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Drink Like A Fish: Lake Chelan’s Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards is certified Salmon-Safe


A while ago I committed to only drinking Washington wines (ok, with an exception for an Oregon Pinor Noir here and there). Why ship something from across the world, or even up from California, when we have such amazing local choices in NCW? Since then I've been on the hunt to find a local winery who cares about their impact on local ecosystems, and last summer I found them: Hard Row to Hoe Winery in Manson, WA. In addition to organic practices, their winery offers a great story behind the name. Check them out sometime at their Leavenworth tasting room or at the winery in Manson.


I asked owner Judy Phelps to share on our blog what it means to be a "Salmon Safe" winery and what motivated her and her husband to operate their winery in a sustainable way. I hope that their achievements will inspire other local wineries to do the same. Cheers! - Jana

By Judy Phelps, Owner/Winemaker Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards


The residents of California’s Lake Tahoe wonder why their lake is turning green, so much so that they formed a citizen’s committee called ‘keep Tahoe blue’ to study the issue. Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards is located on the north shore of another pristine lake, Lake Chelan, in north central Washington. The vineyard was planted by my husband and me in 2005. It was a conscience decision on our part when we bought the property to farm it in way that would be environmentally responsible and not contribute to falling water quality in Lake Chelan. My education is in ecology, my husband’s in civil engineering and so we were very mindful of the effects of our farming methods would have on the natural environment. From the beginning, we decide to use organic techniques and to minimize the environmental impact on the Lake Chelan watershed.


Glacial Gravels Vineyard on the north shore of Lake Chelan.

Our commitment to organic farming eventually turned to certifications for Salmon-Safe and Low Impact Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) a program for sustainable winegrowers. Hard Row to Hoe is the first and only vineyard in north central Washington to be certified. The certifications go hand-in-hand and are in recognition of vineyards that preserve native habitat, watershed quality and wildlife.


Examples of some of the ways we do this are:

* No Round-Up or other chemical herbicides or pesticides. All of our sprays and fertilizers are organic.

* Conserve and encourage the native shrub-steppe habitat around the vineyard to encourage biodiversity, beneficial insects and wildlife.

* Maintain a cover crop between vines to minimize run off and prevent water pollution. Our goal is to respect the vineyards ecosystem in order to make unique wines that totally express a ‘sense of place’ for where the grapes are grown (and of course we think results in better wine too!).


Working the vineyard this way is costly and many people thought that it could not be done without the application of pesticides and herbicides. Farming sustainably respects nature and works with it rather than against it. Take a walk in our vineyard on a summer day and be dazzled by the greenness of the vines, the clover underfoot between the rows, the beneficial insects (praying mantis and ladybugs) on the cordons. Native wildflowers such as Arrowleaf balsamroot bloom in the spring; small rodents like mice and moles coexist with hawks and other birds of prey, keeping the whole ecosystem in balance.


We love what we do and we hope to inspire other vineyards and farms to be mindful of the environment. As consumers, it is important to look for certification credentials when you shop for natural products like wine. Many people use the term ‘sustainable’ rather loosely but if a vineyard or farm is certified, then it really means something. For us it was a 3-year process to get the certification credentials and continues to be a high priority for us personally.

Grape growers that practice Salmon-Safe and sustainable standards are reducing their impact on local watersheds, rivers and lakes so salmon and other wildlife can thrive. Buying salmon-safe certified wine directly supports those practices. Through your everyday choices you are helping to protect water quality and maintain watershed health. So raise a glass to Salmon-Safe wine!



Organic Cabernet Franc, on the vine

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Sustainable Wenatchee is a 501(c)3 non-profit that promotes a culture of environmental stewardship and social sustainability in the Wenatchee Valley.

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© 2020 by Sustainable Wenatchee

Saddle Rock photo by Frank Cone

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