Today we visited the Benziger winery in Glen Ellen, CA. We only had time to visit one Sonoma-area winery and chose Benziger because of their sustainable/organic methods. We’ve toured a lot of wineries in Napa and were familiar with crushing, the role of oak barrels, caves for cellars and all that.
What is interesting about Benziger is their biodynamic approach. Biodynamic horticulture seems to be essentially the same as permaculture.

Sheep contribute to the biodynamics at Benziger Winery.

Sheep contribute to the biodynamics at Benziger Winery. Photo by benziger.com.

At Benziger they are  cultivating grapes of several varietals, but they also have 60 head of sheep that they turn out in the vineyards at certain times of year. Sheep mow down weeds and their hooves cultivate between the rows as tilling would do. In addition to sheep, they also raise cattle. They use manure and compost to enrich the soil. One tip new to me: They grow, harvest and dry yarrow, which they say helps jump-start decomposition when added to the compost pile. I have lots of yarrow on our property, so I’m going to try this in my three compost piles.
They capture and recycle water and have reduced water consumption from 24 gallons per barrel of wine (conventional methods, which they started with) to five (current sustainable, biodynamic methods).
There are gardens within the vineyards devoted to attracting beneficial insects. Groves of olive trees as well.

Vineyard at Benziger Winery

The beautiful vineyards at Benziger Winery. Photo: benziger.com.

I have yet to see an ugly winery, but this one is quite beautiful in a simple, unpretentious kind of way.

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