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Biodynamic wine forum

November 12, 2007 |  5:28 pm

Alanyork1790Biodynamic viticulture is oh-so-cool in California right now. It's ultra-organic, mildly metaphysical and full of buzz that helps sell the wine. And it might just be for real. I've been tasting biodynamic wines from Alsace, Alto Adige and Burgundy, European regions where the holistic approach to making wine is firmly established, and many of the wines have a vibrancy that can be almost electric.

At last Friday's Biodynamics Forum "Biodynamics in American Wine" at the Presidio Officers Club in San Francisco, more than 300 members of the press and wine industry insiders gathered to listen to a keynote panel of long-standing believers in biodynamics, including viticultural consultant Alan York (pictured); Paul Dolan, Mendocino Wine Co.; Katrina Fetzer, Ceago; Mike Benziger, Benziger; Doug Tunnell, Brickhouse Wines; and Dave Koball, Bonterra Vineyards. The panelists are united in their belief that for the U.S. biodynamic movement to gain credibilty, vintners need to move from experimentation to certification by Demeter, the international organization that has established standards for biodynamic farming. The movement's often faith-based practices -- yes, this is the group that plants cow horns filled with manure and tends vineyards according to the phases of the moon -- are difficult to follow in the disciplined manner dictated by Demeter. In other words, it's a lot easier to talk about biodynamic viticultural than to practice it. Which brings me to the last person to join the panel, Randall Grahm, president of Bonny Doon Vineyard. In his inimitably charming way, Grahm added his thoughts on how biodynamics enhances the expression of terroir in wine. The problem is that he's been talking about biodynamics and the importance of terroir for years ... and he hasn't practiced many of the things he's been preaching. In the last year, though, he's changed his vineyard practices to hew closer to what he says. And, yes, he says, certification by Demeter is the goal.

-- Corie Brown

Photo by M.J. Wickham