Almost as soon as the last grapes are harvested each autumn and winter rains finally approach, the vineyard team turns their attention to the soil, which is foundation of our Estates. This is a time for regeneration and restoration. The vineyard team works long hours amending compost into the soil and planting diverse cover crop of peas, clovers, vetch, barley, oats, buckwheat, rye and radishes.
Our goal is to build a living ecosystem within the soil that works to form an active layer of decomposed organic matter, called humus. Winter amendments of compost and cover crop are two of the main tools that help us achieve this goal. Our proprietary cover crop mix is composed of legumes, which are plants that absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix the nitrogen into the soil through bacterial nodules in their root systems, and cereals, which consist of large amounts of organic matter and have deep root systems that aid in soil structure and supply a huge amount of carbon which acts as the main energy source for micro-organisms.
Nitrogen is what provides micro-organisms with the necessary ingredients to build long protein chains necessary to hold together the layer of humus. The activity in just a spoonful of soil during these times is like “Town Square on New Years Eve”. In the springtime, as we begin to mow and till our cover crop, the micro-organisms will be rapidly working to convert decomposing organic matter into a plant-available form that the vine roots are able to utilize as we begin our annual growing season. Besides feeding the micro-organisms within our soil, the cover crop also aids with erosion control, moisture retention and acts as a critical part of our IPM (Integrated Pest Management) system.
Matt Osgood, our Viticulturist, is directing the conversion of the vineyards to organic and biodynamic farming via a project we have termed “Project Terroir” with the implementation of practices aimed at revitalizing the soil. The remaining members of the vineyard team, led by Vineyard Manager, Benjamin Lopez, who has a thirty-five year career in viticulture, spend countless hours in the fog, cool rain, hot sun, and everything in between working with the vines throughout the year to give us an opportunity to coax beautiful wines out of our difficult growing conditions on the extreme Sonoma Coast.
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