Courtesy of Montelle Winery
Like many wineries, Montelle Winery does not spray insecticides in their vineyards, so buzzing bees are signs of a healthy ecosystem.
By Taylor Fox
Paul Hopen, vineyard manager at Montelle Winery in Augusta and lifelong viticulturist, knows that honeybees are vital workers in his vineyards.
“You don’t make wine in a winery,” Paul says. “You make wine in the field. It all happens in the vineyard.”
Honeybees are the world’s largest natural-pollinators. Although bees are not attracted grape flower pollen and grape plants don't need the bees to produce fruit, the presence of honey bees is a positive sign of a healthy ecosystem.
However, fewer bees exist than decades ago. According to the US Department of Agriculture, only 2.5 million managed honeybee colonies exist in the United States today, down from 6 million in 1947.
Consequently, Paul says that he doesn’t use insecticides because chemicals would harm the bees. Insecticides would also have no effect on the biggest pests in the vineyards—the birds that eat the grapes.
Montelle vineyards raise twelve varieties of grapes that contribute to the sixty-five thousand gallons of wine produced annually, and they are constantly testing even more varieties.
The winery also sells many wine varieties, including many that are infused with fruits that are also insecticide-free.
October is the end of harvest season and the busiest month for Montelle, though, after the harvest, Paul gets right back to the vineyards.
“Once the season ends, I have to go fix my trellises and renew my vines,” he says. “We’re always trying to make our vines young again.”
Montelle Winery is open year-round for wine tastings and hosts special events throughout the year. For more information, call 636-228-4464 ext. 23 or visit montelle.com.