In 2014, Talley Vineyards officially became SIP certified. The Sip Certification, which stands for Sustainability in Practice, is a “rigorous sustainable vineyard and wine certification with strict, non-negotiable requirements committed to standards based on science and expert input, independent verification, transparency, and absence of conflict of interest.” As rigorous as some of the SIP requirements are, we were already farming and making wine to many of these standards, and just needed to officially document the way we do things here. Some of the sustainable practices we implement on the vineyard side are new, but many are things we’ve been doing for awhile.
One of the practices we’ve used for years in our vineyards is cover cropping in and around our vineyard blocks. We cover crop to help with erosion on the steep hills that we grow our grapes in and to improve the soil structure. This last year we seeded most blocks with a cover crop that consisted of oats and bell beans. The oats have powerful root structures that help open up the soil as they grow, while the bell beans add nitrogen to the soil as they are disked back into the soil. These cover crops add not only nitrogen to the soil, but they are a great source of organic matter that gets mixed back into the soil. This helps with biodiversity in the soil and root development of our grapes. Over time, this practice improves our soil structure as each year a new crop of grasses and legumes are tilled into the soil.
One of our newer viticultural practices that we’ve implemented is the discontinued use of herbicides. We have been an herbicide free vineyard since 2015. We decided to move away from herbicides as part of our commitment to sustainability. We’ve noticed certain weeds developing resistance to herbicides, and instead of trying stronger chemicals, we decided to go herbicide free. Besides the lack of chemicals in our soil, we’ve witnessed a huge improvement in the tilth under the vines. This is because of the three different tractor implements and good-old fashioned hoeing that is now consistently turning the soil under the vines. Each implement works best in different blocks, depending on the soil structure, terrain, and growth of the weeds. The newest, most versatile, and by far the best of these implements is the Clemens Weed Knife. This Clemens consists of two blades that are at the end of hydraulic arms. These arms extend, or contract, depending on the width of the vineyard row. The knives cut just below the surface of the ground below the vines, cutting weed at their nutrient leaching roots. The final product is a weed-free soil that is chemical free!