A Biodynamic Roundup

biodvineyard

Blog Update #73, 2009: A Biodynamic Roundup

I’ve chronicled our steps towards the building of a new and vastly improved family business through these blog updates, sharing daily discoveries over at my social network page where I’m known by the “handle” of Chambertin.   As we dig down deep this morning to hopefully complete the final chapter of what promises to be one of the most concise and well researched business plans yet penned on the wine business (by us at least), I thought I’d take just a few minutes to compose a brief roundup of my findings.   If you’re new to the world of biodynamic wines, or even if you’re a seasoned veteran, this compilation may come as a surprise.

The world of biodynamic wines is home to a great deal more inhabitants than I ever thought possible, spanning more continents than I once realized.  Having spent 25 years in the wine business, and after working the vineyards in Burgundy for 2 harvests towards the earning of my Sommelier certification, I am keenly aware of the importance of biodynamic wines to the French.  In Italy, too, there are a number of wine-makers practicing the art, offering the consumer some of the world’s most unique and individualistic vinous specimens. 

But what has come as most surprising to me, perhaps due in large part to my prior admitted bias, are the number of certified “biodynamic” producers from regions once considered far too “modern” for the incorporation of these idealistic measures.  Without getting too far into the whole philosophy, for this brief essay is certainly not intended as a text book on the intricacies of the how’s and why’s of Bio-D, let’s just say that to many in the world of “modern” wine making, the theories of applying various teas to the compost and vines, preceded by burying cow horns full of manure in ones vineyard are viewed as, well, unnecessary (to put it mildly).  But try convincing Madame Leroy that Bio-D is unnecessary.  Or, for that matter, attempt a conversation on the benefits of “modern” versus biodynamic with the likes of Chapoutier or the masterful Zind Humbrecht.  These three masters of their universes would verbally run a “modern” wine-maker, with their pesticides and chemical treatments, right out of the room.

So, as mentioned, it has come as most surprising to me to now find numerous once-modern-dominated wine regions becoming ever increasingly sprinkled with biodynamic wineries.  Places such as California’s Napa Valley now offer we lovers of the biodynamic juice a handful of experimental-minded spirits.  Folks dancing with the moon and burying the horns while still living among neighbors who preach the need for fungicides and tractors include such visionaries as Grgich Hills (who began converting more than a decade ago and now fully practices biodynamic principles) and Robert Sinskey.  Granted that’s not a lot of folks considering the thousands of vineyards in the land of plenty, but hey, until a few days ago, I thought NO ONE was Bio-D way out west.

Another region I never considered potentially biodynamic-ready or willing was Australia.  Sure, I’d heard that several estates were “experimenting”, or that they were singling out “portions of their vineyards” for converting.  Hey, I’m experimenting with Bio-D, too.  Every time we brew a batch of home-made tea, we save the leaves and sprinkle them in the garden.  But that certainly doesn’t qualify me as a “biodynamic winery”, let’s be serious, OK?  But just as I was stunned to discover the folks in California, so too was my surprise as I came across a handful of truly Bio-D purists from the land down under.  In particular, again, way out west, my research uncovered one winery specifically that I’m most eager to try: Cullen, from the Margaret River region.  Having been certified biodynamic since 2004, this sounds like precisely the type of estate whose wines I’d like the chance to review.

I suppose the point of this research roundup is as much a reminder as it is a compilation.  A reminder to continue watching the horizon for upcoming releases in the ever expanding world of biodynamic wines.  And a brief compilation of what folks can expect from our new family business as we move forward with our plans of a gourmet wine shop in Richmond Virginia:

(Below is a very, very, very short list of some of the producers you will find in our new venture.  Some we have already engaged in conversation, others we will begin discussions with soon.  This is the first of MANY lists to come…)

  • Domaine Rossignol Trapet (Burgundy)
  • Coulee de Serrant (Nicolas Joly) (Loire Valley)
  • Montirius (Rhone Valley)
  • Lopez de Heredia (Rioja)
  • Terras Gauda (Rias Baixas)
  • Cotturi Winery & La Cruz de Comal (Toni Cotturi) (CA, TX)
  • Paul Dolan (CA, Mendocino)
  • Shinn Estate Vineyards (NY, Long Island)
  • Cullen (Margaret River, AU)
  • Nikolaihof (Austria)
  • Domaine Jean Bourdy (Jura)
  • Clos Saron (CA, Sierra Foothills)
  • Antiyal (Maipo)
  • Movia (Slovenia)
  • Lark Hill Winery (Canberra, AU)
  • Seresin Estate (NZ)
  • Millton (NZ)

I trust you’ll enjoy the ride as much as we’ve enjoyed this initial building process.  Bringing the world of biodynamic producers to the eager and curious wine lovers of America will be our passion as much as it is our dream and our job.  Stay tuned, we’ve only just begun!

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier

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A Tale of Biodynamics, Feiring and the Death of the Chronicle

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Blog Update #72 A Tale of Biodynamics, Feiring and the Death of the Chronicle

The power of the bio-dynamic wine movement first revealed itself as I witnessed a surge in my social network connections that can only be described as unprecedented.  On the 1st of May, I was leisurely working away on my latest business plan, content but far from satisfied at my less than 200 followers at twitter, where I go by the “handle” of Chambertin.  I made a decision that day to get serious about the business plan, motivated in part by the untimely announcement that my dear wife, too, had fallen victim to this current economy.  With both of us now out of work, it was definitely time to ramp up my efforts.

Those who know me, those who’ve read a blog post or newsletter from the past decade or so know: when I write, I have a LOT to say.  Writing, composing my thoughts, requires time.  And when I decide to share my ideas, ideals and passions through the written word, the pages begin to pile.  Lucky for me, that’s precisely the sort of handicap that works in one’s favor when composing a serious business plan.  The more expertise, devotion and research apparent between the covers, the better.  And I had just reached the section devoted to our product selection criteria.

This was when everything began to change for our new business venture.

I took to composing my views on the products we will carry with the same passion I had always tried to convey in our previous wine shop.  The full list of product selection criteria, known to us as our Mission Statement, may be viewed at the blog under the Philosophies tab (https://cepagenoir.wordpress.com/philosophies/).  Our aim with our new direct to the consumer business is to offer to the market these wonderful organic and bio-dynamic wines we’ve discovered over the years, direct from the wineries, with no middleman.  But first, I needed to describe in great detail, for the eventual readers of the business plan, precisely WHAT our wines would be.  That Philosophies section was born from the pages of the business plan.  So, too, was my next step.

I decided to begin searching the Internet for like-minded folk; authors, bloggers, wine-makers, wine-drinkers, basically anyone who shared with us this passion for the bio-dynamic world.  I began with one of my vinous heroes, Alice Feiring, naturally, for it was her book, “The Battle for Wine and Love” that convinced me in the first place that I wasn’t alone in this quest.  I began to link her updates to my twitter page, along with any others mentioning the bio-dynamic world.  The results were like nothing I could have ever anticipated in my wildest dreams.

Today is the 6th of May and I am taking a short break from the business plan to compose this brief blog post.  Not only to compose this post, but to announce that in this short span of a few days, while I have busily worked on the plan and posted bio-dynamic oriented newsletters and such to my twitter page, my followers have jumped from less than 200 to MORE THAN 1,000!  The bio-dynamic brother/sister-hood is one of the most active, real and tangible movements in the wine world today.  For anyone who remains a skeptic, you are truly missing the train!

Oh, and as for the Death of the Chronicle thing, I was referring to the local paper. 

Through the research and development phase of this business plan we’re in, one point has become increasingly clear: Bordeaux is dead.  The vast majority of the wine buyers today, the people who actually drive the industry, the people who truly fill the shopping carts and DRINK wine, are affectionately referred to as the “emerging” consumers.  Emerging consumers, according to studies we’ve read in articles by Forbes, WineBusiness and Silicon Valley Bank, simply don’t care about the $50 and up price point where the vast majority of Classified Bordeaux hangs it hat.  And the bio-dynamic world, so far as WE’VE found, hasn’t made a dent in this section of France (I’m open for corrections if anyone has any).

So it was with a chuckle that I opened my weekly Chronicle (Houston) to see yet another article written by the local wine writer on behalf of the behemoth local liquor chain.  In this article, the paper interviews the giant liquor chain, asking them their advice on Bordeaux futures.  I literally laughed out loud.  The advice quoted was worthless, so 1990s, completely out of touch with reality and the prices quoted SO over-priced (please, someone tell these guys about wine-searcher.com) that to even consider the piece anything other than “fluff” would render the reader numb. 

Dear Chronicle, R.I.P.

As I re-engage the business plan today, and begin anew the building of this bio-brother/sister-hood, I reconfirm our dedication to YOU, the intelligent, serious, curious, emerging wine buyers of America.  We will soon emerge from the cocoon of required re-birth.  And when we do, the beauty of the world’s most unique wines will once again be yours for the asking.

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier