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• Nearly went blind working under the flourescent lighting of the Center for Culinary Development testing recipes • Interned under Michael Bauer at the Chronicle (he was in Antarctica for most of my tenure. The first time I heard about biodynamic wine, it sounded, to me, like some odd French marketing gimmick.Really.) • Got pinned by the Court of Master Sommeliers •I am currently a professional waiter at a rather pleasant restaurant. Not an unreasonable thought, considering the fact the bottle of wine being discussed was from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a place known for prohibiting flying saucers or, as the French call them from landing in their vineyards.I moved to San Francisco in 1995 to scratch a culinary itch.I have wandered down many roads since graduating from the California Culinary Academy in 1997: • Assistant pastry chef at a small-yet-charming restaurant in the Mission (or, more accurately, I assumed greater dessert-making responsibilities in direct proportion to my chef's pregnancy) • Behind-the-scenes cooking slave to Molly Katzen, Martin Yan and Jacques Pépin •Assistant food stylist on a number of cookbooks and a couple of commercials • Relieved to have been fired from my post as token male waiter at an overly-lauded hipster Italian restaurant.Grazers, such as Scottish Highland cattle and sheep keep weeds in check and remove any need for chemical fertilizers. The tidal pull of a full moon causes it to puff up."Sheep are a great viticultural tool." quipped Benziger, "They do three things for us: they eat, shit and turn the soil with their hooves." Who needs a tractor? Biodynamic regulations, as laid down by Demeter International, also dictate that no yeast or malolactic bacteria may be added to the wine though sulpher dioxide is allowed.
He also believed in the influence of planetary events on agricultural crops. Biodynamism is, more or less, a very holistic approach to organic farming.
If the latter is true, read on and follow these links pertaining to biodynamic agriculture, vitalism and Demeter International and then get back to me. Two days ago, my fellow co-workers and I were fortunate enough to have someone explain it all-- or, at least his application of biodynamism-- to us. I muttered something about how it renders one stupid and causes one to sleep with people one might otherwise regret sleeping with sober. "Wine is a high energy substance, it changes the spirit of the room as soon as the bottle is opened.
Fresh from his stint as cover model for next week's Wine Spectator, Mike Benziger took some time out to both explain his biodynamic approach to winemaking and to let us taste the results-- his 2004 vintage Tribute. Wine connects us to the sun, to the earth and to each other."In two sentences, Benziger encapsulated what I belive to be essence of biodynamic winemaking, in as much as I can gather.
Fortunately, Benziger and, I'm sure, most other biodynamic farmers approach this idea with a more practical spirit.
To eliminate a dependence upon chemical pesticides, plants are planted to attract beneficial insects to the vineyards.