Our logic is simple – enhance the balance and diversity of life throughout the property.
This philosophy means that we think critically about the environmental consequences of everything we do. The goal is to become part of, and not disruptive to, nature’s balanced rhythms. It also means that we are not dogmatic about a particular practice. If we’re convinced that a synthetic material is less intrusive to the environment than the organic alternative, then that’s what we use.
With the help of experts from across the world, we set out to select the best site. The history of tobacco, and in later years corn and soy beans, meant that much of the farmland was badly eroded, especially in the northeast part of the farm where the slopes are steep and soils sandy. It is these fields we chose for the vineyards. Our advisors continue to support us as we continuously experiment and learn about new nutrient and pest management strategies to advance a diverse yet balanced ecosystem.
We oriented the vineyard in a way that maximizes airflow and sunlight that dry morning dew, prevent mildew, and reduce the need for pesticides. This natural orientation is supplemented by careful canopy management and leaf stripping.
We use targeted tillage, rather than herbicides, to control weeds in the vineyard. Simply put, tillage works well, gives us the ability to remove only those weeds that are causing problems, and isn’t subject to resistance.
We minimize use of pesticides through healthy soils and vines, intense canopy management, and diverse buffers between the vineyard and nearby woods. If a pesticide application is necessary, we use the most environmentally sound material available. We are careful to apply the minimum rate necessary to achieve control, and we use a tunnel sprayer that recycles pesticide material, significantly reducing release into the surrounding environment.
We conserve the soil by creating a dense cover crop throughout the vineyard, using a mixture of grasses to achieve our goals – clover to fix nitrogen, rye to break up compaction and restore organic matter, fescues to stand up to the weight of the tractor, and forbs to attract beneficial insects throughout the growing season.
We stimulate diverse, healthy bacterial growth in the soils by giving them the right kinds of food. For example, by adding crab meal in the spring, we encourage growth of bacteria that in turn produce a chitinase active against powdery mildew, a common fungal disease.
We encourage natural predators against insect pests by planting wild flowers that provide natural habitat and avoiding broad spectrum insecticides – including most organic oils that are as harmful to beneficial insects like lady bugs and praying mantises as they are to pests.
We use as few off-farm inputs as we can, using instead the products of our labor, and nature’s, to create a sustainable environment. We recycle and reuse almost everything, turning fallen trees into furniture and firewood, grape skins and horse manure into compost, and table scrapes into chicken feed.
We believe strongly that these environmentally sensitive practices improve the quality of our wines. Living soils make diverse minerals, essential for complex flavor, available. Open canopies enhance ripening. Gentle surface tillage encourages deep roots and helps with draught. It’s hard work, much of it by hand, but worth the effort.