Do Bees Make Better Wine?

By Husch Vineyards

Husch Vineyards
is a small, family owned and operated winery. It is the oldest winery in the Anderson Valley appellation, located in Mendocino County (Northern California) just 2 1/2 hours north of San Francisco.Under the direction of 3rd generation family members Husch produces 22 different wines , of which six are distributed nationally. Small lots of special wines are available exclusively at our tasting room, a converted pony barn dating back to the late 1800s.

Quality is the key word at Husch: our winemaking team pays careful attention to the fruit as it comes off the vine at harvest, and all grapes are hand-harvested. In order to bring balance to the vineyard and grow great grapes, Husch Vineyards brought in honey bees!

When the bees first came to Husch the scene was a little apocalyptic. Our friend Patrick had asked if he could leave “a few” bee boxes at Husch for the summer. Why not?, we agreed. But the next morning when Zac arrived at the vineyard the sky was black and 40 boxes (hives) of bees were stationed right next to the winery. The swarm seemed angry. Everyone took refuge indoors as we pondered how to farm the rest of the year without having to go outdoors, ever.

But soon we became accustomed to our new tenants. And vice-versa. The boxes were moved deeper into the vineyard to be further away from winery activity. We are now 3 years into this project; we are up to 80 boxes of bees; and so far we have just one (or two) bee stings to report. Grapevines don’t need bees to pollinate the fruit. But at Husch we think the bees add balance to the vineyard, and help us toward our goal of growing great grapes without the use of poisons and insecticides. And the honey - well that is a big bonus at the end of the year. Life isn't all leisure here for our little friends. In the spring, Patrick hauls the bees to California’s Central Valley where they go to work pollinating the almond orchards. But after 6 weeks of moving pollen, their work for the year is complete and they return to Husch for 46 weeks of vacation. Busy as a bee? Not Us!

Husch recently put in a new Cabernet Sauvignon planting, growing mustard plants nearby to help provide soil nutrients for the new vines. The bees love their proximity to mustard!

Published 09/26/19