EPONA
   * Retail wine shop - offering wines of the world, with an eye for quality and value (Washington state wine license no. 420003, issued to Epona, LLC)
   * Winery - Estate-crafted wines from exciting modern grape varieties (same WA license as above)
   * Grapes - for the table and for winemaking, grown on a superb south slope 
   * Fruits (including cider apples from very old treees), nuts, vegetables, and grapevine cuttings, grown with organic practices
   
All on our small farm near Woodland, Washington
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About Modern Grape Varieties
Grapes are one of the most-loved fruits of the world. For many years, grape breeders have been crossing varieties of grapes to make new varieties. It's a practice found in nature, and it's practiced by humans, too (it was first developed by monks in the Middle Ages: Simply put the pollen from one plant's flower onto the female part of another plant of the same type's flower (just as bees and the winds do), and the genes will combine to make a fertile seed of a unique and new variety. Many new varieties are not improvements, but some are exciting and deliver such advantages as better flavor, earlier ripening, more cold tolerance, and greater disease resistance. Epona vineyard contains modern varieties of grapes whose histories stretch from the 1800s to today (whereas many of the classic wine grapes date to Biblical times).

Modern grapes present a valuable advantage over classic winegrapes: Higher disease resistance. It's a dirty little secret in most vineyards, where vitis vinifera are grown (the classic winegrape varieties): When you visit on the weekend it looks peaceful and beautiful, but during the week they are spraying (often inorganic) antifungal compounds on the vineyard, to control powdery mildew fungus. Whereas most vinifera vineyards (e.g., Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.) need to be sprayed frequently, due to their extreme frailness against fungal diseases, modern varieties are disease-resistant and in Epona vineyard (on steep south-facing slope with good ventilation by the winds) they require no spray at all, ever.  This saves on labor and time in the vineyard, and it avoids the loss of beneficial insects and animals that would be killed by inorganic sprays. We are starting to see lawsuits in France, from workers injured by inorganic vineyard sprays. And even if classic varieties of grapes are treated with organic sprays, that still requires tractor fuel and labor, and the cost of the spray is high.  So modern varieties of grapes are much more "Green" (less harmful, more sustainable) than classic vinifera varieties. That is why I am growing them.
 
Epona is all about bringing together a love of grapes and farming, more than twenty years of winemaking experience, and more than eight years of retail wine sale experience, to create a fun and educational experience for customers, whom we are happy to call friends. We believe we have implemented what will become the "next chapter" in sustainability for farming and grapegrowing.

Sustainability. It's an overused word. But its meaning is powerful. Brush a little of other folks' BS off it and it shines as an important lesson for all of us. We have overpopulated and overexploited our planet. We are ruining its atmosphere and fresh water, and changing its climate in ways that will harm billions of humans and endanger many plant and animal species. Everyone needs to view his or her every daily activity through the lens of stewardship. It is our duty to preserve the planet, its biodiversity, its future, for those yet to come. To treat this place as a infinitely-usable resource, as a dumping ground, is a huge mistake. Even if the laws won't prevent it, our own actions can and should. There is a better way.
 
One sustainable thing we do at Epona is to minimize the use of non-organic methods wherever possible. Another is our use of modern, more disease-resistant grape varieties.   
Preventing Evolution. How did this grape problem arise-why are the classic vinifera winegrapes so susceptible to fungus? For about five thousand years, we haven't allowed vinifera grapes to do what they want to do: They want to grow tasty fruit and have that fruit eaten by animals, who then walk over somewhere else and poop the seed out, where it sprouts into a new grapevine. Through that natural process, the "child" of the parent grape will be different, just as human kids are different from each parent. If the difference in the new grapes is an advantage, then the new grape will thrive; if not, it may fail. This is the process of evolution. 

But we humans have stymied this process in grapes: We like the flavor of, say, a Pinot Noir from a particular vine, so we take cuttings from that vine and we root them and we plant our new vineyard with them. The new vineyard is an exact copy of the parent vine, not a genetically-diverse offspring as Nature intended. So over the millennia of our love affair with classic winegrapes, we have prevented those grapes from developing resistance to fungal diseases, and meanwhile the fungi have been evolving and have used all that time to get far ahead in the war between grapes and fungi. That's why the vinifera grapes have to be constantly sprayed. That's bad. In France, they use a spray called "Bordeaux Mixture" which is so toxic that it kills every beneficial organism in the soil--earthworms, frogs, helpful insects--and renders the vineyard sterile and lifeless save for the vinifera vine. Talk about a loss of biodiversity! It destroys a complex inteconnected web of organisms that, acting together, create healthy soil and plants. And now there are lawsuits alleging that the sprays are killing vineyard workers.  Europe recognizes the problem and is talking about prohibiting such sprays. But that would torpedo the world-reknowned wine industry there, which relies on the classic vinifera grapes and has a very powerful lobby which resists needed changes. 

 
A Better Way. Wild American and Asian grapes HAVE kept evolving, and have good disease resistance against fungi. So modern grapebreeding involves making crosses of these wild grapes with the classic vinifera grapes, with the goal of developing new varieties that have good flavor but also higher disease resistance. Here's one example: A cross of Gewurztraminer with a modern grape called Seyve 23.416 yields a modern variety called Traminette, which tastes like Gewurz but has better disease resistance. Win-Win! There are numerous such examples (pictured to the right is the Regent grape, another great modern grape--it is more than 90% vinifera and thus not completely disease-resistant, but it has more resistance than the classic winegrapes, plus great flavor). 
 
I have spent many years learning about modern grape varieties, and growing them in a test vineyard, and collecting information from other growers. I've worked with grape breeders around the world, to identify the best modern varieties to grow in the Pacific Northwest. Now, my Epona vineyard has my favorite varieties planted, and producing, at a superb steep South-facing site overlooking the beautiful Lewis River just a few miles east of Woodland WA. My grapes never need spray, and are healthy and low-maintenance to grow. They have better disease resistance, more cold-tolerance, and they ripen earlier than vinifera grapes do. The big question is: Do their wines taste as good? I think so. I've won some awards with them. But you need to come and check it out for yourself!
 
 
Regent grape shown below (credit to Wikipedia)