Proprietor Don Johnson purchased the property known as Gordon Valley Farm in 1977. Already planted with grapevines, Don began his Winterhawk Winery in Suisun Valley with the idea of applying a stewardship approach to his land. According to Don:
“Respect for the grapes and land is a very important reason why I’m here. In fact, I chose the name Winterhawk to pay homage to the Red-Tailed Hawks that live in our valley, due to the crucial role that hawks play in the grape-growing process. It all starts in the vineyards.”
Respect for the land and the life that’s supported on it is paramount to Don Johnson. Don knows that birds allow his vineyard to thrive naturally. They’ve placed owl houses in the vineyards for Barn Owls. A few of the other bird-of-prey species that you’ll typically see thriving at the winery are Red-Tailed, Swainson’s, Sparrow, and Northern Harrier hawks. Particularly in the wintertime, when the only activity in the vineyards is pruning of the vines, the hawks are their vineyard sentinels. As a predator of gophers, the hawks and barn owls hunt gophers naturally, controlling the population without the use of bait or chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
Although not a predatory bird, finches also nest alongside the winery in the Italian Cypress trees, because the area is so naturally conducive to all types of natural habitat.
Don’s vineyard manager is Jim Parr. Quality of life is his driving force, and Jim is confident that the way he farms has a huge impact on a lot of people and animals in a much larger sense. Jim takes great pride in their vineyards. Sustainable agriculture for Winterhawk’s wine grapes and olive ranches, along with the inclusion of predatory wildlife, is an important part of his vineyard management plan. For instance, red-tailed hawks and owls are capable of eating up to 1,000 gophers and rodents a year in their vineyards. Managing their vineyards with this type of integrated pest management system means much more natural vineyards and local environment.
FISH FRIENDLY FARMING (FFF)
Also involved the Fish Friendly Farming program for Napa, Mendocino, Solano and Sonoma counties, Winterhawk is committed to this program. It offers important one-on-one technical assistance to vineyard managers and owners who have completed the Farm Conservation Plan. Jim Parr has participated in the workshops, and, as a result, qualifies for free technical assistance. The advantage of this program means that participants receive funding for soil conservation, road and erosion site repair, habitat restoration, stream bank stabilization, and other natural projects. Certified growers can add the FFF logo to their labels. This also requires approval by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Solano’s Winterhawk Winery was the first to do so under the FFF’s guidelines.
From Don Johnson:
“When we labeled our 2008 Winterhawk Winery’s Sauvignon Blanc, we were the first winery in the United States to put the Fish Friendly Farming logo on our label. It’s just my way of telling people how much I love this land.”
Quality wine grapes come from Winterhawk, because it starts in the careful planning and concern for the environment of Jim Parr, that then makes its way into the vineyards.
- Ledgewood Creek Winery & Vineyards ~ Where It’s All Done Well (wine-blog.org)