Thursday, June 21, 2012


Vinoland, my tiny corner of vineyard heaven, is a pretty healthy place. Any regular visitor to Vinsanity can probably deduce from the various posts I pen about wildflowers, weeds and creepy crawlies that the flora and fauna here are rather diverse. Of all Vinoland's cultivated ornamental plants, lavender grows particularly well and attracts copious numbers of bumble bees and honey bees.  The bees whilst not necessary for the pollination of grape-flowers are beneficial to every other flowering plant on the property.  Vinoland is certainly no monoculture.  
Sustaining the health of the vineyard, through cover-cropping and composting etc., is of the utmost importance.  In winter, when the vines are dormant, Vinomaker will apply a narrow strip of herbicide directly beneath the vines to discourage unwanted weeds from becoming a problem later in the growing season.  This means that Vinoland could not be certified organic, but is instead sustainably farmed.  However, I think this method of weed eradication is much preferred over repeatedly driving a tractor, with a French plow attached, through the vines burning diesel and compacting the vineyard soil in the process - not good.  Also, Vinoland is far from being biodynamic as I personally don't work to an astronomical timetable.
Yesterday, whilst trying to catch up on a weeks worth of Napa Valley Register articles that Vinomaker had put aside for me, I spotted this story: Purple haze - Harms Lavender Fields hosts annual open house. Well, I like lavender, and I love Jimi Hendrix, so I read on.  There is, apparently, a farm in north Napa that was originally planted all to vines, but now includes 1.5 acres of several different lavender varieties. In 1999, experiencing farming difficulties and facing possible financial ruin the owners of the land sought help from a consultant who, upon examining an offending block of vines that would not ripen, advocated biodynamic agricultural techniques as a solution. Soon after adopting biodynamics, the Virgin Mary appeared and the vineyard owner observed that  "...The vines progressed through six weeks of ripening in just 10 days."  Really?  Well actually no, I made up the viticultural-visitation bit, but I think somebody else made up the viticultural-miracle bit.  Methinks some fantastical wizardry, other than simply embracing biodynamic farming, would have to be employed to produce such sensational physiological results in any fruit bearing plant.  
Like I said, codswallop!   
Have a happy solstice everyone!


Thud said...

Our dear old mother is going to do about a hundred lavender cuttings for me from that giant bush by the front door in we just need to see the sun.

About Last Weekend said...

Well we will be visiting the scene that is Lourdes on our bike trip in France next week and I'm sure its very similar to the revelationary (word? spelling?) miracle that was performed by the lavender...

Vinogirl said...

Thud: Sun would be helpful!

ALW: Ooh, 'Song of Bernadette' was one of my favorite films when I was little. Have a great time and look out for small miracles :)

Unknown said...

Whilst I understand the reserves you have about that kind of fantasy farming, many French winemakers have adopted this technique and whilst they cannot scientifically explain the result, they do pretty much all confirm the vines and the wine are healthier. Doubting and questioning is healthy but I wouldn't discard what has been acknowledged by chevroned winemakers across the world. I do take your point about tractors and diesel, bit of a dilemma.

Vinogirl said...

Nicolas, welcome to Vinsanity.
I have no doubt that biodynamic adherents, due to the amount of attention they pay and the effort they put into soil health, effectuate the growing of great quality produce - in this case wine grapes. But where is the conclusive scientific evidence that wines made from BD grapes are superior to wines that are say merely organically farmed? BD totally discounts the skill, artistry and individuality of the winemaker - wine does not make itself.
A truly comparative tasting is impossible to facilitate as there would have to be a non-BD wine produced from the very same variety, block, vineyard, winemaker etc. (and if it's already BD farmed...)
In Vinoland the vines are as happy as they can be (petiole analysis proves this), but still there are some vines in the vineyard that struggle and produce inferior fruit because of what is under their roots...the infamous Napa clay (just ask any Master Gardener in the valley). No amount of yarrow stuffed deer bladders will alter the soil composition that was millennia in the making...and that is a scientific fact.