Saturday, April 10, 2021

Video: Vineyard Manager at America's Largest Biodynamic Vineyard Tells American Vineyard Magazine Going Biodynamic "A Pretty Easy Process" and "Not as Hard as You Might Think"


While many wine writers and much media makes biodynamics sound like it is a complicated way to farm, King Estate's Ray Nuclo, in a farmer to farmer video on CaliforniaAgNet, says it's really pretty simple.

King Estate was certified organic in the early 2000's, but when Nuclo, an experienced organic viticulturist, joined the company in 2015, he was charged with converting its 465 acre organic vineyard in the southernmost part of the Willamette Valley, with going biodynamic. 

In one year. 

He told American Vineyard Magazine's reporter, Matthew Malcolm, that going biodynamic was straightforward - minimizing offsite inputs, using sheep for weed control before bud break, composting grape must to use as fertilizer, and using what are called the preps - adding herbal and mineral sprays and teas to compost and vines.

The preps were new to Nuclo, he said, but are now part of the routine, supercharging and promoting the natural life in the soils and plants, he said.

While others believe that biodynamic farming is a marketing tool, Nuclo credits the owners' commitment to treating the land well as the primary motivation for being biodynamic.

While the company makes 150,000 cases of wine each year, it blends its grapes with purchased grapes for 95 percent of its production, holding back five percent for its small lot, estate wines, which are certified under Demeter's "Made with Biodynamic Grapes" standard. (That standard is identical to the "Made with Organic Grapes" standard, substituting biodynamic grapes for organic ones.)

Asked for advice to others who may be contemplating a transition to biodynamic farming, Nuclo said, "It can be a little intimidating at first, but it's not as hard as you might think." 

"You just have to have the right inputs and know what to do at the right time," he said. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Scheid's Supersized Organic Plans: On Track to Becoming the Second Largest Organic Vineyard Owner in the U.S.

Heidi Scheid of Scheid Family Wines

This year, Scheid Family Wines in Monterey County made one of the biggest announcements in Central Coast wine history.

It is converting all 2,800 acres of its Monterey vines to organic certification. And it will be launching its own new organically grown estate wines in 2021, and Whole Foods will be selling them. This major leap forward gives consumers more than just Bonterra organic options on supermarket shelves.
The first wine released this year, and it's a Made with Organic Grapes rosé of Petite Sirah. The bee and flowers motifs on the label are in keeping with other organic brands who are offering more and more natural imagery to signal to consumers that the wines are organically grown. It's also a very feminine label, and that's who's buying rosé, rosé, rosé.
While Castoro Cellars has been the organic leader in the Central Coast with 1,422 acres (more organic acreage than Bonterra owns), Scheid is on track to become the biggest organic vineyard owner in the Central Coast by 2025.
At 2,807 acres, Scheid would also become the second largest organic vineyard owner in the country. 
Here is a map of its 12 vineyards spread across a 70 mile swath of the Salinas Valley. (Scheid announced it sold three of these on April 2, 2021, reducing its acreage from 4,000 to 2807 acres.)

For those who want to know who the biggest organic vineyard owner is, it is Fred Franzia (Mr. Two Buck Chuck) who converted 8,000 of his 40,000 acres of Central Valley vineyards to organic. His brand is Shaw Organic, which is sold exclusively at Trader Joe's. But there is lots more room in the market, as Bonterra's continued growth shows. That brand, which has been buying grapes more and more from locations outside of Mendocino County, reports growth between 10 and 20 percent (reports vary) in the last year.
As Fetzer Vineyards CEO Giancarlo said in August of 2020, the brand is seeing double digit growth in Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé, along with ongoing sales of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Scheid has already tapped into the no sugar wines category with its modern looking brand Sunny with a Chance of Flowers, which is competing as a lo-cal option, but the leap to organic is a far bigger step into the more health and eco-friendly category.
I asked Scheid's PR representative for a chance to interview Heidi. Here is what they sent me in answer to my questions.
What Scheid brand will you be making the organically grown wines for?
Grandeur is our first brand that is made with organic grapes. The first vintage – 2020 – is a rosé from our organically certified White Flower Vineyard. It will be available at Whole Foods in June 2021. What is the price point for your organically grown wines?
Grandeur Rosé in Whole Foods will be available at an SRP of $16.99. Will you be selling grapes or using all of the organic grapes in your own brand/s?