This is a question I get when I start talking details about how we do what we do. The way we farm Bassi Vineyard stems more from the desire to have great tasting wine that speaks of place, than from a metaphysical or environmental perspective. We don't lead the discussion with these topics. If people seem to connect with us or our wine and want to know more about how we work, only then do we address our farming methods.
We employ Pacific Vineyard Management Company (Pacific for short) to farm our vineyard. This is the same company who farmed for Domaine Alfred years ago. I meet regularly with Vineyard Manager Scott Williams to review details and make decisions. Although we are not currently planning to get the vineyard organically certified, all farming is done organically.
I first heard the idea of Biodynamics when visiting Domaine Le Flaive http://www.leflaive.fr/en/ in 1996. I was on a Robert Mondavi employee education trip and all I could think of was, “ I am not in the junkyard in Visalia anymore!” We met with Pierre Morey http://www.morey-meursault.fr/ who was managing the domaine at that time. Initially BD sounded like bullshit to me, but I was interested in learning more. When I got back to the Central Coast, I bought a few books on the subject and started to see some logic. Fast forward to my time at Domaine Alfred - I brought it up to Terry the owner and he fell in love with it. It was then that I witnessed firsthand how BD practices could enhance wine quality. We ended up hiring Steve Moore, a BD expert who has been involved with BD since the early 1980’s in Carpinteria, CA, to train me on the hands on aspects. He at one time served as president of the National BD association. He also taught at MIT...yeah, he is a bad ass….
We use BD at Bassi just like we did at Domaine Alfred. Pacific handles all of the day-to-day organic farming while my winery team and I handle the preparation and application of the BD preps. This connection between the winery and the vineyard is invaluable. Because the cellar team is directly applying the BD preps to the vineyard, we gain an intimate knowledge of each block and have a deeper understanding of the vineyard as a whole.
A good example of this practice is BD prep #508 - Horse Tail Herb (see picture). It is very high in sulfur content and helps to suppress mildew. While I have been to BD symposiums and have read stories on people using only this material to fight mildew, for me that is a bit much. We include the Horse Tail Herb prep as a part of our organic mildew suppression program instead of relying on it exclusively. We have found this balance of practices works for us.
While BD is important to us, we won’t be successful as a company if our farming practices don’t translate into fabulous grapes and delicious wine. We farm organically and incorporate BD practices with the intent of increasing quality, not for the sake of being able to say we farm organically and biodynamically. Our true aim is to produce the best wine possible.
At the end of the day, if our business is not successfull we cannot feed our family. Everything we have is on the line (our house, retirement fund, etc.) and hinges on our success or failure. We are not second-generation growers nor are we trust-fund kids. Our family relies on proceeds from our wine business to live. So far, our farming practices have translated into success, the fact that they are good for the environment and enhance the soil is a bonus.
Below is a picture of Steve Moore's stirring machine he built in the late 80's and our back pack sprayer's ready to apply #500