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A Vineyard Odyssey

The Organic Fight to Save Wine from the Ravages of Nature

John Kiger

A Vineyard Odyssey is a fascinating saga of wine—the journey from vine to bottle—that takes the reader on a travelogue of the many hazards that lie along the way. John Kiger tracks the nefarious denizens of the vineyard world: the host of insects, fungi, bacteria, and viruses, along with the feathered and furry critters, that lurk in vineyards. All are capable of sabotaging a promising vintage right under the nose of an unsuspecting grower. Rather than responding with toxic chemicals, Kiger follows an organic approach to cultivation, explaining how natural and biological controls can conquer or at least contain these vineyard saboteurs. Highlighting the many hazards of nature that lie hidden in any vintage, the author tells the story of a winegrower and an organic philosophy that guides the annual struggle to coax great wine from a steep hillside and a few thousand vines. Combining history, science, technology, and personal experience, this book vividly brings to life the hard-fought battles behind the wines we savor. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 202Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-2190-1 • Hardback • June 2013 • $39.00 • (£24.95)
978-1-4422-2191-8 • eBook • June 2013 • $38.99 • (£24.95)
John Kiger left a successful high-tech career in Silicon Valley to follow his passion for fine wine by becoming a full-time winegrower. He and his wife, Deb, own and operate Kiger Family Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, where they follow organic and sustainable winegrowing practices.
Chapter 1: If I'd Only Known Then What I Know Now
Chapter 2: The Origin of Our Affection and Its Peculiar Afflictions
Chapter 3: It’s Personal—Man versus Fungus
Chapter 4: Revenge of the Fungi
Chapter 5: If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another
Chapter 6: Some Things Get Better With Age
Chapter 7: The Winegrower’s Challenge
Chapter 8: Going Organic, or Something Like That
Chapter 9: The Art and Science of Mildew Control
Chapter 10: Nature Strikes Back
Chapter 11: It’s All-Out War
Chapter 12: From Vine to Glass
Chapter 13: The Odyssey in a Bottle
Chapter 14: Looking Forward
Chapter 15: Truce
Selected References
Although the strategy of raising wine grapes organically appears to be simple enough—no man-made chemicals—executing these principles in a vineyard, particularly one under threat from fungi such as powdery mildew, may prove daunting. As the French discovered with the nineteenth century’s phylloxera, whole vineyards can perish from the effects of a single pest. California vintner Kiger was determined to see his wines handled under organic protocols from vine through bottle. Leaving his Silicon Valley career, he and his wife took some courses and decided to personally husband a vineyard through all its seasons save for the actual harvesting, when they would hire pickers. They at once began the long process of converting from conventional vine management to total organic production. Kiger’s battle with powdery mildew alone stretched his resources, and other afflictions, including animals, proved no less challenging. Vineyard owners may profit from Kiger’s recounting of his struggles.

Armed with little more than good intentions, husband and wife John and Deb Kiger said goodbye to corporate life and set about turning their four acres of meadow into a vineyard in 2002. Like many before them who had leapt before they looked, the Kigers soon discovered the prospect to involve much more work and complication than they had imagined, as they were soon forced to abandon the romance of owning a vineyard and roll up their sleeves, battling fungus and mildew that continually threatened their yield. It’s a drop in a near-endless tide of memoirs written by folks who left Big Business in order to get their hands dirty; this time focused on viniculture, made even more complicated by the owners’ desire to produce wine as organically as possible. There are pleasant digressions, but all roads lead to fungus as Kiger recounts the various methods he employed in an effort to get the agricultural upper hand. Those interested in the logistics of vineyard operations and advocates of green farming will find Kiger’s experience to be insightful.
Publishers Weekly

John’s naturally inquisitive, high-tech nature and Southern charm are exactly what he brings to his grape growing: the right amount of smarts, common sense, humor, and joy. If you’ve been bitten by the wine bug and want to jump in, and you think you know it all—or nothing at all—then this is a must read. John’s thorough research into day-to-day, perplexing organic farming will challenge the weathered veteran grower and give confidence to the weekend farmer alike. Salute!
Bob Biale, Robert Biale Vineyards

A Vineyard Odyssey is an entertaining and educational trip through the world of organic wine growing. John Kiger combines his knowledge and experience gained since becoming a Sonoma County grape grower with a witty style to bring organic vineyards to life. In the process, he uncovers many little-known facts along with amusing anecdotes that will appeal to wine enthusiasts of all stripes, while engaging and informing his fellow winegrowers as well.
Nick Frey, Sonoma County Winegrape Commission