In early September I was lucky enough to be invited to one of the Hardy Plant Society'sKitchen Gardening Group outings. I've been to other events with this group and they're great. You might remember this talk all about grapes that I went to last spring.
For September's outing we met at Montinore Estate vineyard and winery just outside of Forest Grove. We waited in the vineyard parking lot -- it was a beautiful day -- until everyone arrived and then moved into the tasting room where we met Montinore owner and vintner Rudy Marchesi and his wife Susan Fichter. Lucky for us they took us on a tour of the 230+ acre vineyard that Rudy's owned since 2005. (He owns 30+ additional acres at other area farms.) Here's a great article in The Oregonian all about Rudy and Susan's passion for food and drink.
Check out Katherine Cole's book that came out this summer that features Montinore Estate -- Voodoo Vintners: Oregon's Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers -- if you haven't already. I wrote about Cole's book and some of her upcoming book events and wine tastings in last week's Willamette Week.
During the Montinore tour Rudy taught us all about biodynamic farming and it was inspiring. I worked on a biodynamic farm in Spain for several months in 1996 through WWOOF and it was a trip down memory lane for me listening to him describe and sometimes demonstrate various biodynamic practices.
On biodynamic farms cow horns, such as the one above, are packed every year with cow manure, buried and overwintered until the spring when they're dug up and mixed with water in a vessel shaped like a pregnant woman's belly. I got the job of stirring that shit so to speak and then applying it to the fields of the culinary herb farm that I worked on. Biodynamic practices are very unique and from my limited experience they seem to work.
I learned a lot during this tour including:
The name Montinore comes from the original ranch owner who was from Montana before he moved to Oregon. Get it? Mont-in-Ore.
Because of all the moisture this growing season mold and mildew have been a constant struggle in vineyards. It's been a challenging and expensive season.
Rudolf Steiner was a rad dude. He's the grandfather of biodynamic agriculture as well as Waldorf education.
The reason Rudy got into biodynamic practices...phylloxera. An area of the vineyard was destroyed quickly by this pest so Rudy reevaluated growing practices and in 2001 (before he owned the vineyard) stopped all use of herbicides.
In 2003, Rudy took a biodynamic course in New York while still farming back east and in 2005 he bought Montinore Estate. In 2008 it was certified as biodynamic.
There are 25 or so biodynamic vineyards in Oregon but only seven are certified.
Hardy Plant Society Oregon www.hardyplantsociety.org
Montinore Estate 3663 SW Dilley Road Forest Grove, Oregon 503.359.5012 ext 3 Open daily 11am-5pm www.montinore.com
Buy Katherine Cole's book Voodoo Vintners: Oregon's Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers Read my review of Voodoo Vintners in Willamette Week