In early spring, we watch the new leaves burst out of the woody vines, all chartreuse and full of life, and every year it makes me stop and think about how profound Mother Nature really is. Phenology is a fancy word that means studying the seasonal events in the vineyard and their relation to the weather. Each stage of growth (bud break, flower, fruit set, veraison and harvest) dictates what we’re doing on any given day around here─and all of it depends on the weather.
After harvest is over, we fertilize the vines so they can hunker down for a long winter’s nap with plenty of nutrition – nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, all the good stuff. About two decades ago, we hired Jeff Dawson, the granddaddy of biodynamic farming, and made some changes in the way we were caring for the soil. Now we create a special compost and spread it on the entire vineyard after harvest every year. The compost is made up of 100 tons of cow manure from a local dairy, combined with 60 tons of the seeds, skins, lees and must leftover from making the wines, plus 100 tons of straw and wood chips. It keeps the soil and the overall ecosystem really healthy.
If you have healthy vines, you don’t have to worry about bugs too much – so we manage the vineyard sustainably without the use of pesticides.
During the winter, the rains spread the compost deep into the earth while the vines are dormant, setting up the basis for another season, when the cycle starts all over again.