Grower Q&A: Kelly Mulville of Paicines Ranch

Kelly Mulville is one of the most highly respected regenerative grape growers globally, who shares his knowledge and experience with others through his educational programmes at Paicines Ranch and through touring and speaking worldwide.

What was your ‘Aha!’ moment for regen?

My introduction to Holistic Management with Allan Savory and the understanding that vast regions of the world can be restored through better understanding of the ecosystem, sound decision making and the synergy of grazing animals.

What’s the most important change you’ve introduced or that’s made the biggest difference?

Being able to graze vineyards during the growing season of the vines.

Who do you turn to when you need support?

The people I work with and my wife – they are all smarter than me.

Is there a regen practice that turned out to be super easy and cheap to implement?

Getting to the point (4 years ago) that we no longer need to seed cover crops and seeing that vineyard plant diversity continues to increase each year and reseeds itself.

What’s your top regen tip?

Have clarity of intention and context. Pay attention to your whole ecosystem (which includes people) – not just the vineyard.

What would you tell a younger version of yourself, just setting out growing grapes?

Think outside the bottle!

What would a idealised version of a ‘perfect’ regen vineyard feel like?

Vibrant, flourishing, wild, and inviting.

Is there a piece of technology that has made a real difference?

The Holistic management decision making framework and process.

Are you currently experimenting with any field trials? 

The entire vineyard is an experiment in constantly learning how to evoke and support the flourishing of biodiversity.

How do you control weeds? 

Turn them into a delicacy by creating the option to graze at any point during the year. They are often the most nutritious plants in the vineyard, great indicators of soil conditions and important contributors to nutrient cycling.

How do you control fungal diseases?

Prevention through vine health, canopy management, focusing on biodiversity and grazing during the summer which increases vine sap brix.

Which creature are you most pleased to have encouraged to your land?

All of them!

What have you done to slow down and store water on your land?

Keep it covered in vegetation throughout the year, never till, encourage plant diversity (multiple root depths), use sound grazing management, and avoid compaction.   Even during some of the wettest years in recorded history we have never experienced runoff from the vineyard plantings.  We estimate our water holding capacity has increased by roughly 50,000 gallons per acre since developing the site.

What do you listen to while you’re working? 

Birds, insects, animals, people.  I avoid shutting out the sounds of life while out in the vines – you miss a lot.   The only exception is while doing foliar sprays with a tractor during the night – I’ll listen to music or a podcast.