We are proud to say we are certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers as of November 2019. CCOF is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) accredited organic certifying agency and trade association, located in Santa Cruz, California. Formed in 1973, CCOF was the first organic certification entity in the United States.
We went through a rigorous application process to acquire this certification, including listing all the materials and processes involved in farming our grapes, and undergoing an interview and inspection by a CCOF representative. Our certification undergoes an annual review and inspection, and we continue to maintain our CCOF certification status.
All soil supplements, fertilizers, and fungicide sprays must be CCOF certified before we can apply them, and any equipment used must be dedicated to organic use or thoroughly washed before it comes onto our property.
Vineyards that are farmed conventionally use herbicides containing glyphosate (such as Roundup) and fertilizers that can build up in the soil and pollute nearby rivers and streams. They may see higher production, but the tradeoff can be that flavors are compromised, and the long-term health of the vines and ecosystem are compromised as well.
We believe that fine wine shouldn’t hurt the planet or your palate! Farming conventionally with chemicals releases carbon and other pollutants into the atmosphere, whereas farming organically and biodynamically helps to sequester carbon into the soil. We want to do our part to help reduce the impacts of climate change, and we support the efforts of other wineries and vineyards who follow this practice.
What is the difference between sustainable and organic? One difference is that in California you can be certified sustainable and still spray glyphosate. At Panther Ridge, we believe in putting in the extra effort to be organic, biodynamic, and truly sustainable.
In early 2020 we began farming the vineyard by following biodynamic principles. The practice of biodynamic agriculture was developed by Rudolf Steiner, whom you may recognize as founder of the Waldorf School. The organic practices we had followed since planting the vineyard gave us a good start, but farming biodynamically takes us to a higher level of connection to the land – it’s like organic farming on steroids – encouraging beneficial microbes in the soil and attracting a variety of helpful insects and animals to create a truly healthy ecosystem in the vineyard.
Most of Burgundy's Grand Cru vineyards are pursuing these practices, and that alone is evidence that making fine wine starts from the ground up. Having healthy soils that support a variety of life means the vines will create truly memorable wines for many years to come. It is more expensive to farm this way, but the vines will be more resilient and last longer, meaning in the long run our efforts will pay off. Further, farming in this way encourages the soils to absorb more carbon, making our vineyard a positive impact on the planet.
Since we started farming biodynamically, we’ve noticed more jackrabbits in the vineyard, many more birds (who fortunately don’t seem to want to munch on ripe Pinot Noir grapes!), and surprisingly fewer weeds. The natural teas and biodynamic preparations we spray have enlivened the soil and discouraged weeds. The winter cover crop of beans, peas, vetch, clover, and mustard open avenues and prevent soil compaction, and they also fix nitrogen to provide a natural fertilizer. As the soil heals, weeds go away since they thrive on damaged and inadequate soils.
Through holistic practices, biodynamic farming treats the vineyard like a living organism, not just plants rooted in the dirt. By working with the soil to bring out its natural terroir, the wine produced from the vineyard will have more character and nuance.
We have been fortunate to have the advice of various experts to fine tune our biodynamic approach and better understand the needs of the vineyard. Ever a learning process, we look forward to bringing vitality to the vines and ensure their longevity.