Bee Informed With the Eco Terreno Blog
After 30 years of conventional-style winemaking at Sebastiani Vineyards, Mark Lyon’s vision for Eco Terreno has been all about exploring new methods, with an emphasis on finding ways to keep the process as natural as possible. Considering we farm biodynamically, it’s no surprise! We love natural. So why not take it even further? For the 2019 vintage Chardonnay, our winemaking team decided to experiment with bringing native yeast into the equation. While manufactured “cultured” yeasts are typically used by winemakers for their ability to ensure fast, consistent, and robust fermentation, native yeasts – naturally found on the berries and in the vineyard - bring a sense of place, terrior, and spontaneity. Fun fact – just a single grape can have 50,000 yeast particles!
Although the native yeast fermentation process is longer, not to mention unpredictable and potentially risky, patience and a bit of faith is often rewarded with enhanced aromatics, added texture, and heightened complexity. Whites and rosés in particular tend to finish with a creamier mouthfeel and a softer, smoother palate.
Roughly translated to “the wild one” in Spanish, our 2019 Lo Selvestre Chardonnay alludes to its native yeast fermentation – the first Eco Terreno wine released with this distinction! Rich yet silky with a medium-to-full body, creamy texture, and balanced bright acidity, Lo Selvestre is a perfect example of the direction our wine is heading.
To even further emphasize an authentic sense of place each time a bottle of Eco Terreno is opened, our winemaking team is currently developing our own special yeast. Isn’t science awesome? Exclusive to our farm, the custom native yeast will not only provide consistent native fermentation; it will give our wines distinctive nuances that can only be found in our unique corner of the Alexander Valley.
Is your mouth watering yet? We invite you to join us in celebrating International Chardonnay Day. Cheers!
That’s a wrap folks – we’ve finished our winter pruning! Bud break is about a month away, give or take (depending on the varietal), and between the 300 sheep that visited for a month and our hardworking farm team methodically clipping the dormant vines, we are so ready to kick off the 2021 vintage!
Pruning is far from indiscriminate, requiring skill, speed, patience, foresight, and an intimate understanding of the ways in which vines grow once the buds arrive. An integral part of the grape growing process, pruning involves selective removal of up to 90% of the previous season’s vine growth. Timing is of the essence; too early may disrupt the transfer of nutrients from the woody part of the vines, and too late may delay bud break. We definitely don’t want that!
The main focus is on the vine’s canes – shoots that grow from the main trunk of the plant – containing the buds that will eventually bear fruit. The youngest, strongest canes less than a year in age will “make the cut” (pun intended). These canes are typically thicker, grow closer to the trunk, and are widely spaced, meaning they have the strength to hold heavy, full-grown grape clusters while allowing air to pass between neighboring canes, preventing excess moisture that can cause disease.
Another important part of pruning is controlling the future location and general development of the canopy. Proper canopy construction influences overall yield and health of the grapes, playing a heroic role in both capturing light energy and providing a shield from the scorching hot mid-day California sun in the warmer months. If too many buds are left, the canopy becomes overcrowded, resulting in excess shade and a high crop load which the vine won’t have enough energy to ripen. Yikes!
By reducing the amount of fruit-bearing buds, the growth is concentrated to the best canes, and that’s where the real magic happens.
Stay tuned for more blogs about the grape growing cycle throughout the season!
Bud break typically arrives shortly after spring begins in late-March, and we’re working hard to prepare for the start of the 2021 vintage. Until then, winter is still here, and our vines remain dormant for a bit longer.
Before we officially kick off the new season, the vineyard must be weeded, tilled, and fertilized. Rather than relying on toxic sprays, fuel-powered machinery, or synthetic fertilizer, we invite nearly 300 sheep to visit for a month to help us with the job! This symbiotic relationship is a win-win; the flock enjoys biodynamic and organic feed, allowing us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, soil impaction, and labor costs - freeing our farm and vineyard staff to focus on pruning and preparing for the new growing season. Not to mention, we get to watch these sweet wooly creatures savor free reign of the vineyard, including the adorable baby lambs that were born while on our property!
As the sheep graze their way down the vineyard rows, their pellets provide valuable natural fertilizer that is left on the topsoil, which dissolves slowly throughout the remainder of the year. They are especially talented at finding those pesky deep-rooted invasive weeds, and expertly controlling excess vegetation. Who needs a lawnmower?!
This year’s flock visited us after finishing a gig at a local butterfly sanctuary, where they helped increase the natural habitat by 2000% after just one season! Seriously impressive, right? Most importantly, their shepherd is equally as committed to supporting sustainable projects as we are here at Eco Terreno Wines & Vineyards. We hope to have them back early next year!
While the vines are resting, after giving birth to the new vintage just a few short months ago, the cellar is bustling with activity. The wines have begun the process of being moved from either tank to bottle or from tank to barrels and finally into bottles, depending on the varietal and Mark’s maturation recommendations.
Before settling on what proportion of each tank and barrel determines the blends, we must all taste, and we do so happily. Mark has spent the last several weeks bringing various wine samples into the office requesting our feedback. “How’s the aroma, I’m getting apricot and lychee…are you getting that too?” "Do you think this blend could use a little more from barrel 161 or 365?” Needless to say, everyone perks up when Mark enters the office carrying bottles with blending notes scribbled on them.
After final blending notes are gathered and percentages are confirmed we begin the bottling season. Yesterday, the Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc were the first to move into bottles, as they have the shortest fermentation period. We'll follow them with our aromatic white wines, and several weeks later, we shift to the red wines. We will wrap it up in late summer with our Chardonnay.
Naturally, we’ll have a few new surprises going into bottle for both our club members and customers looking for Eco Terreno in their favorite restaurants and specialty wine stores. Stay tuned for more updates on those wines as they’re released!
Our farming practices are guided by the seasonal rhythm of our vineyards. As the land absorbs nutrients from the winter rains, preparing for another growing season, our seemingly dormant vines are gathering strength. With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve experienced in February, bud break is arriving a bit early. Right now, the wine farm is taking a deep breath in, preparing to exhale with the bounties of a new crop.
In preparation, we have spent the past two months thoughtfully pruning each block, casting the dye for two successive vintages. We look at blocks individually to determine the yielding capacity of our vines and their potential to produce grapes that will ripen with expressive flavors. When needed, we control our yields by reducing the number of buds that grow into leafy shoots and grape clusters. For our established, more vigorous blocks, we allow them more room for growth and elect to produce a heavier crop. For young blocks and our oldest vines, we reduce the projected yield and choose to offer focused support to the clusters beautiful, complex juice they provide.
As we have been pruning, our cover crops below the vines are sprouting. Dozens of different plants are specifically selected based on contribution to soil health and the flowers they provide for beneficial pollinators visiting our estate. Our flourishing cover crop also contributes nitrogen to the soil, opening it up for stronger accessibility to rooting plants of all types. When the full bloom of spring has arrived, the vineyard literally hums with activity, ushering in insects and wildlife of all types and sizes.
Soon it is time to mow and allow the nutrients to fully absorb into our focused crop of grapes. No need to worry; the pruned canes are chipped, and along with the dropped clusters of grapes and cover crop, rotated back into the soil providing additional carbon material and further increasing soil health.
As you can tell, we are very excited! In the coming weeks we should see the first signs of bud break in the Chardonnay block, kicking off our 2020 growing season. We will keep you posted on its arrival!
In our second consecutive year of Robert Parker ratings, we are pleased to announce 90 points or higher for every wine submitted! Mark Lyon, winemaker and founder of Eco Terreno, embraces purpose driven and thoughtful farming practices. Through choosing what is healthy for our farm and the people who tend it, our biodynamically-farmed wine exhibits an authentic sense of terroir and finesse. These wines will be released later in 2020.
2017 Leoncito Red Blend - 92 points
2016 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 92 points
2017 Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon – 91 points
2017 Otono Cabernet Sauvignon - 90 points
Listening to the land is foundational for growing the very best wine grapes. How do we listen to our land?
At Eco Terreno the authentic sense of terroir is driven by our passion for soil health and the vast components that affect it. The increase of recirculated organic matter, biodiversity, and friability (the crumbly texture of soil ideal for underground activity) lays the foundation of success for overall capacity of the land.
As we see the trend of higher temperatures becoming more frequent and intense, erosion is avoided by using cover crops that act as a sponge, holding water to reduce compaction and surface crusting during dry spells. With the added benefit of millions of insects and microorganisms paired with chickens and goats moving about a permanent flowering cover crop, our vibrant soil is alive and abundant with nutrients. The holistic natural surroundings encourage the plants to reach downward into the vibrant soil for food and moisture, creating strong, healthy, and resilient vines responsible for producing some of the best biodynamically-grown fruit in Sonoma County.
We prepare for the gradual yet profoundly impactful changes in our climate by taking rootstock and varietal selection into consideration. It is imperative that our selection of grapes are not only able to survive until harvest, but also age well and produce the highest quality of aroma and flavor.
Mark honors traditional old-world technique combined with new world methods plus the added value of technological advances in wine production. As a result of his expertise and attention to detail, we’ve seen a measured increase in the health of our land, and our land is clearly doing its job. The results speak loud and clear, and we’re honored!