Dry Farming and Drought

Simply put, dry farming means no use of irrigation water, and relying solely on natural precipitation. This is an old-fashioned, labor-intensive way of farming. In Dry Creek Valley, this method has traditionally depended on the Mediterranean climate here in Sonoma, which provides dry summers and wet winters.

How does drought effect winery operations?

Our dry farmed estate old vines rely on winter rains to replenish the soil profile and get us through the season. This year (2021) we had very little winter rains, but water management can go beyond water use or input. Canopy management techniques are used to reduce water stress, these might include:

  • reducing crop load
  • shoot thinning and suckering
  • nutrient management
  • soil and vineyard floor practices

In some ways the drought has really shifted our thoughts and practices to regenerative farming. Our goal is to store as much precipitation from winter rain in the soil as possible, as well as encourage root growth down to the water table source. This practice is also called dust mulching, wherein you cross cultivate to seal the moisture into the soil. Sometimes when worry sets in, I think about how these vines have been in the ground since 1927 and they have seen their fair share of drought and stress, yet they keep producing year after year.

Are dry farming practices better at protecting crops against drought?

Yes, with the threat of wells being shut off, or highly monitored, it is safe to say that dry farmed old vine blocks can weather the drought. Vines that are irrigated cannot handle being suddenly shut off from water, their root systems are generally too shallow, whereas dry farmed roots go deeper to the water source, but that takes time.

Will more vineyards start using dry farming techniques?

I believe this is the way we are going. Water restrictions in the City of Healdsburg now prohibit automated irrigation, including sprinklers or drip, for all residential, commercial, and industrial customers. Small family vineyards like Nalle Winery can transition over, but massive operations with acres on the wire and irrigated will have much more trouble transitioning to dry farming. Dry farming is a completely different farming model and yields a lot less fruit.

What are examples of sustainable agriculture practices?

Nalle Winery has focused on land preservation and sustainability for over 93 years. Thankfully sustainable practices are becoming the norm, but in my opinion the old timers around Sonoma County have always kept the next generation in mind. Almost all farmers in our area are very conscious of sustainable farming, it is a philosophy that runs deep here in Dry Creek Valley. Examples of sustainable agriculture techniques we currently utilize include:

  • Compost tea applications
  • Vineyard floor management
  • Mulching

Additionally, any grapes we source are from families who are generational farmers and radically regenerative. The Bernier Family farm the Bernier-Sibary block that has been utilized by Nalle Winery for over 25 years. They mulch, dry farm, and use compost religiously. The Hopkins Family provides Pinot to Nalle Winery and are very active in environmental protection.

We are also moving towards permanent cover cropping in some of our blocks.

In regard to energy consumption, our electricity bill is less than a single-family home. It can get up to 107 degrees outside in Dry Creek Valley, but the temperature in our above ground cave will naturally stay 56 degrees. The building was completed in 1990 and requires very little maintenance, and the cave’s living rosemary roof is a bee sanctuary for sure! Learn more about our above ground cave here: https://www.nallewinery.com/the-cave/

Not Your Average Chicken Salad

Not Your Average Chicken Salad

Ditch the celery and mayonnaise for a delicious next-level chicken salad that will have your guests asking for seconds. The dish offers a wonderful combination of fresh crisp mustard greens and pine nuts for the base of the salad, topped with lightly toasted bread cubes, currants, green onions, garlic, and roasted chicken.

Find this recipe on food.winetrails.net and discover the perfect Nalle wine pairing for this dish… or click here to see it now.

A local favorite, Big John’s Market

Less than a 5-minute drive from Nalle Winery, one of our favorite partners is Healdsburg’s biggest little independent supermarket, Big John’s.

Nalle 2019 Zinfandel BBQ Ribs Fried Chicken Potatoes from Big Johns MarketThey have been serving the Sonoma County area for over 25 years since 1994. Their approach to service embodies the values held by our family owned vineyard; Bring a big heart and a small town vibe, with care taken to provide delicious and vibrant foods.

Pickup their grilled Fitch Mountain panini and a rack of ribs on your way to Nalle.

The Fitch Mountain’s bacon & chicken breast slathered in chipotle sauce pairs perfectly with the bright cherry & raspberry flavors of our Hopkins Ranch Pinot.

The Pinot Noir is also delicious with Big John’s Alexander Valley Panini, featuring roast beef, fresh arugula, and Point Reyes blue cheese.

Or pour some old vine Zin with your rack of ribs, and enjoy a sumptuous combination barbeque and brambleberry. The bright acidity and fruity notes of these classic reds meld well with the fresh and savory meats prepared by the Big John’s team.

Nalle 2019 Zinfandel BBQ Ribs Fried Chicken Potatoes from Big Johns Market 2

Indulge in Italian: Shrimp with Toasted Pine Nuts and Pasta

Indulge in Italian: Shrimp with Toasted Pine Nuts and Pasta

Try this Italian-inspired recipe for your next weekend get-together with family or friends. Lightly browned shrimp paired with a sweet sauce made with lemon rind, raisins, and pine nuts. This dish can be eaten alone, or along with a simple pasta for a full course.

Learn to make this dish yourself on food.winetrails.net and discover the perfect Nalle wine pairing for this recipe… or click here to see it now.