Google+

Applegate Valley

More Biodynamic Fake News...

Harvest 2018 at Troon Vineyard in Oregon’s Applegate Valley.

Harvest 2018 at Troon Vineyard in Oregon’s Applegate Valley.

Tired old canards. When will the media get on board with modern biodynamics? While the article Weighing Up the Value of Biodynamic Wine by Vicki Denig addresses valid concerns, once again the sources for the article are either misinformed or have an ax to grind. Here is a link to the original article:

https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2019/04/weighing-up-the-value-of-biodynamic-wine?rss=Y

“Couple that with calendar-specific workdays and strict following of the lunar cycle, and even the smallest of vineyards would face significant time restraints and financial challenges. So when a sizeable estate decides to go biodynamic, is it actually achievable?”

“However, not all winemakers are convinced. In Crete, Giannis Stilianou, winemaker and owner of Stilianou Wines, explains that with larger properties, cultivating with biodynamic principles is nearly impossible, mainly because farmers are only permitted to execute vineyard work on a small amount of very specific days”

The Demeter standard for wines states, “Observation of the Biodynamic calendar is encouraged.” It does not demand only “calendar-specific work days or that “farmers are only permitted to execute vineyard work...on very specific days.” The statements above are false and following the biodynamic calendar is not required for Demeter Certification.

The work of all the biodynamic farmers I know is focused on regenerative agriculture. Their goal is to build the health of their soils and plants. In trying to follow the biodynamic calendar we are reaching for the very peak of quality. That extra edge that pushes our wines beyond just being delicious to becoming truly alive in the glass. If you can’t prune or pick on the ideal day due to weather and practical considerations you know that all of the other work you’ve done will still make exceptional wine. What we reach for by trying to do our work on certain days, by paying attention to the natural cycle of the Moon, is to go beyond simply delicious and make a wine that sings of the vineyard itself. A wine that is transparent and living.

“And for others, size isn't even the biggest issue. Stu Smith, partner and enologist at St. Helena-based Smith-Madrone Vineyards dug deep into the world of biodynamics – and still wasn't convinced. "I discovered that Rudolf Steiner had never been a farmer," he says, noting that Steiner went from student to agricultural theorist, without any experience in the field. Smith explains that when he'd challenge biodynamic farmers on their lack of trials and published results, their response was always that it's a belief system.”

Mr. Smith “discovered” that Rudolf Steiner had never been a farmer. Digging deep? An amazing discovery? I think not. Rudolf Steiner is famous for being a philosopher and founding the Waldorf schools, not for being a farmer, as a quick look at Wikipedia will show you. What we today call biodynamics was only outlined by Steiner in a series of lectures in 1924. He did not go from “student to agricultural theorist”, but gave the lectures at the end of his life at the request of a group of farmers. The modern practice of biodynamics has been built after his death on the experience and experiments of several generations of biodynamic farmers. None of the biodynamic wine growers I personally know consider biodynamic farming a “belief system”, but see it as a framework to build on with a goal of taking their farming to a new level. Contrary to what Mr. Smith may believe, Nicolas Joly is not your typical biodynamic winegrower.

“Smith also takes issue with what he deems to be close-mindedness amongst biodynamic farmers, from both large and small estates. "They are the only group out there that says 'our way is the only way, and everyone else is doing it wrong'. Organic and sustainable farmers don't do that, but biodynamic farmers do."

This, simply, is total bullshit.

“And when it comes down to it, Smith sees it all as a fast-track to making money. "There are so many wineries that need to find their place in the sun," he says, calling out the appeal of biodynamics to Millennial consumers. "In my opinion, it's a marketing ploy – do you see biodynamic carrots? Lettuce? Peaches? No. They're doing it in wine in America as a marketing concept so they sell their product easier and get a higher price for it."

Yes, Mr. Smith, you do see biodynamic carrots, lettuce, and peaches, just not enough of them. The reason you see few of these biodynamically certified fruits vegetables and wines is that practicing biodynamics is hard work and unlikely to reward with you with enough additional profit to justify the effort. You choose biodynamics because of a commitment to reach for something special. Demeter USA currently has certification protocols for Fruit and Vegetables; Nuts, Seeds and Kernels; Bread, Cakes and Pastries; Grain, Cereal, Tofu and Pasta; Herbs and Spices; Meat; Dairy; Oils and Fats; Sweetening Agents, Confectionary, Ice Cream, Chocolate; Cosmetics and Body Care; Textiles; Wine; Beer; Spirits; Cider and Fruit Wines; Infant Formula. It seems he is shopping in the wrong markets, perhaps he should give Google a try?

Then there is his “marketing ploy” statement, which any accountant for a biodynamic winery would get a big laugh over.

“Others think that many biodynamic practices are, frankly, bullshit.”

I'll tell you the real bullshit. It’s farming with chemicals that destroy the environment and cause cancer. It’s making boring industrial wine. If a little voodoo will save the planet, count me in. Voodoo is just what people call something they don’t understand.

Investing in a Stranger’s Future

Agriculture is cyclical. Season flows into season. Vines flower then a hundred or so days later you harvest their fruit. Animals and farmers live their life cycles together on land that sustains them both. Nature wraps us in the cycle of life.

In January we begin to think of pruning and worrying about frost. What happened last vintage is behind us and only the potential of the next fills your minds. After all, the wines in the cellar are committed to their course and it is only our role to shepherd them home. That vintage is over.

There are few things other than agriculture where you so firmly press the reset button on the first of January. Of course, we build on the experience bestowed upon us by Mother Nature each year, but that’s all nuance compared to the cycles of Nature, which make all the most important choices.

We are facing a lot of new hurdles at Troon Vineyard as we begin a ranch-wide replant designed both to correct the viticultural sins of the past and to proactively move forward by selecting better varieties and then planting them in better sites. To move forward you must be willing to break ties to the past. At Troon we’ve decided to race towards the future.

New plantings will be decidedly focused on the varieties made famous by the Rhône Valley, Languedoc and Provence. These vines have proven their proclivity for our Kubli Bench terroir. Now it’s our turn to take what we’ve learned and focus on creating some truly special wines - some of which may be a decade or more away.

To some it may seem odd to embark on a voyage knowing you will not arrive at the destination, but that is farming and winegrowing. There is never any end to the cycle of seasons and you are only part of a chain that passes the baton ever-forward in a never-ending relay race. Nothing fires my passion more than knowing that I can make a perfect baton pass to the next generation. If they can make great wines from the vines we plant, I will have done more than my job. That is my goal.

For the time remaining to me, I will become a small part of the life of this vineyard and hope that I am still around to taste at least the potential of the vines we plant over the next years. We each get our vintages and it is our responsibility to enjoy every one and to hope that our work today will be rewarded with wines we will never taste made by people we never knew. They may not know us, but the vines we plant today will speak for us in the wines they make.

Every glass of wine we drink from an old vineyard carries the voices of those that planted and worked it over the decades. Listen to us, we deserve your attention.

Harvest 2018 Photo Album - Troon Vineyard in Oregon's Applegate Valley

Mother Nature was very kind to us in 2018. Rain and cool weather are things you expect during harvest in Oregon, but not this year! All during harvest we were given warm, dry weather under beautiful blue skies. This perfect weather meant we could harvest each variety at the ideal moment. There was no pressure from the weather so our pace was almost leisurely compared to a normal vintage. It was a harvest to remember as will the wines!

Picking tinta roriz, this is our last vintage of this variety as these vines will be pulled and replanted next year.

Picking tinta roriz, this is our last vintage of this variety as these vines will be pulled and replanted next year.

Picking starts at dawn with the vines still in the shade of the Siskiyou Mountains, which are already brightly illuminated.

Picking starts at dawn with the vines still in the shade of the Siskiyou Mountains, which are already brightly illuminated.

Some picure-perfect vermentino.

Some picure-perfect vermentino.

Banele and Jesus picking malbec as dawn breaks.

Banele and Jesus picking malbec as dawn breaks.

The Applegate Valley during harvest.

The Applegate Valley during harvest.

In a biodynamic vineyard, the leaves are fully turned color and falling off when it is time to pick the fruit. This is the natural cycle of a vine.

In a biodynamic vineyard, the leaves are fully turned color and falling off when it is time to pick the fruit. This is the natural cycle of a vine.

Adan picking vermentino.jpeg

Vineyard manager Adan Cortes bundled up against the morning cold as he harvests vermentino.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Associate winemaker and biodynamic team leader Nate Wall fills cow horns to make biodynamic preparation 500. They will buried until next spring. Making BD 500 is something you do during harvest in the fall.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Banele, our harvest intern from South Africa, places the filled cow horns in pit to be buried until next spring. The BD 500 they will produce will be sprayed on our vineyards.

IMAGE.JPG

Grape pomace, fresh from the press, is added to our compost pile. All the leftovers from harvest are added to our biodynamic compost piles and returned to the vineyard.

Becoming One with Wine

Uploaded by Craig Camp on 2018-03-27.

The world feels somehow different today at Troon Vineyard. I guess you can’t reinvent a vineyard without reinventing yourself. Reinventing and reinvigorating people and a vineyard at the same time is about the simplest way I can explain our transition to biodynamic farming. Everything just feels more alive.

Over the last week what was all planning, items on a Trello board, started to become real. New equipment, new ways of thinking and a new spirit all converged at Troon Vineyard this week. The first step was just a simple piece of string

Twine ties in a block of our vermentino

Twine ties in a block of our vermentino

After years of plastic ties in the vineyard, many of a particularly noxious green color, we have replaced them with hand-knotted pieces of twine. The contrast between the bilious green of the old ties and the warm, earth tones of the twine ties running down the rows tying the canes to the wires could not be more obvious or meaningful. A simple change that tells of significant changes to come, we are becoming entwined in nature.

A somewhat physically more prominent change was the arrival of our Clemens radius weeder or “weed knife”.  While a big financial investment, an efficient tool to control weeds is necessary if you are going to forgo chemicals like the seemingly ever-present Roundup. Many may debate about the evils of glyphosate, and all too many sustainable certifications allow it, but common sense tells us that chemicals like these are just not part of nature’s plan.  It’s hard to describe how well the Clemens does its job as it fluidly dances the blade around each vine almost in slow motion - we actually it is in slow motion as the tractor can only go two and a half miles an hour while doing this work.

Other new mechanical arrivals include the Clemens multi-clean undervine brush, which, as the name implies, literally whisks away suckers and weeds around the base of the vine. Then there is a tank-like Domries disc and a Domries tri-till cultivator. We now have the tools to do the job right.

Creating a vortex while stirring BD 500

Creating a vortex while stirring BD 500

Then there was the really good shit, literally, which arrived this week. Now living in Southern Oregon, that phrase tends to refer to other local agricultural products, in our case, it was actually shit. This was the famed BD 500, the cow manure aged in buried cow horns. For this first application we had to purchase some finished BD 500, but by next spring we’ll have buried and fermented our own. The finished preparation does not remind of the original state or aromatics of the raw materials as it looks and smells more like very rich potting soil. To prepare 500 for application requires stirring it a very particular way. Troon winemaker Steve Hall selected one of our oldest barrels (for the history of place it had experienced) then after adding the 500 to around forty gallons of water we begin the stirring process. Steve and I alternated during the hour long process. First you stir in one direction until you build a deep vortex then suddenly reverse direction going violently from order to disorder. You repeat this process over-and-over for the full hour. This was a uniquely satisfying  experience as you bond with the preparation that will become one with your soil. A very different experience than wearing haz-mat gear demanded by standard vineyard applications. Once prepared we poured the BD 500 into the sprayer and as the week came to a close our entire property had received this application. 

Just knowing that the first biodynamic preparation is in our soils gives me both a sense of peace and accomplishment. We are on an entirely new voyage with a new mission. Just as the vines are reborn each spring, this spring Troon Vineyard is reborn along with them. Soon the buds will break into a whole new world of winegrowing. 

Biodynamics will reinvigorate our soils and our vines, but it is also reinvigorating us. It is those combined energies that will be expressed in our wines. Wines full of energy are exciting wines and we could not be more excited about making them. Our desire to make special wines from what we know is a vineyard, a terroir, with exceptional potential is what started us on this voyage to begin with. 

We are at the starting line of a long struggle to achieve our goals. Now that we have taken our first steps we feel like a sprinter whose energy has just been released by the starting gun. 

The vines, the soil, the place, the wines and the people are all becoming one.

Alberto spraying BD 500 in a block of zinfandel

Alberto spraying BD 500 in a block of zinfandel

Natural Selection

Perfectly ripe vermentino at Troon Vineyard 

Perfectly ripe vermentino at Troon Vineyard 

 

Vintages come and go and with each passing harvest your focus slowly edges away from tanks, barrels and technique to dirt and climate. For wines of character and individuality, it all comes down to the vineyard, all the rest is background noise. In the cellar, it is your job to get out of the way. Actually not out of the way, that’s too simplistic. An artisan winemaker’s job is to know what to do, when to do it and to do nothing more than is necessary - minimalist winemaking is the term I prefer over “natural”. In industrial winemaking, intervention is the rule not the exception, which is the correct strategy if your goal is to produce commercially reliable wines that taste the same year-after-year. 

There is little we know for sure in winemaking, but one thing I do know for sure is that if you don’t have the right dirt in the right place and the right vines in that dirt, you might be able to make good wines, but you’ll never make compelling memorable wines. 

It is very simple. If you want to make exceptional wine you have to have the right grapes in the right place farmed by the right people. The right people is easy, it’s you if you have the passion, resources and discipline to do the work in the vineyard. The variety and place are much more complicated matters. 

While visiting the east coast a few years ago, wondering about what it was like to grow grapes in such humid conditions, I asked a viticulturist how often he sprayed his vineyard. His response was every week - almost up to harvest. Another time I was talking to a grower from a famous west coast AVA who was farming “organically”. Asked about his spray program, he revealed that they were applying forty pounds of sulfur per acre every year. I was equally shocked in both cases because extreme measures had to be taken to grow grapes wine grapes on their sites. (Obviously calling that vineyard “organic” is a stretch of the imagination.) The vineyard on the east coast suffered from a climate unfavorable to wine grapes. The west coast vineyard was in an ideal climate, but either that individual site was less than ideal or the variety they had determined to grow in it was wrong for the site - or both.

The range of soils that can grow great wines has proven to be much broader than once thought. For example, you have pinot noir grown on high pH, alkaline soils in Burgundy, while Oregon’s Willamette Valley is dominated by low pH, acidic soils. Yet in blind tasting after blind tasting skilled, experienced wine tasters are fooled and confuse the wines of Burgundy and the Willamette Valley. However, the climate is much less forgiving than the soil - assuming healthy soils. Selecting the wrong variety for the site is almost as bad. Try to grow cabernet franc on too cool of a site and you’ll end up with pyrazine tea. Grow pinot noir in too hot of a site and you end up with a very expensive version of MD 20/20. Differences, I assure you, even amateur tasters can spot. You have to have the right variety in the right climate, the right terroir to make exceptional, memorable wines vintage after vintage. 

I am always confused by terroir deniers. Any farmer knows terroir exists no matter if they are growing wine grapes, apples, asparagus or tomatoes. One major difference between wine grape farmers and other farmers is that winegrowers will insist on growing a crop that is not economically viable in their growing conditions. Or, worse yet, will insist on overcoming nature and selling wine produced from chemically abused vineyards using every winemaking trick in the book to produce commercially and critically acceptable wines. 

The surest way to know if you’ve got the right vine in the right place is that the vineyard can be farmed year-after-year using ultra low-input agriculture. If you have to blast your vineyard with chemicals every week just to stop the grapes from rotting with mold before you can pick them perhaps you should rethink your choice of crops. Just because you can grow wine grapes does not mean you should. 

If each year you are in a battle with Mother Nature, you will eventually lose the war.