Booker Vineyard becomes Regenerative Organic Certified
Winery meets highest standards for soil health, farmworker fairness
– Booker Vineyard & Winery announced this week that its 60-acre estate vineyard has been officially designated as Regenerative Organic Certified, affirming that the vineyard meets the, “highest standards in the world for soil health and farmworker fairness,” according to a press release.
“Regenerative viticulture takes inspiration from nature,” said Farmer-Winemaker Eric Jensen, who founded Booker Vineyard in 2001. “Whereas organic spells out what you can’t do, regenerative takes it a step further to create discernible improvement to the ecological and social function of the farm and community. In this way, problems are solved holistically within the parameters of a healthy ecosystem—which is something we’ve always strived for at Booker.”
Located in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles, Booker Vineyard has been farmed with organic practices since 2006. In 2021, it became certified by California Certified Organic Farmers, which oversees one of the nation’s most stringent and respected programs of its kind.
Now comes Regenerative Organic Certified, an effort that was spearheaded by Vineyard Manager Hilary Graves. Booker achieved the Silver Level of Regenerative Organic Certified for the pillars of soil health and land management as well as for farmer and worker fairness.
“To farm this way requires support from the top,” Graves said. “Eric has always been supportive of anything that holds us to a high standard, and we now have that same support from Constellation. We also have an incredible vineyard team and they were all dedicated to this effort.” Constellation Brands Inc. acquired Booker in November of 2021. Jensen remains a driving force at Booker as both winemaker and partner.
Soil health is a driving aspect of Regenerative Organic Certified, essentially taking the concept of “organic” to the next level. While organic certification limits what can be applied to plants and soils, it does not necessarily limit practices that disturb soil structure and therefore release added carbon into the atmosphere. Soil health practices required by Regenerative Organic Certified include cover cropping, composting, and limited tillage.
By layering on Regenerative Organic Certified to Booker’s organic certification, Graves says she was ultimately able to draw a harder line and meet an even higher bar that reflects her agricultural ethos.
“I believe that farmers have more power than any other occupation to efficiently capture carbon and hold it in the soil,” Graves said. “We grow plants, and plants take carbon out of the atmosphere and move it to their roots, so we have this immense opportunity to help offset climate change. This is why we maintain a healthy cover crop and avoid frequent tillage at Booker. An added benefit is that these practices also reduce erosion.”
She added, “I think of my farming costs not only in dollars, but also in terms of carbon. If I can avoid making a tractor pass through the vineyard, I will. It not only saves money. It means one less instance of burning fossil fuel, putting carbon into the atmosphere and compacting the soil—all of which are costs, even if it’s not in dollars.”
Respect and appreciation
Regenerative Organic Certified requires that workers employed at the farm are paid a living wage and treated well in all aspects of their work.
“Farmworkers are skilled professionals whose work is sometimes underappreciated,” said Graves, who is active in the field of immigration reform. “On a broader level, food security is a matter of national security, which is why the farmworker profession is something to respect and take seriously. This starts with a living wage and a dignified working environment.”
Graves said that the certification was a team effort at Booker, including Viticulture Technician John Howell and her daughter Charlotte Graves, a Booker employee and agriculture student at Cal Poly who worked with Howell to help bring it to fruition.
“For every problem, there’s an organic or regenerative solution,” Jensen said. “You have to work and think harder to find it, but that just makes you a better farmer, and a better steward of the land and the community.”
Established in 2001 by farmer-winemaker Eric Jensen, Booker Vineyard & Winery specializes in estate wines from its 60-acre organic and regenerative vineyard in westside Paso Robles. In 2021, Booker opened a visitor center with underground wine caves and an indoor-outdoor tasting lounge that flows into the vineyard environment. For more information about the winery visit BookerWines.com.