Monday, January 31, 2005

A Bennett Valley vineyard experiment

Mary and Wells Wagner were some of the first people I encountered in Sonoma County experimenting with biodynamics. That was 6 or so years ago, and at that time they were giving the system “a good college try”. While I’d heard at the time that Wells had expressed some doubts about the systems requirements, he’d committed to following it to a “T”, and hold off on judgment until he saw the results.

I’ve included an
article here about the attempt back in ’99 to go biodynamic at their vineyard.

Also included is their more recent
grower profile from the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association.
There are two items of note in this profile. First, that when asked to describe his philosophy he responds -
“To farm as "light" as possible (reduce pesticide use) and maintain a high quality crop. My goal is to leave the land in better shape than it was when I bought it.” (notice that he didn’t say Biodynamic…gee I wonder why?...)
Second is his response to “What was your worst horror story in grape growing?”…”Trying to change to biodynamic farming in 1 year and the vineyard had more mildew than I had ever experienced before.” Nice…what other hidden benefits await?
(Steiner would – according to Joly – ask “why is the fungi up out of the earth? That is it’s normal area of influence. Something must be out of balance to bring the fungi upwards. There is too much ‘solar’ influence, we must rebalance with the opposing ‘earth’ force…”)

Perhaps most of the conflict when talking about BioD arises from that distinction: to farm lightly with little if any pesticide use is commonly referred to as BioD, when in reality biodynamics is much different. I would think that most people are enamored by the ideal of farming lightly, but wonder what they’d think if they ever read Steiner or Joly? This is all too confusing with many different philosophies trying to use the same descriptor…

So, I’ll propose a new term: “Hera-tic”. A Hera-tic would be someone who finds BioD agricultural practices relating to phases of Jupiters’ moons (as an example) to be laughable, while still espousing a system of organic farming without dependence on chemicals (in fact trying to minimize/eliminate those chemicals altogether).
I’ve chosen the name, other than for the ironic homonymic relation to heretic, due to the fact that Hera (as wife of Zeus) outranks Demeter (chosen as the name of the biodynamic accreditation organization).
When questioned in the future by BioD fanatics “Do you practice biodynamics?”, the person can proudly reply “Why no, I’m a Hera-tic”.



Blogger Tom said...

If you keep this up someone is going to get the impression you have little faith in Biodynamics.

But speaking of Bennett Valley, this is I think an appellation that is really the kind we want in California. It is small with a consistent climate from one end to the next. And there is lots of evidence that great wines can be made out there beginning with the fantastic Merlot that Matazas Creek made from their estate grapes in the 80s and 90s.

good post.

January 31, 2005 5:01 PM  

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