Organic & Biodynamic
Because will live amongst our vineyards and raise our child here, we farm thoughtfully using organic materials and biodynamic principles.
Learning from the past
For centuries, civilizations have channeled the earth's natural energy to produce food and wine for the nuclear family. The 1920s, however, brought "industrial agriculture" where massive farms relied heavily on synthetic fertilizers and herbicides. An Austrian philosopher named Rudolf Steiner saw that land which previously grew the same crops year after year now had to rotate crops in order to avoid problems. Plants which formerly gathered their own nutrients and minerals from the earth now had become dependent on the chemical fertilizers. Seeking to rebalance the earth's delicate ecology, Steiner codified centuries-old peasant farming techniques into what today is known as Biodynamic farming, or when applied specifically to grapes, Biodynamic viticulture.
Biodynamic agriculture in Montemaggiore's history
The primary goal of Montemaggiore has always been to produce elegant wines with a unique character from our own vineyards. When we first learned of Biodynamic viticulture, we had a hunch it could help us create wines with a exceptional sense of place, tasting like no other, and filled with character. We sought the help of Alan York, a Biodynamic expert whose remarkable practicality balances his abundant knowledge of all things horticultural. Coincidentally, the more we learned about Biodynamic farming, the more Vincent recognized and understood the farming techniques his father brought over from Montemaggiore, Italy which had been passed down through the generations. After three and a half years of practicing Biodynamic viticulture in Sonoma County, we are very happy with the results and became certified Biodynamic by Demeter in July of 2009.
Wine with character
Our entire estate is certified Biodynamic: our grapevines, olive groves, vegetable gardens, and even the landscaping around our house. We are confident our wines are the best they can be because Biodynamic agriculture:
- emphasizes composting and biodiversity in order to promote vine health, thus developing more character in our grapes and wine. Special herbal preparations applied to the soil and grapevines act like vitamins, bringing vitality to the wine's aroma and texture.
- encourages our vineyard's individuality by minimizing outside influences and recycling all estate and winemaking residues (e.g., grape stems, skins, seeds, wastewater) back into the vineyards.
- utilizes no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Reliance on these chemicals reduces the vine's natural ability to absorb nutrients from the soil. Over time, chemicals kill important biological life in the soil and have unintended side effects on the environment.
Biodynamic versus Organic
The term "organic" was popularized by American J.I. Rodale through his publication “Organic Gardening,” which was heavily influenced by the rising popularity of Biodynamic farming in Europe. Because of their allied history, both methods share a focus on soil health, condemn the use of synthetic chemicals, and encourage the use of compost, cover crops, and holistic pest/weed management.
The main difference between them is that Biodynamics focuses on the entire farm as a single, living organism by reducing "imported" fertilizers, integrating livestock into the lifecycle, and maintaining a biologically diverse habitat. On the other hand, organic certification can be gained just for a single crop in a designated parcel simply by utilizing organic "ingredients" (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides). Note that if a vineyard is Biodynamic, it is definitely organic—but not the other way around!
Wave of the future
The Ciolino family has always thrived by blending innovation with traditional values, and Biodynamic farming is certainly a big part of that. We see Biodynamic winegrapes becoming more prevalent among leading winegrowers because the quality it brings to the wine is remarkable and highly coveted by wine connoisseurs.