After consulting with Napa Valley’s top wine growers, Mike Benziger’s winery looked spectacular. Vines were thriving, grapes were growing. But it was eerily quiet. No birds were singing, no insects buzzing. Due to years of spraying chemical-based pesticides and herbicides, the land was essentially a sterile environment. And the wine? Not so great.

“Our vines looked beautiful; there wasn’t a weed you could see,” explains Benziger in an interview with Organic Connections. “But over a period of years we saw that, first of all, the soil started to die. Every time it rained, our parking lot would fill up with soil and silt. Also the wines that we were making, quite frankly, were kind of mediocre. Our fermentations were weak.”

Seeking to revitalize Benziger Family Winery, Mike researched sustainable growing options. While he considered going organic, he decided to transform his conventional winery into a biodynamic one.

Biodynamic faming involves every stage of growing. It treats the farm as one entity. This means all aspects of a farm—from the soil to the fertilizer to the grapes—work symbiotically to produce a sustainable crop.

A vital part of biodynamic farming is enriching soil health by fostering microorganism growth. “That really helps create a unique environment that is then reflected in the flavor of the grape and in the flavor of the wine,” says Benziger.

Read more in Organic Connections.