Starting in 1991, when I returned to the home vineyard and winery from jobs in other wineries and vineyards, I began an effort to find practical, sustainable techniques that were specific to Farella Vineyard. Eleven years of study and practice in organic and conventional farming came from UC Davis, time spent on the family’s original homestead raisin vineyard in Selma, California and a steady post-curricular passion for every study, seminar, field trial and native plant lecture available in the region. Many of my friends and colleagues are on the front lines of these disciplines so it is a big part of my world. These experiences inform a big picture view that isn’t as cut and dried and organic certification.
At Farella Vineyard, we have endeavored to make our vineyard as natural a setting as possible. Going back to 1991, it included using all the tools in the toolbox for the long-term view. Reducing inputs to near-zero levels, to me, is the definition of sustainable whereas organic certification often comes with very high input levels. In tending the vines, the goal is to have them self-sustaining much as they would be in nature. The difference is that we can optimize the setting for them to thrive as naturally as possible. With a fully organic vineyard as the ideal, the quest for that ideal may come with raising the input levels and, ultimately, high use of diesel and other fossil fuels to power the process. My philosophy has always been to look at this bigger picture to achieve the natural setting goal. One visit and it’s plain to see the commitment to this philosophy.
Since the vineyard is just steps from the cellar, we are able to ferment and process the grapes without trucking. Sampling and analysis are performed in our in-house lab. Once the wines have completed fermentation, (primary and secondary), we then go into a very low input mode, just like the vineyard. Sensory analysis informs the timing of harvest and pressing so the wine goes to barrel without needing products and further inputs. We use very little SO-2 during aging where most winemakers prefer to maintain a much higher level. Higher SO-2 usage is common to protect the wine from oxidation and microbial issues but it also inhibits the aging process. We bottle our red wines without any fining or filtration as the last step. From vine to bottle, aside from low, judicious use of SO-2, there is nothing added.
We have also moved away from very heavy glass that adds to the carbon footprint from its production, transportation to the winery and the increased weight for shipping the final product. Again, it’s an effort to reduce the use of fossil fuels. We are using Saver Glass high-end “ecoDesign” bottles to maintain our high standards but without the extra weight. For corks, we have been using Diam “technical” cork, which is natural cork that has been processed to eliminate any possibility of cork-taint but is still sustainably produced and recyclable. As a result, our packaging is of the highest quality for its appearance, the quality of the wine is protected and all of the packaging is 100% recyclable.