M a g i c a l   S o i l s

Nutrient-Based Sustainability ~ The World's Most Perfect Example

Carmody McKnight is as conscientious about the land's ecological future as it is concerned about the present. Nutrient-based sustainability is at the essence of our vineyard practices, and we are acknowledged as the model of natural sustainability. 

Our vineyards have never required fertilization of the soils in the thirty-five years since the vineyard was planted. Nothing else says more about sustainability, and no other major vineyard in any country can make that claim. The evidence for being the leading sustainable vineyard is the fact that the soils are the most mineral and nutrient rich in the world and the wines, as demonstrated by major university studies over a decade, are the most mineral rich of all wines. Even the new Carmody McKnight winery, constructed from straw-bale, is sustainable in its function and purpose.

Carmody McKnight is Committed to Nutrient-Based Viticulture

Fertilization of the Soil is Unnecessary.  At Carmody McKnight the vineyard and farm are seen as a self-nourishing system... a partnership with nature, encompassing our ever-growing revelations of life forces that have created uniquely complex and diverse soils and microclimates, resulting in the supreme, self-sustaining vineyard environment. Although organic fertilization is allowed in so called biodynamic systems, we are fortunate at Carmody McKnight because fertilization of the soil is unnecessary. This is unheard of in wine growing and defines us as the paragon of sustainable viticulture. We never had to engage in the chemical warfare that has robbed our nation's crops of nutrients essential to our health and flavors necessary for our pleasure. Our vines and grapes are the most nutrient rich in the world.

Our Vineyard was Selected for the Most Significant Soil and Nutrient Studies Ever Undertaken. Those who know Carmody McKnight are well aware of the phenomenal soil attributes of our vineyards. Because of these qualities the vineyard was selected for the most significant terroir study ever undertaken with a partnership directed by Dr. Thomas J. Rice, Professor of Earth & Soil Sciences, California Polytechnic State University, and Dr. Joseph Montecalvo, Food Science and Nutrition Department Cal Poly. The studies are a joint effort between Cal Poly, State of California, John Deere, Inc., and Earth Information Technologies, Inc.  Carmody McKnight Estate manages the varietal selections and winemaking processes. Among the soil constituents at Carmody McKnight which make this the great, natural vineyard laboratory, is the "wonder soil" calcium montmorillonite. The soils also contain limestone, almost non-existent in California except in the immediate region as well as the igneous soils that derive from our "backyard volcano."  In earlier studies by Cal Poly University, studies involving graduate work by scores of students, professors, and department heads for over twelve years, the extraordinary complexity and rarity of the soils was documented. LINK to this comparison chart, a stunning revelation of the minerals and nutrients in the Carmody McKnight vineyards.

One of the recognitions of success was Carmody McKnight's Meritage Cadenza winning against all wines in the California State Fair Wine Competition, achieving an extraordinary 6 awards, judged from 2,532 wine entries! The wine garnered a 98 rating, Double Gold, Best of Class (Meritage), Best of California. Most importantly, this was not a conclusion reached by one expert or critic which by definition is a fragile, unreliable single opinion, but this was recognition arrived at by 50 judges, all of whom had to be pre-qualified and tested by the state government before being accredited to take on such a task.

Because of the unprecedented studies at Carmody McKnight the winery could now draw on state-of-the-art atmospheric and soil monitoring stations installed by Motorola, Inc. electrical engineers and positioned at strategic locations within Carmody McKnight Vineyards. These stations included atmospheric weather and soil sensors linked by satellite telemetry to a central computer in the vineyard headquarters. The stations provide continuous monitoring of environmental conditions within the vineyard and communicated to all participants.

Dan Rooney, President of Earth IT, and a team from his company, over a period of months conducted beta-testing with their patented electromagnetic non-invasive tools and penetrometers capable of rapidly estimating soil compaction, texture, color, moisture, resistivity, organic matter content, soil depth and even in-situ imagery. They gathered information with this technology to an extent never before achievable. Hundreds of vineyard locations were then investigated with a penetrometer system linked to specialized newly-developed computer software systems employing the most advanced analytical capabilities. The results were statistically evaluated to interpret comprehensive topography and electromagnetic conditions resulting in the production of the most exhaustive and prolific vineyard soil maps ever produced.

As a function of these initial soil maps, specific, strategic vineyard locations were targeted for even more explicit information. In addition, an intricate topographic map was compared with the weather stations to generate micro-aspect solar maps, cold air drainage flows, and information critical to row orientation and irrigation management. The soil information collected was used to generate 3-D maps for the vineyard of water holding capacity, soil depth, and a critical array of other micro-information vital to advanced viticulture and crucial to terroir winemaking. Dan Rooney and Thomas J. Rice, head of the Cal Poly, Earth and Soil Sciences Department, employed all the information to customize a systematic "digital terroir model" of the Carmody McKnight Vineyards.

Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible speaks for her fellow wine historians and experts and in the beginning of her book focuses on the great truth of wine: “The beginning of the twenty-first century may come to be known as the Era of the Vineyard, a time when the spotlight is once again on the grapes and the land. The spotlight has been turned on Carmody McKnight with viticultural knowledge never before available and with implications for the future of winemaking that was only a dream up to now.

The ultimate grand cru vineyards took centuries of day-to-day, trial by error observation to be recognized as rare, unique and heralded vineyards. Modern science has made that same process available in far less than a lifetime... and the grandest of the grand cru vineyards has been determined in the new world.

The Ultimate Question of Terroir ~ Correlating Soil Nutrients to Flavors ~ Assessing the Relationship of Wine Quality to Soil Type: A joint project between the State of California, Cal Poly Earth and Soil Sciences & Food Chemistry, Food Science, Nutrition, and Statistical Departments, John Deere Global Ag. Services, Earth Information Technologies Inc., Motorola, and Carmody McKnight Estate Vineyards.

º The three most important soil constituents in the world exist at Carmody McKnight.

º Vineyard of the Future: Carmody McKnight chosen as the only vineyard in the United States to be the subject of state-of-the-art long-term testing and documentation.

º Calcium Montmorillonite: called the "living clay" and the "wonder soil," is one the major soil consituents of the Carmody McKnight Vineyards.

º Center of the Viticultural UniverseProfessors, scholars, scientists and students from the leading viticulture, geology and enology schools throughout the U.S. and Europe have attended and continue to visit and study this one-of-a-kind vineyard. International viticultural research tours encompassing special study and research projects center on Carmody McKnight Vineyards.