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A Vineyard in Balance
1/7/2010 10:09:10 AM

Over my New Year’s vacation, I took a trip to Napa Valley, where I toured a certified Biodynamic vineyard called Grgich Hills Estate. It’s tucked away in the middle of the valley. The day I visited the sun was bright, the air was crisp, and the mustard flowers were in full bloom, covering the hills in bright yellow. It was the perfect day for tasting…and touring!

Given my background at Weleda, I was excited to learn firsthand how Grgich uses Biodynamic agriculture to grow its grapes. I know the quality of Weleda’s products is unsurpassed because we grow our plant ingredients in our own Biodynamic gardens. So you can bet I had high expectations for Grgich’s wine!

Grgich transitioned to Biodynamic farming in 2003, after some of their oldest, and most valuable vines, came down with a red leaf virus. Experts told the winemakers to pull the vines out. Instead, they switched to Biodynamic farming, hoping to save them. The vines quickly responded, almost eliminating the virus and producing more intensely flavored grapes. That was all the proof that Grgich’s winemakers needed. Today, all of their 366 acres are certified organic, and also certified Biodynamic by the Demeter Association.

Our tour guide, Natalie, was very informative. I learned how Grgich plants and harvests their grapes according to lunar and cosmic cycles. She also told us how they use specially made Biodynamic composts, control pests with owl boxes and hawks and create nutrient-rich soil with cover crops and beneficial insects. She compared Biodynamically-farmed vines to a healthy person with a strong immune system. That person may occasionally get a cold, but they will be able to recover faster than someone whose defenses are weak. Similarly, when a vine and soil are in balance, the vineyard’s ecosystem can thrive and counteract potentially harmful bacteria. Take that, red leaf virus!

Okay, but what about the wines? My friends and I agreed that the ones we sampled were balanced, distinctive and lovely. We bought two bottles and, on impulse, some olive oil. Natalie said that Biodynamic wines are thought to have a strong sense of terroir, meaning they are more reflective of the conditions and characteristics of the land on which the grapes are grown. I like the thought of that.

Visit Grgich’s website to find out more about how they use Biodynamic methods to grow their grapes (www.grgich.com). And tell us, have you ever had Biodynamic wine? What did you think?

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