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Quivira Vineyards, California – Pete and Terri Kight

February 24, 2012

We are guided by a deeply-held principle of careful stewardship of the land and all its creatures. Since 1988 Quivira has been actively engaged in restoring Wine Creek, the Coho salmon and Steelhead trout spawning stream that winds through the center of the estate. A 55kW solar electric system has supplied 100% of Quivira’s energy needs since 2005. Water usage has been dramatically reduced thanks to a steam cleansing machine that uses 98% less water than required by traditional barrel cleansing and soaking routines. Quivira has been a Demeter-certified Biodynamic and organic winery since 2005.

Biodynamic farming is an agricultural philosophy that treats a farm – in our case, a vineyard farm – as a self-sustaining system entirely responsible for creating and maintaining its individual health and vitality without any external and unnatural additions. By recycling back into the earth everything that has come from it, what is unique about a vineyard is enhanced and concentrated over time. The result is wine that truly embodies its place of origin.

One of the major goals of Biodynamics is a healthy earth. Instead of using synthetic fertilizers, we use compost and cover crops to add organic material to feed the vines. Carefully chosen cover crops are tilled back into the soil at specific times of year to add nutrients when the vines need it most. In areas of relatively high vigor, for instance, we mow the cover crop (consisting mostly of oats and radishes) and leave it untilled. In this way the nitrogen is not released to the vines during active growth. In low-vigor areas, the cover mix includes more legumes that “fix” nitrogen. When this cover crop is tilled into the soil in the spring, additional nutrients are made available to the vines. By regulating vine growth in this manner, balance and fruit quality are naturally promoted.

By composting the entire winery residue and through the effective use of cover crops, most of the fertility of the property can be returned to the soil. In this way, the unique characteristics of a particular site grow more pronounced over time. What we describe as “terroir” is in part the effect of the microbiotic life in our soils breaking down minerals that are then absorbed through the vines improved root system, creating flavors unique to our site.

Healthy roots are important because they mine the soil for the inherent characteristics of the property. It is the aboveground portion of the plant, however, that carries the vital fruit. Thus it is critical to the quality of the grapes that the plant above is in balance with the plant below.

Controlling vigor is an important part of achieving plant balance. Synthetic fertilizers and excess water will result in unnatural vegetative growth as well as higher crop loads. This in turn increases the disease pressure for mold and mildew by shading the fruit zone, packing grape clusters together and preventing airflow. By limiting vine vigor we can avoid the need for synthetic fungicides that affect insect populations and natural yeasts. We achieve this goal by controlling soil fertility and carefully managing the canopy growth. Ensuring adequate diffused light on the fruit also promotes good tannin and color development and avoids vegetative flavors.

Biodynamic farming practices help create healthy porous soils, which allow water, gases and nutrients to penetrate deep into the soil strata. This fosters strong, wide, deep root growth that enables the vines to absorb elements from the soil and transfer them as flavors to the fruit. Over-cultivating dry soils leads to powdered and compacted soils.

In conventional viticulture, the health of the soil is often compromised in the desire for a weed-free vineyard floor. Synthetic herbicides are used which affect far more than just the weeds they kill. Instead of chemicals, we use a “hoe plow” to smother most of the in-row weeds. The rest are removed by hand. Between rows, weeds are controlled by the mown cover crop or by tilling the soil.

While Biodynamic farming allows for the use of sulfur to control mildew and disease, our experiments show that diluted milk or whey is as effective (and possibly more) and has the advantage of being completely inert.

Because biodiversity is the key to balance and self-regulation, we also plant special insectory areas on the property to attract birds and insects of all types. Around the vineyard, you can also find bat and bluebird houses. Quivira is home to predatory birds such as hawks, owls and osprey as well as a growing group of farm animals.

Biodynamic Artichokes

website:  www.quivirawine.com

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