“We decided to farm organically because we believe it leads to better grapes and higher quality wines. This approach in the vineyard, plus our traditional approach to winemaking, will provide the finest possible wines for our customers.” ~ Paul Draper
While we are by no means a large grower, we recently became aware that we are the largest grower of organically farmed grapes in Sonoma County, and in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. Learn more.
Sustainable Agriculture & Organic Farming
At Ridge, we are committed to sustainability, and to organic certification of our vineyards. Sustainable agriculture can be summarized as a farming system that is sensitive to the environment, responsible to the community, and economically feasible to implement and maintain. These three principles provide a framework and direction to guide all decisions relating to the farm. Sustainability is an ever-changing target, even a state of mind: improvements can always be made to lessen one’s impact on the planet. Organic farming can be defined as sustainable farming using only certified organic chemicals and amendments. 184 acres of vineyard at Monte Bello, Lytton Springs, Geyserville, and East Bench are certified organic. Additional sustainable farming practices include:
Each year, we compost all our grape stems and pomace (fermented skins and seeds) along with our neighbors’ horse manure and other amendments. Composted for a year, this “brown gold” is spread on our vineyards after harvest and helps feed our soil, which then feeds our vines.
We use several different cover crops, depending on our goals for each vineyard block. These include soil-building legume and grass mixes that add just enough nitrogen and organic matter to keep the vines healthy; insectary plantings to increase beneficial insects; grasses and clovers for erosion control; deep-rooted perennial grasses to control vigor in excessively fertile soils.
Integrated Pest Management
We use I.P.M. for all our insect and disease management. IPM is a systems approach to pests and diseases that combines a wide array of farming practices with careful monitoring of pests and their natural enemies to prevent crop damage. An important overall goal of IPM is to reduce or eliminate pesticide use of both organic and synthetic chemicals
Instead of spraying to control vine-damaging spider mites, we use beneficial insects to reduce their populations to non-significant levels. Careful monitoring of the mites—along with inundative releases of the pest’s natural enemies—means we don’t have to spray.
We use raptor roosts and bird boxes to help with insect and rodent control. Plus, they are important to a healthy environment.
We constantly work toward achieving vine balance, essential to producing flavorful wines of distinction and longevity. The cultural practices used in viticulture, from pruning to shoot thinning, leaf pulling, crop thinning, and irrigation management, all lead toward growing grapevines that match variety to climate, vine vigor to soil type, and crop size to canopy. This harmony within the grapevine is a microcosm of the vineyard ecosystem. The more in-balance our vines, the more sustainable we become.
Our commitment to sustainable farming leads to our involvement in several organizations that foster new ideas about agriculture and environmental stewardship. We are participating in an agroecology diversity project with UC Berkeley, which will evaluate use of cover crops and hedgerows within a vineyard to promote beneficial insects. The non-profit Vineyard Team, working toward sustainability in winegrapes, is collaborating with us on a cover crop trial of various clovers and their effectiveness in attracting beneficials.
Ridge has been recognized by the United States House of Representatives and the California State Legislature for excellence in water quality improvement and environmental stewardship.