You will not find this piece of equipment at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium Tradeshow floor this week, nor is it “As Seen On TV” – The SLUG-O-Matic 9000 is piece of proprietary engineering under development at Thomson Vineyards and will be used to combat the little suckers who already destroyed 100 lbs. of vintners cover crop this year in our famous Creek Block Chardonnay.
Having just come off a year where wine critics are already asking what the 2010 wines will taste like. News stories are being broadcast in winebusiness.com’s daily news that crop insurance filings are up, way up, for 2010. And The Farmers have been left shaking in their boots, severely battered and bruised by a ruthless 2010 vintage coming full circle and including foggy days, rain, blistering heat, and rain again – 2011 brings different challenges already, this time in the form of SLUGS.
Napa Valley Ag Supply’s J.R. Beatty cruised out to the vineyard on Tuesday after I breezed into his St. Helena warehouse looking for some cereal rye and grain grasses I never picked up in November for our Minefield Block Chardonnay.
A long time family farmer himself with 100+ year old Zinfandel, Cabernet and others in Angwin, J.R. carefully inspected the entire vineyard. He determined that several blocks worth of cover crop miraculously survived the every year 100 year flood that occurs in our vineyard because our respectable neighbors managed to contour their land just enough to create a nice big drainage problem which at times requires a small Ark to bypass. Malva weeds are rampant, every Farmers nemesis and for the Gentleman Farmers who can afford their vineyard management companies to do it, the shovel is the only answer. And upon seeing the Creek Block, doing a solid assessment, kicking dirt around and examining the germinated seeds gave the following prognosis:
“You know, this is the second vineyard I’ve seen this in this year. The first is over on Big Ranch Road. See how many slugs are out here in a square foot radius, I count 7 or 8. These seeds are germinated, rooted, and that’s your problem – SLUGS.”
So, how does The Farmer deal with slugs? A couple hundred bucks is already gone, munched up by slugs. The first thought that went through my head was beer rather than roses at the end of every row, but that’s a different animal. And with The Farmer already having scared off two “biodynamic” winemakers with his talk of Roundup (see Malva reference) I’m going with the ecosystem answer.
Thomson Vineyards is “Ecosystem Friendly”. Screw biodynamic. Stu, that one’s for you. We’ll never meet the biodynamic or certified organic benchmarks or in actuality pay for those certifications because we already meet them. I’ve trademarked “Ecosystem Friendly” and we’re doing it right, embracing the birds falling out of the skies, the floods happening in the vineyard pumping thousands of fresh water shrimp into the irrigation lines, the romantic visual of jack bunnies hopping around the rows as I mow them and killer geese lounging in the reservoir beneath the wind powered windmills lightly infusing the pond with vitamin c concentrated natural air.
If you want to slap “Ecosystem Friendly Farmed” on your label, I’ve got 15T of Chardonnay left, 5T of Merlot and 5T of Cabernet – call me. My only request is that you allow me to dress you up and take a photo of you with the SLUG-O-Matic 9000. And don’t worry, as Steve Heimoff notes, it’s not like the TTB plans to actually do any cleaning up of the vague misleading label terms already out there – so why not let The Farmer add one more!
While sadly you will not be able to locate the SLUG-O-Matic 9000 on the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium (ever notice how “Grape” always gets the boot in verbal communication, what is that?!?) Tradeshow Floor, I’d like to know if anyone else out there has seen this damage in their cover crops? How you’re handling it?
Better yet, how annoyed are you with vendors like Metrohm USA, Monvera, Premier Wine Cask, and other offenders spamming your inbox with what booth they’ll be in at #UWGS? If you’re going to send an email blast – at least make it creative, entertaining, or provide some additional exciting piece of information such as how your product will interact with the SLUG-O-Matic 9000 in the vineyard!