Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sustainability in the Vineyard

There is alot of talk these days about sustainability, and the wine world is no exception. The sustainable farming of grapes is becoming an important issue for wineries and vineyard managers. Not only are consumers interested in sustainability, but the long term health of the industry depends upon responsible farming. Here in the Walla Walla Valley we have a sustainable trust for the vineyards called Vinea. This organization is committed to introducing and encouraging sustainable farming practices. Growers and producers are certified sustainable through IOBC and Pepper Bridge has also been certified Salmon Safe because of our protection of water quality. At present almost 80% of the vineyards in the Walla Walla AVA are participating in Vinea. So what does sustainability in the vineyard mean for Pepper Bridge? Farming sustainably means that we keep our attention on the health of the vines, the soil, the workers, as well as the health of the business. We want to grow the highest quality grapes in a manner that can be perpetuated over the long term. In order to produce high quality fruit, the vines themselves must be healthy. The health of the soil plays a key role in the health of the vine. We work with local composter Rick Trumbull of Sustainable Soil Solutions and Quality Compost, to return vital nutrients to the soils. Each year we spread tons of compost through both Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills Vineyards. During harvest, we save all the left over stems and pomace. It will be composted with a mix of logs, hay and straw, manure, and minerals such as phosphate and basalt dust, then returned to the vineyard. In addition, we drip a compost tea through the irrigation lines to add nutrients to the soil. The goal is to have healthy soils full of microbiological activity. If the soils are healthy, the grape vines themselves will be healthy, and therefore able to protect themselves from disease and pests. And of course, the end goal is to produce the best grapes possible so that we can then make the best wines possible. Restoring soil health is a long slow process. It is a commitment to the future of grape growing and wine making in the Walla Walla valley.


  1. This is a great post! How are you injecting the compost tea into your drip lines, if you don't mind me asking?

  2. Sorry for the long wait for an answer, but I went to the source and asked Norm McKibben. Here is his reply: The compost tea is hauled to the vineyard in tanks that have a battery powered air bubbler to keep the tea "fresh". We then use a common venturi system to suck the tea from the tanks into the dripline. We spread liquid fertilizer the same way. We also add molasses through the drip system a week after applying compost tea to feed the tea microbes and get them off to a good start.