& Interesting Links........
|Beatriz Vidal is a painter and children's
book illustrator from Argentina, who lives part of each year in
New York. Beatriz and I worked on a couple of stories together,
including Federico and the Gift of the Magi. Her sense of color
and design is bold and magical.
For a look at her ravishing images, go
Deborah Miller's blog is one of the liveliest in the Triangle!
a website cataloging culinary schools around the U.S.
John Mariani's Virtual Gourmet
newsletter: If a cool new spot opens anywhere in the U.S., John
has likely dined there--
a website for those interested in culinary professions >
Check out his lively newsletter so you'll know where to go!
Louis Marmon's wine blog
Appellation America --
for news about
regional American and California wines, see this comprehensive site
also Articles & Wine Reviews by B.E.
-- Hart Davis Hart Wine Co., a wine auction house based in
Chicago, also operates a retail
website. "I like to say we sell drinkable wines," says President
Paul Hart. "A majority of them have some bottle age and
are ready to drink, after being stored under ideal conditions."
If you're looking for a particular wine or vintage--check out this site.
Collectors and Value Seekers: Current and upcoming auctions at
HDH are offering some excellent buys--worth checking out for holiday
gift-giving. Click on the link above.
www.patriciawells.com -- Pat Wells cooking
classes in Paris and Provence
Metro Magazine -- B.E.'s
wine column: Cork Report
Place -- wine and food, including B.E.'s
Forces Of Universe Improve Wines: Biodynamics
By Barbara Ensrud
is the “heartfelt” month. Wine is healthy for the heart, as we know, in
moderation. Healthy vines produce even healthier wines — more honest,
more balanced, free of additives — and they taste good!
The wave of
vineyards worldwide going organic is major, verging on tsunamic. Once
we were leery of wines from organic grapes — and, admittedly, early
ones seemed a little off-kilter. As top profile winemakers turned to
organically grown grapes, however, quality and flavor began to shine.
Taste Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir, Bonterra Viognier, Frey Cabernet
Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blancs from Frog’s Leap or Patianna, Coppola’s
Rubicon and dozens of others — many exceptional, as their critical
ratings and awards confirm.
But there is an even more intriguing,
somewhat mysterious, definitely controversial move in wine-growing and
wine-making that is beyond organic: biodynamics.
The difference: organic vineyards are farmed without using pesticides,
herbicides or chemical fertilizers.
takes organic principles further than simply do no harm. Through
labor-intensive practices, biodynamic growers actually replenish the
soil with natural organic preparations that — here’s the somewhat
mystical and controversial part — attract cosmic influences that
unleash the life forces in the earth and the plants. “So the earth may
be healed,” wrote Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the Austrian philosopher,
scientist and visionary who laid down biodynamic principles for farming
in the early 20th century, paving the way for the eco-movement in this
Some of the techniques do seem a little bizarre:
• stuffing a cowhorn with cow manure or ground quartz and burying it at
the equinox for six months
• fermenting yarrow flowers in a deer’s bladder
• adding the juices of chamomile flowers or dandelion to compost
• spraying horsetail tea on vine foliage to prevent fungus
and other biodynamic “preps” are mixed with spring water, stirred
vigorously for one hour to intensify their potency, then sprayed on the
soil, enhancing root systems and soil fertility — in effect boosting
the immune system of the vine to better withstand onslaught from pests,
weeds and disease. Sheep are kept to mow cover crops in spring, their
little feet also aerating the soil. Nesting boxes for bluebirds and
purple swallowtails help control insects.
Astonishingly, it appears
to work — growers find not only stronger vines, but also positive
effects on wine aromas and flavors. “Biodynamics deals with how we
might seek to harmonize our farming practices with the subtle forces of
the universe,” said innovative winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon,
“following the astronomical calendar, availing ourselves of free cosmic
fertilizer, you might say.”
It all might seem a bit “woo-woo” except
for the fact that some of the most prestigious wine estates in the
world have embraced biodynamic practices — Domaines Leroy, Leflaive,
Dujac, Comte Lafon in Burgundy, Zind-Humbrecht, the top name in Alsace,
M. Chapoutier in the Rhône and numerous others. Biodynamic
Europe — both in foodstuffs and wine — is huge and growing. And it is
gaining adherents in this country too.
recently visited one of California’s newest biodynamic estates,
Truett-Hurst, in Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg in Sonoma County. In
Dry Creek’s rushing waters and rocky bed, trout flourish and salmon
come 50 miles inland from the Pacific to spawn. You can see them from
“We draw water from the creek and sit here stirring our
preps in half barrels,” said Ginny Lambrix, winemaker and partner at
Truett-Hurst. “The hour goes by quickly.”
Planting, cultivating and
harvesting according to lunar cycles and astrological influences also
plays a significant role in biodynamic farming. The 14 acres of
Zinfandel and Petite Sirah were scheduled for planting when Lambrix
came aboard in July 2008. “I was so eager to get the vineyard going,”
she said, as we stood among the young vines. It was already late to
start planting, but the lunar phase was wrong.
“I was really nervous
having to wait, but the very week they would have started to germinate,
we had a terrific heat spike — it would have fried those little plants!
A week later, things cooled down with perfect conditions for planting.”
… it’s as if the universe, in its movement about the galaxy, “knows”
far more than we can imagine; there are forces at work whether or not
scientists can see or prove their existence. Why not? We can’t “see”
magnetic or electric forces, but we can see the effects of them. And as
growers see the results of working with their plot of earth, treating
it as the living organism it is, using preparations to nourish and
revitalize it, they’re convinced. And on a much tinier scale, I am as
Paul Dolan, one of the pioneering biodynamic proponents at
Dark Horse Vineyards in California kindly sent me a manure-stuffed
cowhorn last spring. Buried the previous fall, it had turned into rich,
black, particle-fine soil. I roped two friends into helping me stir it
in five gallons of spring water, 20 minutes each, creating the deep
vortex of swirling water that synergizes all the elements. It worked
amazingly fast on my compost pile, and I noticed that where I sprayed
it on my flower and herb beds, the seeds germinated well and the plants
had stronger stems. It seems to help amend my sticky red clay areas
quite nicely too.
I won’t garden without these aids now. If it
interests you, Google the Josephine Porter Institute in Virginia. They
stock horned manure and other biodynamic mixtures you can buy.
search out one of the recommended wines [below] to share with your
heart’s delight on Valentine’s Day. It may work some magic for both of
Wine Buys of the Month
All of these wines are organically or biodynamically grown.
If you don’t find them in stock locally, stores can order them. All are
Prices are approximate retail.
Bonterra Syrah, Mendocino, $17
also: Bonterra dry Rosé, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
Ca’ del Solo Albariño, California, $18-20
Casa Lapostolle Merlot, Chile, $20
Château Bousquette St. Chinian (dry rosé), $15
Domaine des Cèdres Côte-du-Rhône,
Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Meysonniers,
$30 many, if not all, Chapoutier wines are biodynamic
King Estate Pinot Gris, Oregon, $17, Pinot Noir,
Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verzé,
$31 Leflaive is 100% biodynamic
Paul Dolan Zinfandel, Mendocino,
$20 also: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet
Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir, Carneros, $35
Sauvignon Blancs : Frog’s Leap,
Patianna, Paul Dolan,
Truett-Hurst Zinfandel Three Vineyards,
$25 a new estate in Sonoma; 100% biodynamic
Kreydenweiss Perrières France, $15
Pierre Morey Meursault France, $95-$130
Jolivet Pouilly-Fumé Loire,
$22 also Sancerre
Torino CUMA Malbec Argentina, $13
Rapitala Nero d'Avola Sicily, $14
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