29 March, 2011

27 March, 2011

Falconry in the Santa Lucia Highlands

(c) 2010 - Chow Studios
A few months back, the good folks at Hahn Family Winery invited several bloggers, myself included, to their Soleded, CA winery to watch a demonstration of their use of Falconry. While Falconry is popularized as the Sport of Kings, particularly in the Middle East, the Hahn Winery is certainly not participating for sport. Rather, they use Falcons in pest control, that is, keeping starlings, and similar species away from the vineyards.

Starlings are notorious for destroying winegrape crops. Their appetite for grapes is well known and left unchecked, a flock could decimate a harvest in not more than 2 days. For years, most vineyards have employed most well known, plastic netting over the vines as well as scare tactics such as small explosives and plastic predator models placed strategically around the vineyard.

Problem is, Starlings are smart and in very little time, they've figured out that the predators are plastic and while the explosives are effective, their disturbing noise is not very desirable. Additionally, plastic netting is a significant investment in time and money and unfortunately, is 100% plastic.

Enter: Falcon
(c) 2010 - Chow Studios

(c) 2010 - Chow Studios
A simple fix seems to be, rather than plastic predators, REAL predators. Jim Tigan of Tactical Avian Predators is the go-to guy for the Hahn Family Wineries for the past several years.

(c) 2010 - Chow Studios
(c) 2010 - Chow Studios
Jim uses common bird-flushing with his dog Annie, but rather than shooting or capturing the birds that Annie flushes out of the vineyards, he's just looking to scare the living daylights out of the Starlings.

Imagine you're a starling just munching on a few Pinot Gris grapes and along comes a dog that scares the hell out of you, so you take flight to get away, but just when you think you've made it, a nice Saker Falcon named Nikita flies by and you think you're going to be dinner, so you go Audi 5000 outta there!

...and you tell all your pals that there's a nasty chick named Nikita in the neighborhood now, so let's move to a different one.

Sustainable. Humane. Effective.

Good job, Jim, Nikita and the Hahn folks for their continued support to doing things better because it matters!

06 March, 2011

Mendocino County Grapegrowers Pruning Contest

I recently was invited by the Mendocino County Wine Grape Growers to check out their annual pruning contest. This one lends itself to the visual, so I'll intro the coverage just to mention that while speed is something that these gents are good at, covering a row of 30+ vines in less than a few minutes, the contest is more than that. Quality of the pruning is eminently important, both to the contest, but more importantly, to the stability and health of the vines. Next vintage is directly effected by what the pruner does now.


Thanks to these gentlemen, who came from far and wide to show their talents, for their efforts not here, but in their daily work so we might be able to enjoy a bit of fine fermented grape juice.