Since 2000, Cline Cellars farms the Green String way - naturally and sustainably and avoid chemical pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers that are generally used in everyday farming. We believe we utilize the most efficient methods towards retaining healthy vineyards by employing the use of organic cover crops, compost teas, crushed volcanic rock and oyster shell, natural mined sulfur and sheep grazing.
Once each year we reduce vineyard cultivation and degradation by providing our soil with organic matter to help retain soil structure, water infiltration, and microbial activity. Composting throughout our vineyards with nourishment derived from natural products such as grape pumice, vine prunings, and other mature organic material that we mix and nurture all year, helps to improve the texture and depth of the soil and also provides needed sustenance to the vine. "Compost Tea" is added to the vines via drip irrigation and also applied directly to the leaves. This tea contains molasses, fish emulsion to increase nitrogen content, rock dust, microbes and other nutrients.
We currently import, from the State of Arizona, raw materials of volcanic origin crushed to dust to incorporate into our soil. We are developing our own "Cinder-cone" grinding operation using volcanic rock from our property. This ground rock is high in trace minerals which are necessary components to building strength in our vineyards. Calcium in the form of ground-up oyster shells is incorporated into the vineyard to provide nutrients.
We do not disc our vineyards but instead we grow a volunteer cover crop which consists of grains such as barley and oats, and nitrogen fixing plants like bell-beans. These crops are grazed down after bud break, resulting in the addition of carbon-containing organic matter and nitrogen to soften the soil bed. The cover crop also provides a place for beneficial insects to live and help maintain the health of the vineyard.
Controlling weeds in the vineyard is vital. Competition with the vine for water and tangling up the fruit can cause problems at time of picking. Broadleaf weeds, existing mostly in weaker soils, have also been known to cause vineyard problems. To keep problems at bay we rely heavily on soil management. To assist in removing harmful weeds from the vineyards, we employ grazing sheep. Hand pulling weeds and an under row cultivator that uproots weeds are often used as well.
We do not spray inorganic pesticides but instead rely on healthy soils to harbor beneficial insects such as Predator Mites that help keep the destructive pests at bay. A healthy vineyard is more resistant to things like leafhoppers and mealy bugs than is a weak one. The only spray techniques utilized in our vineyards are derived from organic sulfur dust to prevent powdery mildew, and rock-dust to thwart pests.
Our team of Vineyard Managers has mastered the art of spotting water stress in the vineyards. Soil moisture content is checked daily by digging in the soil. This practice dictates when and how much water is applied to our vineyards.