Monday, October 12, 2009

Mystic Rhythms

"...The more we think we know about
The greater the unknown
We suspend our disbelief, And we are not alone...
We sometimes catch a window, A glimpse of whats beyond
Was it just imagination Stringing us along?
More things than are dreamed about, Unseen and unexplained
We suspend our disbelief, And we are entertained..."

RUSH, Mystic Rhythms 1985
What, didn't anything front-page-worthy happen on Saturday October 10th, leaving the paper scrambling for something to fill the void?
 Kudos to the Press Democrat for giving away yet another front page spread - this time to Biodynamics.

Yet more free press for the Benzigers, and another shot of their comments as fragments left hanging for the public to absorb, without much in the way of explantion of the oddities they practice, and why or why not those practices should work. I do feel Guy Kovner was trying to write something that presented both sides...but it doesn't seem he understood the foundations of Biodynamics himself, or perhaps the editors didn't give him enough space to present it...
More likely it was the first. I doubt many people wold suffer through Steiner's Agriculture lectures if they didn't have to...I almost didn't finish it, and I had reason to read the damned thing! Maybe this reporter wasn't given enough time to research fully.

Shall I go into the multitude of errors he made in his farming philosophy? Maybe, but what I really want to focus on is the way wineries which practice this "spiritual science" -even though it has nothing to do with science- can capitalize on the articles it generates. Witness the quote by Mike Benziger:
“I can't look you in the eye and say it's better,” said Mike Benziger, head of the family-owned winery. “I can say it's different.”
Making biodynamic wine isn't about “technical perfection,” Benziger said. “It's about an authentic vintage, an authentic place.”
Notice that?
See the way in which he disarms you and "doesn't" throw mud in your eye, but then throws mud in your eye at the same time?
It's NOT about it being better...but it IS about BEING BETTER than the rest. The slight is that everything else is NOT AN AUTHENTIC vintage, and doesn't REPRESENT an authentic place

Answer me this Mike Benziger....if Biodynamics is so great, why is it you only bottle up ~30,000 gallons as BD certified and not ALL your production?
Is it because you don't have to risk your entire production volume this way, yet still get all the talking points?

Large companies are starting to take notice of the BD movement, and are looking to remove your talking points! For example, I have heard from several sources within Kendall-Jackson that they (one last year, and again this harvest) are now starting to farm using Biodynamic methods. I doubt they will convert their whole vineyard empire over to the practice, or even to get the certification, but undoubtedly they will have a few blocks they can use as a talking point. There are a few articles out in the past about how the Jackson empire had approached Biodynamics years ago [Alice Feiring], but passed on the idea of implementing it at the time.

Hopefully this move by large companies will sully the image enough for the "true believers" to abandon their odd ideas...
Read the article by Smith & Barquín at Fine Wine listing well thought out criticism of the movement, and link here to follow up on it with the comments.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with my past posts about the subject [link here].

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Anonymous Josh said...

I've talked to folks on the vineyard side at KJ and can confirm that they have been taking Bio-D classes and are certainly looking into it.

Still there are other, better ways to get your name and brands in the paper. Like winning horse races. :-)

October 12, 2009 9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can tell you TFE (Sutter Home) has been farming some of its Napa Vineyards with BD practices - cow horn of crap and all.

October 12, 2009 10:53 AM  
Blogger dougsmith said...

Thanks, Vini. We also have another similar article in Skeptical Inquirer here:

I also highly recommend Joe Eskenazi's article in SF Weekly, called "Voodoo on the Vine":

October 12, 2009 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's NOT about it being better...but it IS about BEING BETTER than the rest. The slight is that everything else is NOT AN AUTHENTIC vintage, and doesn't REPRESENT an authentic place"

Wow- talk about an absolute lack of journalistic ethics or integrity: you castigate the reporter, then go ahead and put words on Benziger's mouth that he very clearly never uttered. Best to step back and give your "writing" a deep re-assessment, before you dig yourself an even deeper, more embarrassing hole...

October 12, 2009 1:20 PM  
Anonymous 1WineDude said...

Anyone who quotes RUSH is awesome in my book!

October 12, 2009 2:43 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Anon (second one...):

The implications of Msr.Benziger's comments are obvious...he's saying that other wines AREN'T about "authenticity" [another straw man topic that I've posted on], either on the subject of vintage-to-vintage variation, or "terroir", "placeness", or whatever word it is you choose to talk about the concept of a wine showing some traits that are associated with the area it was produced in. What he implies is that BioD IS the path to that end...

BTW (and this should've been quite obvious to one as astute as you), I'm NOT a journalist. But I have worked for quite a few years in the wine industry.
My ethics are my own, though I do try to keep an even keel. The reporter in this case didn't show us much on the negative side of the equation. In fact so many of the ready arguments against the system are missing it leads me to doubt he had much more than a passing familiarity of BioD. Or perhaps his editors "softened" the critics' arguments he would have otherwise included. That he didn't mention the odd preparations being fermented in dead animal organs/tissue/skulls, or the idea of DYNAMIZATION of these fermented composts materials in huge quantities of water and stirred in vortex manner, then reversed, and again, ad nauseum, for an hour...etc. There are many, many points that detractors have brought to bear against BioD. Where are they in this article?

The reporter could have included any of these and been much closer to the heart of what [we] critics object to.

Good night and good luck.

October 12, 2009 4:36 PM  
Anonymous el jefe said...

I recently buried a rubber chicken full of poo (not sure what kind, but it was steaming) in our vineyard. That's the only talking point I need...

October 12, 2009 7:13 PM  

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