady Lane Cellars, a destination estate winery on the Leelanau Peninsula, decided to seek a third-party certification of its vineyard sustainability practices, the team had to sit down and assess what they’d have to change.
The answer: Not much.
And after documenting and demonstrating the Northern Michigan winery’s dedication to the farm, the surrounding environment and the people who perform the work, Shady Lane Cellars recently earned SIP Certification, becoming only the second in Michigan with the designation and the 25th nationally.
SIP, an acronym for Sustainability in Practice, is a California-based organization with rigorous, non-negotiable standards based on science and expert input, independent verification, transparency and absence of conflict of interest.
“Our core philosophy at Shady Lane Cellars has always aligned with sustainability and doing the right thing the right way for everyone involved,” said Rick DeBlasio, the winery’s general manager. “The fact there weren’t any big differences in what SIP requires and what we were already doing was a great validation of what we believed in from the very start.”
SIP measures a holistic set of practices addressing habitat, water, energy, soil, recycling, air quality, packaging, pest management, social equity, and business management. The practices are verified through independent records and on-site inspections. The vineyard-related standards exceed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidelines to achieve organically grown designation.
SIP’s root values include:
- Social Responsibility: Competitive wages, medical insurance, training, and education.
- Water Management: Reduced/recycled water in the vineyards and winery.
- Safe Pest Management: Introduce beneficial insects, attract raptors and plant enriching cover crops to keep vineyards healthy.
- Energy Efficiency: Alternative fuels and energy sources like solar and wind; minimal tractor usage; enhanced insulation in winery.
- Habitat: Create wildlife corridors and preserve open space.
- Business: Ethical practices; treat employees and community with care and respect.
- Always Evolving: Evolve as new science, technology and research becomes available.
Beth Vukmanic Lopez, the SIP group’s certification manager, said she was excited to add a second vineyard in Michigan, with WaterFire Vineyards, near Torch Lake, as a partner in practices.
“It is a pleasure to work with a vineyard dedicated to caring for the people and planet,” Vukmanic Lopez said.
DeBlasio believes the SIP Certifed status is proof that Michigan’s growing wine industry is gaining ground.
“Not only can we achieve this certification in a dramatically different growing environment, but a group based in California is willing to put its name on our vineyard here in Michigan,” he said. “That is a real testament to our industry and to this state.”
Shady Lane Cellars has long taken pride in being handcrafted from the ground up and showing a respect for and stewardship of the land. Its hilltop setting, just miles from Traverse City, offers sweeping panoramic views of the 52-acre vineyard farmland.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shady Lane Cellars undertook multiple safety procedures to protect its tasting room guests and the winery’s staff. Now, during the government-required shutdown, it has created an innovative 12 days of Christmas promotion to allow patrons access to wine deals in time for the holiday.
Below is the schedule for the sale that began on Dec. 9 and continues through Dec. 20, with shipping promised before Dec. 25.