June has been an exceptional month for our family – after our Costa Rica vacation, we took another 2 weeks traveling north to Oregon with the Stelzle family from Venteux Vineyards. Along the way we stopped at quite a few farms and vineyards – Phillip is determined to get to know as many Biodynamic farmers as possible, to build a rapport with them which will allow him to have personal contact them when necessary when those heavy questions of “what to do now?” are looming on the mind. At this moment we are battling a small case of powdery mildew (in the Tempranillo) and Phillip is researching all of the different methods of managing it without the blanket and consistent spraying of sulfur (which is allowed in the Biodynamic world of farming to fight powdery mildew, however, it has many drawbacks against it: it is really horrible to work with, getting into one’s throat and eyes, it does tend to kill beneficial insects, we utilize native yeasts when making wine and sulfur also kills these). Phillip’s objective: to find a blend of products to use – perhaps in conjunction with sulfur if necessary – that isn’t so extreme.
We kicked off the trip staying a night at Montemaggiore in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley (CA) with Vincent & Lise Ciolina. They have a beautiful 55 acre estate where they concentrate exclusively on Syrah & Cabernet. (We especially love the ’05 Nobile!) Our arrival was a bit hectic (2 r.v.s…2 dogs…2 kids running around…), but we were able to sit and enjoy our wine while taking in a spectacular view. Vincent showed us his super-duper “tea brewing” machine (wow!) and shared with us an experiment he is conducting to battle powdery mildew with a 2 tea of worm castings. He is experimenting with an acre only, but continues to spray sulfur throughout the remainder of the vineyard. They are soon to produce Biodynamic olive oil as well. This is a winery worth scheduling an appointment for…
Cooper Mountain Vineyards was our first Biodynamic winery stop in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. We were so happy to pull up to the winery and see a beautiful flowform in the middle of their turning circle (above picture)–as we are seriously thinking of installing a flowform near the winery as an alternative to using the stirring machine (plus it’s beautiful, and a source of water for the bees!). We immediately met the owner who wanted Phillip to meet Gilles, the vineyard manager and winemaker. This winery incorporates many aspects of homeopathy whilst farming Biodynamically. Of course, the Pinot Noirs were full of freshness and flavor!
Maysara is a winery located in the southern Willamette Valley. The above picture is of Moe Momtazi, the owner. He, his wife and 3 daughters farm this incredible 500 acre estate with enthusiasm and great imagination–again, all of these vineyards are exploring different natural ways to make their vines and soil healthy. As we arrived, all of the employees were undergoing a health check, as well as a vision check–all on the winery. This is another tenant of Biodynamic farming that is important: the respect and proper payment of all of the men and women working on these farms, and the responsibility of the owner(s) to treat all employees with their best health interests in mind.
Phillip could have spent days with Gilles and Moe, he is just scratching the surface and beginning to grasp alternative methods to work with common ailments in the vineyard. Thankfully, farming is an ongoing process and there is always time to learn, observe, challenge one’s self…and patiently wait!
And then on to Brick House Vineyards! We have enjoyed their wine numerous times with Scott & Bobbi, so of course they were on the list of a winery to visit. They have been farming their estate organically since 1990 and have been certified Biodynamic since the mid-90’s. Brick House is a truly beautiful farm. Phillip & I talk about how beautiful it was, in it’s own rustic way. We tasted in an old barn easily over one hundred years old, on antique kilim rugs, on old chairs around a fabulous wood table. And the Pinots…so good! Enough waxing on–go taste for yourself!