Wine and Food Week in The Woodlands is well known for its big tasting events that have been held for the past 15 years, but they also host quite a few other events over the course of the week. I had the opportunity to attend one of the wine education seminars, Dirt-y Talk with Rudy Marchesi. Rudy, the 2018 Oregon Wine Person of the Year, is the Chief Viticulturist and Partner at Montinore Estate in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Montinore Estate is one of the country’s largest producers of wines made from grapes grown using Biodynamic farming principles. Montinore now has over 240 acres of vineyards with a production of about 60,000 cases per year.
Before the event Tim Hanni, Master of Wine, did some tasting exercises with attendees. Tim showed how salt, acid, and sugar affect how a wine tastes, which can be used to learn more about a person’s wine preferences. Tim also got the event going by sharing some great history about wine styles and wine and food pairings as they developed through the twentieth century. Tim gave a heartfelt introduction to Rudy, as they have known each other a very long time.
Rudy Marchesi led us though many aspects of Montinore Estate. He began with describing their climate and geography, then moved on to how Biodynamic grape growing has improved the quality of Montinore Estate’s wines. Rudy began applying Biodynamic practices at Montinore Estate back in 2003. Rudy explained that a way to think about Biodynamic is to think of the entire vineyard as one organism. This concept goes back to Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s work in the 1920s. Whatever the vineyard needs should also be a product of the land where the vineyard is located, a self-sustaining ecosystem in a way. For example, a large composting program provides several kinds of fertilizer that are used throughout the year.
In 2007, Montinore began following the Demeter Biodynamic guidelines in their vineyards, an arduous task for vineyards that span several hundred acres. Now Rudy is the Chairman of Demeter USA, the primary organization for Biodynamic certification in the United States.
Rudy shared how promoting soil health through natural means is a central tenant to Biodynamic farming. Strong soil health enables the growth of beneficial fungi in the soil that provide mineral-rich water to the vines’ root systems. These good fungi also aid in making the soil richer in oxygen, which helps relieve some disease pressures. Biodynamic practices have been shown to promote a healthy root system, making vines more drought tolerant. While it has taken a lot of work to get Montinore Estate’s vineyards to be Biodynamic certified, Rudy stated that their farming costs are now less expensive than conventional farming.
The seminar was more than just interesting talk about dirt and farming practices. Rudy led us through a tasting of seven of Montinore Estate’s wines, sharing info about the vineyard sites and how they influence the wines. The wines were very enjoyable, well-made with a sense of place. Several of the wines are in distribution in Texas, and they are offered at very approachable price points.
- 2017 Pinot Gris
- 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir
- 2014 Graham’s Block 7 Pinot Noir
- Rosso di Marchesi Quinto Atto (red blend of Teroldego, Lagrein, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and Nebbiolo)
- 2018 Almost Dry Riesling
- Borealis (blend of Müller-Thurgau, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Gris)
- Vivace (sparkling blend of Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, and Riesling)
Overall, this was a great event. I learned a lot about Biodynamic farming practices, listened to some good stories, and got to try some excellent wines that are different than what we typically make in Texas. For those interested in learning more about Biodynamic practices, Rudy offered the Biodynamic Association’s website as a source of excellent info. While the Wine and Food Week events are wrapped up for 2019, be sure to look out for the 2020 events. I’m sure they’ll have more fun and interesting events next year.