We firmly believe that great winemaking begins with great farming in the vineyard.
Our farming practice, led by Jorge Chavez and his team (many of which live on-site at Witness Tree), are hyper-focused and detail oriented, with such careful attention reflected in each aspect of their vineyard work.
On the technical/analytics side, Shane Moore of Atlas Farming diligently oversees the farming team’s practices, consistently running diagnostics to ensure that the vineyard soils and practices are operating at optimum health.
Witness Tree is not just sustainable and organic – it’s curated – tailored with extensive care specific to each block, and the needs of the specific terroir within that block.
This degree of care gives winemakers who source from Witness Tree the ability to produce unparalleled, small batch, premium, terroir-driven wines, redolent of a characteristic Eola-Amity Hills terroir.
Witness Tree is dry farmed, except to nourish newly planted vines.
This means no irrigation system is added to water the vines – they must work to establish their connection to groundwater.
This irrigation style is a helpful stressor that:
- Aids in concentrating and structuring the makeup of the grapes, and
- Makes the vines more self-sustaining, especially through drier periods
Each block is pruned by an experienced, dedicated team retained for excellence in this skill.
- Higher density blocks are pruned using a single-guyot method, which produces lower yields of higher concentration. This also allows for better air flow through the more dense blocks, preventing mold and other diseases.
- Larger, lower density blocks are pruned with the double-guyot method, taking advantage of larger yields in more spacious placements.
Sustainable and Organic Vineyard Farming
Oregon, and Willamette Valley Vineyards in general, are known for fervent practices of environmental conservation and sustainable, organic farming, and the state has seen several related initiatives come to fruition:
- Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine (OCSW) certification.
- Low Input Viticulture and Enology, Inc. (LIVE) certification.
- Maintenance of close ties to vineyards and wineries, with 52% of Oregon wine produced from estate fruit.
Our farming practices at Witness Tree are also fully organic:
- Our team uses no synthetic herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides. Weeds are kept down with fully organic weed spray and regular undervine weeding passes throughout the year, and pests and pestilence by organic sprays and methods.
- Our organic fertilization program analyzes the specific deficiencies in each section of the vineyard, down to each block. The team then employs organic foliar products, compost applications, and cover crops/green manure to address each block’s needs.
The steep slope of Witness Tree Vineyard, combined with blocks of varied layout, width, and elevation are beneficial for optimal winemaking, but potentially challenging for farming.
To navigate the narrow rows and steep hillside, the vineyard team uses formidable, crawler-style tractors.
- These tractors are the most effective and the safest option for farming Witness Tree. Their tracks give the most traction and stability to weather elevation changes, and their narrow bodies squeeze through the higher density blocks of the vineyard.
- Crawler tractors also minimize compaction of the soil. The larger, wider footprint of the tracks displaces the weight of the equipment over a wider surface area, limiting any loss of soil structure and drainage capability.
Hands-On Experience, Ongoing Vineyard Research
Our entire team is local, either living on-site or within a short drive to Witness Tree. For us, the personality of the Eola-Amity AVA is as real as the soil under our fingernails.
We pair regular vineyard research with all of our practical applications, constantly analyzing the state of the soil, moisture, nutrients, light and wind exposure, and overall vine health to suit our practices to the current needs of the vineyard.