Defining Biodynamic: Rudy Marchesi and Three Montinore Pinot Noir #OregonWineMonth


“Biodynamic® agriculture is a philosophy and methodology that views a farm as a self-sustaining ecosystem entirely responsible for creating and maintaining its individual health and vitality without any external and unnatural additions. It is one of the most sustainable forms of agriculture, creating healthier food for healthier people and a healthier planet.”

This is how Demeter defines biodynamics, and this is how Rudy Marchesi and Montinore has practiced their farming since before 2002 when they were first certified. Today, Rudy Marchesi and Montinore are definitive leaders in biodynamic practices in the wine industry  in the United States and the world; their 248 acre biodynamic farmed estate wines certified by Demeter is the largest in the United States.

I heard Rudy speak several times during last year’s Biodynamic Wine Symposium where he led panels, responded to speakers, and spoke about why and how Montinore is biodynamic. For a hint, take a close look at the label — the large M has roots depicting their commitment to what’s below ground as well as what is above. I also love how the color gets deeper as the roots go deeper!  This also reflects how the soils of a biodynamic farm are “spongier” and they absorb and retain more moisture.

At one of the early sessions at the conference, Rudy Marchesi said that by turning to biodynamics, he turned around a failing winery that had a lot of problems with the soils, specifically high ph. Doing biodynamics, he saw it come down without doing anything differently.  The wines had better aromatics and color also. Today, they’ve been farming for over 15 years biodynamically.

“Costs aren’t different, results are good, why not?” said Montinore’s Rudy Marchesi. “Plus the land gets better every year.”

photo of Rudy Marchesi, Montinore Estate  courtesy of Montinore

As he converted 240 acres in Willamette Valley, Marchesi faced  many challenges, including convincing his Spanish speaking crew, so they offered class on biodynamics in Spanish, but it was all worth it.

“We have a paradise for biodynamics, we have healthy soils, almost no rain, wines are recieving good scores around the world,” reported Marchesi at the International Biodynamic Wine Symposium in May 2018.


Montinore Estate Organic and Biodynamic Wines

  • 2015 “Red Cap” Willamette Valley OR Pinot Noir SRP $24
  • 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir Montinore Estate SRP $35
  • 2013 Cataclysm Montinore Estate Pinot Noir SRP $50

Because these wines are so special, I wanted to pair them with something special. When I had the opportunity at the Ventura Harbor Fish market to buy Santa Barbara Channel Sea Bass, I bought $50 worth, then found this menu featuring sea bass with Pinot Noir. I sent the link along to Sue, who of course told me EZ PZ, and we were set.


  • Charcuterie: duck liver pate, Dorothy’s Comeback cow brie, Marcona truffle almonds
  • Fresh Santa Barbara Channel Seabass
  • Horse Radish Gratin
  • Thyme Crushed Peas
  • Mushroom Buerre Rouge
  • Cafe Ficelle raisin sourdough
  • Strawberries on spring greens salad

The complexity of flavors and beautiful presentation made this recipe a smash hit at the table tonight. Marshall loved the peas, I felt that the wilted spinach could have been by passed, however Sue felt that it added another layer of important flavor, an earthy green to the dish. The rich creaminess of the meal loved all three pinot noir on the table tonight.

2015 “Red Label” Willamette Valley OR Pinot Noir SRP $24
Sample for my review consideration.

What a great wine for the price! Nice complexity and it would make a an excellent restaurant wine by the glass or the bottle.

Color: Like a faded rose, pink with a touch of coral, pale pink rim.

Nose: Nice complexity, cedar, sandalwood, cigar box, very woodsy, violets, spicy carnation, clove, rhubarb, fresh wild strawberries, raspberry, very appealing.

Palate: L
ight in body with a nice balance between fruit and acidity, cherry cola, cherry phosphate, huckleberry, red currant, mulberry, with a clean acidity on the back of the palate.

Pairing: G
reat with all  of the charcuterie, agrees with everything. By dinner, the wine opened up a bit more and become more expressive, with more of the fruit coming out. Admittedly, our palates also opened up. The mushrooms were amazing.

We were hesitant to dig into the sea bass because it was so beautifully presented. The richness of the sea bass loves the Pinot Noir.  Sue loved the peas best, and she is not always a pea fan; they worked perfectly with the meal. The buerre blanc and the mushrooms were fabulous with the wine, Sue did not think that horseradish in the recipe would work, however it was a nice addition to the  gratin. Marshall was over the moon with the peas. They reminded me of the mushy peas from England.

From the strawberry salad to the main meal, this wine was perfect for the menu tonight.

2015 Reserve Pinot Noir Montinore Estate 13.4% alc SRP $38
Sample for my review consideration. 

This wine is designed to exemplify the year’s harvest.

Color: Dusty rose, on the mauve side, very pale, not bright, muted.

Nose: F
ruit and florals are forefront on the nose, followed by forest floor.

Palate: M
edium bodied, clean, mouthwatering, lingering beautiful finish. Nicely balanced acidity. Very satisfying experience. There is fruit, but it is not fruit forward.

: I found the truffle marcona almonds to be very satisfying with the wine, and Sue did not disagree The spices in the pate brings out a wonderful richness in the wine. It went well with the salt cured olives. Sue liked it with the pate alone, and with the cheese alone, but when she combined them which is one of our favorites, she did not like it as well.

When you get a hint of the horseradish with the potatoes, there is an earthy element to the food which becomes bright and exciting when paired with the wine.

2013 Cataclysm Montinore Estate Pinot Noir 13.5% alc SRP $50
On sale now for $35.
Purchased at the winery during a sponsored trip with an industry discount.  

Cataclysm refers to the Missoula Flood, the largest flood that ever occurred on Earth. Over 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age as many as 25 of these massive floods, most many times more powerful than the Amazon River with a maximum flow of 80 MPH, scoured the banks and carried along debris, depositing it at the ends of its paths. The Willamette Valley was formed by this event and the soils there reflect it, including the soils of one particular block at Montinore, the best of which go into this wine.

Color: Dr. Pepper, richer darker brown, coral rim.

I picked up Dr. Pepper on the nose, and Sue found a sulphuric funk right away. The nose is muted, but keeps you coming back for more. The nose on this wine is much more subtle than the other two. Amber woodsy, cigar box, cherry snuff, violets, forest floor.

The fruit is present, and for a 2013, it still tastes fresh and lively. The individual flavors are kind of muted but the acidity is bright and vibrant, with huckleberry, cranberry, pomegranate dominant. I picked up blood orange on the finish, even a bit of chocolate, like those Christmas chocolate oranges that are in the shape of chocolate and infused with orange oils. After this suggestion Sue thought of Fernat-Branca. With the other two wines I really wanted to get to food quickly but on this one, Sue and I just wanted to hang with it a  while and enjoy the complexities of the wine before we moved on.

Both Sue and I had a wow moment when visiting the pate, and then when we both tasted it with the cheese we were over the moon, it brought out such wonderful fruit in the wine with such a lovely creamy mouthfeel. That pairing makes you come back for more. It easily tackled the salt cured olive making the finish of the wine linger even a bit longer. I imagined squash, pumpkin seeds, or stuffed squash dishes to compliment the wine. Sue just couldn’t wait to get to the mushrooms, thinking that a creamy mushroom risotto would be fabulous.

With the food, this wine brings it to a completely different level. It was elevating to the entire meal and the meal brought out such wonderful richness in the wine. It was like experiencing a beautiful tango. The food and the wine danced back and forth complimenting each other through the entire dance.

This is another great wine for the price point. High end Pinot Noir can often run much more than $50. This wine is a great bang for the buck.

It seemed that everything on our Charcuterie was complex and textural which went nicely with the complexity in each of these wines.

“Love, love, loved this meal with our wines,” said Sue. “What a fabulous experience.”


Still to come: more about Montinore — a visit to the Estate plus two unusual wines…

And check out these biodynamic wineries and pairings from the May Wine Pairing Weekend group of bloggers.

One thought on “Defining Biodynamic: Rudy Marchesi and Three Montinore Pinot Noir #OregonWineMonth

  1. Now I unnderstand biodynamics meaning much better. All of these sound amazingly full of life. No reason for me not to try “Red Lable”. The nose sounds fabulous to experience. You know how I can reall enjoy the nose on wines. I’m crazy for mushrooms, so this vegetarian is dreamy of that delectable combo.


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