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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

10 Biodynamic Wines We Dig

For the unfamiliar, the philosophies behind biodynamic winemaking can seem a little too left of center. Biodynamic farmers take a holistic approach, work their land based on the lunar calendar and use miniscule amounts of fermented herbs and manure in place of chemical fertilizers. The principles behind biodynamic farming were born out of the 1924 lectures of philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner who believed that healthier crops come from nourishing the entire ecosystem around a plant, not just the plant itself. Today, winemakers are among the many farmers around the world that are taking Steiner’s methods more seriously.

Interested in seeing these ideas put into practice, we recently visited the Montinore Estate in the northwest corner of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Nestled into the coastal foothills, Montinore was conventionally farmed until 2006 when new owner Rudy Marchesi began converting the vineyards one-by-one. Today, all 230 acres are certified biodynamic by Demeter USA, the American arm of the international crediting agency, Demeter. Assisted by biodynamic consultant Philippe Arminiere, Marchesi applies the various biodynamic principles including cow horn-fermented manure, chamomile-stuffed hog casings and valerian flower water either directly to the vines in tiny amounts (50 grams of manure can be diluted in enough water to spray an entire acre) or in enriched compost, with the phases of the moon helping determine when to plant, cultivate and harvest crops. Here are 10 biodynamic wines from estates around the world that offer delicious expressions of the thriving ecosystem around them.

Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio Dolomiti 2008
Northern Italian winemaker Alois Lageder began experimenting with biodynamic farming in the 1990s and in 2004 converted all of his vineyards. This Pinot Grigio is rich and flavorful with light honey aromas and notes of white flowers, orange zest and sweet spice.

Brick House Pinot Noir “Les Dijonnais” 2008
The Dijon-clone Pinot Noir for this elegant wine comes from a single nine-acre parcel of biodynamically farmed land in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Bright, red cherry flavors are balanced by snappy, food-friendly acidity and a light spice on the finish.

Cowhorn Vineyard Grenache 74 2008

Taking its name from the number of hours these vines were covered in frost before the 2008 harvest, this hearty, unfiltered Grenache offers fresh rhubarb and blackberry flavors with a hint of dark chocolate on the finish.

Domaine de Veilloux Cheverney “Argilo” Rouge 2005

Light and funky, this Gamay/Pinot Noir blend mixes a barnyard-y nose with fresh raspberries flavors and a white peppery finish.

Domaine Julien Meyer Pinot Gris 2006
Lively and expressive, this Alsatian Pinot Gris offers fragrant savory aromas of green olives and fresh herbs while balancing great minerality and bright acidity.

Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano 2006
In the capable hands of Elisabetta Foradori, this rare Italian varietal is one you’ll want to revisit time after time for its plum and cassis flavors, soft tannins and spicy finish.

Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
This wine is approachable yet cellar-worthy with rich flavors of black cherry and licorice, chewy tannins and balanced barrel spice on the finish.

Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos” 2007
This 100-percent Chardonnay encapsulates everything we love about grand cru Chablis, from the chalky minerality to the honeyed lemon finish. Pair with fresh oysters or shrimp scampi.

Montinore Estate Almost Dry Riesling 2008

Certified biodynamic in 2008, this Willamette Valley Riesling is citrusy with notes of fresh lime and tangerine meeting bold minerality and a touch of peachy sweetness on the finish.

Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner “Hefeabzug” 2008
Considered to be the oldest wine estate in Austria, Nikolaihof’s history dates back nearly 2000 years, and today is entirely Demeter-certified. Their Grüner is tart and tangy with notes of bright green apple and loads of stone minerality on the finish.