H-PASO ROBLES

Dec 27, 2013 2:25 PM by Keli Moore, KSBY News

Farm animals part of the winemaking process at Tablas Creek

Most mornings at Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles start with counting sheep. Yes, you read that correctly.

Levi Glenn, a viticulturist, counts his sheep because of predators that roam the area, but the heard has some protectors.

"We have guard donkeys here. They help provide a little bit of protection for the sheep," said Glenn. "The donkeys have a particular disdain for coyotes."

There are some others too: five alpacas, some chickens, goats and llamas. Glenn said all the animals have a job to do. The vineyard is taking a holistic approach to farming its vines.

"We use these animals to graze in the vineyards and remove the weeds," said Glenn.

The technique is Biodynamics, which was created in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist and philosopher. Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition, and it ultimately reduces the vineyard's carbon footprint.

"The animals are constantly recycling their fertilizer into the soil, and it's a constant cycle of fertilization," Glenn explained. "We have some chickens which help to fertilize certain blocks and they go out and eat certain bugs in the vineyard as well that can affect the grapevines."

So does Biodynamics influence what ends up in the bottle?

"Everything we do in the vineyard translates into the bottle," said Neil Collins, who is the winemaker at Tablas Creek Vineyard. "It makes you view the vineyard slightly differently, and it has expanded from there."

Now people visit Tablas Creek for more than its tasting room.

"It brings people into the vineyard. Suddenly people (are) here on the weekends with their kids," said Collins.

Tablas Creek produces 30,000 cases of wine per year, and the winery grows, makes, and bottles everything on its own property.

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