I've got to tell you straight off...for months now...we've been SO looking forward to visiting Montinore. This was a highlight of our trip from the early stages of researching and planning.
We've been emailing with Natalie...and we didn't know until a few days before our visit...that we were going to have the opportunity to meet with and interview Rudy Marchesi.
Just in case you don't already know...Rudy is a leader in biodynamic viticulture...and legendary...at least that's my impression of him.
When we were first exploring the possibility of this project...we came upon an article in Forbes Magazine... written by Tom Mullen…titled…”Biodynamic Winemaking Takes Root In Oregon” published on September 24, 2018. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/tmullen/2018/09/24/biodynamic-winemaking-takes-root-in-oregon/#7ee3d15d3e61)
Since you’re reading our blog…this Forbes article is also a MUST read! Click the link above when you’ve finished reading this post...and check it out!
Jean and I have been somewhat in awe of Rudy since reading that inspiring and insightful article.
When Rudy joined the team at Montinore...the wine was...as he described it...just ok...nothing really special. And my impression is Rudy was being kind and gracious.
The vines were not thriving...and he knew the challenges were going to be found in the soil.
Rudy worked previously as a buyer for a wine distributor and was responsible for the higher end wines.
He noticed there was something to the biodynamic wines from Burgandy that he tasted. They stood out and caught his attention enough to look into what biodynamic was...and that inquiry came back to the forefront of his awareness in his new role at Montinore.
Looking back on our lengthy and inspiring conversation with Rudy...it's clear..that he loves...each...the science...and the art... both in the field...growing fruit...as well as in the cellar...making of high-quality wines.
I have a passion for watching experts...as I watch Rudy...fully immersed in his element...I am reminded of what Malcolm Gladwell describes in his N.Y. Times best-selling book Outliers...who have more than 10,000 concentrated hours of training and experience in their craft.
Walking through the delicate rows of Pinot Noir vines...which have tiny clusters of grapes hanging...it's obvious all of his senses are taking in thousands of times more bits of important information than mine are.
He is relaxed, casual, informal and SO at home walking through the vineyard...as one of the workers is spraying a biodynamic "prep" on a cool looking little tractor that fits perfectly in the rows of vines.
There are no hazmat skull and crossbones on the back of the tractor. No hazmat suit or respirator is required like in conventional vineyards shown below.
Rudy stops the worker who is spaying the rows...to take a photo of a gauge on the tractor...it needs replacing...and Jean later comments...how happy the worker looked...and how proud he seemed of the work he was doing.
I imagine that a lot of workers on conventional farms and vineyards...even with all the required hazmat training, warning labels and protective gear...are highly concerned about the possible long term effects of the chemicals...to not only their own health and well-being...but also for their children.
Rudy mentioned when Montinore made the transition to biodynamic viticulture...he brought in an expert from The Josephine Porter Institute to teach the workers about the preps.
I can only imagine the relief everyone felt when they learned about the herbal teas, organic compost and homeopathic like formulations they would now be spraying.
A highlight of our conversation was when Rudy began sharing about what happened under the ground...in the microbiotic world of biodynamic soil...where the roots dive deep and seek out the nutrients they naturally need.
It turns out...in biodynamic soils...there is a naturally occurring, beneficial fungi...that attaches to the shoots of the root system...and creates an amazing symbiotic relationship with the roots of the grapevine.
By that, I mean that the plant needs enzymes and nutrients that it can't absorb and metabolize without the fungi...and the fungi...needs enzymes and nutrients that it can't take in without attaching to the roots of the plant.
Why does this matter? Which is a brilliant question!
This kind of relationship likely occurs in biodynamic soil...in so many ways yet to be discovered and understood...and yet this particular one...is missing in conventional farming practices.
In biodynamic soil...there is a lively community of micro-organism that helps to balance and restore the entire eco-system.
And in biodynamic viticulture...since growing and harvesting grapes to make wine...is taking from the soil and eco-system...the biodynamic preps and compost help to support, replenish, maintain and balance, health and vitality of the soil and plants...taking into consideration...what's going to happen...years into the future.
In conventional soil...the micro-organisms are killed off by fungicides and herbicides...and completely miss this unique, naturally occurring process.
I've mentioned in earlier blog posts... Jean and I are not wine experts...we don't have sophisticated palates...and yet...we both notice a quality and experience in drinking Montinore's wines...that I can only describe as elegant...and filled with grace.
I'm curious if my experience of this outstanding wine is as much about what's NOT there...as much as what IS!
Does the absence of chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, and genetically modified plants...allow for a pure and direct relationship and exchange between the micro-organisms and purity of the soil, to the roots, up into the plants and to the fruit.
From the fruit...to the barrel and the fermentation process...to the bottle.
It seems to me that biodynamic winemaking is done...the way I imagine...the ancient Romans made wine.
Over the last few years...there has been a lot of leading-edge medical research being conducted on the human microbiome and our microbiota.
Which in a healthy human consist of friendly, supportive bacteria and other micro- organisms...that for example...help to digest food.
The problem is...over the last 25 or more years we have waged a war on bacteria.
Just think about the rampant widespread use of anti-biotics, anti-bacterial and antimicrobial hand wipes, soaps, sprays, mouthwashes...and I honestly could add a dozen or more ways which we have combated...the very micro-organisms that are ESSENTIAL to human health and vitality.
These researchers are discovering that in a healthy human...there should be more friendly bacteria...than cells...which is in the trillions!
Many of the health challenges that are in epidemic proportions are being related to a lack of a healthy microbiome.
“The microbiome is the next frontier in medicine. Understanding it and optimizing it is going to be critical to solving so many of our healthcare issues.”
~ Mark Hyman, MD, Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine
I can't help but make the connection between a healthy human microbiome...and the soil on a biodynamic vineyard.
And if I take it one step further...all the toxic, chemical sprays used in conventional farming and viticulture...contribute to the depletion of the human microbiome...which further leads to imbalance and dis-ease...while biodynamic produce and wines actually support a healthy human microbiome...while honoring, respecting and giving back to the earth and the entire eco-system...for future generations.
I would feel remiss if I did not mention...just because it's biodynamic wine...it doesn't mean you can drink excessive amounts without serious ramifications.
I do believe there's great value in choosing to drink high-quality biodynamic wine...in moderation!
We will definitely follow up with more posts about our visit to Montinore. I have SO much I want to share with you...especially more about Rudy's fascinating story...as well as our experience when he grabbed 3 glasses and we headed down into the cellar.
After that amazing experience...Rudy graciously invited us to experience the beautiful, friendly, casually elegant Montinore tasting room...
where our experiential education continued...with Kelsey...one of the super friendly, knowledgeable tasting room staff members...and the outstanding wines that speak for themselves.
This simply MUST be experienced first-hand!
We strongly encourage you to visit Montinore...the absolute first chance you have.
If visiting is not an option...ask your favorite wine shop to special order some for you to explore.
We were completely beside ourselves...to learn about Montinore's "Red Cap" Pinot Noir...sells at a price point so low it's hard to grasp.
I commented on how reasonable the price is...to one of the friendly servers in the tasting room...and she shared that Rudy is committed to ensuring high-quality Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is available and affordable to everyone. And so he created the Montinore "Red Cap" Pinot!
Again......this blog is not about comparing, contrasting, scoring or rating biodynamic wines. You will not find tasting notes or any kind of rating system...anywhere in this blog.
And yet...here we are...two full days later...and Jean and I are still feeling like our entire visit to Montinore Estate was...like stepping into an alternate parallel reality.
One filled with peace, respect, care, love, and attention to every last detail...and mind-blowing wines.
I believe this level of attention to detail extends from the careful consideration of the micro-organisms in the soil, to the plants and fruit and the entire eco-system...to the winemaking process...and especially to the humans who choose to experience Montinore wines...in a wholistic, completely inter-connected network.
From the moment we arrived at Montinore...we were greeted and treated like longtime friends...who came to visit one miraculous early summer afternoon.
I'm going to stop here for now.
We're sitting on the rustic...unique deck at our home base...sitting above the gently flowing Abiqua River.
The weather is ideal...as I write this post...and Jean just opened a bottle of Montinore Estate 2014 - Grahm's Block 7 Pinot Noir.
We had the privilege of tasting this exquisite wine during our tasting at Montinore...and we've been eager to open this bottle...and explore it in greater depth.
I must say...I'm impressed that the cork has remained in the bottle this long.
We are SO grateful...our journey continues!