We chose organic growing methods in order to obtain the strongest and richest grapes possible, with the fewest detrimental effects on the environment. As a result, the grapes have more varietal character and intense flavors. The wines benefit from this, reflecting our dedication to quality. We received our organic certification in July, 2008.
"Going Organic" was a natural process and decision here at 3 Horse Ranch. Our home is directly above the vineyards. As a family, we didn't want to breathe or otherwise come in contact with traditional herbicides and pesticides. So, we found organic methods to be the right way for us to grow our grapes and tend our vineyards.
Organic grape growers have to be more creative than those practicing modern or conventional viticulture. Conventional viticulture relies on commercial herbicides and pesticides and chemical fertilizers to bring a crop to harvest. Organic growers make use of cover crops, beneficial insects, composting and mulch.
Weeds can be a huge problem in any environment. In the Organic Vineyard, we tackle them with a variety of methods. Hand hoeing between the vines keeps many of the weeds down, but the spring weed invasion requires heavy artillery. A tractor attachment called the Weed Badger (after the local digger in these foothills) is our first line of attack on the weeds. A circular blade drags behind the tractor, cultivating the rows a few inches below ground, uprooting weeds along the way. A sensor arm helps it go between the grape plants to avoid damage to the vines.
Vineyard pests come in many forms, from tiny leaf-hoppers to larger birds. We encourage a sustainable population of beneficial insects including lacewings, ladybugs, predatory wasps, thrips and insectivorous mites. Each year the beneficial insect population grows, helping us organically manage our vineyards.
Prior to and during harvest, birds can be unwelcome guests in a vineyard. Migratory flocks descend on the ripening grapes, to feast and refuel for their flights to warmer climates. Netting the grapes as they become ripe discourages the scout birds. The flocks by pass the vineyards for other sites with easier feeding opportunities.
Our grapes are harvested by hand rather than by machine to reduce stress or damage to the fruit, vine or soil.
To be clear, our Estate grown wines are made with 100% organically grown grapes, but we do not make organic wines. It is a bit confusing. The USDA, through its National Organic Program defines organic wine as wine to be made with organically grown grapes without the addition of sulfites. It is impossible to produce a wine without any sulfites, as sulfur dioxide is a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation. Therefore, even wines with zero added SO2, such as natural and organic wines from the United States and Europe, contain small amounts of the compound.
Here at 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards, we use organically grown grapes and just enough sulfite to ensure stable and delicious wine.