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Biodynamic farming at Tablas Creek Vineyard

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-25 00:03:33-04

Sometimes a modern approach to winemaking isn’t all that modern.

A local vineyard recently celebrated 30 years in business and says the secret to great wines is working in perfect harmony with nature.

It’s called biodynamic farming. It’s an approach that treats the soil, plant growth, and livestock as a single system.

“We [started] in France, the biodynamic method 40 years ago,” said Jean-Pierre Perrin, co-founder of Tablas Creek Vineyards.

He believes it’s the only the way to turn grapes grown on Central Coast soils into exceptional wine.

“No, we don’t use any chmical product here, never,” Perrin said. “The advantage is that the wine is good.”

“We also feel like it’s a great way of fostering really healthy soils which leads into a healthy vineyard, which leads to a longer lived wines, which means instead of having to replant after 20 or 30 years, you can get your vines 60, 70 years old before having to replant them,” said Jason Haas, partner and General Manager at Tablas Creek agrees.

Each bottle of wine produced is a reflection of the entire past year.

“So it’s the result of the pruning you’re doing in the winter, the growth you have in the spring, what you’re doing with your weeds in the summer, what you’re doing with the fruit thinning in the fall, how you’re making your wines, and I feel looking at any of those in isolation you get a piece of the story,” said Haas.

But he said to get the whole story, you have to understand how they’re all connected and in sync with nature.

Haas’ father and Perrin, Tablas Creek founders, have always believed in transparency; taking people behind the scenes to see how the wine is made and more importantly how the grapes are grown.  And here, they are grown with the help of a herd of sheep, a few donkeys, llamas, alpacas and a couple of dogs that protect the livestock from predators.  It’s using nature instead of chemicals and machinery.

“We’re taking organic matter and putting it back in the ground in a way that can store it for a thousand years,” said Nathan Stuart, the shepherd at Tablas Creek. “Carbon holds water, we don’t have enough water, we’re always on the Central Coast worried about drought, we’re always vulnerable to drought so the fact that we can improve the soil so that it can hold more water than we can ever store in a tank is for me one of the biggest things.”

Putting a great bottle of wine on the table, protecting the land for generations to come and allowing customers and visitors to see how it’s all being done, Tablas Creek is more than happy to share the story with guests.  After all, the tasting room is more than a place to taste the final product.

“This is the place where really everything happens, it’s not a hospitality center that somebody visits it’s the working nursery, vineyard winery,” said Haas.

As a certified Biodynamic farm since 2017 nothing is brought onto the vineyard. No artificial chemicals or fertilizers and no outside feed. The cover crop is mowed and bailed each year to feed the livestock while they can’t be in the vineyard itself.