There are few vineyards where you will find wild flowers swaying in the breeze and grass tickling your feet as you walk the rows. But this is life at Sage Hills, where the presence of wild flowers and grass in the vineyards exemplifies our organic commitment.
Every day, in every way possible, our family is committed to growing our grapes organically. From the moment our vines went into the ground in 2007, we have held firm our resolve and dedication to organic agriculture. It isn’t the easiest way to grow grapes. We certainly don’t get conventional yields from our rows, but what we do get is unprecedented quality and flavour. The endless extra hours of weed control, cropping and hand-picking our grapes is far beyond that of a conventional vineyard – but we’re good with that! We’re good with it because the proof is now in the flavours of our wines, which stand strong and vibrant. We welcome you to experience the enhanced flavour profiles of our wines, born of the extra care and attention our grapes receive. See the difference. Taste the difference.
Are we certified organic?
Use of the “organic” label does not ensure that a farm or vineyard truly embraces or sustains all of the elements of the label. In fact, it can mean different things for different farms – certified or not. We strive to achieve and maintain levels of organic farming that go far beyond what the organic certification requires. There are no treated posts in our vineyard, nor do we use them in any of our perimeter fencing. Why? Because they are treated with copper naphthenate, which is a toxin. We also have a state-of-the-art water treatment plant that converts all grey and brown water back to clean water, which is pumped back into the field.
Organic farming can be defined as promoting the sustainable health and productivity of the ecosystem – soil, plants, animals and people. But what does it mean to grow grapes organically? Is certification an absolute verification of that commitment? Growing any kind of organic produce is only as true and real as the farmer who puts his integrity and commitment on the label. Does he lay his head on the pillow at night knowing that tomorrow, when his friends and family come to work by his side in the vineyard, he has done his best to uphold the integrity of organic farming and provide a healthy place to spend their day? We do.
Do we spray?
Spraying of some nature is a necessary measure for most fruit and vegetable crops – it’s what’s in the spray that counts. Sprays that are pesticide-based from unnatural sources (and therefore, non-organic) can create a habit-forming dependence rather than allowing nature to take its course. The vines of Sage Hills have not become dependent on unnatural or potentially harmful sprays. You can pop several in your mouth, right off the vine, without anything but incredibly pure flavour and texture hitting your tongue.
How do we manage our crops?
We model ourselves in the spirit and commitment of the Grand Cru vineyards in France: low-yield viticulture and single-vineyard wines that express the quality of our terroir and the reduced yield we require each vine to produce. Lower yield per vine means higher-quality fruit, which equals higher-quality wines.
Water management is carefully watched and, even in the heat of the Okanagan summer, we keep irrigation to a minimum. Effective leaf-thinning allows the sun to make maximum contact with the grapes and ensure the best possible air movement, reducing any chance of powdery mildew.
Our vines were laid out not to maximize yield but to encourage wind movement and sun exposure. A properly-planted vineyard needs less water and spraying. Bugs don’t like to be on a windy site, as it makes life a lot tougher. Sage Hills was located in part for its optimal wind and sun exposure.
Attentive weed management – usually by hand – has allowed the grass to take hold between the rows, which makes for a thick, lush, healthy carpet. This is just one of the most obvious beauties of an organic vineyard. On a clear spring day, you can walk through the vines barefoot with the grass between your toes! The paths of Sage Hills have now safely welcomed the tiny, tender footsteps of a first grandchild as she takes her first steps amongst the organic rows.