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Sustainable farming practices anchor the quality of JL WOOD Chardonnay

Sustainable farming practices anchor the quality of JL WOOD Chardonnay

The picture is not wine; it is a glass of our just pressed grape juice. And it is a result of our commitment to sustainability. The juice is clear, smells wonderful, and tastes great.

And it symbolizes our wine grape farming goals: Sustainably produced tasty and clean grape juice ready for minimal processing into wine.

Our commitment to sustainable farming practices plays a pivotal role in enhancing the quality of grapes cultivated on the JL WOOD Ranch and elevating the overall quality of JL WOOD Chardonnay.

Sustainable farming encompasses a holistic approach to vineyard management that makes a high priority of environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

And we connect the dots. Our practices and decisions are vetted by thorough analysis of potential impacts to both our farming and winemaking. Not all producers are in a position to look across both disciplines and make the right choices.

We test our vine uptake of key nutrients annually. Our goal is simple: ensure that vines have just what they need and will use. This is known as “precision agriculture.” Being precise means that we don’t add nutrients the vines don’t need and we don’t introduce excess nutrients into the environment.

Healthy soil provides essential nutrients to the grapevines, resulting in stronger root systems, improved water retention and heat resistance, and enhanced immune responses to pests and diseases.

By implementing regenerative agricultural techniques such as cover cropping to create nutrients as well as to absorb harmful CO2 from the atmosphere, minimal tillage to avoid disturbing the soil eco-system and minimizing yield reducing soil compaction, JL WOOD promotes soil fertility within the vineyard. For example, our cover crops include a type of plants, legumes, that generate nitrogen and help us reduce what we might need to augment chemically.

Our pest and disease management program, which is aligned to the widely recognized best practice of integrated pest management (IPM), prioritizes natural pest and disease management strategies over the usage of complex chemicals, reducing our reliance on agrochemical inputs. For example, we don’t use the controversial weed control material known as RoundUP.

We preserve beneficial insect habitats adjacent to our vineyards and encourage natural biological controls, such as by providing homes and privacy to natural predators, like raptors, to reduce animal pests such as squirrels, rabbits, and voles.

As a unexpected positive ecological development resulting from our practices, we have seen increased numbers of birds, including previously scarce quail and roadrunners as well as new families of red foxes and raccoons.

By minimizing chemical interventions, JL WOOD reduces potential risks to human health and the environment. This approach not only ensures the purity and authenticity of the grapes but also contributes to the production of healthier and more vibrant vines with longer economic lives.

A major part of JL WOOD's dedication to sustainability is water conservation, critical in California that is periodically affected by drought. This is a high priority in our region where water inflows from rainfall and available underground supplies materially vary every year. We continuously monitor the impact of adjacent river flows on our underground water supplies using sensors in our main well.

By comparing our planned irrigation strategies with actual weather conditions and internal plant metabolism levels as measured by real-time internet connected sensors on our vines, JL WOOD minimizes water consumption by making dynamic irrigation decisions on a weekly basis. During the critical maturation period of the grape berries, we also use artificial intelligence (AI) tools to estimate the amount of water stress affecting our vines. Overall, our irrigation management has translated into a 30% reduction of water and electrical power usage.

We focus our harvest decisions on when our own observations and chemical analyses indicate that the grapes are at an optimal level for winemaking. Many in the industry have a simplistic approach based mainly upon sugar levels that serve as a proxy of the flavors they expect after winemaking.

We prefer a more wholistic approach. We think our grapes reach a different point for optimal winemaking each year depending on environmental conditions. For example, while the production of sugar is important to the production of alcohol in the wine, we place a high priority on balancing fruit flavors with natural acids. In some years, this may mean that we have to delay harvest and, in other years, we may have to harvest early. It also means that our wine alcohol levels will vary.

As a result of this pro-active management approach, JL WOOD grapes exhibit optimal ripeness, flavor development, and overall quality, especially challenging in this time of weather uncertainties.

Most importantly, it allows us to minimize downstream needs for manipulation techniques that may require chemical inputs in our winemaking. Our objective of minimal processing is a philosophy that we believe is key to the production of high quality wine and it requires continuing winemaker engagement in vineyard operations. And the result is lower energy usage and a smaller carbon footprint.

Not only do we follow this approach our ourselves but we encourage other wineries that  purchase grapes from us to do so as well.

We are very focused on continuous improvement of our sustainability practices. Every year we review our progress from previous initiatives and start new projects that reflect ideas from our own experiences as well as more broadly in our industry.

Every two years our sustainability certification is reviewed independently by auditors approved by our certifying organization, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA).

All of these things position us to plan and act in a socially responsible manner and allow us to produce wines of exceptional character, complexity, and finesse that resonate with both discerning palates and conscientious consumers.