There was a lot Steiner and his compatriots did not know in 1924. What they did know was that the new chemical farming strategies that were taking over the world were destroying the land and our food. They may not have known why, but they knew something was wrong. At least they had the courage to seek a solution.
Our job as biodynamic farmers is to continue the experiments as he requested until we find why biodynamics works, which it does.
There is something clearly working here and in the face of climate change we better figure out what works.
Striving for Demeter certification is like a jazz musician practicing scales over and over again. It is only after they master their instrument that they can improvise and truly create something new.
So writes Craig Camp in his recent and evocative essay “Looking at Steiner in the Rearview Mirror” — the Steiner in the title is the “father” of biodynamics, Rudolf Steiner.
April is Earth Month, and the Wine Pairing Weekend crew and I invite you celebrate the earth by going green with your wine selection — scroll down to see titles and find links to our suggestions!
And if you ask me, the best way to do that is by choosing biodynamic wines.
As Steiner noticed back int he 1920s, chemical farming was destroying our food — and the planet. And as Craig Camp points out, contemporary commercial farming also contributes heavily to climate change.
Producing biodynamic wines costs significantly more than commercial wines (about 15%), and even more than organic wines. The costs of certification add up as well, and the process can feel arduous and endless. But for more and more consumers, it is worth paying a premium to purchase a wine that is biodynamic and certified as well.
One way to get around the high cost of high quality biodynamic wines is to look outside Napa and other well known wine regions.
Give a swirl to wines from areas like lesser known Applegate Valley in Oregon home of newly certified biodynamic Troon where Craig Camp works. Below we discuss wines from California regions like Lake county, located just north of Napa, and El Dorado County, located in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento and West of Lake Tahoe which we paired with:
- various cheeses
- fresh organic tomatoes and mozzarella ball son rosemary skews drizzled with balsamic and sprinkled with black salt,
- simple organic green salad,
- organic pasta with locally sourced and made sausages
2014 – Beaver Creek Vineyards – Fairytale – Cabernet Sauvignon – Horne Ranch – Lake County, California – 14.4% alcohol SRP$29; 900 cases
I purchased this wine at the winery in September 2017 with an industry discount.
What most people don’t realize about Lake County is that it used to be part of Napa County: Lake was carved out of the northern part of Napa. One of the defining features of Napa is Mount Saint Helena, and Horne Ranch sits at 1000′ in the shadow of that mountain with a unique mix of rich volcanic soil and mountain valley loam.
The Reserve is infused with crystals, and retails for $39:
Color: So deep and dense, you cannot see the bottom of the glass. Super deep maroon, totally opaque. Ruby rim, jewel tone.
Nose: Super ripe cherry, plum, cigar box, sandalwood. graphite, pepper, field of fennel. In a stemless Reidel cab glass, there is so much forest, pine forest, resins of frankincense, cedar, amber.
I want to wear this as a perfume! I want to be embedded in this scent! Can I get my sheets to smell like this?
Palate: Smooth and mineral rich with nice ripe fruit, a chalkiness reminds of cocoa powder as well as bentonite clay. There is a drying quality from the minerality, not the tannins or oak treatment. The stemless reidel glass brings out more fruit in the wine, tames the chalkiness, and offers cola. There is still a bit of dry mouth feel, but it is tamed so much more.
Pairing: Not fabulous with a creamy blue cheese alone but might be great if a burger was involved! The blue cheese brought out some Dr. Pepper notes in the wine.
A winner with the tomato and mozzarella cheese skewers.
I’d love this wine with a rack of lamb with rosemary or even a burger with a sprig of rosemary on it. When Sue makes a tri tip, she marinates it in olive oil, salt, pepper, and tons of fresh rosemary and then cooks it on the grill, This would be a perfect pair with that. John wanted Sue’s rosemary oven fries with the wine. It was fantastic with the aged English cheddar. When I tasted the wine with the super aged gouda, I got a tomato umami. This is definitely the proper glass with this wine. The wine was so incredible with the sausage marinara sauce. There is a lot of spice in the sausages which handles the spicy and finishes with such a lovely sweetness in the wine. It really works with the wine. There is a nice peppery clove. For dessert, we tried to pair this wine with our chocolate mousse, but it did not work.
2013 – Narrow Gate Vineyards – El Dorado County, California – Syrah – 14.3% alcohol SRP $
Sue bought this wine at an industry discount.
Color: Bright garnet, pretty dense and cloudy, unfined, unfiltered, pink rimmed
Nose: Wild and musky with a sulphuric funk that blows off. Not a lot of fruit on the nose, bright slate like minerals. In a reidel stemless cab glass, there is more of an herbal slatiness and a bit of clay or mud delivery on the palate in this glass.
Palate: So smooth on the palate, it just glides across your tongue with a nice sweetness. There is a prickly acidity on the finish. Nice blue fruit, blueberry, blueberry pie. Sue loves the mouthfeel of this wine. John noticed a grippy bite at the back of the throat. There is a very long lingering finish. The grippy bite changes into a leathery grapiness. While John found tobacco, I felt it was more of a fruity snuff.
Pairing: Surprisingly, I loved it with the honey pistachio cream cheese. It loved the salty crystals and the creaminess of the aged gouda, almost making it like milk chocolate in your mouth. Sue was in heaven with the creamy gorgonzola and I loved it with the rosemary skewers. The musky salt on the skewers went perfectly with the musky characteristics of the wine. All three of us loved the Iberico; the wine and the cheese were very harmonizing together. There is a bit of burn from the spiciness in the sausage. This wine brings out the spicy pepper in the wine. If you are a spicy food lover, this wine brings out the spiciness in the meal. So smooth with our chocolate mousse, and again surprisingly, the mousse was not too sweet for the wine.
Want to learn more about biodynamic wine? Join our chat on twitter this Saturday April 13 at 8am Pacific by following the hashtag #WinePW and check out these blog posts on these topics:
- Jeff of FoodWineClick!: Biodynamics in the Dolomites with Azienda Agricola Foradori
- Nancy of Pull That Cork: Celebrating Biodynamic Viticulture with Montinore Estate Pinot Noir
- Nicole of Somm’s Table: Organic/Biodynamic/Natural: WTF Does It All Mean?????
- David of Cooking Chat: Beef and Lamb Tagine with a Special Wine from Lebanon
- Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog: Beautiful Biodynamic Bubbles: Quartz Reef Méthode Traditionelle Brut
- Pinny of Chinese Food and Wine Pairing: A Wine Lover’s Game Plan in Drinking Well – Biodynamic/Organic/Vegan Wines & Supplements
- Lauren of The Swirling Dervish: A Bottle of Red, A Bottle of White: Biodynamic Wines from Montinore Estate with Dinner Tonight
- Linda of My Full Wine Glass: What’s in a Label? Separating the Certified Biodynamic Wine from the Wannabees
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm: Wine to Celebrate Earth Day
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator: Go Biodynamic this Earth Month with Syrah from Narrow Gate and Cab from Beaver Creek
- Jill of L’Occasion: Bodegas Krontiras: A Biodynamic Expression of Mendoza
- Jennifer of Vino Travels: Biodynamic Wines of the Alto Adige with Alois Lageder
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Seabass Agli Agrumi + Wine from America’s First Demeter-Certified Biodynamic Winery
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Looks like you found some great options! Although it does sound like that first bottle would be better with the burger you mention. Thanks for hosting!
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I’ve been on the prowl for biodynamic wines now for a bit — and Sue too! Once you start looking you’ll find that they are out there! Of course here in California we have so many wineries it’s easier to find them and visit them like we were fortunate to do for this post.
I’ve never heard of either of those wineries. You’re right though, just look outside the famous regions for wines of both quality and value. Thanks for hosting this month, great topic!
They’re both small, and yes, in lesser known areas! Worth checking out! Glad you enjoyed the topic!
Thanks for hosting this event Gwendolyn and for bringing so much education to our discussions.
Thank you Wendy! I’m excited to be learning so much, and thrilled to have the opportunity to share with an interested audience!
Wine infused with amethyst – that’s a new one for me, but I really did enjoy the story behind it, particularly the protective properties attributed to the stone. I wasn’t familiar with either winery you featured but, based on your note, I’m going to track down a couple of bottles. Thanks again for hosting this month – such a rich topic for exploration!
I thought this was really cool about the crystals also! I learned about it when I visited the winery and was really intrigued. I’m glad that we were able to look at this topic in all three groups!
What a wonderful spread of dishes! I’ve had the Merlot from Beaver Creek, and that was delicious, but will now have to search out the Syrah. It’s was interesting to read the backstory on the crystals. Now I know why I’ve always been attracted to amethysts.
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I was amazed at how good his wines were — and affordable, particularly that merlot which we drank a few weeks after I bought it!
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Craig Camp is such a great resource. I always read and re-read his ideas. Also, my grandmother was an archeologist and geologist and believed that modern folks (basically, since the Native Americans) were really missing out stones, rocks, gems and crystals. Thanks for bringing her memory to me in this unexpected moment. Cheers!
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Craig is so awesome! And thank you for sharing about your grandmother!
I didn’t know that Lake County used to be part of Napa County! Thanks for that bit of knowledge and the introduction to your chosen wines. They sound lovely!
Yes, Napa was huge and so was Mendo so they carved Lake out of the adjoining counties… and most of it is still HUGE ancient Clear Lake! And very hilly and mountainous too — very rugged. But where they are growing grapes is very Napa like.
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I think I’ve only had a few wines from Lake County (Hawk & Horse), but I love those!