Winemaker uses soil from mudslide to fertilize wine grapes

Soil from mudslide used to fertilize grapes

LOS OLIVOS, Calif. - In the wake of the Montecito mudslide, a Los Olivos winemaker is re-using soil from the disaster as a natural fertilizer for some of the grape plants on his vineyard. 

"We are combining the soil from Montecito with our soil," said Fred Brander of Brander Winery. 

On Jan. 9, the mudslide brought debris down into Oak Creek which runs through Brander's property, leaving hundreds of tons of mud, rock and soil rich in nutrients. 

Brander hauled 900 tons of debris from the creek basin and hauled it to his vineyard, then let it dry. 

"I knew because of the Thomas fire and the debris flow, the soil is going to be rich," he said. "The soil has potassium and minerals which is really good for the growing of grapes."

An excavator is taking the debris from a massive pile and putting it into a low-tech sorter on the property which separates rocks from the soil. 

That soil is placed around the roots of the grape plants. 

Brander plans to use the soil from Montecito on 10 acres of his 42 acre property to see what happens. 

"I believe it is going to make a difference and if it makes a difference we are going to make a special wine to commemorate that," Brander said. 

Brander said the soil has been tested and analyzed for contaminants. 

"It's high up in Montecito, so we don't believe there are any toxic materials or heavy metals," he said. "It's pretty good organic material."

The grapes grown with this fertilizer will likely be turned into a Cabernet Sauvignon. 

"It's symbolic to take the material from an area that was really affected like Montecito and put it to good use," Brander said. 

The grapes will be harvested in September or October. The wine won't be bottled until Oct. 2019. 

Brander is looking for input from the community to come up with a name. 

He also plans to donate a portion of the proceeds from the wine to recovery efforts in Montecito. 

To learn more about The Brander Vineyard, click here. 


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