Growers and vintners: mark your calendars. Napa Valley Grapegrowers' Organic Winegrowing Conference, which happens only every other year, is July 21, will kickoff at Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford.
The registration fee is $300. (This is not an event for consumers).
This year's event features Renata Brillinger of CalCAN (California Agriculture and Climate Network) as the keynote speaker (at 8 am). Her topic is Climate Policy: Trends and Opportunities for the Wine Industry.
(You can see some of CalCAN's videos on climate change and ag on their website here.)
Following her remarks, the attendees will split up into three groups; each group will spend time at each of the three vineyards. Hosts and vineyards include:
1. Steve Matthiason, Matthiason Vineyards, Oak Knoll District AVA
Matthiason will cover vineyard practices that promote biodiversity and weed control equipment. Robin Gerber of Spotlight Brands will provide sommelier perspective on marketing organically farmed wines.
Matthiasson, a vintner as well as a prominent vineyard management consultant, has extensive experience in tending organic and Biodynamic vineyards, including Araujo Estate (now Eisele Vineyard).
2. Ivo Jeramaz, Grgich Hills Estate, Napa Valley
Jeramaz, who directs vineyards and productions at Grgich Hills, oversees 366 acres of organic wine grapes (in 5 AVAs), which are the sole source of Grgich Hills Estate wines. It's the winery with by far the most acreage in Napa and the second largest in that category in California.
(Napa Wine Co. in Napa has 557 acres of organic vines, but sells most of its grapes to area vintners; Bonterra is the winery with the most number of estate acres - 911 - followed by Grgich Hills.)
The Grgich Hills tour will take place at their Yountville Vineyard, a site famous for its very old Cabernet vines, a rare Inglenook clone planted back in 1959, and which today produces their Yountville Selection Cab ($185).
Here's a video about the vineyard:
In the 1990's, the vines started to be overtaken by virus and experts advised that the vines be pulled out. In a famous moment in the estate's history, Jeramaz consulted experts who recommended Biodynamic practices that enhanced the vines' health, so that the plants could co-exist with - but not be overwhelmed by - the viruses.
This group will focus on the benefits of organic farming in promoting vineyard longevity along with the economics of organic wine growing and carbon sequestration as one of the many benefits of dry farming.
3. Macy Stubstad (vineyard manager) and Frederick Ammons (winegrower, winemaker), Rudd Oakville Estate, Rutherford AVA
Rudd Oakville Estate's presentation with Macy Stubstad (vineyard manager) and Frederick Ammons (winegrower, winemaker) will focus on transitioning to organic viticulture in both new and existing vineyards. The duo will discuss what organic standards certification requires, replanting, and geology and terroir.
Currently Rudd has 47 acres of estate vines which it began getting certified in 2015. If all goes well, its estate will be certified in 2017. Stubstad already oversees organic certification on Rudd's Edge Hill vineyard. Rudd is also considering whether to certify its 17 acre Mt. Veeder estate.