Turns out, it is fairly easy being green. And the rewards go way beyond feeling good about yourself, U.S. grape growers largely agree.
According to Beverage World, farmers in wine regions the world over are eschewing pesticides and chemical fertilizers, returning to the practices that growers’ great-grandfathers used before anyone knew what “organic” was.
“This approach just brings your vineyard alive,” said John Fetzer, owner of Saracina Vineyards in Mendocino County, Calif., where the “green-growing” movement is nearly universal. “You end up with a healthier plant, and you see that in the juice. The plant ripens faster, which means you can harvest earlier and get better sugar, acid and pH ratios.”
Fetzer has seen and been through it all, since his father, Barney, and mother, Kathleen, bought 720 acres of Mendocino County land in 1958.
“We were basically farming organic and didn’t have a term for it,” said Fetzer, whose winery at the time bore the family name (he sold Fetzer Vineyards to Brown-Forman in 1992). “Then in the mid-1970s, chemical companies were going to be our saviors with weed control.”
“It didn’t take us more than four or five years to see the land in decline, the butterflies go away, all that. In the early ’80s, we switched back.”
And Fetzer, who now farms a whopping 1,800 acres organically, said he found multiple benefits to going green.
“Once you get set up, it costs the same, maybe less,” he said. “And the big plus is the safety of our employees. Not using herbicides or pesticides, you have a lot more footprints in your vineyard. You can pay a lot more attention to what’s going on there. I see vineyards with pesticides, and they just look sick. But most of them are converting because the growers can’t sell their grapes anymore.”