Jean and I started planning this...Willamette Valley biodynamic wine adventure...over six months ago.
When we sent our first emails...making initial contact with the biodynamic vineyards and winemakers...one of the first to respond was Bill Sweat at Winderlea Vineyard and Winery in the picturesque Dundee Hills AVA.
Bill's response was filled with warmth and enthusiasm for our project...and was SO helpful with making other connections.
For Jean and me...Bill's emails were vitally important...ideally timed...and encouraged us to continue to pursue this kooky blog...and epic adventure.
From our various email exchanges with Bill...over the last several months...we knew this was going to be a special visit...and special doesn't come close to adequately describe our experience.
Jean and I have been eager for this visit...and perhaps a bit more relaxed...than the others...as we drove up from the lovely small town of Dundee...quickly gaining what felt like 500 or more feet in elevation in a very short distance...into the Dundee Hills AVA.
The sleek, modern, eco-friendly design of the Winderlea tasting room...is clearly visible as we approach. We're a bit surprised the tasting room is...perfectly situated...just off the road!
I've got to tell you...if Jean and I were simply driving down this road...visiting tasting rooms...this one would certainly draw us in.
We don't know how anyone on a wine tour could pass it by...and I hope that's actually true!
Otherwise...those silly folks who don't stop...are seriously missing out on a gem!
As we park our rental car...I poke Jean and say...check that out...these people have it going on!..two electric vehicle charging stations!
I comment...if this is the level of attention to the environment that these folks have...starting here...in their parking lot...I can only imagine what other measures they include in their vineyard, tasting room, and wine-making.
Jean and I are immediately greeted by Christy...who steps away to let Bill and Donna know we're there.
Jean and I are immediately drawn out through the expansive open wall of floor to ceiling doors...onto the deck overlooking seriously rolling hills...all neatly planted with rows and rows of grapes.
I feel like I'm standing on what would be an ideal spot to shoot a scene in a film. The steep slopes are unique to this area...and very different from what we've seen driving up and down the Willamette Valley these last ten days.
I'm highly intrigued by what I've already learned about Bill and Donna's story...and the more I learn the better the story gets!
I love how their passion for wine started in '82...and the seriously winding road that led them to fall in love with Oregon Pinot Noir...and to this exact location! Talk about an epic adventure!
I SO love happy endings...and even better than that...is...happy middle chapters! And that's exactly where Bill and Donna seem to be.
While their journey has been filled with adversity and challenges...some significant ones...right from the start...acquiring this property.
Phylloxera...specifically...in one of the original blocks of Pinot vines planted on this property in the '70s.
The seller was transparent about it...and...just in case you don't know about phylloxera...for now...all you need to know is...it's intense...and could potentially...and certainly has wiped out entire vineyards.
Phylloxera definitely is a topic for a blog post... another day. I find it fascinating...it was this specific challenge...that led Bill to learn more about biodynamics.
This is a highly risky business...even with 100% healthy and mature vines...they both felt...this was THE spot they were destined to be...to begin this next chapter in their lives together.
In my mind...I'm HIGHLY impressed with how far they've come...since 2005. Which is saying a lot...in this industry.
Bill shares...this wasn't the first property they bid on. They made offers on three properties in this area...that were NOT accepted.
Bill shared...they have been exploring pinots in the Willamette valley for years...and this property where we are now standing...produced their favorite pinots...and their second favorite is from the neighboring property to the west.
Had one of the previous bids been accepted...they would not have ended up on the property they came to love over the years.
Bill calls their experience synchronicity...to us, it definitely feels like Divine orchestration at its finest!
Bill and Donna invite me and Jean to take a walk down the hill from the tasting room...into their vineyard.
My impression of biodynamics...is that it's an extreme form of organic agriculture...and I have great admiration and respect for those who care enough and are passionate enough to pursue this path.
Bill stops us just outside the tasting room...and points out that to him...biodynamics is a great starting place...and yet it quickly becomes apparent that his commitment to our environment is so strong...they decided to become a certified B Corp.
Just in case you don't already know...according to the official certifying agency of B Corps website - https://bcorporation.net
"Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy."
Now the electric vehicle charging stations...in their small parking lot...make perfect sense.
And just in case you're not impressed easily...Winderlea became ONLY the 4th winery globally to achieve B Corp Certification.
Bill is highly concerned about minimizing the overall carbon footprint of their entire operation...here at the vineyard as well as at their main production facility and tasting room in McMinnville...just a few miles south.
Donna comments that most of the workers at the McMinnville facility can walk or ride their bike to work. I don't know about you...but I LOVE that!
I have major issues with the way the word "sustainability" has been greenwashed...and more often than not...it really doesn't mean anything real or measurable.
And yet...here's a place where this word is NOT watered down...and truly has tangible and measurable actions and results.
GOD BLESS Bill Sweat and Donna Morris for their vision, commitment, courage, strength, determination, flexibility, and perseverance.
Thought leader, Tony Robbins teaches us that success leaves clues. Jean and I have become passionate students of success.
Bill and Donna are creating and leaving some amazing bread crumbs...that we can take and learn from...regardless of our industry and specific niche.
We didn't discuss this during our visit...but I do indeed hope that Bill and Donna are documenting their experiences...it all would make a fantastic book...and perhaps an even more thought-provoking documentary film!
Gosh...there's SO much I want to write from our visit to Winderlea. Stay tuned for more posts...including...the amazing experience Jean and I had barrel tasting in their...onsight biodynamic winemaking room.
I'm eager to share about Bill's custom-crafted wooden chest...in which he stores his handcrafted biodynamic "preps".
Getting to see that and learn more about the preps and how Rudolph Steiner suggested storing the preps...was...in itself...worth the visit!
There are so many different facets of biodynamic viticulture that are highly intriguing to us.
Anyone of them...seems like an inviting rabbit hole...that can capture my attention and inquiry for long periods of time.
And these explorations seem like they could go on for a lifetime.
If any of this is the least bit interesting to you...click the button below and subscribe to this blog...and stay tuned for more posts from our magical afternoon with Bill and Donna at Winderlea.
I'll leave you with one final item I really want to share with you.
Jean was back east visiting with her folks...right before our epic biodynamic wine adventure in Willamette.
I planned a little surprise...and had this waiting for her when she came home.
I thought...sharing a bottle of Winderlea biodynamic wine...was the perfect way to start our trip.
We truly hope you have the opportunity to visit Winderlea's gorgeous tasting room...spend time with their amazing staff...and taste this wine for your self.
And if not...the next time you visit your favorite local wine shop...ask if they can order this wine for you.
This is Winderlea's whole cluster...Demeter Certified Biodynamic...Pinot Noir they call "Imprint".
After you taste it...please come on back...and leave a comment. I'm curious to learn...if you enjoy it as much as we did.
The journey continues!