Biodynamic agriculture requires that only natural, plant- or animal-based products can be used as fertiliser. In this photo, sheep graze on grass and vine leaves. These same sheep provide organic manure for the grapevines, reducing the need for shipping from elsewhere.
Commitment to Sustainable Viticulture
Third-generation farmer, Bill Redelmeier, and his wife Marilyn, founded Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake in 2005, following more than twenty years of local growing experience. Immediately, the Redelmeiers committed their energies to sustainable viticulture, both in terms of organic and biodynamic agriculture.
“We both had a vision for Southbrook Vineyards and Winery to be a Canadian – and international – leader in agricultural sustainability,” said Bill Redelmeier. “We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved over the past decade and consumers also appreciate our efforts.”
First Biodynamic Certified Vineyard in Canada
Biodynamics emphasizes self-sufficiency in farming and seeks to minimize the impact of land use on soil and on pre-existing animals and insects using that land as their habitat. The Redelmeiers pursued not only organic certification, but also biodynamic certification, gaining both in 2008. They became officially certified by Pro-Cert Organics, Canada’s national certifier of organic food products, and by Demeter, the international body that oversees biodynamic agriculture.
In addition to ensuring a very low footprint on the planet and on the land itself, both owners and winemakers at Southbrook say the practice is also a way to more fully express the vineyard’s terroir in the wines they produce. Bill says the team was “drawn to biodynamics as a way to more fully express the vineyard’s character” in their wines, and underwent the certification process as a way to authenticate their commitment to sustainable practices.
LEED Gold Certification
Keen to welcome visitors to their organic and biodynamic vineyard and winery, Southbrook Vineyards commissioned a hospitality pavilion in 2005, complete with a tasting room and a wine shop. Soon after, an eco-friendly building design was commissioned, with Jack Diamond of Diamond Schmitt Architects (Toronto’s Four Seasons For The Performing Arts, La Maison Symphonique de Montréal) being appointed as lead architect.
Southbrook Vineyard’s Visitor Centre, featuring highly optimized daylighting and a white reflective roof, to minimize the need for air conditioning in summer months.
The building of the winery itself was to have as low a carbon footprint as possible, retrofitting a pre-existing agricultural building, and integrating recycled and locally sourced materials into the design. In terms of ongoing energy use, astonishingly, the building uses 50% less energy than a conventional building of the same size. This has been achieved through a whole raft of energy-saving measures, including an energy-efficient lighting plan, including occupancy sensors; top-of-the-range insulation; the use of natural light as much as possible; and a ventilation system controlled by CO2 sensors.
The result: Southbrook Vineyards’ winery and visitor centre was awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification in 2008. The exacting standards required diverting building and construction waste from the landfill, as well as excellent indoor environmental quality (thermal monitoring, daylighting), a reduction in ongoing water use, water efficient landscaping and the maintaining of natural habitats in the form of a wildflower meadow near the building.
Southbrook is proud to be the first winery to achieve LEED Gold Certification, continuing to garner other accolades, notably the Award of Excellence for Architectural Design and an Award of Merit for Green Buildings from the Canadian Institute for Steel Construction.
Bill concludes that “environmental stewardship is not only one of the core values we hold here at Southbrook, but we firmly believe that low-impact agriculture makes for better, more flavoursome wine.”