Without a challenge, life is simply not very interesting. Walking through the vine rows on the Olive Hill, the skies overhead a brilliant crystal blue, the grasses as thick as waist high full of moisture and wafts of sweet blooms surround you, insects flying freely while the sun is warming our backs nearly felt as a motherly embrace as we work the land, co-existence with nature is flourishing. This time of year may appear unruly and even disobedient, like a child with unbrushed rebellious hair and dirty clothes yet grinning ear to ear.
Nearly thirty years ago, Justin assumed all responsibilities of the ranch and farming of the vineyards from his father. Justin is a man who is a relentless fervent seeker of knowledge and completely understanding a subject he is passionate about. Needless to say, wine growing is one of them. Captivated by the meaning of biodynamic farming and the ideals of Rudolph Steiner in his early twenties in that it involves managing a farm utilizing the principles of a living organism. He also knew there were better ways in farming than the mono-culture ideology and over sizing crops with heavy fertilizers in the vineyards of the old days. He knew this was not sustainable for our future or any farmer for that matter.
Soils are the foundation of our wines.
One of the first in Alexander Valley in adopting the recycling of pumice or waste from winemaking including stems, seeds, and skins, we began composting with 6x6 windrows on every square inch of open land. With the renovation of our winery, we sought a wastewater permit to recycle our grey water for landscaping and to be utilized for hydrating the compost. Again of the first to seek approval for such a farfetched idea nearly twenty-five years ago. Cover crops were next in planting every other vine row with vetch, bell bean, sweet peas, and daikon radish to name a few to increase nitrogen and enhance moisture content, yet ultimately creating a healthy living environment for microbial life above and below ground. Ultimately, returning the natural state of affairs with the so-called weeds which we view as a part of the natural ecosystem. Alongside, water conservation is key with soil moisture retention as an added bonus.
Today, we are known as leaders in innovative viticulture.
Conservation begins and will only succeed with the hands of the farmer and our crew working our land for decades. Fidel arrived in 1964 from Mexico. While he slowly brought his sons up north, the Gonzalez family have lived on and tended our land for decades. It is their only place of employment. Think of that. One job, one place, one vineyard. The health of our vineyards are only achieved when our employees are healthy, safe, and knowing they are significant in the success of achieving soil health, flourishing vines and magnificent wines. Dagoberto, the eldest brother has been here thirty-nine years!
As our young ideals became our daily movement, we soon learned our ethos has a name. Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil, increasing biodiversity above and below ground, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting carbon sequestration, and increasing resilience to climate change. Regeneration includes the people. Love this!
We believe in the fact the success of regenerative viticulture can be measured only by the increasing health of the soil and surrounding ecosystems. Proof is in mother nature as she had intended. Most facets of improved farming such as organic, sustainable, or bio-dynamic certification, takes certification standards and numbers which cannot be adjusted. Regenerative viticulture is not a set of rules, yet a set of tools that can be adapted according to site, specific circumstances, and vintage variation.
This too is ultimately our ideology in how we craft our wines. Embrace the year, nurture, and allow it to be in its natural state and the wine will prove itself with the land as the foundation and the hands guiding the journey.
Now, find a field of wild grasses, take your shoes off, ruffle your hair and run free!