Organic vs biodynamic: Q&A podcast with Peter work of ampelos vineyards, California

By Tobias Webb

Back in September this year, driving through California’s central coast (see last two posts and podcasts with Richard Sanford at Alma Rosa here and with Bob Lindquist of Qupe here ), I stopped off to meet Peter Work at Ampelos vineyards.

Peter and his wife Rebecca have an 82 acre ranch, with some 46,00 vines. They grow primarily Pinot Noir, but also some Syrah, Grenache, Riesling and Viognier. There are some photos of the vineyards below.

Ampelos vineyard, September 2016

Planting began back in 1999, and from 2005 they began looking into organic and biodynamic farming, went through a three year conversion programme to certified organic and biodynamic farming. More on their three pronged approach to sustainability in the audio interview below and also on their website, here.

I tasted their Viognier white, which was lovely, and Peter gave me a bottle of his 2012 Lambda Pinot Noir, which I enjoyed with an excellent steak that evening. Ampelos looks for their wines to express the terroir, and I really felt he’d achieved that with the wines I tried. Clean, fresh minerality in the white, balanced red fruit with earthy and spicy notes for the Pinot.

In the interview we discussed:

  • Why sustainable certification of sustainable wine has real value for consumers and producers.
  • How consumers are confused by all the different terms and definitions.
  • The differences in organic certification between farming and winemaking. These are two different certifications. As a result Ampelos has six different certifications in total.
  • Differences in sulphur dioxide in Europe vs. the USA. In the USA you can’t use SO2 in the winery and be certified organic in the winery, but you can be certified in the vineyard.
  • In Europe, you can use S02 in both, and be certified organic. Given it is a by-product of alcoholic fermentation and used to clean/sterilise barrels, this is a bit of a mystery to Peter.
  • Bio-dynamic practices. Ampelos takes the theory and practice seriously, harvesting on fruit days and bottling on descending moon or root days, for example. This delivers better flavours, he says.
  • Bio-dynamic preparations. The three key elements to biodynamic approaches: Sprays, composts and fungicides.
  • Timing: Picking on fruit or flower days, over leaf days.
  • The impact of these approaches on vine health and that of the overall vineyard.
  • How these sustainable, organic and bio-dynamic approaches are becoming more mainstream in consumer tastes and expectations.

I’ll let Peter explain more about all that, and there are some photos below.

Tasting Viognier at Ampelos with Peter Work
Glorious day to visit the Sta. Rita Hills. Pinot Noir in the background
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About the author

Tobias Webb

Toby Webb is co-founder of Sustainable Wine. He is also founder of Innovation Forum, a leading platform for change in sustainable supply chains. He has spent 20+ years working in business and sustainability and has spent ten years teaching the subject at various London universities. He advises a number of companies large and small on sustainability. Businesses he has worked with include Patagonia, Interface, Bayer, SOK Group, Boots/Walgreens, Metro, Unilever, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Sainsbury’s, and many others. He co-authored the UK’s national CSR strategy for David Cameron from 2006-10. He has been organising events, advising, teaching writing, blogging and podcasting on sustainable business since 2001. His (non-wine) blog is at