Organic Vineyards - Celebrating 30 vintages (1986-2016)
Yorkville Cellars has two main vineyards on our ranch in Yorkville, California. Both are certified organic. The vineyard behind the tasting room is called Randle Hill Vineyard and is planted to Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. A total of 14 acres, it mainly dates back to 1982 and was expanded in 1989. The vineyard along Highway 128 in front of the tasting room is called Rennie Vineyard and was planted in 1990. It includes all six of the main red grapes originating in Bordeaux, France: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
Here's a few statistics to help you realize how rare four of the eight varietals we grow are. (Total acreage is from the 128,372 acres in the North Coast premium grape growing area, which includes the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake. From 2012 California Grape Acreage Report.)
|Bearing Acres||Percent of Total|
The wine growing industry in Mendocino County consists of about 350 growers farming small family farms, with an average vineyard size of 50 acres. Vineyards have been planted in Mendocino County almost from the beginning of white settlement. The oldest living vineyards were planted in 1878, and are still economically viable today. There are many fourth and fifth generation wine growing families in the county.
Most of Mendocino County's vineyards are planted in the footprint of an existing agricultural enterprise. The county has seen a succession of crops including hops, prunes, apples, and pears on many of the ranches where wine grapes now grow.
To live in Mendocino County is to be in awe of nature. There are dramatic changes in the seasons, with wet, cold winters; mild springs; hot, dry summers; and colorful, hazy autumns. Nearly every vineyard is bordered with trees, riparian areas or wild lands. Industrial-style vineyards are the exception, not the rule.
[From: The Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commision]
CCOF - Certified California Organic Farmers
California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) certification ensures that no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or synthetic fertilizers are ever used. This certification process takes 4 years of testing and our vineyards achieved this status in 1986. We believe our farming practices ensure a healthy soil that will be sustainable. Healthy soil and robust plants yield vibrant, complex grapes – the basis of great wine.
To learn more about the CCOF, click here
Unlike in the rest of California where less than 3 percent of wine grapes are grown organically, in Mendocino County more than 20% of vineyards are certified organic. For more information please click here
"Yorkville Highlands" - now 15 years old.
What is AVA? It's an approved viticultural area by the BATF. Across the vast State of California, there are ever increasing numbers of approved viticultural areas. For a list of all California AVAs, click here.
Yorkville Highlands is one of the newer, having been approved on March 13, 1998. All of our front labels now proudly make note of this.
Our Farming Practices
Since the planting of our vineyard in 1982, there has been a commitment to following organic farming practices. CCOF (California Certified Organic Farm) certification ensures that no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or synthetic fertilizers are ever used on the property. In addition, we believe our farming practices will ensure a healthy soil that will be sustainable for agriculture in the future. We respect the delicate land and the balance of nature. Healthy soil and robust plants yield vibrant, complex grapes, the basis of great wine.
Organic farming practices in a small-scale vineyard are about 125 percent of the costs of a conventionally farmed vineyard. However, in spite of the costs, our organic farming practices will continue as we believe that organic farming ensures the highest possible quality fruit. We have been fortunate to find a "natural" (and generally cooperative) ally in nature. Summer breezes ensure low humidity, reducing the chances of fungus. Cool nights help reduce the bug population. Resident raptors keep the rodents under control. Ladybugs and lacewings help to fend off unfriendly pests.
We have worked to build the quality of our soil by cover cropping, composting, and appropriate tillage. To replace the nutrients that grapes remove each year we apply compost and a row of cover crops. Our compost has in the past contained Peruvian bird guano but more recently we've used kelp. Seaweed, kelp and other aquatic plants have been used for fertilizer, and crop production since (and probably before) the times of the Roman Empire. It wasn't until the 20th century that science discovered that seaweed and its extracts contain trace nutrients, plant hormones, chelating agents, and anti-microbial compounds.
Many years we plant cover crops after harvest in the fall, including fava beans, winter peas and oats, which are subsequently tilled back into the soil in the spring. As our soil becomes richer, we will convert the vineyards to a permanent cover crop of dwarf grasses and clovers. Typically, we limit our use of fertilizers to organic fish emulsion delivered via the drip irrigation system.