Sustainability News & Update
Since 1978, sustainability has been at the heart of our mission. Dedication to the land is a founding principle of our winery and we continue to honor it today. We’re also committed to pushing boundaries. Our Estate vineyards and winery facilities have long been certified sustainable through the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance — and as a next step, we are proud to announce that we have fully adopted organic farming practices and are working towards organic certification, a three-year process. We’re committed to the most sustainable farming solutions and preserving the land for generations to come.
Digging up Dirt
We had a chat with Hess Viticultural Specialist Kassidee Kemp, who is at the forefront of our sustainability mission and our transition to organic farming. Pointing to a showy patch of wildflowers growing beneath the vines, Kassidee explains, “This is the general cover crop mix we use for erosion control. This cover crop not only encourages soil stability as we work the vines, it also helps with general soil health. The roots of the cover crop add more soil pores through their root movement. Once this is mowed we let it decompose back into the soil which feeds the microbial community and increases soil organic matter.”
Further into the vineyard she indicates a soil sampling location. “As we transition to organic farming, soil health is where we are focusing a lot of our energy this year. This is one soil sample I have taken so far to get a better understanding of our soil nutrient status as well as microbial biomass and soil structure. This year we’ll have at least eight different soil and plant health tests to ensure we are taking care of our vines and soil for years to come.”
Getting Down in the Weeds
At the Estate perched atop the hills of Mount Veeder, effective weed control is required all year long for both vine health and to reduce the risk of wildfire. However controlling weeds on steep slopes without resorting to chemicals presents a particular challenge. This Spring, we have herds of hungry sheep and goats working overtime as “natural lawn mowers,” happily chomping down even the most pernicious of unwanted weeds like poison oak and wild blackberry. But this is only the beginning, Kassidee explains. “Because of our transition to organic, established blocks are no longer being treated with herbicides. Instead we are testing the use of a “weed blade” that cuts just below the soil surface and breaks off the roots of the weeds growing under the berm. It does disturb the ground a bit, but this is much better for maintaining healthy soil than spraying herbicides.”
A Toast to Sustainability
We are excited to share our sustainable practices with you, and as always we encourage you to raise a glass with us. In the words of Donald Hess, “Nurture the land, return what you take.”
Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest updates on our journey towards our organic certification.