Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mustard! And everything that comes with it.

It's mustard season! Time to frolick through the yellow flowers, take hundreds of pictures, and soak in the beautiful sights before it all disappears into the ground. There is really nothing like it, so enjoy.

But pictures of mustard alone does not a blog post make. Beyond the bright and happy feeling these millions of yellow flowers bring to the valley, the mustard plays a serious and important role that touches the core of what viticulture and winemaking is all about.

To explain, the vineyard is a major part of the valley's ecosystem and the microcosm of Rutherford. As we look closer, we see that the vineyard is a living, breathing network of organisms on its own. A network that somehow produces beautiful wine, provides dozens of jobs, and offers entertainment and leisure for thousands of visitors each year. No small feat. But let's add to that. Because we practice organic agriculture, the vineyard is not just a gigantic, interconnected system that facilitates so many amazing things (wine, quintessential pastoral beauty). It is also a gigantic, interconnected system that will sustain itself for years to come, and operates on nothing but sun, earth, rain, insects, and in the words of Kung Fu Panda, "universe juice".
And one significant cog in that wheel of sustainability is the use of cover crops. Namely, mustard, beans, oats, and wildflowers that have a symbiotic relationship with the vines. As these plants grow they fulfill many, many tasks that include fortifying the soil with beneficial nitrogen, soaking up water from heavy rains that might otherwise go undrained (bad), and attracting beneficial insects that ultimately predate smaller pests. So as you marvel at the fluorescent blossoms, don't forget how important they are to the big picture, and each picture you take will mean that much more!

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