Cristom, a highly distinguished winery based in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, was founded in 1992 by the Gerrie family, who still own the estate to this day. Their goal is simple - to produce extremely high quality wines that represent their unique terroir in the Eola-Amity Hills. They are serious about sustainability, and they farm their land biodynamically with the next 100 years in mind - a long term approach that honours the land. From a winemaking perspective they do things in a traditional, quality-centric manner, which leads to terroir driven and characterful wines like this Chardonnay.
What does ‘biodynamic’ mean?
Biodynamic farming is a holistic concept invented by famed philosopher and father of ‘Anthroposophy’, Rudolph Steiner. The topline with biodynamics is that the vineyard should be treated as part of a greater whole - that the vineyard, earth and wider universe are interconnected - it’s at once a spiritual, ethical and ecological approach to farming which takes ‘organic’ a step further and involves a number of interesting processes. Some think it hippy nonsense, others think it’s the key to great, terroir driven wine, but in any case it’s certainly worthy of discussion.
- No additives. While Organic winemakers can add certain things to the final product, such as acid, or controlled yeast strains, Biodynamic winemakers can’t add anything synthetic to either the vineyard or the fermenting wine. This encourages truly terroir driven wines.
- Follows the moon. An important part of Biodynamics is the ‘Biodynamic Calendar’ which names each day as either a ‘root’, ‘leaf’, ‘flower’ or ‘fruit’ day. These roughly correspond to the ancient concept of earth, air, water and fire. Which day is which is determined by the location of the moon in the sky and every process in both the vineyard and winery must happen on specified days e.g. vineyards should be watered on leaf days and pruned on root days. Many wine commentators believe wine tastes better on ‘fruit’ or ‘flower’ days.
- Buried cow horns. Each winter cow horns full of manure are planted in the vineyard. Over the winter the content evolves ecologically before being dug up and spread over the vineyard the following year. This is said to have a huge effect on soil quality and vine growth.
To make wine biodynamically, you need good quality vineyards, and the wines are generally accepted as being very terroir driven and high-quality. The bottom line is that there are many great producers farming biodynamically as they believe it makes their wine better, so it’s worth exploring these bottles to see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
This wine from Cristom is really sensational, and pretty rare. They say Oregon is the mirror of Burgundy, and that certainly makes sense when you taste this wine - it has ravishing acidity and clarity alongside cool climate fruit - lemon zest and pear, and then towards the end you find the weight, the caramelised, creamy side to the wine which comes from French Oak, but it's integrated so brilliantly and it has remarkable length. No wonder it's considered an icon. Biodynamics - we’re all in!