Sustainable Vineyard Management integrates three main goals: environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is our belief that wines are made in the vineyard and not in the winery. That’s why at Alexandria Nicole Cellars we believe that taking the best care of our vineyard and the surrounding environment is essential to making the best wines possible, not just today but for the foreseeable future.
The same assets that make Washington a great place to make wine – low rainfall, ideal weather, phylloxera-free growing, few vineyard pests, and great soil – give us an advantage in our ability to implement sustainable vineyard practices. With that being said, the philosophy behind farming sustainably at Destiny Ridge Vineyard is primarily concerned with these focus points: water conservation, composting and the planting of beneficial cover crops to reduce soil erosion, pest management and the use of environmentally friendly natural pest control agents, vine balance and power.
Water – We implement a drip irrigation system and carefully monitor and micromanage our soil moisture levels to optimize water consumption efficiencies and eliminate overuse in the vineyard.
Compost – Each year, we compost all our grape stems, pomace and mog (material other than grapes) along with local cow manure and other organic nutrients. These two composts are spread on our vineyard after harvest to feed our soil, which in turn, feeds our vines.
Cover Crops – 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; plantings increase beneficial insects and build the habitat for pests to mitigate canopy spraying later in the season, thus reducing overall pesticide use; clovers and sweet pea for erosion control; and deep-rooted perennial grasses like wheat and rye to control vigor in excessively fertile soils.
Pest Management – We like to use a systematic 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 pest management is to reduce or eliminate pesticide use of both organic and synthetic chemicals. Also, Destiny Ridge Vineyard is an extremely windy site, which gives us great air flow. This air flow along with proper canopy management allows for minimal mildew and disease pressure.
Insects – Instead of spraying to control vine-damaging spider mites, we use beneficial insects to reduce mite populations to non-significant levels. Careful monitoring of the mites—along with inundating releases of the pest’s natural enemies—means we don’t have to spray.
Predators of the Sky – We are blessed to have an abundance of swallows and song birds along with red-tailed hawks, kestrels, and the occasional bald eagle to help with insect and rodent control. Rodents like to tunnel through the ground and eat young vine roots, which in turn affects the growth and overall health of those vines. In the end having such birds allows us to cease using rodent poisons in the soil and let natural predators control the gopher and mole population.
Vine Balance – 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 a variety of climate, vine vigor to soil type, and crop size to the canopy. This harmony within the grapevine is a microcosm of the vineyard ecosystem. The more our vines are in-balance, the more sustainable we become.
Wind – In September 2009, Destiny Ridge Vineyards decided to add wind power, which we see as our next step in sustainable farming. In this way, we treat the air as well as treat the land. The generation of electricity is the number one source of toxic air pollution in the United States. Most generator plants burn coal and pump millions of tons of greenhouse gasses and toxins into the air, creating an enormous carbon footprint. In the end, the switch to wind power will greatly reduce Alexandria Nicole Cellars “footprint” and with every season that passes, something new is learned that adds to our knowledge and experience and keeps us headed toward a healthier, greener future.