Organic Winemaking Is A Zoo With Armadillos, Falcons, And Pigs

Posted: Oct 20, 2020

At Tablas Creek winery in Paso Robles, Calif., 200 black-faced Dorper sheep munch weeds among rows of vines. Along the way, they fertilize the soil while donkeys and 200-pound Spanish mastiffs ward off coyotes and mountain lions.

A couple of decades ago, this vineyard menagerie would have been highly unusual. Now, the commitment to organic and biodynamic viticulture has pushed top wineries across the globe to look to nature for alternatives to chemicals. Furry, feathered, scaly, and four-legged animals (even bats) have become essential winery employees, contributing to vineyards’ overall health by replacing toxic pesticides and herbicides.

Tablas Creek goes even further. It’s the first winery in the world to obtain regenerative organic certification, a new international farming standard intended to combat climate change.

“It’s about creating an ecosystem,” explains partner Jason Haas. “The sheep replace tractors and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money on fuel, and help create healthy soils with the microorganisms they leave behind in manure.” Right now, he has weasels on his mind as a good addition.

By Elin McCoy
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