On Wine and Salmon

When you sit down to a glass of your favorite cabernet  (or whatever you prefer), you may be feeling virtuous that you are drinking a beverage that is good for heart health, or maybe you are just enjoying the moment. You probably aren't thinking about whether the wine is Salmon-Safe Certified. Why would you? What does it even mean for a wine to be certified as salmon safe, and why does it matter?

The idea of salmon-safe wine doesn't make sense in the same way as dolphin-safe tuna. As far as I know, salmon aren't swimming in ponds or rivers on vineyard property. But there is a connection. Salmon are not only an iconic symbol of the Pacific Northwest, they are also an indicator species. This means that if the salmon are thriving, so is the rest of the local ecosystem, and vice versa. Any farm, whether it grows grapes or other produce, can take actions that affect pollution levels in local waterways, and therefore either help or hurt the health of salmon. 

As I'm learning while researching an article on stormwater management, the Salmon-Safe Certification is a bit of a big deal. Sites (farms or vineyards) that want to become certified have to adhere to some strict standards detailed in a 42-page document.   The requirements affect irrigation, water runoff, pest management, location of trees on the property, and more. All these aspects affect the health of salmon, but the benefits go beyond the salmon population. 

Salmon-Safe started in Oregon and has certified over 350 vineyards in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. It is also expanding to California. The Salmon-Safe website maintains a list, for those who want to check before they buy. The vineyard certification applies to the land where the grapes are grown, so just because some wines from a specific label are on the list, that doesn't mean every wine from that winery is salmon-safe. The organization also produces a wallet card, modeled after the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list, but it contains many fewer wines than are listed on the website, suggesting it's in need of an update.  

Eventually the Salmon-Safe certification may become well known, and people may shop for salmon-safe products just like they shop for organic products. But at the moment I think many people will be confused, like the grocery owner who wondered why she should care about salmon-safe certification when her store doesn't sell fish.