Officially Certified Organic
Following years of sustainable grapegrowing practice, we are very proud to announce that we have officially moved to the next level. We have achieved Certified Organic status for our Kathryn Kennedy Estate Vineyard. Rigorous standards of certification will be maintained by California Certified Organic Farmers based in Santa Cruz CA.
Bird Boxes help control unwanted insects.
IPM at Kathryn Kennedy Estate Vineyard
Watch this video clip to see a hatchling "Blue-Green Swallow". We installed these bird boxes to invite specific breeds of birds that do not eat grape berries but love to eat insects. The hope is these birds will reduce the population of sharpshooter that spread the vine killing Pierces's Disease.
Sustainable Winegrowing at Kathryn Kennedy Winery
- written by Marty Mathis
Having been born here and having farmed the same ground for over 30 years, I developed a deep love of this small piece of land. I recognize the visual beauty and especially the rare wine potential of this estate. Over the last 10 years, I had begun to transition my practices towards a sustainable vineyard regime. Sustainablity is a holistic approach, please read the details below and you’ll see we are leaving no stone unturned and no conventional farming procedure un-questioned in our pursuit of the purest natural quality of our grapes. As of August 2007 the Kathryn Kennedy Estate Vineyard has achieved offical Certified Organic via the California Certified Organic Farmers, (CCOF) of Santa Cruz, California. www.ccof.org
It has long been our practice to stay away from insecticides and to minimize herbicides. Being a small family operation drives home the exposure of the workers and other family members to the risk associated with these unsafe man-made chemicals. Instead, we choose to bear extra expense and physical effort to use techniques that can ensure a well maintained vineyard year after year.
No Weed killer
Weed control is a major part of viticulture. Under the vines is the real dilemma. It’s easy to use tractors down the avenues (between rows), but under those wires is a real challenge. Conventional farmer use "round-up" and pre-emergent type weed killers to leave bare ground under the vines. The images you see in brochures and magazines of a spotless vineyard represent a hidden danger.
What more reason would you need than these children enjoying a grassy sunny life, free of weedkilling chemical residue.
In fact we all need to take a hard look at our gardens and commercial landscaping. A garden that has no weeds should scare you. Somewhere under that dirt there is a bunch of chemicals preventing those weeds. Just like super models and their destructive effects on normal young women, we need to stop valueing sterile "clean" gardens. (I digress).
Anyway, weeds need to be controlled under the vines, to avoid water competition and other problems. In my vineyard we are relying on a combination of string trimmers, hand hoeing, and tractor mounted implements.
Powdery Mildew Control
Organic doesn’t mean ‘no spray”. Mildew is the number one year after year threat to grapes. We must spray, so the secret is to use only naturally occurring materials such a mined sulphur, potassium, or bio fungicides (micro organism or enzymes that attack mildew cells).
By using careful monitoring and low volume ground application, the environmental impact is greatly reduced at the same time that precise and predictable mildew control can be ensured.
A corner stone of sustainable farming is soil health. This not only means elimination of toxic weed killers and damaging practices such as depletion and compaction, but more proactive steps such as soil building and biological diversity. (Composting is discussed below.)
Growing Cover Crops
One major part of sustainable winegrowing is the proactive planting of cover crops between the vines during the winter months when the vines are dormant. Cover crops are selected plants grown from seed and chosen to improve the soil is several ways such as nitrogen fixing, tilth and root penetration. We have used legumes like clover, vetch as well as white mustard.
Native mustard plant, note the tap root, which is useful to break up clay hard pan soil.
For the last 5 years we have been discovering which plants work best in our soils. One success has been a group of peas (legumes) called Austrian Winter Peas.
This handsome stand of peas is from a sub variety called Biomaster, know to grow lots of usable green material for plowing under the soil as a green manure. Fresh green biomass feeds soil organisms and add subtle amounts of nutrients.
Tthe dense stand of peas growing between the vines at our Estate vineyard, just proir to Marty using the tactor to disk them under.
New Zealand White Clover
Winter Wheat cover crops.
On Farm Composting
Soil improvement has no other single practice as important as composting. Kathryn Kennedy Winery has chosen to take it a step further by establishing an on-site winery waste composting operation. Waste left over after wine production such as skins, seeds, stems and vine cuttings, are retained on the estate and combined with animal manure and yard clippings to form an extremely valuable compost to be tilled into our soil during the fall months.
Farming without energy use is impossible, we have adopted a program to address the vineyard and winery energy usage.
For our vehicles we have selected an electric golfcart for small jobs and general transport as well as Biodiesel because it is the most accessible alternative to petroleum fuels available at this time. It is produced from soy beans or recycled cooking oil.
Our tractor currently uses 100% Biodiesel, with no mechanical alterations, nor any performance problems
Our family cars and our new winery flatbed Isuzu NQR are all using exclusively Biodiesel. Our on-site Biodiesel drum is supplied by a company in San Francisco, San Jose and Mt View. Our company has taken the position that America’s intrenched dependence on petroleum is not only bad for the environment but also bad for our national security. Contact us if you’d like to learn about the Biodiesel alternative.
Integrated Pest Management
A good farm invites all kinds of friends. Integrated pest management practices encourages growers to seek a balance within the farm system to use all of nature’s helper. Whether that means using beneficial insect, predatory mites or raptors we try to let them do their work by putting out the welcome sign or in this case a welcome post.
A redtailed hawk on 20ft pole above the vines on a foggy day.
Winery Waste Stream
As mentioned above we have designed our crush facility and winery equipment to move the pomace and stems into a trailer that can be towed to the compost making area. We are glad to get that material away from the winery before it spoils and attracts vinegar bugs, but also proud to be returning the unused material to the earth from where it came.
Recycled Office Supplies
I’d say the first efforts of our modern society towards sustainablity came with recyling. Our company is fully on board. It goes without saying that any cardboard, glass etc. is taken to the street on a weekly basis, even if the driver gives us sideways looks due to the sheer volume of our efforts. Our office uses many green products such as 100% post consumer papers. Our shipping department uses recycled paper (egg carton style) wine shipping materials instead of styrofoam shippers. Some shredded office paper even finds its way into our compost pile.
Last but not least, we are proud of the agricultural heritage of this land that has been preserved by the personal efforts of Kathryn Kennedy. We consider our winery to be part of the local community and we take great pains to lay low and tread lightly. It is our goal to be an attribute of the city of Saratoga and a point of scenic pleasure to this small residential neighborhood.