From cosmic forces to chickens, winegrowers embrace nature to make wines full of character
When the moon is full at Ceàgo Del Lago on the north shoreof California’s Clear Lake, things begin to happen around thevineyard. Not ghostly things; rather, vines are pruned and winesare blended. When the moon’s dark, there’s different activity. Thewines are racked ― siphoned off the sediment in the bottom ofthe barrels.
The lunar activity isn’t lunacy. It’s part of the biodynamicfarming system that Jim Fetzer, owner of Ceàgo, and a growingnumber of other winemakers are committing to, including RobertSinskey and Quintessa in Napa, and Benziger, Quivira, and DeLoachin Sonoma County. They practice biodynamic methods because it’s theright thing to do for the land, and also because they believe itinfuses their wines with the most vivid terroir, the Holy Grail of winemakers, the essence of theplace where the grapes were grown.
A full moon is a great levitating force: The power that liftstides in the oceans of the world also pulls moisture up ingrapevines and flavors out in wine lots, so it’s the best time tocut back vigorous vines and make informed blending decisions. Andwhen the moon goes dark and Earth’s gravity holds complete sway,the sediment in barrels stays put during racking.
As Jim Fetzer, owner of Ceàgo, puts it, “Would you try topaddle upstream when the tide is going out?”
Biodynamic methods go far beyond what you can’t do in organicland (that is, use no syntheticfertilizers or chemical pesticides) to what you can do to make a vineyard a fully alive, completelyself-sustaining ecosystem.
Like making sure that many things are growing there, becausebiodiversity is key to soil health and pest management. AtCeàgo, the vines share the property with lavender, olivetrees, and other edibles. Crop rotation is also important. Butsince it’s a tad impractical to switch out grapevines, cover crops― fava beans, strawberry clover ― are rotated.