So I realized this morning as I was putting together blog material for the week that I have spent a lot of time reviewing books. Hopefully that's okay with you! If you ever want to hear something different, just let me know. There are just so many cool books to read...
This week I want to talk about a newly released book out from OSU Press. It's called Voodoo Vinters, and the author Katherine Cole, writer for MIX magazine and the Oregonian, has put together for us a fabulous introduction into biodynamic farming and winegrowing.
If you aren't familiar with it, biodynamic farming is a agricultural system that was developed in the early 20th Century by the visionary philosopher and spiritual leader, Rudolf Steiner. Sometimes labeled "uber-organic," biodynamics take an intensive, homeopathic, radically local approach to farming. Off-farm inputs are strongly discouraged, and are replaced by applications of carefully prepared compost and specially "brewed" preparations. Herbicides and fungicides are replaced by homeopathic teas made from nettles, horsetail, and yarrow. Planting and harvesting are timed with lunar cycles. ...And then there's the more "woo-woo" stuff, like capturing cosmic rays to improve plant growth, monitoring the changing auras around your plants to determine their needs, and so on. Because of some of its more new-agey and unscientific elements, biodynamics is often dismissed as witchcraft or, as the book's title suggests, voodoo.
Cole does an admirable job in her book of balancing a tongue-in-cheek assessment of some of biodynamic's more "far out" practices with a historical and on the ground analysis of the school of thought as a whole. She comes to the conclusion that biodynamics is simply a very intensive approach to farming that focuses on promoting health rather than doing no harm (as the organic approach does), and in promoting health it drives farmers to pay very, very close attention to every aspect of their operation. As a consequence, these farmers have a heightened appreciation for the importance of biodiversity on their land, for feeding and nurturing the soil using preparations and tillage, and for watching their plants for signs of stress and then healing them. Overall it is a fascinating and compelling approach to farming that has its own unique merit.
Wound into the book's exploration of biodynamic farming more generally is an exploration of the growing influence of biodynamics in Oregon winegrowing. Cole profiles numerous well-known local vineyards and wineries who are employing biodynamic practices with stupendous results. Maysara, Brick House, Montinore, Cooper Mountain, and many other well-known names are discussed in this book. Each vinter has their own unique reasoning behind going biodynamic (or not, as is the case with the highly respected Sokol Blosser Winery), unique approach to applying biodynamic practices on their land, and unique viewpoint on the importance of biodynamics to the industry as a whole. Cole comes away from her experiences on these vineyards and from drinking their wines with two main conclusions: (1.) biodynamic winegrowing creates some fantastic wines, and (2.) that there does seem to be something special going on among the biodynamically grown vines that grace many south-facing slopes in the Willamette Valley. You'll have to read it and see what you think!
Another reason that I wanted to feature this book is that the author will be in town soon! On May 19th Katherine Cole, and guests from five of the vineyards she talked about in her book, will be at Third Street Books downtown for a book reading and discussion about biodynamic winegrowing in Oregon. It is sure to be a fascinating event! See the specifics listed at the bottom if you want to attend!
Where: Third Street Books, 334 NE Third Street, McMinnville
Featuring: Katherine Cole (author of Voodoo Vinters), Patrick Reuter (of Dominio IV), Josh Bergstrom (or Bergstrom Wines), Kelley Fox (of Kelley Fox Wines), Brian O'Donnelle (of Belle Pente), and Doug Tunnell (of Brick House Vineyards).
Preregistration is encouraged. Call at 503.472.7786.