What Defines Organic Farming? And why does it matter?
Let's Define Organic
Organic (n.) - relating to or derived from living matter. Certainly a buzzword these days, organic evokes an innovative or trendy connotation. Yet, these basic techniques are actually a return to the traditions of the past. Founder, Edward Wallo, says, “This is not new, or rocket science. It’s merely winegrowing the way it was done for some 7,900 years before petrochemicals came into the picture.”
Yorkville Cellars has been a CCOF certified organic grower for 32 years and was among the first vineyards in the state to be certified. The goal of organic farming? Creating healthy, living soils that produce healthy vines and therefore healthy crops over time. There are a few main facets of this practice.
- Use only natural fertilizers - Ones that contain a spectrum of necessary nutrients rather than concentrated fertilizers, which supercharge certain nutrients more than others. Think about it this way… If you only ate three foods every day, what vitamins and minerals would you be missing?
- Avoid harmful chemicals - The basic truth is there are good bugs and bad bugs. Many commonly used pest controls also kill the good bugs - the ones that pollinate the crops, eat the bad bugs and contribute to the overall health of the vineyards. Farms that do use chemicals often do so to consistently grow the same crops each year on the same piece of land.
- Take care of the dirt - Not only does healthy soil yield vibrant, complex grapes, healthy soil is key to producing delectable vintages year after year. By planting cover crops like fava beans, winter peas, and oats after harvest, the soil’s nutrients are restored and prepared for the next growing season.
Bring in the Sheep
Growing organically and without herbicides, weed control is expensive, time-consuming, and challenging. That’s where these guys pictured up above come in. Uniquely qualified for the job, we love hosting the sheep for six months out of the year. Each winter, our neighbor Kevin (raised as a sheepherder in Wales), runs his sheep to our vineyards to munch on the tall early spring grass! We appreciate their free fertilizer and so do the vines. These "assistant winemakers" are a big part of organic farming.
With two main vineyards on the estate, each farmed organically, we are currently tending to 30 acres. Randle Hill Vineyard sits behind the tasting room and yields Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, while our Rennie Vineyard runs along Highways 128 in front of the tasting room and is planted to all six of the main red grapes originating in Bordeaux, France: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Carmenère, and Petit Verdot. These are otherwise called, “The Noble Reds.” Dating back to 1986, we’ve cultivated vineyards that yield incredible fruit; in large part, this stems directly from our farming practices. We are proud recipients of the prestigious “Masters of Organic” Award.
So the big question… Why does organic matter?
Aside from the sustainability component of organic farming, which is a driving factor in our decision to farm this way for many years now, the truth is in the wine itself. How exciting, how rewarding it is to taste a vintage that is not only flavorful, complex, and aromatic, but one that can only really be described as vibrant and alive.
Ready to put our word to the test? Stop by our tasting room any day between 11 AM - 6 PM. We’d love to talk more about what makes our vineyards and our wines noteworthy.