MWWC#4: My Brush with the Biodynamic*

Biodynamic wine.  Apparently, this is a touchy issue in the wine world, and I’m not going to poke that bear.  I don’t have a beef with biodynamic winemaking, I just don’t get it. Which is a little annoying, because I’ve tasted biodynamic wines that are exceptional.  Are they exceptional because they’re biodynamic?  Dunno.  I can’t wrap my brain around it. Biodynamic wine reminds me of an eccentric uncle — a little left of weird, but probably harmless.


So what’s the difference between organic and biodynamic wine?  Biodynamic wine isn’t organic, it’s über-organic.  Organic wine is made with certified organically grown grapes and no added sulfites, chemicals, or additives.   Biodynamic wine does all that and throws in astrology and lunar cycles.

Seriously.  Nancy Reagan would LOVE this stuff.

I come from a long line of farmers, so I get the farming part.  But you lose me when you start talking about harnessing the energy of the sun and moon (with what? a lasso?).  Recently, I read a description on a biodynamic wine label that said this:

Biodynamic farming is a practice that encourages agriculture based on the cycles of the planets and moon . . . which provide an avenue for the vine to recover its natural state of equilibrium and harmony. 

Right.  I have no idea what that means.

My first brush with biodynamic winemaking came a few years ago, on a tour of the vineyards at Sea Smoke Cellars in the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County, CA.  I just didn’t know I was brushing with biodynamic winemaking.

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If you know anything about Sea Smoke Cellars, you know they make exceptional wines.  They don’t have a tasting room and they don’t offer tours.  So how did I get a tour of the vineyards?  I know people.  Well, that’s not true . . . I know people who know people.

Sea Smoke is a rock star, and I admit to being a little star struck as we walked through the vineyards.  The vineyard manager (I can’t remember his name, so I’ll call him Carl – Carl Spackler) had a bottle of Sea Smoke Chardonnay tucked under his arm that was pulling my focus.  That’s not just a prop — that’s for opening and sharing, right??

As Carl walked us through the vineyards, he told us all about the grapes and the terroir.  If you’ve ever had a bottle of Sea Smoke, you know they have some good terroir.

The tour went something like this . . .

One of the most important things we do here at Sea Smoke to nurture our terroir is fertilize.  We collect the dung of female cows . . . female cow dung offers a more favorable energy to the vines and encourages their growth and sustainability.

Wait.  Did he just say they collect female cow shit?

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The female dung is segregated into piles for composting.  Once the compost process is complete, we dilute it with water and spray the vineyards with it, thereby harnessing the full power of nature.

What the?  You can harness nature with female cow shit??

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And then Carl turned his attention to the Dark Lord of the vineyard:  Gophers.

Gophers cause extensive damage in a vineyard.  So we trap the gophers in our vineyard.  The gophers are killed, planked and burned.  These are now enhanced gophers.  We spread the enhanced gopher ashes over the vineyard during the winter solstice, and this scares off other gophers.

I’m pretty sure I saw Professor Snape enhance some gophers in Defense Against the Dark Arts class at Hogwarts.

So there you have it . . . in the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre, Au revoir, gophers.

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So now I’m singing the song from Caddyshack in my head while picturing Severus Snape flying through the vineyard flinging enhanced gopher ashes out of his wand.

And then it happened . . . I laughed.  Out loud.

And Carl shot me some highly-annoyed school-teacher side-eye.

OMG he’s serious!!


I just insulted Sea Smoke.  There goes my allocation.

Carl was a good sport (in that he ignored me), and we got to taste that bottle of Chardonnay he had tucked under his arm.  It tasted like sunshine . . . with a hint of toasted gopher on the back end.

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Carl, you guys make some superb wine.  If you need to spray your vineyards with energized cow poo, and offer midnight gopher sacrifices to appease the wine gods . . . knock yourselves out.

But I still don’t get it.


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