VOL 15: Organic All The Way | Seven Apart Organic Farming
“At Seven Apart, we are purists at heart. We believe in achieving the highest quality wine while staying true to the fruit’s inherent integrity.”
The Journal | Vol. 15
In a world with so many options at your disposal, it’s not always easy to determine the best choice. Wine is no different. For decades, wines have been made from grapes grown using a plethora of artificial chemicals and fertilizers. Over time, these practices have detrimental effects on the environment – particularly as climate change becomes a reality. With the pandemic at the forefront of everyone’s mind, how we treat our world and ourselves has become a priority. Perhaps now is the time to consider an alternative approach.
Here at Seven Apart, we are purists at heart. We believe in achieving the highest quality wine while staying true to the fruit’s inherent integrity. In keeping with our mission to bring you only the best, we are making the slow but advantageous transition to farming all of our grapes organically. Our goal is to preserve the natural simplicity of the fruit just like nature intended.
Wine Made with Organically Grown Grapes
Organic wine sold in the United States falls into two categories of USDA certifications:
1) Wine Made with Organically Grown Grapes
2) Organic Wines
The primary difference between the two is in the use of sulfites. While both categories of wine are made with 100% USDA Certified Organically Grown Grapes, ‘Organic Wines’ have no sulfites added. ‘Made with Organic Grapes’ is exactly what the name suggests. Grapes are farmed on vineyards that restrict synthetic chemicals and non-organic fertilizers, genetic engineering or ionizing radiation. Instead, all agricultural ingredients used in the wine must be grown and produced using natural methods such as the use of predatory insects (ladybugs and lacewings) and a systematic approach that promotes healthy vines and minimizes the vineyards’ susceptibility to insect and disease attacks.
At Seven Apart, our focus is to produce wine ‘Made with Organically Grown Grapes’. The legal maximum for combining natural and added sulfites in wines labeled as “Made With Organic Grapes” is 100 parts per million (ppm) vs. the limit of 350 ppm in conventional wines. To meet the strict USDA criteria, we use the lowest level of sulfites possible to prevent spoilage and bacterial contamination.
Adopting Andy Erickson’s Approach
Organically-farmed wine is far more than doing away with chemicals or substituting with natural alternatives. Organic farmers implement various strategies to develop and maintain biological diversity and replenish soil fertility. Some of the techniques employed were first used thousands of years ago, such as crop rotation and composted animal manure. These practices are both environmentally and economically sustainable – a big win for both you and the planet.
This motivation is the driving force behind Seven Apart’s winemaker Andy Erickson’s decision to go organic. Yannick Girado, Seven Apart General Manager, shares:
“Andy is a big proponent of organic farming. His winemaking philosophy is centered around mutual respect for the land. It’s simple for him: give back to the land what you take out. This falls in line with Seven Apart’s approach of expressing the terroir, so it was an easy decision to switch to organic.”
For wine drinkers, the good news is that organic farming allows a range of plants to grow in and around the vineyard, which attracts beneficial insects and pollinators. Over time, organic vineyards develop a natural resistance to adverse weather and insects without the need for artificial chemicals. In turn, they tend to produce better quality and more robust grapes that can withstand more adverse conditions. Higher quality grapes mean higher quality wine.
A Slow but Steady Shift
There’s no two ways about it: organic farming is a long-term investment. Yannick explains:
“In truth, conventional farming is faster and easier but it’s a short-term solution. It doesn’t give you a lot of control over the vineyard. At Seven Apart, we’re in it for the long run. By adopting organic farming practices we’re able to fulfill the true potential of the land and nurture it for the next 20 years – if not more.”
The transition to organic vineyards began in August 2019 – just one year after the property was purchased. The team was presented with a unique opportunity with the Base Camp vineyard, as it required complete replanting.
“When we purchased the Base Camp vineyard, there was a mix of varietals with uneven spacing. We also had no idea as to the clone or rootstock we were dealing with. So we decided to pull out the existing vines and hit the reset button on this vineyard – meaning it could be organic from the start,” explains Yannick.
It takes three years to harvest a new vineyard, meaning the first batch of fully organically farmed grapes from Base Camp will be available in 2022.
“Going organic allows us to plan for the future and also gives us the opportunity to make sure we have things set up just right to make the most of every element of organic farming,” adds Yannick.
Up on Stags Ridge Vineyard, our team is busy overhauling our methods to protect the existing grapes rather than replanting. Traditional pesticides and chemicals have been replaced with organic sprays that do not erode the soil and still preserve the fruit. According to Yannick, the difference is already evident:
“We only use approved organic materials in our Stags Ridge Vineyard and have seen the positive impact on soil health. But it is a slow game. Before we can even receive our 100% USDA Certified Organically Grown Grapes certification, we will need to farm all our grapes organically for three consistent years. The reality is that we will only receive our certification in 2023, but the intention is most certainly there!”
Though it sounds arduous, it is a worthwhile investment: “Going organic is labor-intensive. You triple your workforce, and it takes a lot of time. But the benefits triple too as everyone wins in the end: the environment, the winery, and the wine lover,” ends Yannick.
Organic farming certainly doesn’t come easy. This said, Seven Apart is dedicated to crafting extreme mountain-grown Cabernet from the best fruit possible. If that means taking the road less traveled, for us, each step will be well worth it.