Sustainable Farming Practices
"To me, sustainable means leaving the landmore fertile than you found it. We have been sustainable from our first farming day back in 1997. In addition to using all natural means for grape growing, I have taken the next steps. We compost our grape skins and stems and fold them back into the soil. We plant a winter cover crop of fava beans, fetch, clover and wild mustard, which gets tilled into the soil each spring to provide vital nutrients, giving the vines a great boost of energy as they come out of dormancy. And as we prune each winter, we use the resulting ash to create a line of beautiful ash-glazed pottery.
It doesn't stop with the grapes, however. We encourage a balanced ecosystem and natural habitat that plays home to so many wonderful creatures. Brush piles and unsprayed ditches provide safe places for the quail and the ducks to lay eggs. Longer spring grasses are left knee high for the geese. Bat boxes, ladybugs, the list goes on. Finally, living sustainably means taking responsibility for our ranch forman, Lorenzo, and his family in Mexico. We provide him with year-round work and a steady income, allowing him to plan for reuniting his family. Our farming activities are a bit slower at times, but we feel much better about it in the end. All told, farming sustainably affects both what you do and how you do it."
- Michael Chiarello
Michael Chiarello, Napa Valley chef, Emmy-winning TV personality, author, founder of NapaStyle, has taken his personal flair for layering flavors to a new challenge—making small productions of handcrafted estate wines. His small winery, Chiarello Family Vineyards, makes five estate grown wines from 20-acres that he personally farms sustainably around his home in Napa Valley California.
Chiarello is a passionate advocate for great wines surrounding a great meal and he has always sought perfect wines to complement his own culinary style. Little did he suspect that he'd find a gem of a vineyard in his own backyard. As he tended his property, he found long neglected 94-year old vines, waiting to once again produce great wines.
To create these wines, Chiarello enlisted one of the top "old vine" winemakers in Napa Valley, a master at creating rich, dynamic wines from the ultra-ripe fruit of older vines. The 94-year-old Petite Sirah and Zinfandel vines were revived by Michael and Thomas Brown ("2010 Winemaker of the Year," Food & Wine Magazine) using head pruning and dry farming. These two time-honored methods historically used for both Zin and Petite Sirah in California allow the vines to ripen grapes evenly and flourish in the absence of water.
In its first several years, Chiarello Family Vineyards was named Editors Pick, Top Scoring California Sirah (Wine Spectator) with a 92 Rating; Editors Pick, Top Scoring California Zinfandel (Wine Spectator) with a 90 Rating; Top Ten Bottle From Napa (Food & Wine Magazine) and In Napa, Zinfandels Show Off Their Grace, (New York Times, Frank Prial, 11/13/02). It has continued the high scoring tradition, as 10 years later Chiarello Vineyards receives consistent ratings of 90+ scores.