Great wine requires great fruit. Growing high-quality grapes demands that we care for the soil in which the vines grow. Grapes, more than any other crop, convey the characteristics and health of their site. It is widely known that the best wines come from grapes grown in well-drained soils. Grape growers and winemakers are becoming increasingly aware of the devastating effects of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides on the structure, drainage, infiltration, and overall health of the soil. At Fullerton Wines, our pursuit of great wine guides us to organic and biodynamic farming methods because of its ability to build up healthy soils while also sequestering carbon into the soil (thereby helping to mitigate climate change). Through these methods, we improve the aggregate stability, drainage, water-holding capacity, and infiltration of the soils. We also reduce erosion and nutrient leaching.
We employ permanent cover crops in our estate vineyard, Ivy Slope. Cover crops help manage the vigor of our vines through water competition, and also combat erosion and soil compaction through increased organic matter in the soil. All of this leads to more stable soil aggregates, and better infiltration and drainage. When needed, we employ nitrogen-fixing legumes in our cover crops. We also rely on other cover crops both to make nutrients available to the vines and to scavenge excess nutrients. This keeps the beneficial nutrients in the vineyard rather than allowing them to leach away into the groundwater.
We value the tremendous benefits of using organic nutrient sources, such as compost. While organic fertilizers are not as immediately available to the vines and require more volume when compared to synthetic options, synthetic fertilizer can lead to a build-up of salts in the soil, which harms both grapevines and soil structure. Organic fertilizers such as compost, however, contain many carbon-based compounds that, when added back to the earth, improve the health of soil instead of harming it. Best of all, we can make compost on the farm with ingredients from the farm, a self-sustaining cycle.