a closed system. Only compost and special, somewhat outlandish preparations are applied to the earth and the vines;
work is determined by phases of the moon. Horses are sometimes used to work the vineyards and farm animals are an
integral element in the holistic system.
Biodynamics, based on the ideas of Austrian philosopher
Rudolf Steiner, subscribes to the concept of life energy and
the earth as living entity. It has become an easy target to
poke fun at: a field preparation involving filling a cow horn
with cow manure, burying it in the ground in the autumn,
leaving it to decompose during winter and recovering it
for use in the spring is one practice even some biodynamic
producers question. But the approach has its advocates:
Jean-Charles Boisset, of Raymond Vineyards in Napa and
DeLoach Vineyards in Sonoma, is a flag-bearer for it, and
biodynamic exhibits at both wineries provide a fascinating
look at this century-old farming method.
One of the more interesting developments in the past
few months was the purchase of Benziger Family Winery.
The Benzigers have taken great pride in their biodynamic,
organic and sustainable farming. At the Glen Ellen winery,
visitors can take a 45-minute biodynamic tour through the
vineyards, winery and insectary, where plants are grown that
attract beneficial bugs to kill organisms harmful to the vineyards. So it was somewhat shocking when The Wine Group
of Livermore, producer of Two Buck Chuck and several of the
wines named in the arsenic lawsuit, bought the endeavor: a
less likely pairing is hard to imagine. Nevertheless, it appears
that The Wine Group intends to continue the Benzigers’ legacy and up its own stake in the sustainability game, which can
only be a good thing for the industry as a whole.
Whether or not sustainable production results in bet-
ter-tasting wine, it does at least support better treatment of
vineyard workers, long-term care for the land, and the mak-
ing of wine that captures a sense of place.
But why not try an empirical test? Drink a bottle of sus-
tainably produced wine one night and nonsustainable the
next. Which one leaves the bigger hangover? M