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Viticulture

Since early 2004, we have adopted Biodynamic viticulture and biodynamic practices in as many of our vineyards as practicable. (Biodynamic seems to work best when it is voluntarily adopted, not something that is taken up coercively.) Because we work with fairly esoteric grape varieties, it has not always been possible to find growers of these varieties who are equally passionate about Biodynamic practice. It has been an ongoing work to try to lead by example, and we are hopeful of eventually bringing 100% of our growers to the practice out of their own sincere interest. We believe this practice gives us the best opportunity to produce the most distinctive and interesting, and in a word, the most vibrant wines possible.

Biodynamics is an integrated, holistic agricultural practice, based on the teachings of the visionary polymath, Rudolf Steiner, who lived in the early part of the 20th century, and who somewhat incidentally happened to speak on the subject of agriculture. His brief lecture series, called “Agriculture,” is the formal basis for what is now called Biodynamics.

Biodynamics deals with how we might seek to harmonize our farming practices with the subtle forces of the universe, following the astronomical calendar, availing ourselves of free cosmic fertilizer, you might say. [The effects of the sun are quite obvious, the moon also evident, but more subtle. The planets and constellations also provide Earth’s beings with information; the Biodynamic practice seeks to amplify the signal, as it were, of the various cosmic influences.] We attempt to perform the different agricultural activities in accord with the energetic potentiality of the plants, which change on a daily basis. The Biodynamic calendar follows a cyclical rhythm, whereby one or another aspect of the plant – root, leaf, fruit or flower – might be favored. Thus, for example, irrigation is best done on a root day, where the roots are most active. Grapes are ideally harvested on fruit days, where more of the energy of the plant is directed towards the fruit. There are optimal dates for planting, grafting, cultivating, spraying, indeed, for virtually every agricultural activity.

Other features of the practice involve the use of Biodynamic compost, the principle vehicle for bringing etheric forces to the vineyard, and the use of the Biodynamic preparations, (essentially a form of viticultural homeopathy). These are meant to stimulate a relevant process within the plant itself. The presence of animal life on the farm is also crucial to the Biodynamic proposition, with the idea that animals bring a contributing and organizing intelligence to the farm system, making it more self-regulating, and thus, more sustainable.

The Biodynamic model holds that the human intelligence is capable of identifying and summoning natural allies, be they from the plant or animal kingdom, to assist in amplifying the relevant cosmic forces, which in turn help to regulate the more observable but no less wondrous processes we see in plant growth and differentiation, photosynthesis, mineral absorption and the like. As an example, the presence of sheep grazing in the field (ideally), or alternately the use of sheep manure in compost, will help to balance the soils far more precisely and effectively than a grower might ever do on his own, adding material, organic or otherwise, to achieve an “ideal” soil chemistry. The object as a Biodynamicist is in fact not to have an “ideal” or “perfect” vineyard as determined by a human intelligence, presumably, but rather to have a vineyard that is in some sense in tune with itself.

The intent of the Biodynamic practice is to wake up the plants, so that they might become more tuned in to their surroundings. The medical analogy would be that you are boosting the vines’ immune systems, so that they are capable of coping with the environmental challenges that inevitably occur, and breaking the cycle of the need for massive intervention on the part of the grower. Most importantly, the vineyard, or more accurately, the agricultural organism, gradually becomes more individuated, its personality emerges; it becomes the macrocosmic reflection of the intent of the wine-grower, as it evolves into ever greater homeostasis. The success of the Biodynamic practice is evidenced by a greater diversity of microbial life in the soil; these microbial allies work symbiotically with the grapevine to bring nutrients to the plant.

By communicating better with the soil and with its surroundings, the plant is participating in the shared intelligence of the plant/soil/winegrower that is the essence of terroir. The Biodynamic proposition is really as much about transforming the farmer as it is the farm. A Biodynamic grower is linked to his farm in a much more intimate way. One learns how to cultivate ones intuition and powers of observation, to be able to see one’s farm with fresh eyes, and to feel the great power of Nature at ones back, rather than as a formidable adversary.

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