Portrait of a Winemaker: John Williams of Frog's Leap (2011)

A brief look at this pioneering winemaker and his unique dry farming method which increases soil fertility and capacity for water retention, as well as producing more flavorful wines. Water... See full summary »


Deborah Koons (as Deborah Koons Garcia)


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A brief look at this pioneering winemaker and his unique dry farming method which increases soil fertility and capacity for water retention, as well as producing more flavorful wines. Water scarcity is one of the major issues facing the world today and this farming method is one man's thoughtful and economically viable answer to this challenge. Written by Anonymous

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Sideways Into Rutherford Dust
20 February 2017 | by TemporaryOne-1See all my reviews

I never drink alcohol and know nothing about wine but while watching this I felt like I gushed down a bottle of dark velvet punch liqueur of earth and night and grape and leaf, darkblueberrygrape ambrosial ichor of the spring substrataflauted through with chocolate-gentrified soil liqueur And of course was reminded of the magnificent wine conversation between Maya and Miles in Sideways (2004) - Organic farming: no need for chemicals - Healthy soil produces healthy plant - Healthy plants of Frog's Leap resist disease - Soil breaks down organic matter into nutrients for plants - Soil provides a healthy soil structure to hold reservoirs of moisture, reservoirs necessary for dry months and droughts and winter - Soil's reservoirs of water negate the need for irrigation; this is cultivation, and it's also known as dry-farming - Yellow waves of peas and oats and vetches are grown as cover crops to add organic matter back to soil (give back what you take) - Grape pumice composted to add organic matter back to soil (give back what you take) - Composting and cover crops and other biodynamic methods evolve soil into a living, thriving, nutrient-rich water-holding sponge - Plow ploughes up dark chocolaty soil waves of Hostess' Ho-Ho's - Grape flavour comes from soil - Grapes and wine take the character of the soil - Every molecule in the grape, every molecule in the vine, is directly connected to the soil, coming from the very foundation of the grape terroir - Terroir: set of special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place, interacting with plant genetics, express in agricultural products such as wine, coffee, chocolate, hops, tomatoes, heritage wheat, and tea - Vineyard's soil is a dark punch sea of nestle's quik and devil's food cake mix - Moisture is held deep down in the soil - Grapevine explores that soil and plunges its roots down deep to soak up that moisture, in the process extracting flavour from the soil and deepness of the earth - Grapevines evolved for millennium to plunge their roots down deeply into the earth - Grapevines also know to slow down their growth (devigorate) when the vines know they're going to run low on water, self-preservation - Another vineyard is explored and it's a chemically-farmed and irrigated vineyard, the soil is hard and compacted, it's dirt (dead soil), water produces weeds which require chemicals to eradicate, the grapevine is forced to adapt to irrigation method, grapes have a watered-down undeveloped flavour-structure radically inferiour to organic grape's flavour-structure, chemically-farmed grapes are left to hang longer to increase sugar levels to help strengthen flavour, chemicals also used to add flavour, whereas organically-farmed grapes have low sugar levels because they are not intentionally left to hang long and their flavour is not predicated upon sugar and they do not require chemical cocktails to generate flavour - The average lifespan for chemically-farmed vineyards in the Napa Valley is 12-15 years, whereas the organic dry-farmed Frog's Leap Vineyard is 33+ years old - Owner John Williams muses over chemical vineyards adding chemicals to create flavour (which they themselves depleted) when the flavour already existed as a G-d given gift and all that was required was for us to give more attention to cultivating the living breathing healthy soil organism that was already a flavour unto itself - To return to dry-farming, chemically-farmed vineyards would need to replant from scratch, which poses a difficult challenge to challenging chemical-farmers to change their method of farming - Ancient Greek clusters of dark purple grapes hang tantalizingly down in 2011, bursting with secrets within, harvest time, the store I shop at sells organic and vegan wine jam spread made in the Napa Valley, going to have to purchase a vat of that - Frog's Leap vineyard are certified organic and they also produce a selection of certified vegan wines - A healthy pound of soil is just like a sponge, doesn't easily crumble, can squeeze a brownie block of the soil without the soil crumbling, it holds 9 pounds of water - When it's dry the grapevines sense it's time to invest all their energy in delving down deeper and deeper beneath the soil to drink up water, in the process the grapevine devigorates (slows down its top growth to ensure it does not dry out because the vine knows it's low on water), and in the process the roots drink up earth's elixirs, and the deeper the roots delve down the more sure the vine is that water is sparse and it's time to ripen: the wisdom of nature - While grapes ripen, all the other plants are in full bloom, providing vibrant sea of colours and aromas for humans, food and pollen for insects and honeybees (pollen+bees = extremely important....) and birds, and most importantly, providing the soil with a highly nutrient-rich meal of organic matter, re-investing back into the soil what the grapevines heave up for us, a symbiotic cycle enriching everything above the soil and everything below the soil, bringing health and happiness back into the farming systems and into our lives, the planet's existence flickers a few milliseconds less Thank you Frog's Leap Vineyards

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