Articles Tagged biodynamic wine
One could be forgiven for expecting an overdose of “yes, I did in fact write those checks” bullsh*t when visiting Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden in Oregon’s Applegate Valley, based solely on the facts that
a) it takes its name from the most infamous preparation (#500, which involves burying a cow’s horn full of manure) in wine’s most infamous set of farming practices (Biodynamics), and
b) founders Barbara and Bill Steele are former CFO/CFA financial types who, after leaving Wall Street and before establishing Cowhorn (despite not having a single lick of winegrowing experience) lived what they call a “homeopathic lifestyle in Marin County.”
Cowhorn co-fouder Barbara Steele
One’s skepticism about the Steele’s seriousness regarding their 25-or-so acres of vines and 4,000-or-so case production could be forgiven, but one’s skepticism would also be quite wrong. I mean, you’ll want to be skeptical about, for example, the earnestness of Bill Steele’s long hair, but then you’ll find out that he makes his own sulfites. And that the Steele’s spent two years researching the right place to plant vines before breaking ground on Cowhorn in 2002, planning on Biodynamics viticulture from the get-go (with Alan York consulting), and despite its under-the-radar status and various environmental challenges (ripening is actually the main challenge there, as they are farming Rhône varieties, and the cold air from the surrounding hills makes this a cooler spot by Applegate standards) chose Southern Oregon anyway.
And then there’s the farming mentality employed at Cowhorn, which feels downright legit when the Steele’s are waxing philosophic about it; as Barbara put it, “It’s the people behind it that makes this kind of viticulture possible for the Applegate Valley.” Even their yeast situation is kind of endearing; Bill mentioned that that six unique strains were identified there, primarily due to the 100+ acres of property having been left isolated so long before the Steele’s bought it.
And then… then you’ll taste their wines, which all have a consistent and defining element of being well-crafted and yet still characterful; not overly polished, showing their edginess and angularity while still retaining a sense of elegance. In other words, the only thing full of bullsh*t will be your own silly preconceived notions about their outfit…
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A couple of years ago, I undertook a rather statistically-irrelevant and thoroughly un-scientific study regarding the Biodynamic tasting calendar (based on the lunar-cycle farming techniques espoused by Rudolf Steiner). This study had a single participant (me) who knew next to nothing about this calendar, who downloaded one of those mobile apps that tells you what type of day it is on the BioD calendar. I then tasted through wine samples pretty much every day, as usual, and noted whether or not any given wine seemed to taste really good or really nasty, and what BioD calendar day type it happened to be.
Presumably, I would have enjoyed more of the wines on so-called “fruit” days, and wines would have tasted nastier on “root” days; thus postulateth the Biodynamic calendar, anyway. My tasting results? In summary: totally random, with no correlation to the BioD calendar days at all.
The results of a much more scientific and potentially relevant experiment into whether or not the BioD calendar impacts how a finished wine tastes were recently published. The results of this New Zealand based study found that the tasting impact of the BioD calendar was, essentially, nada. From the study’s conclusion:
“…the findings reported in the present study provide no evidence in support of the notion that how a wine tastes is associated with the lunar cycle… Consumers expecting a wine to be more expressive and aromatic on Fruit days might actually perceive them as such through top down cognitive effects.”
In other words, it’s possible that any impact of the lunar cycle on your wine tasting is just all in your head….
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Welcome to the Weekly Wine Quiz! This week, things are going to get decidedly odd, but then you’ve come to expect that here, haven’t you?
Standard disclaimer: based on feedback from ever-so-vocal-and-intelligent peeps like you, I supply the quiz question each week, but I do *not* supply the quiz answer immediately. It’s YOU who supply your *best guess* as to that answer in the comments, and then tune back in later today in the comments section for the official answer.
Going Stag? True or False: Biodynamic vineyard farming preparations include flower heads of yarrow fermented in the bladder of a stag.
Cheers – and good luck!
In the morning fog of Casablanca, a stone’s-throw from Santiago, Chile – provided that you could throw that stone over the enormous mountain range that divides Casablanca and the city, that is – the world feels very, very small. At least, it did to me on my recent S. American jaunt.
The world feels small despite the fact that those fog-covered vineyards (cooled by the effects of the mountains, which dramaticly reduce the amount of sunlight and heat compared to the city) are owned by Emiliana, a company that collectively farms the largest source of estate-grown organic wines in the world. It felt small despite the scale of how “all-in” Emiliana is when it comes to organic viticulture.
Part of the cozy feel comes from Emiliana’s Casablanca estate itself: home to wandering birds (especially the chickens, who eat the larvae of what are locally called “burrito spiders” but I took to be mites, who can damage vine roots), and alpaca (whose wool is sold by the vineyard workers). Part of the feel also comes from how the workers are treated here – they are trained and then help manufacture olive oils, hats, and various other native crafts that are sold in the off-season to help maintain their income when not working the vineyards (many of them also have named plots in the organic gardens near the vineyards, which helps supply them with healthy food).
But mostly the world felt small to me in Emiliana because they kept talking about Biodynamics, a topic that got very hot recently here on the virtual pages of 1WD. And they kept calling it… wait for it… the “science of Biodynamics.”
I can feel the collective shoulder-tightening ire of the wine geeks reading that last sentence.
And where did Emiliana get the BioD bug? From a visit by consulting winemaker Álvaro Espinoza Durán to Sonoma’s Benziger, where I visited in the not-too-distant past, and talked BioD with head honcho and BioD cheerleader Mike Benziger – and then interviewed BioD viticultural consultant Alan York (whose clients include Benziger and rocker Sting) as part of a more in-depth pro/con BioD debate.
And to further the far-away-but-close-to-home experience, I found the vinous results of this Biodynamic work to be pretty similar to those I’ve encountered elsewhere in the wine world… namely, inconsistent…
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