K-J Interviews: Tony Viramontes, VP Director of North Coast Vineyards
Did you know that the vineyard team was the first department to implement sustainability certifications at Jackson Family Wines? Acting on Jess Jackson’s vision of preserving the land for future generations, we began enrolling our vineyard properties in the California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) and Sustainability in Practice (SIP) programs beginning in 2008.
I caught up with Tony Viramontes, VP Director of North Coast Vineyards last week at our vineyard in the Alexander Valley. Tony is responsible for managing all of Jackson Family Wines’ vineyard operations for Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties, and ensuring participation in the sustainable certification programs. Tony’s first memories as a boy were raising cows and farming on his family’s ranch in Zacatecas, Mexico. He immigrated to the United States and eventually moved to the North Coast of California from the concrete jungles of Los Angeles to live with an uncle and be closer to the land. It was here that Tony got his start in the vineyards, ultimately working his way up to his current position.
K-J INterviews: Tony Viramontes
What were the reasons behind starting the sustainability certifications in the vineyards?
Our sustainability journey started with our founder, Jess Jackson. He was a true farmer and a student of the land. His great motivation was to always protect the land, for employees, the community, and his family. This vision is something that has spread across all levels of the company. As a wine company, everything we do ties back into the land.
Have our sustainability practices in the vineyards resulted in better wines in the bottle? Better crops overall?
Our wines are constantly evolving. In the past 10 years, as the result of the implementation of our sustainable farming practices, our wines have continued to improve. We have increased the vitality of our soils and rootstocks, and implemented more progressive trellising and irrigation practices. More technologically advanced data collection tools enable us to be better farmers each and every day and new innovations in farming help improve wine quality. This has ultimately resulted in higher quality wines that receive consistently higher scores and reviews from critics and consumers alike.
Can you give us an update on the sustainability practices we are implementing in the vineyards?
We continue to focus on year over year improvements to our California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) and Sustainability in Practice (SIP) certifications in the vineyards. We are always looking for new equipment, better irrigation practices, and fuel and energy efficiency measures that reduce our footprint and cut operational costs. This is good for our land and the company’s financial bottom line.
What does a normal day look like for you and your team?
Now is the busiest time of the year for us. Our crews are hard at work succoring the vines and doing canopy management before harvest to ensure a healthy crop. We are also monitoring and updating our vineyard irrigation systems and putting in new vine plantings.
What are the best parts of your job?
Connecting with the land and my fellow vineyard workers. I work 6 days a week and never get tired. It’s my love for the land that keeps me going. Taking in the beautiful landscape of our properties, both cultivated and wild, provides me with a sense of peace and tranquility. I am always amused because so many people spend a lot of money to visit this area and I get paid to work here!
Can you highlight any personal sustainability commitments you and your team have made?
Being involved in the sustainability initiatives here at Jackson Family Wines has made me more conscious of my family’s water use. We as a society use a great deal of water in our daily lives, and working on vineyard-related sustainability projects inspired me to go through and change out showerheads and hose nozzles at home to do my part.