Ridge began experimenting with organic farming methods in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Through trial (and error), in 2008 we began to focus on moving our estate vineyards toward organic certification. To achieve that, you must adhere to the farming standards of the National Organics Program for three transition years. The rules: You may use only certified organic pesticides, fertilizers, and other inputs, and keep records of all inputs. You must register with, and pay a fee to, the state. You must contract with a third-party certifier, who inspects your records and property annually to assure you are complying with National Organics standards.
In 2011, 76 acres at Monte Bello and 135 acres at Lytton Springs and Geyserville were certified as organic. By the end of this year (2015), we will have certified over 100 acres at Monte Bello and 207 acres in Sonoma County. Another 40 acres at Lytton Estate West will transition to organic in 2017.
We decided in 2008 that we wouldn’t place every block on every ranch into transition to organic production. To have done everything at once would have stressed our resources, and could have meant undue risk to the quality of our grapes. Farming organically is more labor-intensive than conventional farming, especially in regard to weed control. We don’t have many more acres to go, but they are the most difficult to convert, because they are on very steep slopes where tilling would make erosion a major concern. Fortunately, a newly-approved organic herbicide may provide the solution.
If all goes well, I expect we will be able to certify all of our estate vineyards as organic by 2018-2020.
VP of Vineyard Operations