We conclude our six-month-long Biodynamic learning series on Sunday, March 1, in the most appropriate manner possible: With a toast.
Featuring stars from the world of Biodynamic winemaking, our series ends with an evening presentation that includes winemakers Paul Dolan (Paul Dolan Wine), Alex Davis (Porter Creek Vineyards), Ridgely Evers (Da Vero), Hugh Chappelle (Quivira Vineyard and Winery), and consultant Phillip Coderey, who is currently helping Preston Family Vineyards complete its Biodynamic certification. Wine writer Pam Strayer moderates.
Sonoma County has the highest number of certified Biodynamic farms in the United States, the majority of them devoted to wine grapes. Biodynamic agricultural practices have been increasingly embraced by the wine industry, particularly those high-end artisanal labels devoted to “natural” wines that are said to be “made from the field” rather than chemically “fixed” at the winery.
Demeter USA, the Biodynamic certification organization for the United States, has offices near us in Healdsburg, where co-director Elizabeth Candelario lives. While all of the winemakers featured source and grow Biodynamic grapes, not every bottle they produce is Demeter-certified Biodynamic. It’s a bit tricky to understand.
“Wine can have Demeter-certified Biodynamic grapes,” Elizabeth explains, “but in order for it to be a Demeter-certified wine, it has to be to the processing standard, the intention of which is to ensure that the integrity of the ingredients define the finished product.”
Certified Biodynamic is easy to understand within the rubric of certified organic, in that Biodynamic products like grapes are organic at their basis. Said to be beyond organic, Biodynamic produce is farmed within a full spectrum of additional tenets, such as the inclusion of animals on the property, the seclusion of a distinct percentage of arable land to nature, and the holistic concept of the farm as a closed loop system.
The difference is compounded in that certified organic farming, grape-growing, and winemaking allow a number of additives that are strictly forbidden for Demeter certification. To be labeled “Biodynamic,” the production of wine is allowed a small addition of sulfur, if necessary for stabilization, and that is all. Sometimes the vintage demands more than a skosh of sulfur to stabilize the wine and that’s when even Biodynamic grapes do not result in Biodynamic wine.
“In the world of natural wine, where the interest is really in exemplifying the terroir of that part of the vineyard,” Elizabeth explains, “many believe that there is no surer path to expression than via Biodynamic-processed wines.”
First described by Waldorf School founder Rudolf Steiner in a 1924 presentation to farmers who were even then concerned about the lackluster quality of their produce, Biodynamic agriculture is tied to the sky for its rhythms, as was the agriculture of the ancients. To hear modern farmers describe its results is to hear the poetry of the land in their voices.
And to taste the wine could be as close as most of us will ever get to sipping the actual cosmos. Based on a calendar that delineates the best planting days as those for roots, leaves, flowers, and fruit, Biodynamic produce is often best enjoyed on the day that correlates with its planting.
For wine, that’s a fruit day, on which March 1 just happens to fall. While there’s no hard scientific evidence to back it up, it’s possible that the rhythms of the moon which affect the tides and other natural phenomena on Earth might also play a role in the taste of wine from a bottle. If one is to consider wine a living thing that ages and eventually “dies” (or goes horribly bad) after time, even while well-sealed, this philosophy begins to sound increasingly sensical.
Join us to learn more and to discover what benefits these well-regarded wine growers and vintners have found in certifying Biodynamic on Sunday, March 1, at 5pm. A wine-tasting happily follows the discussion. $20. Advance tickets are strongly recommended.