We have set about creating an environment where each individual vine is able to express itself as a vine should. The result? Grapes that are unique to this vineyard locale — fruit that can only be grown here — our terroir. We feel that biodynamic and organic methods allow us to do this more successfully than any other approach.
We decided to pursue full certification for our vineyard and winery from the international body, Demeter, for biodynamics and from organic certifier ProCert Organic. We are the first member in what we hope will become a much larger Canadian community.
It Was Bound to Happen
We’d always believed it should be done. So when circumstances were right, we took the plunge. We welcomed and publicized our third-party certification in part to demonstrate our commitment, but also to show other interested, perhaps skeptical, vineyards and farmers that it’s possible to make the switch — even in a cool climate like Canada’s.
To us, the payoff is that our solidarity with the other wineries in the global biodynamics community — who we consider true stewards of the earth — has led to one indisputable end result: great wine and a successful enterprise. The benefits have outweighed the costs.
What Prompted It All
For us, relocating to Niagara was all about vineyard and land stewardship, and being able to assume control over our own primary resources. But what led to the decision to embrace biodynamic and organic practices?
We had long consultations with Winegrower Ann Sperling. Her passion and vision matched ours, so a deal was struck: We would buy the land if Ann would become our full-time winemaker. She agreed. We’ve never looked back.
Our first 74 acres were purchased on the winter solstice of 2005. Thirty-six acres were already planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot vines. No chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers had ever been used on the property, giving us a head start on certification. Our Vineyard Manager Scott Jones came with the property — a very positive inheritance.
Now a 150-Acre Property with 63 Acres Under Vines
Within three years from the start of the project in 2005, Southbrook achieved both organic and biodynamic certification for its vineyard and winery — the first winery in Canada to earn this distinction. The year was 2008. Since then, an additional 75 acres have received organic certification. This land is used primarily for pasture and for growing hay for our sheep.
Costs, Benefits and Other Good Stuff
We tend our vines by hand, which takes time, but allows us know and nurture each one individually. We respect and manage our soil through biodynamics, adding to it specially created fertilizers, teas and other beneficial ingredients. We allow sheep to roam our vineyards and eat the weeds and bugs that might otherwise harm our vines and grapes.
We are mindful of native plants, animals and birds on our lands. We work according to time-tested approaches tied to the calendar, the seasons and celestial cycles.