Conscious stewardship of our environment and resources is something that many vinters and growers in Napa take quite seriously. As spring begins to show her first signs around the valley we are privileged to witness lovely reminders of these efforts that not only ensure the long term survival of our wine producing valley but also add visual beauty and create memorable experiences for those visiting Napa and opting for a wine tour before the vines are in all their glory.
Complementary Crops/Companion Planting
As I type this post the gentle hills and valleys of Napa are adorned by a deep shade of yellow as Mustard plants flower and growers wait in eager expectation to till the plants back into the soil in order to replenish nitrogen. In addition to nitrogen fixing cover crops often seen between the pruned vineyards during the winter and early spring also serve to reduce erosion and increase water retention. While vineyards might be perceived as a monoculture, these crops hold the key for sustainability and as an added bonus they saturate our gorgeous fields with the unexpected gift of unseasonal color.
Replacing Tractors with Sheep
Remaining sustainable is both an art and a science born of great creativity and love for the land. In many vineyards from January to March travelers will enjoy the view of wonderful herds of sheep replacing mowers and diligently grazing on invasive weeds that rob the vines from valuable nutrients. Quietly in herds of about 200 sheep per acre and accompanied by their shepherd and shepherd dogs the sheep do their job reducing the environmental pollution caused by tractors and mowers and adding tremendous beauty to the landscape.
Many vineyards certified by napagreen.org have teamed up to establish owl conservation programs. The introduction of man-made owl friendly birdhouses has resulted in a significant improvement in the management of rodents known to damage the crops by eating buds, fruits and roots. These gentle creatures add a wonderful charm to our summer nights in Napa valley by saturating the air with their song.
The Vineyard Puppy
For hundreds of years vineyards around the world have benefited greatly from the services of our canine companions. For Napa vinters and growers the contribution of vineyard dogs is essential to the survival of the vines. California has an almost non-existent hunting culture, which has resulted in a heavy deer population that can cause irreparable losses to a vintage. Dogs of shepherding and hunting breeds keep the deer at bay and add uniqueness and personality to each of the wineries. Such joy to be greeted by a tail-wagging pup each time we visit our partner wineries.
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