In Sonoma County, "Regenerative Agriculture" is the Next Big Thing

To Lauren and Alex Benward, sixth generation owners of the Beltane Ranch Glen Ellen Vineyard in California, the word “sustainability” d...

To Lauren and Alex Benward, sixth generation owners of the Beltane Ranch Glen Ellen Vineyard in California, the word “sustainability” does not adequately reflect the agricultural measures they and many of their fellow vineyard owners have taken in recent years. Avoiding pesticides and industrial tillage is a matter of course. They also use roaming chickens to chase away parasites, maximize soil fertility by planting cover crops like ryegrass, and employ a flock of sheep – called “woolly weeders” – to help fertilize the fields. Even the vineyard’s wine shipments reflect stewardship of the land: the bottles – recycled, with natural corks – are transported with a carbon neutral shipment.

This holistic approach to land management is called regenerative agriculture. It eschews conventional farming techniques and harnesses composting, pollinator habitat restoration and other measures to encourage nutrient-rich soil. These practices also limit skyrocketing carbon emissions by coaxing nitrogen from the atmosphere and into plant roots, a practice known as carbon sequestration.

“Sustainability involves maintenance. We are focusing on improvements, ”said Ames Morrison, who also practices regenerative agriculture on Medlock Ames, the small vineyard he co-owns in Healdsburg, California. “By creating healthier soil, we make the earth more resilient. We can reverse climate change by naturally reducing greenhouse gases. “

Indeed, climate change mitigation is the ultimate goal. And while many wineries around the world are also implementing decarbonization measures, Sonoma County wineries are among the early pioneers of the practice.

“Agriculture has a unique opportunity to be part of the climate solution,” said Karissa Kruse, President of Sonoma County Winemakers, a local business group which, like the Alliance for Sustainable Viticulture in California and California Institute of Land Stewardship, emphasizes the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the region. “Best management practices optimize carbon sequestration, minimize greenhouse gas emissions and support water conservation. This is important at the local level as our multigenerational family farmers see themselves as the stewards of the land for the next generation. “

For the environmentally conscious traveler, a crash course in carbon sequestration and wine tasting – close to smart land conservation – is the ultimate match. Here are some events and activities offered by Sonoma County Wineries and other businesses:

Visit of the gardens and tasting

Spigarello? Shungiko? Blue oyster leaf? Frozen lettuce? Tucker Taylor, Kendall Jackson’s master culinary gardener, continues to harvest some of Northern California’s most esoteric produce, not surprisingly from the man who developed Thomas Keller’s garden at the Michelin starred French Laundry. His veg can be found at some of the best restaurants in the Bay Area, but in Sonoma you can take advantage of the scarcity and appreciate Mr. Taylor’s commitment to pesticide-free, no-tillage farming with a visit. from the garden to Kendall Jackson. Self-guided walks are free or sign up for a lively 90-minute walk through the seven plots, beehives and bat nesting boxes, and through the sensory gardens which offer details about the grape varieties on the estate. The visit ends with a wine tasting and a snack of harvest vegetables ($ 40 per person; four courses farm-to-table pairing dinner are offered in the gardens from May to October, $ 195 per person; 5007 Fulton Road, Santa Rosa, California; 800-769-3649)

Farm stay

For a glimpse into life in a small working vineyard on the bridge, book a stay at the comfortable, six-room inn at Beltane Ranch. You will get up close to the weed-eating sheep (not too close otherwise the watchdog will treat you like a predator), switch to the retro camper van that serves as a chicken coop, and hop on a four wheel drive to see donkeys, longhorns and horses whose feeding habits reduce the weeds that fuel fires. The bucolic setting also includes a horseshoe pit, a preserved 19th century “roadhouse” festooned with ivy, slightly capricious flower gardens and various relaxation areas ideal for drinking the estate’s crisp Sauvignon Blanc. A stay includes a breakfast from a ranch, served under ancient oak trees. And, yes, the leftovers are used for chicken feed and compost. (Room rates start at $ 425, 11775 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, CA; 707-833-4233)

Audio tour of the vineyard

To help wine enthusiasts better understand what goes into that bottle of regeneratively grown organic wine they’re about to taste, Medlock Ames has created a self-guided audio tour to illustrate what a year of winemaking looks like. .

At the vineyard, put on headphones, download the geo-targeted app and listen to the story about cutting-edge farming practices. The tour is accompanied by sound effects: As you visit vineyards covered in soft alyssum and Queen Anne’s lace, the insects buzz as you learn how cover crops attract beneficial insects and control predators. As visitors approach solar panels, owl boxes and drip pipes that provide irrigation, they will hear explanations interspersed with pruning shears, birdsong and the clicking of bottles. A guided wine and cheese tasting completes the experience. ($ 75 per person, by appointment only, 13414 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg, CA; 707-431-8845)

Personalized tastings

Design by Nigel and Allyson Weekes day trips that focus on tastings at the kind of groovy micro-wineries you’ll never find on your own – those low-yielding, high-quality vineyards that only sell direct to consumers. You will be collected from your accommodation in a Land Rover, and as you travel through Sonoma’s different microclimates, you will receive a tutorial on soil types, grape varieties, and the glaring differences between artisanal wine and what you find in a supermarket. The routes of their new tour, Sustainable Sonoma, reflect the region’s composition of small farms that produce less than 10,000 cases. After strolling through the vineyards and tasting wines in hidden places like Littorai (wines in batch), Davero (Italian grape varieties) and Preston Farms & Vineyards (Zinfandel), you leave feeling a special bond with the place and the people who work the land. The full-day experience includes a picnic in a bento box with local ingredients grown in a regenerative way. ($ 475 per person; 707-204-9660;

Vineyard hike

An increased interest in sustainability and overall well-being inspired Jordan Winery to develop an experience where visitors can interact with nature and exercise, before diving into a lunch-wine pairing. The four mile hike, offered seasonally, travels through different altitudes and microclimates, from young Malbec vineyards to new plantations of cabernet sauvignon grapes. There is also a break for an olive oil tasting on a ridge overlooking the Alexander, Russian River and Dry Creek valleys. The hike continues past pollinator sanctuaries, through olive groves and to the chef’s garden where guests can pick and eat produce like figs and heirloom tomatoes at the end of the season. Finally, local fruits are tasted in the form of a harvest lunch accompanied by Cabernet and Chardonnay from the estate. ($ 110 per person; 1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, California; 707-431-5250)

Tasting menu

At their restaurant, Single Thread, husband and wife team Kyle and Katina Connaughton deliver both exceptional flavor and a commitment to sustainability. Kyle (a chef) and Katina (a farmer) are members of the Zero food footprint program, the food companies have focused on turning ‘bad’ carbon into ‘good’ and operate their own regenerative 24-acre no-till farm producing 80% of the restaurant’s produce, as well as eggs, honey, oil. olive and flowers. In addition to the three stars it received from the Michelin Guide this year, Single Thread was also awarded in 2020 a green clover, the new name of the organization for sustainable gastronomy.

The years spent in Japan shaped Mr. Connaughton’s cuisine. 11-course kaiseki-style menu pairs brilliant California-grown produce with sashimi and other proteins like local duck and Sonoma Marbled Wagyu Beef, seasoned with umami-rich ingredients such as Saikyo miso. ($ 375 without drinks; 131 North St, Healdsburg, CA; 707-723-4646)

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Newsrust - US Top News: In Sonoma County, "Regenerative Agriculture" is the Next Big Thing
In Sonoma County, "Regenerative Agriculture" is the Next Big Thing
Newsrust - US Top News
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