This is a question I get when I start talking details about how we do what we do. The way we farm Bassi Vineyard stems more from the desire to have great tasting wine that speaks of place, than from a metaphysical or environmental perspective. We don't lead the discussion with these topics. If people seem to connect with us or our wine and want to know more about how we work, only then do we address our farming methods.
We employ Pacific Vineyard Management Company (Pacific for short) to farm our vineyard. This is the same company who farmed for Domaine Alfred years ago. I meet regularly with Vineyard Manager Scott Williams to review details and make decisions. Although we are not currently planning to get the vineyard organically certified, all farming is done organically.
I first heard the idea of Biodynamics when visiting Domaine Le Flaive http://www.leflaive.fr/en/ in 1996. I was on a Robert Mondavi employee education trip and all I could think of was, “ I am not in the junkyard in Visalia anymore!” We met with Pierre Morey http://www.morey-meursault.fr/ who was managing the domaine at that time. Initially BD sounded like bullshit to me, but I was interested in learning more. When I got back to the Central Coast, I bought a few books on the subject and started to see some logic. Fast forward to my time at Domaine Alfred - I brought it up to Terry the owner and he fell in love with it. It was then that I witnessed firsthand how BD practices could enhance wine quality. We ended up hiring Steve Moore, a BD expert who has been involved with BD since the early 1980’s in Carpinteria, CA, to train me on the hands on aspects. He at one time served as president of the National BD association. He also taught at MIT...yeah, he is a bad ass….
We use BD at Bassi just like we did at Domaine Alfred. Pacific handles all of the day-to-day organic farming while my winery team and I handle the preparation and application of the BD preps. This connection between the winery and the vineyard is invaluable. Because the cellar team is directly applying the BD preps to the vineyard, we gain an intimate knowledge of each block and have a deeper understanding of the vineyard as a whole.
A good example of this practice is BD prep #508 - Horse Tail Herb (see picture). It is very high in sulfur content and helps to suppress mildew. While I have been to BD symposiums and have read stories on people using only this material to fight mildew, for me that is a bit much. We include the Horse Tail Herb prep as a part of our organic mildew suppression program instead of relying on it exclusively. We have found this balance of practices works for us.
While BD is important to us, we won’t be successful as a company if our farming practices don’t translate into fabulous grapes and delicious wine. We farm organically and incorporate BD practices with the intent of increasing quality, not for the sake of being able to say we farm organically and biodynamically. Our true aim is to produce the best wine possible.
At the end of the day, if our business is not successfull we cannot feed our family. Everything we have is on the line (our house, retirement fund, etc.) and hinges on our success or failure. We are not second-generation growers nor are we trust-fund kids. Our family relies on proceeds from our wine business to live. So far, our farming practices have translated into success, the fact that they are good for the environment and enhance the soil is a bonus.
Below is a picture of Steve Moore's stirring machine he built in the late 80's and our back pack sprayer's ready to apply #500
I have worked with worm castings/Vermicomposting since the Domaine Alfred days. I researched the two camps at the time on compost teas and decided to follow the ideas and advice of Dr. Elaine Ingram the Soil Food web founder. At Domaine Alfred we would buy Vermicompost and use them to make our teas on site. Soon after starting Ancient Peaks we started to apply compost teas to very positve results. Jeff Filiponni really got into worm farming and went out about bought a large continuous flow worm bin. We still use that vin today on the Santa Margarita vineyard.
At Bassi vineyard I have a small worm bin that I have been tying to expand as time and money permits. A picture of it is at the top of this blog. Some day we will have a larger bin and worm program.
I learned from Larry Turley at a mulit day organic farm retreat to use worm castings during planting any plant. The worm dirt has all sorts of fungi and bacteria that helps get the planted started. With this in mind, I was out working with the worm bin this weekend and figured I would see if it would help some struggling established vines
So in block Pinot Noir Block 32, Clone 2A there is a section that has really short shoots. My experiment on row 55 was to add a big hand full of worm castings and worms to the base of each plant, just below the drip emitter.
It will be fun over this next year to see how and if it improves the plant health.
Sinor-LaVallee 2013 Chardonnay (San Luis Obispo County)
Using fruit mostly* from the Bassi Ranch property he recently acquired, Mike Sinor delivers a bright, minerally wine, with aromas of scratched grapefruit skin, orange and peach juice, burned lemons, sea salt, ripe apples and nectarines and fresh-cut herbs. Flavors of salty, lime-juice nectarines emerge once sipped…
— M.K. Published 11/1/2015 in Wine Enthusiast
*this wine is 100% from our Bassi Vineyard
2013 Chardonnay San Luis Obispo County 90 Points drinking window 2018-2022
Light, bright yellow. Fresh Meyer lemon, pear and jasmine scents are underscored by a zesty mineral quality. Taut, racy and precise, showing firm grip to its spicy citrus and orchard fruit flavors. In a bright, nervy style, with very good closing cut and resonating minerality.
2013 Chardonnay White Lable-Bassi Vineyard 92 Points drinking window 2019-2024
Pale gold. Expressive, smoke-accented aromas of pear skin, peach pit and iodine. On the palate, pliant orchard fruit, peach and melon flavors pick up a minerally nuance with aeration. Round and fleshy yet vibrant, finishing with excellent cling and an echo of smoky minerals.
2013 Pinot Noir San Luis Obispo County 90 points drinking window 2019-2024
Bright ruby-red. Lively scents of fresh raspberry and cherry are complemented by a suave floral element. In a bright, fruit-driven style, showing good depth to its gently sweet red fruit flavors. Finishes spicy and long, with silky, slow-building tannins and an echo of juicy red berries.
2013 Pinot Noir White Label- Bassi Vineyard 92 points drinking window 2020-2026
Vivid ruby. An exotically perfumed bouquet evokes ripe red and dark berries, floral pastilles and smoky minerals. Silky and seamless on the palate, offering juicy raspberry and cherry flavors that deepen with air. Finishes sweet and very long, with building spiciness and a touch of fine-grained tannins.
2013 Syrah San Luis Obispo County 91 points drinking window 2021-2025
Dark purple. Pungent dark berries, olive paste and cracked pepper on the classic Syrah nose. Juicy and focused, conveying very good depth to its gently sweet black and blue fruit flavors. Gentle tannins shape the lingering, fruit-driven finish.
It's game on here at Bassi Vineyard already, as we are in the thick of the harvest before the calendar has turned to September.
Mild winter, check. Early bud out, check. Dry conditions, check. Lighter yields than preceding years, check...It's pretty easy to see why the ball is rolling a bit early this year.
The good news is that the fruit is exhibiting nice development despite the accelerated pace. There's physiological ripeness to go along with sugar ripeness, while the smaller yields are bringing intense flavors.
This is one of those years where there wasn't even time to get anxious about the start of harvest. It came on fast and we're right on top of it. More reports soon.