So what will it be, a glass of merlot or some compost tea? As Brian Halweil learned in his 2005 piece, “Grapes Without Pesticides,” the grapes, at least, seem to prefer the latter. “Compost tea, a microbe-rich soup of manure and compost suspended in liquid,” writes Halweil, “fertilizes the soil and introduces bacteria and fungi that compete with the crop pests.” And though Long Island’s cool, damp climate invites its share of fungus and other unmentionables, many East End vineyards are beginning to reduce their reliance on pesticides in favor of organic alternatives.
“In fact, several growers have suggested that it’s in everyone’s best interest to use chemicals as a last resort, particularly to prevent pests from developing resistance,” Halweil writes. “Roman Roth, the winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, notes that there are many techniques a vineyard can use to reduce pest pressures, like ‘opening the canopy’ through thinning to help dry the fruit and leaves. ‘If you have to bring out your big guns now and they don’t work,’ said Mr. Roth. ‘What will you do with a big outbreak later?'”
It is a question you may hear answered on Friday, March 21, at the Parrish Art Museum’s “How Do You Bottle Creativity?” event with three of our local winemakers. Can’t make it? Then pour yourself a glass of something good and read the rest of Brian Halweil’s 2005 article here.