SUSTAINABLE FARMING AT OUR VINEYARDS
Having used organic farming in our vineyards since 2003 and received CCOF organic certification in 2006, we recently expanded our practices by becoming sustainable. This decision reflects our commitment to the community and future generations.
Sonoma County has started an initiative to become the first 100% sustainable winegrowing region in the United States. We have modified our practices to align with the Sonoma County Winegrowers statement of principles and obtained our sustainability certification in 2017. This certificate is based on processes that ensure the sustainability of the land, build a sense of community with neighbors, and respect both the natural and social environment where the work takes place.
At our estate the commitment to the environment and our community has been growing consistently: the entire winery and the two houses on the property are 100% solar-powered; waste is recycled and organic material is used for compost to fertilize the vineyard; cover crops provide an ideal habitat for beneficial insects that are natural predators of harmful pests; chickens are bred to increase biodiversity; boxes for owls to nest in the vineyard keep the gopher population in check; and beehives are placed to aid in the growth of beneficial plants. In addition to maintaining a healthy environment and contributing to our communities economically, it is equally important for us to provide a positive environment for our employees and neighbors.
COVER CROPS & BENEFICIAL INSECTS
Our cover crops of peas, vetch, oats and clover improve the health of our soils due to the nitrogen-fixing nature of legumes. These plants are essential for sustainable farming because they provide a habitat for beneficial insects, such as lady bugs and spiders, which are natural predators of harmful pests like leaf hoppers and mites.
Sustainable farming also helps diminish water use in the vineyard, as the cover crops retain moisture in the soil. Another benefit of cover crops is erosion control during the winter months.
In 2007 we started to experiment with biodynamic practices and in 2010 we decided to implement these methods throughout the entire vineyard. Biodynamics encourages us to focus on the vineyard as an ecological whole: not just rows of grape vines, but the soil beneath them – an organism in its own right – and the other flora and fauna in the area, growing together independently and promoting biodiversity.
To contribute to the health of the vines, special ‘compost teas’ prepared from herbs like yarrow and nettle are sprayed in minute quantities over the vineyard. To promote biodiversity we planted an insectary of wild flowers that promote beneficial insects, while the bees in our hives encourage pollination. Additionally, we have our chickens living on the estate to contribute to the biodiversity in the vineyard.
Biodynamic is a leap of faith; it’s impossible to quantify the success of the practices. But we firmly believe that our wines have become more reflective of their terroir, rounder and more ‘stand-alone’ since we became sustainable, so we think this step may help improve the health of our vineyard.
Recycling waste in an efficient manner, we create our own compost to use in the vineyard. In an area designated for this purpose we pile up the grape pomace (stems, seeds and skins left over after pressing the grapes) together with the horse manure from our equestrian center, the straw from the stables, cow manure, recycled saw dust from a nearby enzyme bath spa, and apple pomace from a neighboring apple cannery. In early November we mix up all the piles and start the composting process. The resulting piles will be turned and monitored throughout the winter, covered with a tarp to protect them from the rain and wind, and then spread in the vineyard after the spring.