During Spring Break, I visited Raymond Vineyards located in Napa Valley, California. It’s a biodynamic vineyard in that the methods used for growing their grapes involves organic farming. I had no idea that we’d be touring a sustainable vineyard, so I figured this blog would be very appropriate. We were able to tour what they call their Theater of Nature which shows the step by step process of growing their grapes. The tour is separated into five different sections that I intend to go over in this blog: The soil, the plants, the animals, the vineyardist, and wholeness.
Act I: The Soil
The compost piles they use include plants, kitchen scraps, and animal manure. The piles will reach an internal temperature of 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit which kills any weed seeds and creates clean compost. The grapevine roots thrive within 3 layers of soil. The topsoil is nutrient rich consisting of the remains of past grapevines. There’s the middle layer which has less nutrients and the third layer of moisture-laden bedrock. The roots grow long enough to absorb the water from the bedrock in order to survive the hot, dry weather.
Act II: The Plants
Interplanting is used between the grapevines in order to create a healthy eco-system and promote biodiversity. They also allow weeds to grow between their vines as well. The weeds help by absorbing excess moisture. Pesticides are not necessary when the vine weeds are closely monitored.
Act III: The Animals
The vineyard has owl houses as well as bat houses. Owls and bats help by eating pests that may threaten the crops. They use red wiggler worms to digest vegetables or other food from the kitchen to help produce their compost. There is an insect nursery and bee foragery to help promote the growth of beneficial insects. These beneficial insects will eat smaller bugs that are pests for the vineyard. The bees help to pollinate the fruits and vegetables. Cows, goats, sheep, and chickens are kept on the premises for their manure and compost contribution.
Act IV: The Vineyardist
The vineyard promotes the act of keeping predators out instead of killing them. To achieve this, the workers use bird nets, fences, and other protective barriers for crops. This section basically explained the importance of the duties and responsibilities that humans have in maintaining their biodynamic vineyard.
Act V: Wholeness
This section starts by explaining what sustainability is. The methods they use include: Conservation tillage, covering crops, organic weed control, vertebrate pest management, composting, and irrigation. They explain benefits of organic farming and describe biodynamic gardening as treating a garden or farm as a whole, living organism and to use as few outside sources as possible. The vineyard also believes that their crops are affected by cosmic forces such as lunar cycles and magnetic forces.
In closing, the trip to Napa Valley was a blast. I enjoyed the tasting experience as much as the learning experience. More vineyards should follow Raymond’s methods for biodynamic farming. It adds so much more character to the wine knowing how it was produced.
Theater of Nature. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2018, from http://theaterofnature.com/