“Pour it forward”
CAST Wines’ estate vineyard consists of 80% Zinfandel and 20% Petite Sirah, providing grapes for several of our wines. It was planted in 2000 by noted Sonoma County vineyard manager Ulises Valdez. Prior to 2000, our land was part of a large sheep ranch for decades – the heard actually still exists on a smaller parcel just up the street from us at Canyon Road. Located in the Dry Creek Valley AVA and within Sonoma County, our land and surrounding farms have a long history of rich agricultural bounty, from prunes, apples and peaches to wine grapes, primarily farmed by families and small operators like CAST. Indeed, 80% of our county’s vineyards are made up of parcels less than 100 acres. From the days of the nomadic Indians in this region, the almost perfect growing climate, the positioning of our valley vis-à-vis the Pacific and our 39-degree latitude have produced abundant, high quality agricultural products. This history is important and part of what attracted us to this land.
As members of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, CAST took part in the bold 2014 initiative to honor this rich history and become the most sustainable winegrowing region in the world. A thoughtful program was instituted to promote collaboration and education among hundreds of growers in documenting and embracing sustainable growing practices. The result? In just a few short years, 99% of the vineyard acreage in Sonoma County has been certified sustainable by a third-party program. Our land had been farmed with thoughtful practices prior to 2014, but the county initiative encouraged us to focus and ultimately become certified, not only by Sonoma County but also by the state of California.
What does it mean to be “sustainable”? Definitions vary region to region, but what it means to us is pretty simple: honor the history of our land, protect and preserve it and leave it to future generations in as good or better condition as when we came here. We acknowledge that, in the long run, we are just temporary custodians of this beautiful and fertile property, so we take seriously the impact we have on it and how that determines future viability, not just for our property but for our surrounding ecosystem.
In their most basic form, sustainable practices essentially deal with soil and water health and reducing the environmental impact of our activities. Face it, the most sustainable we could ultimately be would amount to letting the land go native. Absent that extreme measure, we aim to:
Limit the use of synthetic products in soil amendments, nutrients, herbicides, and pesticides.
Minimize practices that disturb the ground and instead promote soil-building via the planting of cover crops and the
use of composting.
Reduce our water use for irrigation by migrating toward dryer farming and using spot drip systems to reduce
Be mindful of overall energy use so as to reduce negative environmental impact generally.
Instituting these practices takes time and is undertaken in many small decisions year around, year after year. CAST Wines embarked in 2020 on the three-year path to now become certified organic – an even more robust effort involving further criteria including, among other things, the removal of treated pine trellis posts and the mindful selection of every single object and compound used in the vineyard such as the string used to tie the vines to the trellises. We see it as a natural evolution in our management of this property and believe that these efforts certainly lead to higher quality grapes and better wine – not just today but for years and decades to come, no matter what is grown here in the future.