Monday, January 30, 2012

Some Say there is Wisdom in Wine...

If that is indeed true, I wish I had been suffused with the civilized liquid for wary sanity slipped out a cracked window and fled during a harrowing car ride from the Napoli airport to the hotel that left me in desperate need of a long, hot bath and acutely agitated.  A little background information: a work trip for the Hubs, so I wasn't prepared to go (don't judge me).  I have a Santa-long list of to-dos for my business, plus taxes, and a million and one other reasons to stay firmly on state soil.

"I'm telling you, that kid is NOT moving!" my voice was slightly raised.  I cracked the passenger window for a breath of fresh air but traffic noise hit me instead.  Think good thoughts:  fresh, milky mozzarella, famous Napoli pizza... "Did he just flip us the bird?" One wrong turn from the airport and somefrikkinhow we end up climbing higher and higher into the residential section of Naples.  The Hubs is driving (it's been years since he had a manual in his command) and thank all the wine gods he is because I wouldn't have wanted Mario Andretti himself driving our larger-than-99%-of-most-cars-on-the-road auto. The man is a machine:  he has this uncanny ability to drive a stick, not hit any of the million people, birds, dogs and cats on the road and still point out some of the more beautiful sites on our precarious route. The GPS is just too slow for city driving.  At one point we came to a screeching halt in what looked to be our turn but soon enough bells rang alongside my clench-jawed "shit!" and we found ourselves in a road/parking lot for churchgoers.  Talk about a hasty three-point turn!

Needless to say, that all was the easy part.  The GPS kept taking us higher and higher until abruptly the Hubs shouted "Mirrors!" and hastily (ok, it took me a split second) I grabbed the rearview mirror and pulled, moments before we nearly toppled a row full of motor bikes.  And as we kept climbing (we could actually see the hotel, damnit) the view was overpowering:  the buildings so tall and close, and some so old with laundry and plants off the balconies that for a dreamy moment I could swear that one ornately-carved stone apartment building was reaching over to the next across the alley as if to say Ciao, mi amore! A quick jolt on the brakes brought me back.  "We're here." he said.  Just like that. I don't recall pealing myself out of the car or riding the elevator.   I do remember the bath though, the salts smelling of basil.  Soon after we had a drink, several.  I know it was wine, I know it was red--a little spicy and it went down fast! Wisdom indeed.

End of Day 1.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Biodynamics: The Power of Life

After such knowledge:  what forgiveness?
                                    …Unnatural vices
Are fathered by our heroism.  Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.
                                                               --T.S. Eliot

I’m not one to throw my opinion in randomly, especially since I am not a winemaker and I’m not physically practicing Biodynamics.  However, I am a believer in the power of life and within all its constraints and possibilities.

Recently I read a piece describing Biodynamics and its relation to Mid-Adlantic region winemakers.  Good writing, facts, opinions, but what made it successful was the ensuing onslaught of comments—all poignant and passionate, with some a little more heated than others.  Despite some disparate points of view, it’s all still good—variety is the spice of life.  This all gets us thinking, moving, doing—to improve ourselves, to become better human beings by rediscovering ways to a more healthy and whole lifestyle.

A Powerful Life
Super easy definition of Biodynamics:  First, let’s break down the word:
Bio:  life
Dynamics: powerful
Biodynamics is the power of life.  It is “wholeness” in its most basic form. According to Biodynamic farmers, they view their farm as part of a circle - animals, other crops, people, weather, lunar cycles, with a unique balance between all the elements.

Of Conferences and little white Pills
The whole "farm" should be self-sustaining, which means no synthetic chemicals (remember, it’s the power of life.)
I attended a Boston University conference many years ago and the gist of it was the rise of the urban farm.  Why? Because large, “conventional” farming was destroying our fragile ecosystem.  By farming on a much smaller level, folks are able to “control” what goes into the soil and what comes out of it.  Now, control is in quotes because none of us is in total control of anything, but that’s the point.  (We’ll come back to this in a minute.)

What was absolutely exciting for me is that the attendees came from all over the world and from varying occupations:  farmers, politicians, scientists, psychologists, chefs, etc.  Meaning, the safety and well-being of our food sources are paramount to the survival of our species.  I even attended a discussion board speculating on the future of our food system if we did not adopt a way to grow with a conscience.  The words extinction and little white pills were common in the room.  Scary stuff. 

6 Degrees of Separation is now about 4.2
There’s been lots of talk about whether Biodynamics is a faith-based system.  Anything and nothing can be faith-based.  By history's accounts, "faith" makes people do some crazy things.  Why? Because logic, philosophy and science are thrown out the window.   Biodynamics uses the principles of biology, logic, philosophy and science as a whole.  Each principle is treated with respect and each gives to Biodynamics its power, because by employing these principles, Biodynamics is not just “one” as religion, but made up of many.  Frankly, I think biodynamics is the “new” farming reality for our 21st century.

There is a reverence towards Biodynamics, not because it’s a religion, but because of its possibilities in achieving agricultural wholeness. 

On Rudolph
Rudolph Steiner was a little nuts, but brilliance sometimes breeds a little insanity.  When I lived in San Diego, I traveled over two hours inland to attend a Biodynamics seminar.  And again, the attendees were small farmers, vineyard owners, a large-scale cattle rancher, homemakers, students.  Steiner was mentioned, but only in passing. Biodynamics itself has become most important, not Steiner.

Vineyard Dynamics
Biodynamics and terroir go hand in hand.  When we talk about minimalism in the vineyard, with the winemaker letting the power of life forms: soil, air, water do its work:  do I dare make the jump and say Biodynamics is terroir?  What we put into the vineyard we get out of it:  cause and effect.

All my words here have a common denominator:  human interaction.  Religion, biodynamics, logic, philosophy, science, technology—it’s all based on the human condition—how we use this knowledge, which is  “evolving” whether by good or bad. Technology can work for and against us—the trick is in its intended use. The only thing that’s truly constant is the Earth.  Its only purpose is the preservation of life, in the most natural way possible.  Nature does not give us the illusion of control.  As we’ve seen, Nature is influenced by human interaction. Hopefully, by employing Biodynamics, we can achieve a naturally occurring wholeness.