Sensitive Farming at Olivet Grange
Modern farming techniques often emphasize production at the expense of soil health and eco-system integrity. While this may be an acceptable part of the business for some, we work tirelessly to solve every farming need at the Olivet Grange with a solution that not only produces excellent quality wine grapes, but also enriches the environment around us. We believe that every measure that we take to maintain the natural health of our vineyard directly contributes to the unique flavors of our Estate wines.
Four-Course Compost - We use only organic fertilizer at the Olivet Grange, and the Four-Corner Compost program leads the way. It is so named because it derives from table scraps discarded by San Francisco restaurants, hotels, and residences. In addition to being a nutrient-rich alternative to synthetic fertilizers, our gourmet compost helps us form a perfect loop from earth to table and back again.
An interesting fact: recently published research determined that if 90% of Americans composted it would be the equivalent of closing 22 coal-fired power stations in terms of the reduction in greenhouse gases that are created by landfilling food scraps rather than composting them.
Other Organic Soil Enhancements - Worm castings are used to create an easily assimilated bio-fertilizer rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. The castings enhance the soil’s ability to absorb atmospheric moisture, aiding water economy and aeration. Another soil-enhancing technique we employ is to run microbial teas made from the worm castings through our drip irrigation system. Applied three times a year, the teas introduce a diverse spectrum of beneficial microorganisms that improve soil and plant health and aid the vines’ natural resistance to pests and disease.
Cover Crop - To further promote a healthy ecosystem, we have planted permanent cover crops which have the side benefit of producing higher quality grapes by forcing the vines to compete for water and soil nutrients, resulting in smaller berries with more concentrated flavors. Once cover crops are established, simple mowing keeps the vineyard tidy and well-groomed. Because there is no tilling of the soil, the vineyard requires less tractor use, and the population of earthworms is preserved. Cover crops also mitigate soil erosion from wind and rain and serve as habitats for beneficial insects that feed on vine pests such as mites and leafhoppers, minimizing the use of pesticides, even organic ones. In 2009, we spread the seeds of wildflowers which attract beneficial insects around the perimeter of the vineyard blocks – often referred to as an “insectary.”
Natural Pest Control - We provided homes and resting places throughout the vineyard for predators such as owls and other birds of prey that help to reduce gopher populations that attack vines from beneath the soil. Encouraging their presence also has the added benefit of scaring away small birds such as starlings and linnets that enjoy feasting on Pinot Noir grapes. Our vineyard cat, Stella, also helps with the gophers.