Winter Wineland at Truett Hurst Winery

Truett Hurst Winery will host a Winter Wineland event next weekend. Guests will have an opportunity to sample wines and see the progress of a young biodynamic winery. Details follow:

Event: Winter Wineland at Truett Hurst Winery

What: Festival

Host: Truett Hurst Winery, Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg

Start Time: Saturday, January 17 at 11:00 a.m.

End Time: Sunday, January 18 at 5:00 p.m.

Where: Truett Hurst Winery, Healdsburg, CA

Tickets are available at www.wineroad.com or at the winery.

Jim Morris

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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Birth of a Biodynamic Winery

Birth of a Biodynamic Winery

Thousands of wild Coho and Chinook salmon once swam with steelhead trout in the waters of Sonoma County’s Dry Creek. For a time, the common use of pesticides had all but wiped out the salmon. Today, Dry Creek is a protected stream. Nearby farmers now understand the dangers of applying chemicals to their vineyards and their crops — dangers not only to the fish in the creek but also to the people who will drink the wine and eat the produce grown on their land.

Truett Hurst Winery in the springtime. Photo: Truett Hurst Winery.

At Truett Hurst Winery, a new addition to the fine wineries of Sonoma County, we not only have decided to forgo pesticides and herbicides, we also have begun to farm biodynamically. Simply put, biodynamics is a form of farming that strives to be self-sustained, self-contained, and harmonious with nature.

We have embarked on a three-year program to adhere to the rigid standards set by Demeter, an international certifying body, whose standards are said to exceed those of the National Organic Program. We are confident that the winery we are creating will be sustainable both in farming practices and economically, and will produce world-class wines.

Salmon have begun returning to Dry Creek.

Salmon once again spawn in Dry Creek. Photo: Truett Hurst Winery.

I invite you to come along with me as I walk through the property and point out the progress we’re making on this biodynamic farming adventure. We’ll start on the banks of Dry Creek, which runs through the heart of the valley. Despite its name, Dry Creek is never dry; Warm Springs Dam feeds it throughout the dry months. The creek forms the western boundary of our property, and Dry Creek Road borders us on the east. Truett Hurst Winery is located on the land between the two.

Dry Creek is my favorite place at the winery. In the five years I have been on the property, I have seen a steady increase in the number of fish running in the stream.  During the rainy season, I can walk down to the creek and observe salmon migrating, and even spawning, in the shallow pools on our stretch of the creek. We are working in conjunction with the Department of Fish and Game and with Trouts Unlimited to create an observation area and a release point for wild salmon. Viewing the salmon is one of the many rewards of our project.

A truck crosses the farm bearing barrels of wine.

A truck crosses a pasture carrying barrels of wine. Photo: Truett Hurst Winery.

Walking from the creek toward the vineyards, we first have to go through the sheep pasture. We are in the process of building our sheep fencing, as sheep will become a vital part of the ecosystem. They will roam throughout the vineyards, serving as our lawn mowers and our fertilizers. We will also incorporate chicken coops to provide nitrogen-rich fertilizer and weed abatement. We’ll especially appreciate their help with scratching crab grass, a huge nuisance in Dry Creek Valley. The middle five acres are dedicated to open sheep pasture.

More than 15,000 newly planted vines spread across 18 acres on the property. It looks a bit like a milk carton vineyard at the moment. In the springtime, we will be grafting more than 10 acres to Zinfandel and 7 acres to Petite Sirah.

Grafting new vines onto old.

Grafting new vines onto old. Photo: Truett Hurst Winery.

The creation of elaborate compost piles is also underway, and we’ll build them up over the coming years. We are, in essence, farming the soils, creating powerfully alive soils that will allow for true “wines of place.” In biodynamic farming, everything we need to farm the property is created on the property. By doing this, the grapes are truly representative of the land we farm. This terrior will become the hallmark of our wines.

We are also working with a sharecropper, who will be planting three acres of biodynamic gardens to bring to market. He is planning out areas of fruits, vegetables, and a small orchard that will allow us to farm diverse crops on our land. Some of our produce will be sold to organic restaurants, and some will be given to local food banks.

Lunar cycles are important in biodynamic farming.

Lunar cycles are important in biodynamic farming. Photo: Truett Hurst Winery.

One fascinating aspect of biodynamics is the practice of farming by lunar cycles.  Summer and winter solstices are very important in the preparation of our organic compounds. I call it “Farmer’s Almanac farming,” and it simply is a very hands-on, practical way to farm.

Winemaker, Ginny Lambrix, carefully tends each vine. Photo: Truett Hurst Winery.

Everything we do is clean, pure and, wherever possible, done by hand. It is a very pure way to farm and truly become one with your land.

Ginny Lambrix, our amazingly talented winemaker and head of viticulture, walks the vineyards often to see how the rootstock is doing and how the soils are progressing, as well as to get a personal feel for our vineyards. I kid her that she has probably named each one of the 15,000 vines.

Bottles of Truett Hurst wine, ready for labeling.

Bottles of Truett Hurst wine, ready for labeling.

A little over a year ago, a team of three wine-industry pioneers took ownership of this land:
•    Paul Dolan, one of the most respected names in the wine business and godfather of biodynamic farming practices where wineries are concerned. He led the efforts of organic pioneer Fetzer Winery for almost three decades.
•    Heath Dolan, scion of Paul and 5th generation grape grower. He is the developer of one of the most famous biodynamic vineyards in the world, Dark Horse Vineyards in Hopland.
•    Phil Hurst, founder of Winery Exchange and one of the former winemakers at Fetzer in their early years. Winery Exchange is one of the largest private label wine companies in the world.

The patio adjacent to the tasting room. Photo: Truett Hurst Winery.

One of the most refreshing things about what we are doing is the fact that the owners say we must become financially sustainable, as well as a sustainable farm. Financial sustainability is key to this venture; otherwise wineries that still farm with conventional methods (herbicide, pesticide, machine farming) will have no incentive to convert. At the end of the day, profitability is a key part of sustainability.

The owners’ collective vision was to create a beautiful destination and a biodynamic winery in the heart of Dry Creek Valley. They wanted to show how world-class wines can be created from strict biodynamic practices. The truer we are to our core farming values, the better Truett Hurst Wines will taste.

There is something truly special about this place, and in the coming months and years, I will share with you what is happening as we move ahead with our biodynamic farm. If you find your way to Sonoma County, come see for yourself. We love showing the place off. And you might just see a migrating salmon or two while enjoying a glass of our wines.

Jim Morris

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)