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Biodynamic Farming

Eco Terreno Wine Farm

To successfully grow wine grapes and craft great wines, we first establish a healthy, natural ecosystem in our wine farm. In fact, we’re so dedicated about being caretakers of the land that we named ourselves Eco Terreno, which means “Ecology of the Land” in Spanish. Our dedication is demonstrated by farming organically and Biodynamically to create regenerative systems that build a nourishing, natural wine farm. From planting cover crops, developing a holistic understanding of water usage, to planting a sanctuary bee garden, all our work is focused on being informed stewards of our resources. We join natural habitats with our cultivated crops and gardens through restoring and preserving the riparian areas on our property along the Russian River’s native wild habitats. By actively promoting biodiversity, we produce grapes and wine that reflect the full expression of our vineyards and the Alexander Valley.

Understanding Biodynamic Farming

Biodynamic is a method of farming developed in the 1920’s as a response to chemical agriculture. Founded by scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner, ancient practices were married with an understanding of the chemistry and physiology of plants to create a system that treats the farm as a whole – an individual, living organism. The goal is to create a healthy environment, not only for the crops, but for the people who work the land and the natural organisms who reside in or transit through it. Biodynamic viticulture takes us beyond organic farming where the influences of the seasons and the dynamic interplay of life above and below ground coalesce in the grapes grown and wines made. The goal is to establish healthy farms growing healthy foods to create healthy communities, both human and wild.

Soil

Grape vines are amazingly hardy, vigorous, and resilient plants that thrive with careful cultivation. Like the motto, “You are what you eat,” with plants it is, “They are where they grow,” i.e., soil being the source of a plant’s nutrient and elemental uptake. A healthy soil is seen as the major means to a productive wine farm and high-quality grapes. By building the soil, we are encouraging a diverse environment of billions of organisms, which feed the plants. Thus, in Biodynamic farming careful attention is on everything we put on and in the ground.

Bio Char

In the lifecycle of a vineyard the removal of older or less vigorous vines is part of a normal regimen. Typically, these vines are uprooted, piled up, and dried to be burned in the winter or spring as a means of disposal. Biochar utilizes an ancient method of nurturing the soil, rediscovered and refined. By managing the size and moisture content of the wood material, the shape of the burn pile, and the method of ignition we can burn with very little smoke released into the air and create a stable form of a carbon amendment that acts as a sponge for water, microorganisms, and plant nutrients over the years and even when incorporated into the soil.

Preps

Biodynamic preparations are agricultural formulas first suggested by Rudolf Steiner and developed practitioners to enhance soil quality and stimulate healthy plant growth. The original formulated preps were numbered 500 to 508, and include preparations made from cow manure, quartz crystal, yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, valerian, and horsetail. The subtle influence of these applications is seen as a multiplying effect, stimulating the life forces.

Barrel Composts

The six biodynamic compost preparations placed into our barrel compost:

  • 502 - Yarrow
  • 503 - Chamomile
  • 504 - Stinging Nettle
  • 505 - Oak Bark
  • 506 - Dandelion
  • 507 - Valerian

Compost

Biodynamics regards the cow as a primary method of transforming plant matter from vegetation to nutrition. A cow’s amazing digestive ability creates manure which can fertilize soil. At Eco Terreno, we use organic dairy cow manure with organic straw, supplemental materials, and biodynamic preparations to create our own composts. These are covered and allowed to transform into a stable form of organic matter that is added to our soils in the fall.

We makeover 500 tons of compost each year from organic cow manure and straw, which is inoculated with biodynamic preparations and aged for 12 months.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are seeded within the vine rows in the vineyard to provide food and protection to the life, retain water, as well as concentrating minerals and elements for the vines to assimilate. Our cover crop mixes include legumes to fix nitrogen drawn from the air, deep rooted grasses to break up clay soils and extract minerals from below, and other flowering plants to attract beneficial insects. These plants may be tilled into the soil to add more compost, mowed for a mulch, or harvested for their valuable food, feed, and seed.

Tillage

To create a diversity of life in the soil and reduce erosion and loss of precious soil moisture, carbon, and nutrients, tillage is minimized throughout of our vineyards. Among older vines are planted perennial grasses, which grow over time and feed the soil with exudates, plus carbon captured from the air and transformed into root materials. Between younger vines the ground may be tilled to help establish root systems.

Sanctuary Bee Garden

Our Bee Garden at Eco Terreno was inspired by our logo, which showcases our reverence for the bee as essential for a healthy environment. Though grapevines are primarily self-pollinated, bees – particularly native bees, of which there are some 1,600 different species in California alone – are an agent of pollination for many native plants and cultivated crops. Existing in all shapes and sizes, these native insects are often displaced by agricultural activities, and sometimes harmed by common farming chemicals. We seek to reclaim a natural balance and educate visitors with our garden and surrounding landscape.

Insectaries

Bees, both honey and native, are not the only ones attracted to our gardens and crops in our wine farm. Many other pollinators and beneficial fauna are attracted to the native and flowering plants, including birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, amphibians, and reptiles, plus beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps. By providing plants that attract them throughout our wine farm, these animals and insects come prey on various pests such as mites, mealybugs, and more. Biodynamic agriculture provides that 10% or more of the property is reserved for wildlife. At Eco Terreno we work to create colorful, vibrant life within all corners of our property.

Wildlife

In addition to our gardens and riparian areas, we create homes and attractants for beneficial wildlife throughout our wine farm. Bluebird boxes are placed in a regular pattern throughout the vineyards so birds can roost and prey on pests such as leafhoppers. Owl boxes and raptor perches are erected to attract barn owls, hawks, falcons, kestrels, and others, which in turn prey on gophers, voles, and other damaging species.

Russian River

Our wine farm, located at the northernmost reaches of Sonoma County’s famous Alexander Valley, is bordered to the west by nearly 3/4 of a mile of the Russian River and a riparian area. An incredibly rich habitat, wildlife thrives in this area, including osprey, bald eagles, quail, wood ducks, river otters, steelhead trout, foxes, bobcat, coyote, and many others. We actively restore this area by removing non-native plants and promoting native vegetation. In turn, the river feeds our aquifers through the soil’s gravel beds, further nourishing healthy vines.

The Goal

Of course, the ultimate goal of all this hard work is to cajole the very best from our Vitis vinifera – wine grapes. The Biodynamic farming methods that include the soil building, preparations, biochar/carbon capture, cover crops, healthy water flow, insectary gardens, and wildlife habitats are all part of this organic system called Eco Terreno. All of it creates a healthy, renewing little corner of our planet that imparts the rich terroir of our vineyards and the world-class quality of the Alexander Valley into Eco Terreno Wines.

Alexander Valley

Our special place in the Alexander Valley has the climate, soils, and terrain to grow some of Northern California wine country’s best grapes. Situated on an Alluvial plain bordering the Russian River, we preserve more than 10% of our estate as wild areas for biodiversity, and establish a flourishing ecosystem along the river, in the woods, and among the vines.

Our Wine Farm

Eco Terreno Wine Farm is situated in northern Alexander Valley, and the vineyards are planted on exceptionally well-drained, gravelly, Alluvial soils. The estate vineyards are composed of two sites, the Lyon Vineyard (owned since 1980) and the Cisne Vineyard (owned since 2008). We converted to Biodynamic farming and were certified by Demeter USA in 2017. Of special distinction are our 14 acres of nearly 50 year-old Sauvignon Blanc vines and 6 acres of nearly 50 year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines.

 

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