Bacchus Loves Biology

Environmental Sustainability and Improved Winemaking

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Greg Pennyroyal, who Bill Wilson, of Wilson Creek Winery, dubbed “Bio-Man”, is the Enology and Viticulture Coordinator at Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards.

At Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyards we recognize that environmental sustainability and improved winemaking go hand-in-hand.  In a major new initiative, winemaker Etienne Cowper, and owners, Bill and Mick Wilson, have created a new position of Enology (winemaking) and Viticulture (wine grape growing) Coordinator.  Traditionally Vineyard Manager and Assistant Winemakers have been separate positions.  Etienne Cowper realized the best way to elevate winemaking in the Temecula Valley was to bring the art and science of winemaking more directly into the vineyard. To that end Greg Pennyroyal, a former medicinal plant agronomist (crop scientist) with over 25 years experience in biological agriculture, was chosen for the unique position of Viticulture and Enology Coordinator, to increase the biochemical complexity and consistency of the grapes through increased biological techniques of vineyard management.  In just six months vineyard cultural practices have changed substantially.

Cowper and Pennyroyal have reduced synthetic fertilizer inputs by 50% and will be using 100% sustainable biological nutrient inputs in the vineyard in one year. Cover crops of oats, barley, peas and vetch have replaced the valley’s standard practice of between row tillage and wild flowers have been planted to attract beneficial insects. This not only reduces erosion but the peas and vetch will provide natural sources of nitrogen for the grapes. In-row herbicide use is being reduced by 75% with the addition of seaweed extracts, and fish emulsion to increase the herbicide effectiveness and most importantly, to decrease the time for natural decomposition of herbicides by up to five times. With improved microbiological soil balancing and natural nutrient supplementation it is the goal of the vineyard management to eliminate all herbicide use within two years.  We are also switching to a program of all natural fungicides. Powdery mildew and bunch rot are a major problem in all grape growing regions. We are now employing natural fungicides including dormant oils, sulfur, calcium carbonate, and biological inoculation. Often, natural fungicides are not strong enough to stop fungal infection so we are initiating a program of compost tea foliar feeding (feeding plants through the leaves as opposed to the roots) which will not only minimizes the need for synthetic chemical fungicides but also improves the density and complexity of the fruit leading to improved wine quality.

 

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