When winemaking began in the Russian River Valley more than 150 years ago, there were amazingly abundant natural resources and very few people making demands on them. That situation is now reversed, and our precious land is a limited fund of natural capital that we must nurture as an investment in the future – a sustainable future.
The basic theories of sustainable farming practices are pretty simple: reduce chemical use, conserve energy, waste nothing, use nature and don’t fight it. Nature provides a variety of resources that cannot be replaced – clean air, clean water and a place for every species, including humans.
The winegrowers in the Russian River Valley use natural solutions to natural problems. We plant cover crops between rows of vines. The cover crops return nutrients to the soil, improve soil structure, prevent erosion and provide habitat for beneficial insects. We reduce the amount of water we consume for irrigation by using precision drip irrigation that delivers a measured amount to each individual vine. If we want to add a nutrient, it can be deposited precisely with water flow rather than scattered from a tractor.
Rodents and insects are a problem in any garden. Instead of poisoning them, we use nature’s system and invite predators like hawks and owls (who prey on the rodents) and bluebirds (who feed on the insects) to set up housekeeping above the grape rows. You’ll see their perches and houses if you look closely when you visit.
We talk about balance in nature and balance in fine wine, and those two ideas are closely related. The best wines come from the best vineyards, and we’re proud to have some of the finest vineyards in the world.