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home ranch vineyards

  • Wrapping up Down to Earth Month

    April 30, 2015 13:21

    Today is the final day of Down to Earth Month. I've covered a few of the ways we remain sustainable. Water…Energy…Community these three all play an integral role as we take on the certification of our vineyards and winery. While all three have been a focus for us it is clear we need to continue our efforts in all categories. We practice what we preach both at the winery and in our homes-much like you do by recycling, cutting down on water use (especially if you are a Californian), and working with the community to find ways of being better at conservation. I’d like to share an example of how things change when we become aware of taking care of our planet. When Adrienne and Joe were in grade school (this is in the early 1990s) the idea of curbside recycling was just beginning to take root. Joe came home one day really fired up about recycling-I realized it had not been a focus for Adrienne’s class just two years earlier. It impressed me at the time because until it had filtered down and become part of our education it wasn’t on our collective radar. Now recycling is second nature both at home and at the winery where we choose ecologically better sources or products, lower our impact on energy use and save water, maintain open spaces and more. I’ve said it before, we are in it for the long-term both for the good of our home and future generations. A toast to Down To Earth Month, may we celebrate it every day.

    Mother Clone Zinfandel, Home Ranch.

    MC Zin single vine

     

  • Concerning Water: A Delicate Balance

    April 13, 2015 13:54

    It is a delicate balance indeed when we, as farmers first before vintners, depend on the weather to bring the right amount of rain at the right time. This doesn’t always happen and there are many examples over the 87 years we have farmed our vineyards when we didn’t have enough, had too much or it rained at an inopportune time i.e. during harvest. And water in California during the fourth year of drought is one hot topic. In our area of Dry Creek Valley we depend on wells and those wells depend on 35-40 inches of average rainfall that fills the underground caches as well as keeps the soil drenched. The last four years have been challenges with one half or less of the average amount and surprisingly the harvests from 2012-2014 have been abundant. We’ll see how this vintage goes-it isn’t over until we have picked our last grapes. But I digress. Being sustainable means having a plan for water. Over the years we have shifted from dry farming to overhead irrigation to a drip system which delivers a regulated flow of water when needed. Now during these dry years the vines will show some stress which means the canopy as well as the developing fruit crop will be affected. Before that happens the vineyard manager watches and decides when to apply water. Remember we have 100+ acres of vineyard so it is a challenge to say least that each and every vine is tended to properly. The great part of drip irrigation is it allows control-we get to decide how to efficiently deliver the right amount to keep fruit quality at optimum levels. Most growers use some form of irrigation and the sustainable focus is to understand the delicate balance of such a limited natural resource. And too much water is just as bad as too little. Conservation is on many a Californian’s mind especially the California farmer. We’ll do our utmost in sustaining our vineyards with an eye to conserve for the future generations. Now a glass of vino is in order.

    Drip irrigation on the Home Ranch vineyards.

    Home Ranch Vineyards

  • Bell Beans, Mustard and Vetch: we're covered.

    April 7, 2015 14:09

    I remember when mustard would grow between the vines with its beautiful spring yellow flowers and didn’t know until years later what an important part it played in the vineyard’s health. Cover crops have been integral to vineyards for almost as long as grapes have been grown. When we talk about the good work they do it includes promoting healthy soil, erosion control, eradicating weeds, help control pests, and, either in a drought situation or regular rainy season, they help regulate the moisture in the ground.

    Nitrogen is a by-product of cover crops and is one of the most important minerals when it comes to grapevines. Let’s just say the presence of this mineral, in the right amount, will produce better grapes in the end. Cover crops not only produce it but in the event of too much rain they will also hold the nitrogen in the soil instead of washing away. While this mineral is available in less expensive synthetic form there is so much more to a having a cover crop because of the interaction between the organic matter and the soil. You might also consider the roots as both loosening the ground as well as securing the soil when too much rain falls. And don’t forget your legumes! Bell beans, which have been a cover crop since Roman times, and crimson clover do their part because of the high nitrogen content. Non-legumes include mustard and grasses also play an important role as well. I think I have covered some ground here-time for a tasty glass of wine thanks to bell beans, mustard and clover!

    Visit here for more information about Down to Earth Month.

    Bell Beans flowering in spring.

    Bell Beans flowering

    Mother Clone Vines and cover crop on the Home Ranch.

    Home Ranch in spring