Agriculture Up-Close: Biodynamic Wineries, Farms, and Culinary Gardens
March 13, 2020
Spring has sprung in the valley! From buds breaking on the vines and culinary gardens sprouting to wildflowers blooming and baby farm animal additions, Napa Valley is bursting with new life. We’re exploring Napa Valley wineries, farms, and culinary gardens where you can learn more about biodynamic farming processes, walk the gardens, and get a true taste of farm life in the valley.
Raymond’s two-acre Theater of Nature outdoor garden highlights biodynamic farming (the largest live educational exhibit of its kind in Napa Valley). As visitors walk through the garden on the rock path, signs provide education about types of plants on-site, types of cover crops used in the vineyards, trellising techniques, a sample of various soils found at Raymond vineyards, composting and other practices and benefits of biodynamic farming. You’ll also find a healthy herd of goats and chickens to visit next to the gardens.
Sustainability and high-quality wines go hand-in-hand. Cakebread is celebrating both with Sustainable Wines & Vines: a unique tour of the Rutherford estate, which features a hike through their Napa Green vineyards, water-filtering parking lot and the bee-friendly garden. Following the vineyard hike and garden stroll, taste a selection of red and white wines in the brand new visitor center featuring reclaimed redwood barrels.
Round Pond Estate
Just behind the winery crush pad is Round Pond’s expansive vegetable garden filled with beds of potatoes, greens, beans, onions, corn, squash, peppers, leeks, beets and tomatoes. A unique aspect of this garden is the ‘sensory planting beds,’ which are fruits and vegetables that mimic the tastes and aromas found in Round Pond Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc. Along with the descriptor beds, there are garden plantings of the vegetables and herbs that have a flavor affinity with Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc, i.e. what pairs well with these wines.
The Honig Eco-Tour & Tasting begins in the tasting room where you will sample a classic Sauvignon blanc. Then board a 6-passenger cart to the vineyard, where you’ll see first-hand the things done to care for the environment while producing world-class wines - from managing water use to providing wildlife habitat, to Honig’s role in the restoration of the Rutherford Reach of the Napa River. You’ll even get an up-close look at the Honig bees (the family name Honig is the German word for honey), and learn how these and other beneficial insects and animals aid in biodynamic farming.
Beyond the wineries, here are a few more great ways to get an up-close and personal glimpse at agricultural life in Napa Valley.
This 12-acre parcel in Browns Valley is a working farm that bills itself as a farm-based education center, a place where programs and experiences are designed to encourage the next generation of environmental stewards. Every Friday, the ranch opens for a 90-minute guided farm experience, and the first Wednesday of every month is Walk-In Wednesday, when admission to the ranch is free from 3-5 p.m. There’s also a Saturdays on the Farm camp available, where families can explore Connolly Ranch together, or parents can drop off the little ones for a few hours of farm fun.
French Laundry Culinary Gardens
Stroll through the famed French Laundry Culinary Gardens, which are open admission-free to the public year-round (though of course, the best times to see the gardens in all their glory are the spring and summer months). Growing over 40 varieties of tomatoes, and several varieties of beans, squashes, carrots, eggplant, peppers, onions, beets, artichokes, cucumbers, potatoes, microgreens, and spices, it’s truly a gardener’s paradise. TFL garden also boasts chicken coops with Ameraucana and other laying hens, as well as beehives.
CIA at Copia Culinary Gardens
Wander through the expansive culinary gardens that welcome visitors to the CIA at Copia and get inspired to grow your own backyard garden. During the summer months, their Master Gardener even leads guided talks through the garden, explaining how fruits and veggies are grown biodynamically without pesticides, and which types of plants grow best together.