David Gates, our VP of Vineyards Operations, recently sent me an e-mail about Ridge and the matter of our carbon footprint, in which he detailed several of the vineyard management practices we deploy in the service of reducing this footprint; I thought the information was absolutely fascinating, and accordingly asked him if he’d be willing to let me share his correspondence with the readers of our blog, and he very graciously agreed. So here is David Gates on some of our practices:
Irrigation management: our philosophy on irrigation is to supply only water necessary to adequately ripen our grapes. We typically only irrigate during the growing season when there is a dry spring; some of our Sonoma vineyards on more shallow soil need some help just before harvest; finally, we always irrigate after harvest to help keep leaves on the vines to ensure their continued health. Whenever we do irrigate, we prefer long, deep irrigations tailored to each soil type and depth.
Legume (and grass) cover crops, either tilled (Sonoma) or mowed (Monte Bello) to supply most of the nitrogen needed. When our young vines need a bit extra N, we use organics, including our own compost.
No-till or reduced tillage is practiced in all of our vineyards. No-till is used in the hills, where erosion is always a concern. In vineyards where we incorporate legume and grass cover crops, they are planted (and incorporated into the soil in the spring) on alternate rows; the other rows are no-till.
We “recycle” all of our vineyard production, minus the wine: The winter prunings are chopped/mowed onto the soil, any leaves, clusters, or shoots from leafing, thinning, or suckering is left in the vineyard, and we compost our pomace, returning it to the vineyards annually.
We have been working with UC Berkeley for the past three years in our Sonoma vineyards as well as the Central Coast Vineyard Team at Monte Bello to develop biodiversity in our vineyards as a form of natural pest control. One key aspect of these studies is the use of native vegetation and hedgerows. They host lots of beneficial insects; these beneficials help keep pest insects under harmful levels. These hedgerows also sequester carbon and help reduce our greenhouse gas footprint.