Tea Party in the Vineyard

You may think that we are here to talk about a Napa-centric version of the traditional afternoon tea one experiences in England. Perhaps you are visualizing a wine tasting that blends beautiful tea-inspired bites like scones and petit-fours with the most delectable sparkling wines or sublime Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes, the idea of a vineyard tea party is lovely but what I am about to share with you is far more impactful and equally beautiful. Today I want to spend a little bit of time talking about an agricultural practice that is a game-changer and a key element to sustainable vineyard management. Let’s take a closer look at the art and science of compost tea and how we implement it in our Napa vineyards to help us produce and maintain strong and healthy grape varietals that will eventually yield award-winning wines.

What is Compost Tea?

Compost tea is the result of brewing or dissolving composted organic matter in water in order to extract and deliver beneficial microorganisms, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and micro arthropods as well micronutrients such as nitrogen and potassium. These elements minimize diseases and promote growth. By delivering it to the plant in tea form we are able to improve and expedite root absorption.

Historically, compost tea has been used by home gardeners to improve crops because of the intensive nature of brewing it makes it complex for larger agricultural operations such as vineyards and wine-producing estates. At Bazan Wines we have the operational advantage of decades of experience implementing best agricultural practices and we have been able to scale compost tea brewing by allowing for natural brewing to take place at the foot of each vine.

A Microbrewery of Nutrients

Each year immediately after harvesting the grapes and before the vines enter dormancy, we place a mound of compost next to each grapevine. This little pile of sorts once exposed to rainwater will slowly release nutrients into the vine ensuring ongoing nutrition as the rainy season comes to an end the brewing of compost tea continues through the use of drip irrigation. Strong and healthy vines produce outstanding California wines.

We often hear “Good wines are made in the vineyard”, yes it sounds like a cliche, but it isn’t. Making premium wines requires starting with premium grapes. Vineyards need to be well nourished to be able to accomplish that task. Compost tea is just one of many mechanisms to amend and improve soils and is often used in tandem with cover crops. 

A strong vine that has received proper and sustainable nutrition will produce a stronger canopy. A good and healthy canopy allows the vine to get more energy through photosynthesis to grow and ripen the cluster through the season. Using compost adds beneficial micro-organisms minimizes and reduces the use of commercial fertilizers, pesticides, and their negative impact in watersheds. Better nourished vines are healthier and stronger and are better able to resist fungal and bacterial diseases that can fully destroy a crop thus affecting the yield for the vintage. Well-nourished soil, with a healthy biome is better able to retain water and prevents nutrient leaching into groundwater.  Compost enhances soil tillage by fostering a superior soil framework and allowing for aeration.

Bazán Cellars is deeply committed to sustainable practices. We love the land, and we want to produce great wines from the ground up. Every choice we make when producing our wines and tending to the land we make it with our children in mind wanting to leave a legacy of excellence in wine making that considers the preservation and improvement of the land that surrounds us.

Every vine we farm and every wine we produce is done with a deep love for the land and a vision that seeks to produce better wines year after year. Because of our love for the soil that sustains the vines each year we are surprised and delighted by the improvement of each vintage. Richer, healthier soil sets the foundation for valuable wines with nuance that is only possible when the proper terroir is cared for with passion and knowledge.

Next time you are in Napa please visit our downtown Napa tasting room where we will pour carefully crafted Napa Cabernet Sauvignons, beautiful Pinot Noirs and memorable sparkling made by our iconic winemaker, Kian Tavakoli, that will only settle for the best.

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