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Biodynamics—Old Techniques for a New Era

 

By Amanda McCrossin

What was once an unusual, alternative method to farming here in the U.S. and only found at a handful of obscure, environmentally conscious wineries, is now very much becoming commonplace. Biodynamic farming has permeated some of the most heralded and high-end wineries in Napa Valley and probably for good reason. The philosophy of biodynamics stems from the studies, teachings, and writings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner and promotes the fostering of “a diverse biosphere.” Simply put, biodynamics in many ways is an extension of organic farming practices in which no chemicals are used to treat the grapevines, but it furthers the doctrine to promote the treatment of the ecosystem as a whole rather than it’s various components. As a result, wineries that farm biodynamically are more likely to have animals (such as chickens, goats, sheep, and bees) and an abundance of other plants and species on property in order to promote biodiversity, natural fertilization, and disease treatment with substances born from the property (i.e. manure, plant teas, compost, etc.). The philosophy also incorporates a calendar that follows the lunar cycle as well as some spiritual elements, though some wineries don’t subscribe to the latter. Migrating to biodynamic isn’t the easiest, or most cost effective, but it does generally mean that the land as a whole will be healthier. Healthy Ecosystem = Healthier vines = Better Wine 🍷

I’m loving visiting these wineries/vineyards probably more than any others right now, and with so many more adopting the practice every year, you’ll have many to choose from.

Featured in this video is Rudd Estate in Oakville & Eisele Vineyards in Calistoga. Eisele represents the first high-end vineyard to move to biodynamics in Napa Valley and has been certified by Demeter since the early 2000’s. Rudd Estate in Oakville began migrating to Biodynamics under the helm of Viticulturist Macy Stubstad and has been fully biodynamic since 2012. Rudd, like many other wineries, has not sought the Demeter certification, as the strict mandates of the process don’t allow for any fluidity in the protocol. The 501 Spray seen being prepared and sprayed in this video is standard practice for Biodynamic vineyards and done several times a year. The liquid is a combination of water and a small amount of powdered silica horn that is mixed for an hour to create a vortex. Every minute the direction of the vortex is changed which is called “chaotic flow.” This process is known as Dynamizing.

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