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Voodoo Vintners

Oregon's Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers

Katherine Cole

Publication Year: 2011

Could cow horns, vortexes, and the words of a prophet named Rudolf Steiner hold the key to producing the most alluring wines in the world—and to saving the planet?

In Voodoo Vintners, wine writer Katherine Cole reveals the mysteries of biodynamic winegrowing, tracing its practice from Paleolithic times to the finest domaines in Burgundy today. At the epicenter of the American biodynamic revolution are the Oregon winemakers who believe that this spiritual style of farming results in the truest translations of terroir and the purest pinot noirs possible.

Cole introduces these “voodoo vintners,” examining their motivations and rationalizations and explaining why the need to farm biodynamically courses through their blood. Her engaging narrative answers the call of oenophiles everywhere for more information about this “beyond organic” style of winemaking.

Published by: Oregon State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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p. v-v

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p. vi-vi

...the last great daily newspapers, took a chance on this unknown fledgling wine writer back in 2002. I’m truly proud to be associated with this publication, and to be working with the teams at FOODday and at MIX magazine. At Oregon State University Press, Mary Braun, Jo Alexander, and Micki Reaman have been instrumental in turning my loony idea into a manuscript, page proofs, and finally, a book. The indispensible Raechel Sims, my fact checker, marketing...

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pp. vii-x

...knowledgeable opinions. So let me begin by informing you what this book is not: it is not a review of wines or a compendium of useful information, such as you might find in a wine guide. Instead, it is an examination of an inscrutable topic. I first became aware of biodynamic viticulture sometime around the year 2000, when I moved to Oregon and began tasting local wines. I remember being struck at that time by a pinot gris that was quite unlike its peers: crisp and clean, it reminded...

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pp. 1-10

...contend that you can tell a great deal about a winegrowing operation simply by sizing up how the winemaker is dressed: he who wears a blazer and button-down to work, for example, is probably engaged in different activities than she who dons a golf shirt and khakis. The typical Oregon vintner’s wardrobe consists of an array of Levi’s, plaid flannels, Carhartts, and stained sweatshirts. All of which—although they might leave...

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Chapter One: In the Old Country

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pp. 11-26

...in his throat and his hands gripping the waist of a drug runner. A few possessions—clothes, some food—were stowed on another bike. On a third, her swollen belly pressed against the back of another smuggler, was his beautiful wife, Flora, eight months pregnant with their first child. The Russian motorcycles were built for tough terrain, but in places, they were no match for the rocky footpaths climbing the desolate Siahan (or “Black”) Range. When the...

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Chapter Two: The Gospel of Rudolf Steiner

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pp. 27-41

...delivered more than six thousand lectures on at least three hundred and fifty different subjects during the course of his lifetime. And he wasn’t merely voluminous. He was a truly original thinker, whose keen insights into the realms of education, medicine, philosophy, science, art, drama, literature, architecture, and agriculture still guide practitioners of all of these disciplines today. His overarching philosophy, anthroposophy, has inspired a worldwide spiritual movement. But despite...

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Chapter Three: The Banality of Cow Horns and Broomsticks

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pp. 42-60

...former dairy pasture and homestead in Jacksonville, Oregon. If this were a typical vineyard story, it would proceed like this: “After clearing the land and installing drip irrigation, they planted new rootstock and vines in the spring of 2003.” But this isn’t your typical vineyard story. This is a biodynamic vineyard story. And it still doesn’t unfold the way you might imagine. In 2003, the Steeles began gathering temperature...

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Chapter Four: Science ... or Sci-Fi?

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pp. 61-74

...peak of ripeness, the vinetender’s greatest natural enemy is a backyard bird weighing less than three ounces. It might be tiny, but the American robin is voracious, numerous, and nearly impossible to deter. To ward off this red-breasted foe, vineyard managers employ a wide arsenal of defenses: netting, reflective...

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Chapter Five: The Neo-Naturalists

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pp. 75-85

...a specific purpose. They’re not there to see pictures of their friends. They’re not there to catch up with old roommates. They’re there to farm. FarmVille is a video game that appeals to non-gamers. The twodimensional graphics could have been designed by Fisher-Price. But the look is not the point. The point is to virtually grow crops, then sell them. Then buy more land and more animals. And plant more crops. The distance between urban and agrarian society...

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Chapter Six: The Burgundians

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pp. 86-96

...at Dillin Hall on the verdant, stately campus of Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. The occasion was the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration, a three-day wine-tasting extravaganza that brings together collectors, critics, merchants, dealers, winery owners, and vintners, all willing to pay close to one thousand dollars per ticket. For the seminar on this afternoon, tables placed end-to-end, draped in white cloths, and set with tasting sheets, glasses, water bottles, spit cups, and baskets of...

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Chapter Seven: The Oregonians

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pp. 97-108

...masseuses, ayurvedic healers, and herbalists, in the city that is home to the National College of Natural Medicine, the Institute for Traditional Medicine, and Artemisia, the Association for Anthroposophic Health Professionals, it was not unusual in 1990— before much of the rest of the nation was hip to such things—that a...

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Chapter Eight: Big Biodynamics

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pp. 109-119

...days, when there was a beloved recurring character called “Q.” A mad scientist-cum-engineer extraordinaire, Q developed spying devices that allowed Bond to extricate himself from the hairiest situations with the touch of a button. Thanks to Q’s inventions, the old Bond—unlike today’s brawny, brooding Daniel Craig—was Inspector Gadget, plus panache. Q’s brilliance was in his ability...

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Chapter Nine: The Glam Factor

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pp. 120-135

...producer/yogi! To have a gaggle of children and a private plane and a staff of domestic assistants and spiritual advisors and seven homes! And for one of those homes to be a nearly one-thousandacre estate in Tuscany, a working farm under the watchful eye of superstar biodynamic consultant Alan York, producing extra-virgin...

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Chapter Ten: The Green Factor

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pp. 136-147

...Today, the farm is gone. In its place, massive sand dunes rise as high as fifty feet, engulfing buildings and trees. The property has become a tourist attraction, called “The Desert of Maine.” As tour guides explain to some thirty thousand visitors each year, poor farming practices—the removal of trees, overgrazing by sheep, and the failure to rotate crops—eroded the topsoil of the Tuttle...

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Chapter Eleven: The Naysayers

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pp. 148-159

...Alex Sokol Blosser is tall, with a friendly face and generous dimples. He’s energetic and speaks quickly. He is disarmingly frank and assiduously funny: he easily could do voice-double work for the comedian Seth Rogen, and would have no trouble coming up with material (his version of the shtick would be cleaner, though). So when Alex Sokol Blosser compares biodynamic viticulture...

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Chapter Twelve: Laly Ahnkuttie

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pp. 160-168

...sheep, goats, and Highland cattle, those russet-colored shaggy beauties with their big, brown, limpid eyes. The green pasture is punctuated by a few white oaks; overhead is a blue sky, evocative with billowy clouds. There is a creek lined with horsetail at the bottom of the slope, a henhouse on a trailer parked next to the craftsman house at the top of the hill. It’s spring, so white...

Notes on Sources

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pp. 169-176


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pp. 177-182

back cover

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p. 183-183

E-ISBN-13: 9780870716959
E-ISBN-10: 0870716956
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870716058
Print-ISBN-10: 0870716050

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2011