By Courtney Cochran
A recent San Francisco tasting of some of our nation’s top Biodynamic®
wines proved revelatory as potential for these much-buzzed-about
quaffers goes. Made from grapes grown in vineyards that are treated
with special natural soil additions and farmed according to the lunar
calendar (seriously), these wines are beginning to turn heads with their
graceful fruit profiles and authentic transmission of terroir
. Read on
for some of my favorite producers from the event, along with tasting
highlights and recommendations.
And for more on the practice of Biodynamic® farming – along with
historical facts and philosophical considerations, such as the
importance of biodiversity on farms – check out this useful site
from the Demeter Biodynamic® Trade
Association, organizers of the tasting.
Paul Dolan Vineyards
Easily the guy with the biggest profile in the room where Biodynamic® viticulture is concerned, Paul Dolan poured one of his signature wines at the tasting: “Deep Red” ($45). Made each year from, in Dolan’s words, “whatever the [Dark Horse] Vineyard tells us to do,” Deep Red is a flexible bottling from iron-rich volcanic soils planted to several varieties. I loved the ’07, which pairs enticing candy bar-like flavors with, well, depth befitting its Petite Sirah-Zin-Grenache-Syrah profile.Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden
Located on the banks of the Applegate River in southern Oregon – a little-known wine region very much on the rise – Cowhorn is a brand new winery getting serious buzz in only its second vintage. Aiming to produce “fine wine with few inputs” (e.g. native yeast-only fermentations), owners Bill and Barbara Steele impressed with their beguiling, medium-bodied 2008 Spiral 36 white Rhône blend ($18), as well as with their 2007 Syrah ($22), which blew me away with hearty notes of plum, chocolate bar, nougat, cola and violets – all balanced by just 20-30% new French oak and a reasonable 13.5% alcohol. Yes, please!Cooper Mountain Vineyards
At my first whiff of Cooper Mountain’s Pinot Noir – made by affable Frenchman Gilles de Domingo – I knew I’d found the closest thing you can get to Burgundian Pinot here in the states. The wine fairly screamed terroir – and I was instantly hooked on new favorites like the 2007 “Mountain Terroir” Pinot Noir ($45), which is the essence of Oregon Pinot on the nose: all flowers, bergamot, bing cherry and brown spice, while the 2007 “Doctors” Pinot Noir ($45) – in a deeper, Côte de Nuit style – balanced laser-focused acidity with full body and dynamic flavors. Grgich Hills Estate
Bravo to Napa stalwart Grgich Hills for showing up alongside a roomful of boutique producers to showcase their new Biodynamic® efforts. To wit, their 2006 Carneros Selection Napa Valley Chardonnay ($75) – which eschews malolactic fermentation for more zip than most Napa Chards – boasts well-integrated French oak alongside bright fruit from the winery’s certified Biodynamic® vineyard in Carneros. A bit pricey, to be sure, but a pretty effort.Montinore Estate
A family-run operation in Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley
, Montinore Estate impressed with two wines – a white and a red. To wit, the winery’s 2008 “Almost Dry” Riesling, an ethereal Kabinett-style bottling, offered incredible balance and value for its reasonable $10 retail price, while the 2008 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir ($24) scored a high 93 pts with yours truly – and bears the best hallmarks of Oregon Pinot in its bright acidity and gorgeous floral aromatics. Bonny Doon Vineyard
It probably comes as little surprise that this perennially edgy producer, helmed by counterculture wine aficionado Randall Graham (see Bonny Book:
), is no stranger to the Biodynamic® game. Indeed, the winery’s 2007 Le Cigar Blanc white Rhône blend ($22) – sourced from Arroyo Seco’s Biodynamic® Beeswax Vineyard – delivers rich aromas of beeswax and lavender alongside medium body, while Doon’s merrily-named Clos de Gilroy ($13) offers easy-drinking red fruit and rhubarb spice alongside a light body reminiscent of a good Beaujolais.Quivira Vineyards and Winery
One of the most impressively well-rounded Biodynamic® estates I’ve seen, Dry Creek’s Quivira embraces the full spectrum of Biodynamic® sustainability in its network of gardens, fruit trees, farm animals, chicken coops and bee hives. What’s in the bottle delivers, too: the 2008 Fig Tree Sauvignon Blanc ($18) offers pink grapefruit, Meyer lemon and citrus blossom notes alongside food-friendly crisp acidity, while the 2007 Wine Creek Ranch Mourvèdre ($32) offers lots of dark fruit and rustic spice in a compellingly balanced package. Benziger Family Winery
With the unofficial motto that “great wine has green values,” Benziger proudly touts the fact that its entire portfolio of wines is either certified sustainable, organic or Biodynamic®. True to form, the Sonoma winery’s 2008 Paradiso de Maria Sauvignon Blanc ($32) – fermented in stainless steel and aged on its lees – comes from estate Biodynamic® fruit and is Sancerre-like in its flinty crispness. My favorite, though, was easily the 2006 Tribute ($60), a Bordeaux Blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with elegance and class to spare. Verdad
Louisa Sawyer Lindquist – wife of Qupé’s Bob Lindquist – bottles small amounts of Spanish varieties on California’s Central Coast under her Verdad label (¡Es la verdad! – That’s the truth!
). At the tasting, I found her 2008 Santa Ynez Valley Albariño ($20) enchanting, offering effusive aromas of tangerine, melon and white flowers alongside a medium body that would pair perfectly with summer fare or just as easily with a warm evening on the porch. Qupé Wine Cellars
Qupé’s website delights with its ironic tagline, “A Modern Stone Age Winery.” Never known for minding the status quo, the winery’s helmsman, Bob Lindquist, is a hilarious and talented leader of winemaking on California’s Central Coast – and believer in Biodynamic® farming, to boot. I found the 2008 Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard Edna Valley Grenache ($35) – which Bob makes in partnership with his wife, Louisa Sawyer Lindquist – a perfect combination of Old and New World winemaking styles (it sees zero new wood), and perfect final sip for the day. Available this spring.