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Jordan Winery turning some of its property into pollinator sanctuaries

Jordan Vineyard & Winery has launched a major effort to turn at least 10% of its estate land over to plants that will serve vital pollinators, including the at-risk western monarch butterfly.

The Healdsburg winery is collaborating with Pollinator Partnership, the world’s largest nonprofit dedicated to protecting and promoting pollinators and their ecosystems. Habitat across four sites will be restored this year, with more added over the next few years, spokeswoman Lisa Mattson said.

The 1,200-acre Jordan Estate in Healdsburg’s Alexander Valley is located on the fall migratory route of the western monarchs. Much of the undeveloped land is rolling hills, grasslands and woodlands. Some of the open spaces bloom with wildflowers in the spring, but a lot of the pastureland also was taken over by nonnative grasses.

When completed, the project, with plants chosen to serve specific pollinators, will result in the largest dedicated pollinator habitat of all Bee Friendly Farming-certified vineyards nationwide, according to Pollinator Partnership.

“The beauty of diversified agriculture is how far it spans in multiple directions in support of the overall ecosystem, from caring for cattle and honeybees and farming grapes to growing vegetables,” Brent Young, director of agricultural operations at Jordan, said in a news release. “Although these pollinators don't have a direct impact on grapevines, creating more habitat for them is a natural extension of our approach to biodiversity at Jordan Estate.”

Young worked with Pollinator Partnership to scout the best sites and materials for pollinator sanctuaries on the property. They were particularly concerned with finding locations to grow milkweed, on which monarch caterpillars feed exclusively. About 600 plugs were planted. Other plants were picked to cater to other pollinators such as native honeybees and hummingbirds, Mattson said.

Winery visitors will be able to see these young pollinator sanctuaries firsthand when the winery reopens for a series of vineyard hikes in honor of Earth Week, April 22-25. Tickets for the 4-mile hike, which includes a seated lunch and wine pairing, are $110 per person. Tickets go on sale April 7 (jordanwinery.com). Other tours throughout the season will pass through the new pollinator habitats, although it will take several years for plants sown by seed to mature and bloom.

More than 3,400 plants, comprising about 100 species (sourced from CalFlora, Cornflower Farms and S&S Seeds), will be planted on four sites over 8 acres this year. About 200 pounds of wildflower seeds, including milkweed, were sown over the winter. Native grasses, annual and perennial wildflowers, shrubs and trees were integrated to provide year-around food and nesting habitat.

More sites have been identified on the Jordan Estate for pollinator sanctuaries, and their plantings that will spread over 10 acres by the end of the year and 12 acres within three years, Mattson said.

The winery is pairing with Warm Springs 4-H in Healdsburg on a milkweed germination project to grow up to 1,000 seedlings for planting this spring.

Mattson said milkweed, however, can be tricky to grow, particularly from seed. It prefers to be near water, such as along creek banks. The winery has planted some along their lower lake and near a seasonal creek below one of the blocks of olive trees.

Jordan also has created a hummingbird sanctuary and an area designed with plants attractive to native bees.

“This is the most diverse pollinator habitat restoration program that we know of,” said Miles Dakin, Bee Friendly Farming coordinator for Pollinator Partnership.

“As land stewards, it’s the right thing to do,” Mattson said. “We know the western monarch butterfly is in peril and native bees are struggling, too. We have the land. Why not? The foragers are already there. This is just making it more attractive, especially when they have lost so much habitat to wildfire and development.”

According to The Xerces Society, in 2020 numbers of the western monarch butterfly that winters along the California coast dropped to a new low of less than 2,000 butterflies, a 99.9% decline since the 1980s. Native bees species also are in trouble. The site biologicaldiversity.org reports that population declines have occurred in 52% of native bee species.

Natives, such as bumblebees and mason bees, are vital pollinators for plants grown in the Jordan Winery garden, such as tomatoes, squash, raspberries and strawberries. Although bees do not pollinate grapevines, they are the primary pollinators for cover crops grown between the vines, which revitalize the soil. Monarchs, also native pollinators, are known as a flagship species for conservation.

“Honeybees get most of the attention,” said Todd Knoll, executive chef of Jordan Vineyard & Winery. “But mason bees pollinate many of the fruits and vegetables we eat. They have a 95% pollination rate compared to honeybees at 5%. Butterflies like monarchs also play an important role in the ecosystem as both a pollinator and a food source, so they cannot be forgotten.”

Jordan has been Bee Friendly Farming Certified through Pollinator Partnership since 2013. Jordan’s garden apiary has seven beehives and a bee flower garden designed to help promote pollinator populations. The winery also is the winter “vacation” home of traveling beehives that live across from Jordan’s petit verdot vineyards until they are moved to the almond orchards of the Central Valley, Mattson said.

The nonprofit Pollinator Partnership is dedicated to the health, protection and conservation of all pollinating animals through education, conservation, restoration, policy and research. For more information about the organization visit pollinator.org.

Bee Friendly Farming is a certification program from Pollinator Partnership that provides guidelines for farmers and growers interested in promoting pollinator health on their lands. For information check out pollinator.org/bff.

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at 707-521-5204 or meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com. OnTwitter @megmcconahey.

Meg McConahey

Features, The Press Democrat

Like most everyone, I love a good feature story that takes me somewhere I’ve never been or tells me something I don’t know. Where can I take you? Who in Sonoma County would you like to know better? I cover the people, places and ideas that make up Sonoma County, with general features, people profiles and home and garden, interior design and architecture stories. Hit me up with your tips, ideas and burning questions.

 

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