When it comes to sustainability, it’s not just about what we put in the ground—it’s also about what’s up in the air.
Indeed, at our estate Margarita Vineyard, we have now installed one elevated owl box for every ten acres of vines. This has effectively created an armada of resident barn owls who patrol the vineyard by night, picking off the ground squirrels that would ravage the vineyard if left unchecked.
Check out this stat: A single barn owl can eat up to 3,000 rodents in a single year! Needless to say, this is the most sustainable way to control rodents in the vineyard. It enables us to avoid poisons, traps and extra vehicle passes down the vine rows.
Our owl boxes belong to a larger sustainability initiative that has earned SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certification for Margarita Vineyard. This is one of the most stringent certifications of its kind, and we are proud to be doing everything possible to produce wines of natural quality while nurturing the beautiful environment surrounding our vineyard.
And owls are not the only native creatures who are helping us achieve a sustainable environment at Margarita Vineyard. We also have bat boxes and raptor perches positioned throughout the vineyard. Hawks and falcons supplement the owls’ work in controlling rodents, while nocturnal bats keep the harmful insect population in check.
At the end of the day, it’s really Mother Nature who is taking care of business—and often times without any help from us. For example, the wet winter earlier this year generated a proliferation of beneficial vineyard insects such as ladybugs. These insects thrived amid the early cover crops, and then moved up into the vine canopies as they began leafing out.
“It’s like miniature biological warfare,” says Ancient Peaks co-owner and viticulturist Doug Filipponi. “These beneficial insects help keep out the bad guys that like to latch onto the vine leaves. It keeps everything naturally in balance.”
Speaking of crawly things, we cultivate worm beds on site to generate “vermicompost,” or work castings, specifically for creating compost tea. The brew can include brewer’s yeast, kelp and molasses to help grow the mix of beneficial bacteria and fungi. Once brewed, this high-nutrient tea is ready for delivery to the vines to create a naturally healthy root zone and growing environment.
We also employ four-legged friends to take care of peripheral needs. Indeed, we often bring goats onto the ranch to perform natural vegetation management, providing a perfect alternative to herbicide application when an area has become overgrown. This not only controls overgrowth, but also removes invasive weeds along the way. This, in turn, provides a much better opportunity for native grasses to become re-established around the vineyard.
In short, we don’t have to look far for allies in our pursuit of sustainability. They’re all around us, coming from the glorious animal kingdom.