By 2007 we were committed to pruning to 2.5 Tons/acre, and usually had only 8 spurs/ 5 feet of vine. Additionally, we generally have only 1 cluster/ shoot, and the result is all clusters hanging independently, no one cluster touching another. Every cluster on every vine in the vineyard has air and light that reaches every part of each cluster, with more uniform ripening and equally important, virtually no mildew forms because of the generous amount of air and sunshine surrounding all clusters. This low yield pruning allowed us to cut back to a mere one or two mildew sprayings per season, because we prune to such low yields that we are eliminating most of the major reasons for mildew formation...to wit, grape clusters packed and jammed around one another, with clusters virtually intertwined resulting in cluster "clumps" the size of cantaloupes. All this resulted from merely drastically decreasing our crop load. To this day it literally breaks to drive by vineyards and see 10, maybe even 12 Tons/acre hanging on the vines. Actually, seeing even 6-8 Tons/acre is unsettling, because I know how inferior those grapes are to ones of substantially lower yields...such as Cerro Prieto's.
As for the huge pile of prunings in early spring, we no longer foul the air by burning them. Now we exclusively use the shredder pulled behind our tractor, thus eliminating thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide and smoke that would otherwise pollute the air. Furthermore, the shredded prunings decompose and result in returning more nitrogen to the soil. The use of Zon guns and cannons to scare away flocks of birds that descend on vines and literally clean the grapes off in minutes, has been replaced not only with bird netting, but also computer driven bird distress calls. Noisemakers are sound polluters, and with our current bird protection program, we have not only eliminated bird damage, we have environmentally friendly bird distress calls and netting...and nothing else. There is no noise pollution. Yes, these are small things, but overall, when added together, one can appreciate just how ecology influences and can be influenced by not only the beneficial animals and birds, but also by man inspired eco friendly actions.
The above vignettes have shown but a few of the multitude of ecological considerations at Cerro Prieto, and how easy it is to do things in an ecologically friendly manner. Best part is that we are keeping our environment cleaner, and at the same time making the ecologic considerations of the vineyard such that although we are not completely organic, we are doing everything and anything we can to see to it that our grapes grow in an atmosphere, water sphere, and soil sphere where they can be produced as organically as humanly possible. My favorite term for how we farm in an ecologically friendly manner, is "Going towards green". No, we are not there yet, but man have we made up some mileage as far as getting there. We bend over backwards and thoughtfully think our way through to see to it that grapes from Cerro Prieto(and therefore our wines) are produced in the most environmentally friendly manner possible. And it is all based on concerns about our vineyard ecology, keeping our vineyard as close to organic as possible, and never missing an opportunity to improve upon what we have already accomplished. From the perfect grape... comes the perfect wine. Our first bottling in 2009 of our 2006 vintage resulted in 2 International Gold Medals for Cerro Prieto Reserve Merlot, and national recognition for our
92 point Cerro Prieto Paso Bordo. That didn't happen by accident...following sound ecologic measures and "going towards green" have resulted in perfect wines being grown in the perfect place. That's not a bad model for making wine...great wine.