Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle

Red, white--and green--the wine industry is widely embracing chemical-free viticulture that protects both the landscape and farmers while capturing terroir, the true taste of a place.

By Jane Braxton Little
Published: March-April 2011

Amigo Bob welcomes these agricultural innovations, but he calls the greening of the wine industry a work in progress. As he and Hoxsey drive slowly away from Hoxsey's vineyards beside the Napa River, they discuss the opportunities for increasing the valley's organic production from the current five percent to 10, 20--dreaming now--even 50 percent. They flush a flock of wild turkeys from an oak woodlot, where Hoxsey grazes cattle to minimize the risk of wildfire. Despite escalating interest in environmentally friendly farming, his acreage is an organic oasis surrounded by fields chemically sprayed and fertilized. As they pass vineyard after vineyard, Hoxsey points to signs of progress. During the 20 years Amigo Bob has been working in Napa Valley, the use of cover crops has mushroomed from none to nearly two-thirds of the acreage planted. One hundred vineyards are now producing organic grapes. Soil is improving. Hummingbirds and bees buzz about in droves.

Farming here has evolved from scorched earth, Hoxsey says. "As long as there are creative people, I see nothing but potential." Amigo Bob just smiles. At the rate the wine industry is going green, he could live to see Hoxsey's optimism fulfilled. For today, a hawk soaring over a field of sweet-smelling soil symbolizes the hope that keeps him going.

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Jane Braxton Little

Jane Braxton Little is a contributing editor for Audubon.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine

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