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March 23, 2022

Regenerative, the Only Sustainable Farming w/ Jason Haas, Tablas Creek Vineyard

Regenerative, the Only Sustainable Farming w/ Jason Haas, Tablas Creek Vineyard

Regenerative farming takes into account the farm’s impact on the soil, community, and region.


Taking over from his father, 2nd generation proprietor of Tablas Creek Vineyard, Jason Haas left a career in technology to dig into the soils of Paso Robles. Spearheading the conversion to Biodynamic farming and now the certification of Regenerative Organic farming, Tablas Creek has pioneered not just the Rhone movement in California, but of Regenerative farming, which looks to take into account the farm’s impact on the soil, community, and region. Jason believes that Regenerative farming is the only truly sustainable way to farm. Listen in to Tablas Creek’s progression from organic to biodynamic to regenerative. 

 

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Detailed Show Notes: 

 

Tablas Creek

  • Pioneer of the California Rhone movement
  • Based on Paso Robles - because of the calcareous soils, long growing season, and enough rainfall to dry farm
  • Founded and run by two families
  • Robert Haas, Founder of importer Vineyard Brands
  • Perrin Family, owners of Chateau Beaucastel in the Rhone
  • All Rhone varieties, including rarer varietal wines
  • Own 270 acres, 125 planted to vines

Regenerative farming - similar to biodynamics, but thinks more about the externalities of agriculture

  • Has commitments to less use of shared resources (e.g. - water, power)
  • Has an additional focus on the big picture (e.g. - climate change with a metric to increase the carbon content of the soil)
  • Biodynamics is process-based whereas regenerative farming is results-based
  • Requires a series of audits - soil health audit, animal welfare certification (that they are treated humanely), farmworker audit (paying fair wages, increasing their skills -> led to weekly roundtable meetings)
  • Focus on the positive impact on the soil, community, and region
  • Does not have cow horns or the cycles of the moon like biodynamics
  • Regenerative is an alternative to biodynamics that is more focused on science vs mystical processes

Benefits of the various farming practices

  • Conventional - cheapest in the short term
  • Organic - in the long run, not more expensive than conventional. Organic certification in wine has been mostly for lower-end wines in the $10-15/bottle
  • Biodynamics -Initially believed it would increase the lifetime of vines and gain in quality from older vines. Discovered that lots grown biodynamically were the best lots right away in blind tastings.
  • Regenerative farming - Less about the grapes vs biodynamics, more in externalities

Regenerative farming pilot program

  • 6 Regenerative Organic certified wineries at the moment
  • Got invited to the pilot w/o knowing what “regenerative” was or meant
  • Can use the “Regenerative Organic” seal on their wines (vs just for the grapes)

Costs of farming

  • Biodynamic/regenerative - have more hands-on labor vs organic or conventional farming
  • Less chemical purchases
  • Cost on a $/ton basis for farming has not increased significantly vs organic (~$3-5,000/ton)
  • Has not experienced yield reductions, the yield has been more dependent on water (e.g. - 2-2.5 tons per acre in a dry / frost year vs up to 3.5 tons per acre for a wetter year)
  • Has been able to avoid significant labor issues by maintaining its own vineyard crew (10 FTEs, started w/ own crew in 1996), paying a living wage and good labor conditions have led to good recruitment and retention of crew workers

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