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A robust cover crop has grown at this vineyard location after the addition of biochar.

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Biochar mixed with compost, ready for vineyard application.

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Vineyard rows receive a top-dressing of biochar mixed with compost.

The Benefits of Biochar

Biochar is a form of charcoal that is being tested as a soil amendment in several vineyards throughout Napa County as growers look to improve soil health, increase carbon capture and reduce nutrient inputs.

The use of biochar has the potential to provide the same or better vine growth with less fertilizer and nutrient inputs, and with less irrigation water, and that is the goal. It can also provide longer-term carbon benefits…the life in the soil is what it’s all about for us.

Among those exploring the use of biochar are Cakebread Cellars, Spring Mountain Vineyard and the Napa Resource Conservation District (RCD), which manages an experimental vineyard in Carneros. In Sonoma County, the Bedrock Wine Co.is adding the material to key vineyard properties. Elsewhere in California, larger-scale experiments are being conducted by Monterey Pacific vineyard management company and Bonterra Vineyards, with trials on both newly planted and existing vineyards.

Water conservation can be a long-term game but nitrogen is very immediate; it’s easily lost and critically important. Charcoal is a filter - it has a high surface area and adsorptive surface, binding nutrients in a way that is mostly plant available yet resistant to loss through volatilization or leaching.

On one block at a Bedrock property in Geyserville, a sizeable portion of the topsoil was scraped off and the subsoil contained low organic matter. In 2017, the cover crop didn’t properly establish leading the Bedrock team to explore how biochar might help rehabilitate the site. They worked with Pacific Biochar to apply a compost and biochar mix this past fall and the results have been dramatic. Vineyard manager Jake Neustadt recently reported that waist-high barley and a thick mat of sub-clover have taken root at the site. Jake acknowledged that he sees a profound impact of adding biochar on depleted soils.

A one-time application could have an impact on the soil that lasts for 500 years.

The Napa RCD also worked with Pacific Biochar at their Huichica Creek vineyard to apply a blend prior to a new vineyard planting in 2016. RCD also applied a blend to an existing vineyard in fall 2017 establishing controls for comparison in both cases. Two years after planting, early results show that the area with biochar has a higher carbon concentration and more organic matter. The RCD has also quantified a higher aggregate stability – improving soil structure and resilience to erosion.

In most every case biochar and compost together are better than either alone. When biochar and compost cure for a month or more we see increased benefits. But even without curing, a biochar blend is still better than raw - increasing and extending the benefits of the compost, with almost immediate reductions in ammonia smell.

Cost and Availability: Josiah Hunt with Pacific Biochar recommends a blend of 10-20 percent by volume of biochar mixed with compost for existing vineyards and a 20-60 percent blend for new plantings. Biochar is approximately $90 per cubic yard or ~$400/ton and a common application rate for an existing vineyard is a half-ton per acre. Annually, a grower should budget for $200 per acre, plus compost and hauling.
For existing vineyards, the total biochar application might be 3 to 4 tons spread over 6-8 years. For new plantings, a one-time application of 2 to 4 tons per acre has been effective in supporting more vigorous growth. Although the cost can be significant, the soil benefits can last for generations. Pacific Biochar works primarily through a distribution system and has worked with Napa Recycling and Waste Services, who will perform the compost blend and product delivery. Cool Planet is another California biochar provider with a product called Cool Terra.
Donation for Data: Is your vineyard interested in near-term biochar and compost application? Pacific Biochar is rolling out a Donation for Data program in April, offering a free truckload of their new premium biochar every month for the remainder of the year to a select number of applicants that can offer field trial data in return. Their biochar is sourced from California forestry residues, primarily from designated high fire hazard areas, contributing to productive utilization of dead standing wood and tree trimmings. For more information on the Donation for Data program, contact Josiah Hunt.

Biochar and compost can provide benefits if you have soil nutrient issues or low organic matter. Biochar can increase nutrient availability, soil organic carbon and water availability or water holding capacity, depending on the type of soil.

Napa Green is about producing wine responsibly and being proud of our respect for the environment and for future generations.

Join these rockstars of winemaking this week at @complinewineshop for Vino & Vinyl night featuring all Napa Green Certified Wineries! 

🗓️: Thursday, July 18th 
📍: Compline Wine Shop 
⏰: 7:00pm 

Get your tickets now at the link in our bio! 💃🍷

@tressabores, @ashesxdiamonds, @spottswoodewinery, @closduval, @larkmeadvineyards, @complinewineshop, @tisharoundtown
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Plan your tasting at @phiferpavittwine in August! 🍷

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead
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You’re invited.. 

Join us for a fun night featuring some awesome Napa Green wineries! Link in profile for tickets. 🎵🍷

📍: @complinewineshop 
🗓️: Thursday 6/18/24 7:00-9:00pm
🎟️: Linked in profile
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Plan your tasting at the beautiful new Garden Pavilion at Napa Green Champion winery @whitehalllane! 

Help support Napa Green while sipping on delicious Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot amongst the scenic views. Cheers to Climate Smart Wines! 🍷

#napavalley #winereels #sustainability #winetasting #winetrip #visitnapavalley #cheers #vineyardviews #winelovers
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Plan your trip to @cliffamily this August for our ‘Cheers to Climate Smart Wines’ campaign! 

Clif Family Winery & Farm will be creating a beautiful food and wine tasting menu for the month of August with a percentage going straight to support Napa Green! 

Plan your visit to the tasting room, food truck or gorgeous Enoteca Private Tasting Salon in August to enjoy great food & wine while helping to support this important initiative! 

#napavalley #sustainability #napa #cheers #winereels #winetasting #visitnapavalley #winebusiness #wineindustry #winetrip
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We’re thrilled to announce our ‘Cheers to Climate Smart Wines’ campaign starting in August! 

Several of our champion members will be curating special offerings to support Napa Green and highlight the brilliant work being done in Climate Action here in Napa Valley. 

Join us this August and visit @spottswoodewinery & @mkshepp!
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Economics of Organics on June 25th at @grgichhills. Register at the link in our bio. 

🎙️: @soilrainandhope 
🎞️: @mvino1
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Seeking third party auditors! Email sierra@napagreen.org for full details!
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Have you been to Napa Green Certified @boeschenvineyards yet?
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Team Green outing today at the stunning @boeschenvineyards as we celebrate big things that we can’t wait to share with you! 🌿
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One of the main resistances to phasing out glyphosate is increased labor and equipment costs. However, the costs of herbicides and fertilizers have risen dramatically, so increased labor demands can be offset by reduced supply chain purchases. 

In addition, leaders like Grgich Hills Estate have shown that regenerative organic farming can be cost-effective. According to an analysis by Brotemarkle Davis & Co. LLP accounting firm, the average annual per acre cost of vineyard management in the Napa Valley is $14,800, with $3,800 in depreciation. At Grgich, they spend $11,000 per acre, with only $1,300 in depreciation due to the longer life of their vineyards. 

Learn from regional leaders about the practical costs, benefits, and ROI of herbicide-free, organic, and regenerative vineyard management.

Confirmed Speakers:
• Ivo Jeramaz, Grgich Hills
• Phil Coturri, Enterprise Vineyard Management & Winery Sixteen 600
• Brad Kurtz, Gloria Ferrer
• Brenae Royal, St. Supery
• Rebekah Wineburg, Quintessa

Register at the link in our bio.
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“Storytelling is key… and sustainability is the most important topic in wine.”

Thank you @elinmccoy for an incredible and insightful conversation with @napagreen members about the stories most likely to capture journalists attention.
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Thank you to all who attended our Future of Water Workshop yesterday at Napa Green Certified @silveroakcellars! 

Stay tuned for more from our luminary speakers @mimicasteel, @todmostero, @petergleick & our own @abrittain.
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Join us for a special roundtable workshop with award-winning journalist Elin McCoy, global wine critic for Bloomberg News and US editor for the podcast The Wine Conversation, with listeners in 95 countries. 

Elin will sit down with a small group of Napa Green members (max 25 guests) and share her insights on the types of stories and pitches most likely to engage the media. In particular, she’ll focus on stories related to sustainable winegrowing, climate action, and social equity. 

Elin will speak and answer questions for about an hour. Then we’ll break into small groups to develop a story pitch, and come back together to present and get Elin’s feedback and input. This is a rare opportunity to get ideas and inspiration from a leading wine journalist. Register at the link in our profile.
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Climate Action & Regenerative Agriculture! Our sixth pillar that encompasses all that we do at Napa Green. 🌼
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