Feature Coverage

Biodynamics– Cutting Edge Vintners Put Their Wines to The Test in New York

New York — I had read about them, but I wanted to see them in person. So I went to New York and watched the vaunted lineup in action — one all-star after another stepping up and pouring it on, dwarfing the pitchers, delighting the crowds, drawing oohs and aahs with every slug.

Jeter, Giambi and A-Rod? Try Araujo, Benziger and Sinskey.

The pitchers were spit buckets, the slugs were wines and the crowd was New York sommeliers, wine sellers and wine critics. The event was the American premiere of a whole new league in the wine game — a league in which the players don’t use chemicals to artificially enhance their performance. They play clean and train hard all year. They are rivals yet also peers who share the same sacrifices, commitment and nuances. Like all-stars in any league, their motivation is on another plane. They’re playing in public for paying customers, but they’re driven by something deep inside.

So who are they? They are estate winegrowers inspired by the principles of biodynamic agriculture. In New York on June 14 there were 74 of them, from Europe and America as well as Australia, Chile and New Zealand, pouring their wines and talking about their passion. Never before had so many biodynamic producers come together in this country, on so public a stage. Ardent fans were impressed anew, while hardened skeptics softened and gimlet-eyed wine buyers who dropped in for a quick look wound up staying for hours.

Many of the 500 attendees came to the event at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York for the rare opportunity to taste such famous French wines as Champagne Fleury, Domaine de la Coulee de Serrant, Domaine Leflaive, Domaine Leroy, Domaine Marcel Deiss and Maison M. Chapoutier.

A few attendees admitted that they came for a free taste of Spain’s Dominio Pingus, which retails in this country for $400 a bottle. What made people stick around was that dozens of lesser-known producers were pouring outstanding wines as well. Marc Tempe’s 2000 Mambourg Grand Cru Gewurztraminer, Domaine Caze’s 2001 Trilogy Cotes du Roussillon Village and Weingut Sander’s 2003 Mettenheimer Riesling Spatlese were among the top wines I’ve tasted this year. Wine after wine made a statement.

Forward flavors

These are distinctly different wines from distinctly different regions, but on June 14 some fascinating parallels became apparent. First was the immediacy of the flavors. This sounds like a fine distinction but it really stands out when you taste professionally. There was no moment of hesitation, wondering what descriptors I would use to remember these wines. They logged themselves in, you might say.

Another quality the wines all shared was their balance. Its possible to balance wines in the cellar by adding acid, sugar, or wine from other places, but those tricks don’t apply with the kind of noninterventionist, estate-grown wines that biodynamic producers make. These wines came by their poise in the vineyard — it was a pleasure just to have them occupy my mouth.

But the most striking thing about the California wines was who was pouring them. Normally when there’s a large trade tasting in a city far from Wine Country, the people with their names on the label stay home. They get their distributors or sales people to stand up for eight hours, talking to strangers and reciting the names of the same wines over and over.

Not this time.

There was Mike Benziger pouring the Tribute blend, a big, silky red with a great future ahead of it. There was Rob Sinskey with his lovely, supple Pinot Noirs. There was Jim Fetzer, sampling his lushly tropical Ceago Chardonnay. There were both Bart and Daphne Araujo pouring their cult Cabernet. There was Doug Tunnell pouring his complex, spicy Brick House wines from Willamette Valley, Ore. There were three members of the Coturri family pouring their mouth-filling Sonoma Valley wines. It really was like the Yankees, with more big bats in one inning than some teams have in a whole game.

“I havent bee

by Tom Elkjer, July 1, 2004
Biodynamics– Cutting Edge Vintners Put Their Wines to The Test in New York