POSTED ON March 6, 2015 | IN El Dorado County, Organic Winery, Winemaker | BY Joe Becerra
green manure

Green Manure at Cedarville Vineyard in El Dorado County

Green Manure Cover Crop Cedarville Vineyard – Zinfandel

Around this time of year, it is easy to spot the vineyards that are practicing sustainable and organic farming. The telltale signs are the rows of green plants growing in between the vines. These are called cover crops or green manure. Their purpose is to provide nitrogen to the soil, so the vineyard growers do not need to add chemical fertilizers. I aways wonder why this is not a practice among all vineyard managers and growers. We made our annual trip to Amador and El Dorado Counties last week. For the 12th year in succession, we visited Cedarville Vineyard in the Fair Play AVA.  We always thoroughly enjoy a visit with the husband-wife team of Jonathan Lachs and Susan Marks. They met at the U.C. Davis Enology program and have been a great team since, producing delicious Cedarville Vineyard wines. They planted their vineyards in Fair Play in 1997 and in 2010 switched over to organic farming. A large part of their organic farming is the use of green manure. Janelle and I were astounded at the lush growth of cover crops thriving at Cedarville, and in particular amid the rows of the head-pruned Zinfandel. I recorded this short video of Jonathan explaining the use of the green manure. Not only does it provide fertilizer to the soil but, in these drought conditions, the manure also enhances the moisture retention in the soil. Watch and listen to Jonathan as he clearly describes the use of the cover crops and what plants make up his mix of green manure.

Cedarville Vineyard is one of 19 wineries in the Fair Play area. It is open by appointment, so call ahead if you don’t want to miss tasting Cedarville wines. Several other Fair Play wineries have visiting days and times, so you can make a day of tasting and enjoying the Fair Play AVA. Check the Fair Play Wine Route for additional winery information. We like to stay in Sutter Creek, so it is about a 45-minute drive northeast to Fair Play. The ride up to Fair Play is stunning this time of year.


  1. Mike says

    As a city boy I was looking for a different type of manure! Last year we saw a vineyard which was planted and never grew due to a lack of water. It is still farming and you need Mother Nature . Very good video.

  2. Mary Beltran says

    Great video, Joe. We always so enjoy the visit to Jonathan and Susan’s winery. The cover crop idea is also very useful in home veggie gardens. Your website is wonderful. It’s interesting and educational. Thanks.