Keeping track in California, Oregon and Washington

Wine is the reflection of the fruit, so to understand wine, one has to understand the vine plant behind

Travelling and going from one place to an other, has always been a need for the human race in order to find food and shelter. Since the beginning of agriculture, more than 10 000 years ago, it seems that this tendency shifted. In other words with agriculture, in a simplistic description, two distinct currents appeared: the nomadic and the sedentary way of leading one own’s

As a true craftman, the farmer has to work the same way an artisan does, in order to elaborate real pieces of art in his fields

life. With these two currents, we saw those people who travelled a fair amount of time in a year in order to feel good and secure, and those who needed to remain always at the same place in order to feel good and secure. Usually, one category can’t understand the other and how it is possible not to adopt the opposite tendency.

This tendency remains the same today at the beginning of the 21st century. We find those one who always remain in the same area all their life and those one who feel the need for new horizon and culture. It is almost vital for them to remain in one or the other current all their life. The nomadic mood applies

L'Aventure vineyards in Paso Robles

to me better these days. Though I always have the longing for my farm in the Loire Valley which requires much more of a sedentary mind set. How to mix travelling and farming together? I wonder. It will be the challenge to meet in the future. Though, I am sure to find a solution as farming is not as it used to be and farmers who wish to do so can leave their farms for weeks and have their work done if properly organised . Organisation and management are the key.

I couldn’t update Holy Terroir blog as much as I wanted to while on the west coast. I had the choice between  visiting the maximum of people in a day or staying quieter and spending more time in front of the screen  to update Holy Terroir blog. I’ve chosen the first option as you have noticed. My time on the west coast was limited whereas my time in front of the computer is flexible and less restrictive. At the beginning of the journey in USA, I tried to write something about each and every visit I was doing. That means in practice that to do something reasonable, I used to visit one or maximum two places in a single day in order to then write about it later on that same day.

Missions have been built by Franciscan monks when they came with the Spaniards. San Miguel Mission, north of Paso Robles, has been built in1792 ans is the oldest mission remained untouched as it was originally. The other ones have been either rebuilt or restored.

A single visit should be no less than two hours. It always takes time to get a glimpse of the place we are visiting. Ideally, the perfect rhythm when moving around and writing at the same time, would be to visit one place in the morning and then to write about it in the blog the afternoon on the same day. Well… In theory, this would be the perfect balance between travelling, investigating and reporting. In practice, this is obviously an other story.

The nettle preparation #504 used in the biodynamic compost, is burried underground one year in these clay vessels. Here at Frey vineyards in Mendocino county.

Why? This is very simple. Farmers, winemakers, and everyone you included, have their own schedule. Most of visits were planned in advance but sometimes it was easier for instance to do 3 visits during the day because the people we wanted to meet were not available during an other time or day. This is why at some point it became almost impossible to report each and every story inspired by the places and the people I was encountering. From one visit a day, we moved sometimes to 5 vineyards in one day. At this pace, it is impossible to keep track with the blog and report each visit. Nevermind.

By saying so, I want to apologize to those one who gave me their time and knowledge on the west coast in order to share with me a tiny bit of their

During a seminar about bio-dynamics at Montinore Estate in the Willamette Valley, Oregon

story. They will know who I want to talk about. I would have loved to introduce them to you in Holy Terroir blog, but unfortunately, it would have taken a whole book lenght to fit these stories in the blog. So what to do in order to honour them? Talking about them? Mentioning their names in the blog? Going back there to spend more time beside them? Working with them in the future in one way or an other?, etc…Possibilities are endless. In fact, the most realistic way to fulfil my objectives, will certainly be to mention their names at some point in Holy Terroir blog, in this post, or in a later one.

The warm welcome at Cayuse vineyards in Walla Walla area in Washington will beautifully end my american tour. Here in the wine studio, from left to right: assistant vigneronnes Laura Pursley and Elizabeth Bourcier with owner Christophe Baron. Amazing wines made by great characters!

And least but not last, there is certainly one person towards which I want to express my gratitude through Holy Terroir blog. Without him, I couldn’t have done one third of what I have accomplished while on the west coast and

Observation of a vine leaf with Philippe Armenier

in the whole United States. Philippe Armenier, bio-dynamic consultant based in Santa Rosa, has been with his family, of a precious help and support. I am taking the opportunity here to thank all of them for letting me stay with them in order to go deeper in understanding bio-dynamics . Even if I am far away from them , I can affirm today that  I have moved a considerable step further on the long path of bio-dynamics.

So, more than words, pictures speak for themselves and give you an overview of my time on the west coast. In the French version of Holy Terroir, you have been able to see already some pictures taken in California. I hope you enjoyed them, and if you didn’t watch them all, go and click on the link “HOLY TERROIR en français” in the right column.

The uniqueness of the soil with these round stones, at Cayuse vineyards, Walla Walla area, Washington

Route 66: Chicago – Los Angeles

From Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 is more than a 4000 kms drive

In a gift shop in Illinois

Feeling the 50's atmosphere

Trucks on their way too

Old route 66 does have its fans

Approaching the Mississipi river

Route 66 has been opened in the early 20's

Rolla in Missouri : Jesse, do you know this surrounding ?


20's section, 30's section or 60's section ? Getting lost on a dirt road.

Texas : half way to go

MidPoint café : Chicago-1139 miles Los Angeles-1139 miles

Indian Pueblos encounter in New Mexico


...and pride

Earthship world head-quarter in Taos, New Mexico

Open gate on a ranch

The Grand canyon in Arizona

Better have some water and gas

Fancy a gambling in Las Vegas, Nevada ?

Endless route 66 in the Mojave desert when it is 115°F outside (47°C)

The Pacific ocean welcomes us after Los Angeles

Santa Monica : route 66 west end
Published in: on August 5, 2010 at 2:09 am  Comments (1)  

The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, East Troy (Wisconsin)

In Wisconsin, 80 miles north west of Chicago

Last fall at Emerson College, attending the bio-dynamic agriculture training, I remember having come across Christopher Mann, an energetic and elegant senior, right at the entrance of the campus. “Come and visit our centre in

Christopher Mann and Karen his assistant

Wisconsin USA” was one of the few words we exchanged that day on a cloudy and cold morning. I remember his talkative mood and enthusiasm for this centre he was talking about: Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, north west of Chicago at the border with the state of Illinois. A centre he is the co-founder of.

The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute

“The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI) is an independent

Walter Goldstein is doing some research on maïs

educational and research organization that received its non profit status in 1984. Michael Fields was founded based on the ideals of ecologically-sound farming, bio-dynamic and resilient agriculture and food systems, enlivened cultural values, and the creation of opportunities for young people in applied agricultural sciences and food systems. Today MFAI has more than a dozen

Janet manages a 2 acres CSA which supplies vegetables for 75 families

experienced staff programming in an array of initiatives including farm and food education, public policy critique and development, farming and urban agricultural systems, and crop and soil applied research. Work is conducted on-site at several farms and at the office/laboratory/meeting facilities as well as off-site at urban and agricultural settings. MFAI is strategically located in East Troy, WI, a rich

Spacious and bright, inside the building we feel comfortable

agricultural and urban region bridging Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago cultural and economic centres. The Mission of MFAI is to cultivate the ecological, social, economic, and spiritual vitality of food and farming systems through education, research, public policy and market development.”

Yellow lillies give beauty to the garden

Published in: on July 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary (Virginia)

The blue ridge parkway gives view to dramatic sceneries

In the state of Virginia for some days, our road crossed one more aspect of bio-dynamic farming. Bee-keeping is a vital branch of the close organism we are looking for on a farm. We tend to forget about these little insects which

Colourful beehives

endlessly work from dawn till dusk with a sense of community and mutual support never seen anywhere else in nature. I want to stress here how important the bees are in nature. They are essentials to us.

We didn’t know until the last minute if we were going to meet up with Gunther Hauk, a bio-dynamic bee-keeper and co-founder of Spikenard farm, based originally in Illinois. At the beginning we couldn’t get an appointment with Gunther, being only for the last 6 months near Floyd in Virginia, he does have much to do to restart the farm in this part of the U.S.

With perseverance and a few more calls, we could at last arrange an appointment. We offered him some help in the garden, and while working, we could discuss more deeply about his involvement in Spikenard farm. So right after the Josephine Porter Institute, we stopped in this remote valley 12 miles east of Floyd, peaceful and so quiet, where the bees can have all the space they need to buzz around. Gunther has been practising bio-dynamic bee-keeping for the past thirty years and also has written a book: “Towards saving the honey bee”.

Gunther Hauk and the making of the silica preparation #501 in the back ground

“Honeybees are so much more than pollinators or honey producers! They are part of the complex living organism of the earth and are integral to our development as human beings. For this reason, they were considered sacred

Some of the beehives are kept in a bear-proof hut

in ancient times and honey was part of the most ancient folklore and medicine. Nearly 90 years ago, the multifaceted genius, scholar, philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner spoke of the problems we would see from the industrial and mechanical approach to beekeeping that was starting to take hold. He warned that we might lose the honeybee by the end of the 20th century unless a deeper understanding gave rise to sustainable methods. We took a long time to really listen!

Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary was founded in the certainty and hope that there can be a better future for this insect. They are committed to

With view over the valley

continuous research and collaboration with national and international organizations seeking new answers to the many questions the plight of the honeybee raises.

Their sanctuary aims to create an oasis of harmony, in which the human beings, plants, animals, and a biodynamically invigorated landscape create the necessary sheaths of protection, care and healing. Their focus is to respect the innate needs of the honeybee, and

Each beehive has a name

develop practical beekeeping methods with that in mind. These are taught in workshops, lectures and articles. Through their work they seek to promote in young and old not only interest, joy and love, but also a new understanding and awareness for the importance of the honeybee. A newly awakened awe and reverence for all beings of nature in their amazing interconnectedness opens the door for the necessary healing impulse to gain strength, now and in generations to come.

The standards reflect the highest care for these special creatures. The management of breeding and maintenance of bio-diversity is a particular concern. Natural development of the comb, including in the brood area, strict guidelines about feeding for overwintering and in emergencies are also part of the Spikenard and bio-dynamic approach.”

Different forms...

Different individuals...

Different shape...

Each one is unique

Published in: on July 19, 2010 at 9:53 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics (Virginia)

The JPI focus is on biodynamic preparations

Howdy cowdy! I thought it would have been easier to write while on the road to the west but in fact it hasn’t been so. Well, well, well…After more than 4000 miles driven since the last post in Holy Terroir english version, we are arrived on the other side of the american continent on the west coast. California dreamin’ with its temperature above 100°F (more than 40°C). Here

In the middle of the Appalachian mountains

it is! On this side of the continent, no more Amishs to take me away from writing and no more so long distance driving until the beginning of September when I’ll be back to Toronto. Then, I’ll have to cross the american continent once again from west to east, but in Canada this time.

While on the route 66 for 10 days from Chicago to Los Angeles, I didn’t write as much as I wanted to on Holy Terroir. It’s quite something to cross the whole country overland. I believe strongly that it is the way to do it when we want to discover a new land: ride overland and immerse yourself with the

The preparations are sent all over the country

culture and the belief systems of the people you are going to meet. Many more stories to come about this famous route 66 which kept us Claire and I busy for the last ten days. I will talk about it in the appropriate post dedicated entirely to the route 66: the Mother Road as they say. Claire is now in Los Angeles doing some volunteer work in a permaculture garden very close to Hollywood. Our roads split here after 5 weeks of travelling together, while I’m heading myself towards San Francisco.

Hugh Courtney gives a brief explanation about Biodynamics in the forword he has written in the book “What is biodynamics?”, a compilation of lectures from Rudolf Steiner

So where did we leave you? Since the last post about the Finger Lakes in New York, we went south in Pennsylvania to visit the Kimberton Hills Camphill Village where amongst many other things you’ll be able to find there, the “Stella Natura” moon calendar for North America is being published.

Sherry Wildfeur publishes the North american “Stella Natura” moon calendar

Actually, an old student from Emerson college in the name of Sherry Wildfeur is publishing it now for more than 30 years. Kimberton Camphill is an other vibrant and energetic place to visit if you happen to pass in the region in the future. You’ll find pictures in Holy Terroir french version. This region drains many other project concerning sustainability, organic and biodynamic farming, Steiner schools, CSA(Community Supported Agriculture), etc…

When I talked on the phone with Philippe Armenier, a biodynamic consultant in California about my wish to meet with him this summer, he recommended vividly some places of interest where I should go in the United-States beforehand. The Josephine Porter Institute (JPI) is one of them. In Virginia in the lush and green Appalachian mountains range, the JPI sits few miles away from the scenic Blue ridge parkway which runs north-south on the edge

The horns are stuffed with grounded quartz for the silica preparation #501

of the mountains. Hugh Courtney was expecting us for two days, just enough time for Claire and I to help prepare the silica preparation #501 and the yarrow preparation #502. Jeremiah, his grandson , shown us around. The JPI focus is to make the Biodynamic preparations. To give you an idea, each year they bury no less than 8000 cow horns for the horn manure preparation #500 and stuff 70 stag bladers for the yarrow preparation #502.

“The Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics (JPI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the memory of Josephine Porter. With single-minded determination, Josephine Porter carried on the work of making biodynamic agricultural preparations in the United States for nearly 30 years. Many farmers and future farmers came to her Cherry Valley, Pennsylvania farm to learn about biodynamic agriculture and

The quartz is made into a paste mixed with water for the stuffing

preparation making. Hugh Courtney apprenticed with “Josie” each spring and fall season for over seven years. When she died in 1984, Hugh decided to carry on her work by creating JPI. In 1985 the Institute was established in Woolwine, Virginia and is dedicated to making biodynamic preparations, and conducting biodynamic agricultural research and education. JPI’s efforts are concentrated in the areas of biodynamic agriculture, horticulture and forestry.

The preparations are kept in a root cellar

As taught by Josephine Porter, the making of quality biodynamic preparations can only be accomplished by emphasizing the spiritual, as well as the practical, aspects of their production. Those who are new to biodynamic agriculture require a source of quality biodynamic preparations

Dried yarrow flowers

if they are to do their own research and educate themselves about biodynamic agriculture. JPI’s mission is to serve as a reliable source for biodynamic preparations for the beginning or seasoned practitioner; as an education center for all biodynamic practitioners as they begin to make their own preparations; and as a research venue which focuses specifically on the BD preparations.

Biodynamic agriculture originated out of the spiritual scientific research of the Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposphy and Waldorf education. In 1920s Europe, the use of chemicals

Stuffing the stag bladder with the yarrow flowers

in agriculture was causing great concern for a number of farmers and soil scientists; especially with regard to its effects on seed viability, deterioration of food quality, and health related problems in both livestock and crops. In 1924, Steiner presented a series of eight lectures on these issues, which are now published as Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture. During this lecture series, Steiner gave indications for producing several different preparations to be used in agriculture which are now referred to as Biodynamic Preparations (BD preparations).

Colourful blowing baloons inside the bladders, for them to dry and to  take shape

A different viewpoint is required when approaching agriculture from the biodynamic perspective. In our “conventional chemical” or “organic” approach to agriculture, we tend to think in terms of substances (or more specifically, chemical requirements that can be met by this or that substance). In chemical-based agriculture, we bring nitrogen to the soil via

The bladders are then hangged all summer outside

ammonia or urea, and in organic-based agriculture we bring nitrogen via manure. For phosphorous the substance of choice is super-phosphate or rock phosphate. We are thinking in terms of chemical substances or NPK, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil. With biodynamic agriculture and biodynamic preparations, we learn to think in terms of forces in addition to substances. This does not mean discarding all knowledge of soil chemistry; it means we need to go beyond solely the chemical point of view. Just as the effects of the force of gravity or the force of magnetism can be observed without actually being able to see these forces, so too can we recognize the forces that are released though biodynamic preparations.”

Finished yarrow preparation #502

Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, Finger Lakes(New York)

A pleasant discovery in the Finger Lakes wine region

When visiting foreign countries, what I am interested in is not monuments, sight-seeing tours or casinos. When I visit foreign countries, what I am interested in is more an in depth approach to the land and to the people I am going to meet. Our time is always limited when going abroad. The clock is

Schist is one of the main soil component here

ticking as soon as we get our passport stamped with the visa, leaving us a precise amount of time to go around and search for what makes this country unique. By unique, obviously, I’m not talking about fast food culture, which unfortunately we see in every corner of the world nowadays with the same brands, the same taste. By uniqueness, I want to look for character and originality. ‘Every country has its own beauty’ I was told by a friend’s grandma who travelled a lot when she was younger. The sense of beauty I’m looking for is definitely in the uniqueness of people, places and agricultural produces.

Fred showing us the 'Pandelboger' vine training from Germany

The French name terroir stands for this uniqueness and originality. We cannot translate it into another language. It is a mixture of the earth, of the climate, of Man living on the land and of all the micro-organisms which are below the soil and who are inherent to the soil. A limited amount of time in

By Seneca Lake

the USA means getting the maximum out of this visit by going straight to the essentials. The effort of asking, being misled sometimes, and rewarded often, is worth a shot. The word intensity could summarise this experience in North America: waking up at sunrise, spending an active day by driving around to different places, making the right contacts, and making research are the day-to-day routine. In what should have been a gap in activity between my work at Saugeen River CSA biodynamic farm in Ontario (Canada) and my work with biodynamic consultant Philippe Armenier in California, has been in fact filled with a road trip focussed on sustainable, organic and biodynamic farms, vineyards, and institutes linked with anthroposophy (except for the Amishs I was with this past week, that’s why I couldn’t update the blog as I wanted too).

The cellar where we feel like in a cathedral

When arriving in a region, the first thing we need are the basics: eat and sleep. Then, the reason why we are in this region has to be fulfilled. In that case, for the Finger lakes: sustainable, organic, and biodynamic vineyards. Usually, we took the decision with Claire to visit only one winery a day and

'Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard' is also a nursery

then take the rest of time for driving, writing, researching and resting. It is a constant search for balance between these activities. We are like jugglers playing with balls and sending one in the air. In this particular day before we leave for Pennsylvania, we wanted to visit Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, a winery reknowned for its riesling and the quality of its nursery, which is also a speciality of Hermann J. Wiemer. On a simple visit which was our intention at the beginning, arriving at 4.30 pm at the winery, we ended up spending 3 hours of lively, passionate and invigorating talks about wine with Frederick T. Merwarth the winemaker taking over Hermann.

Starting the tasting with the sparkling 'cuvée brut' 06

Fred is a student of the sought-after Master Of Wine diploma which I already talked about in Holy Terroir. The first Master Of Wine student we met was James Christopher Tracy of Channing Daughters Winery in Long Island whom we met 4 weeks ago. With Fred, as with Christopher, I appreciated the

Cross filtration enables only one filtration

deep knowledge and the broad vision of the wine world. Fred has taken overthe vineyard after Hermann J. Wiemer who “retired” a few years ago. Fred warmly greeted us when we arrived at the winery

and he spent 3 hours with us explaining every aspect of the process. The winery has been built in an old barn and brings rusticity and down-to-earth elements to the winery. Very precise with the words he uses, and in the technical terms he employs, Fred could give us tasting comments very accurately with the wine we tasted. My only regret in this meeting with him is not to have been able to spend more time tasting the tanks and barrels of the previous 2009 vintage.

Frederick T. Merwarth in the barrel cellar

Fred and Hermann got their inspiration in the wine-making from Germany as Hermann is originally from this country. Fred, who worked as a business consultant, changed his life radically when he switched to wine-making 10 years ago and went to work with Hermann learning about the wine-making alchemy. Very honest with the methods he uses in the field, I appreciated the

A true love-story links Fred and his wines

transparency when Fred talked with us about the only one synthetic chemical spray he uses in the field at the early season of the powdery mildew stage. They till the soil, (Fred goes himself working in the vineyards – he was putting up wires to train the vines when we arrived), they have minimal intervention in the cellar – only one filtration, low sulphur.

The renovated barn is hiding its secrets inside

About all the wines we tried, I prefered the chardonnay 07 stainless fermented, aged in barrels for 8 months. It is floral with linden flowers aromas, very mineral in the mouth, delicate, sharp, straightforward, and has an incredible length. Good ageing potential. To be honest, I’ve been seduced

From inside the barn

by almost all the wines we tried this day with Fred. The dry riesling 2008 also retained my attention too with its zesty, lemony, passion fruit, golden green apple and green pear character. Definitely, this is a domain to watch out in the coming years for its purity of style and definite expression.

I would still be there tasting, exchanging and getting inspiration from a meeting like we had with Fred if it wasn’t so late that Saturday. Two visits in a day (the first one was at Anthony Road Winery) seems not a lot when you are just touring and seeing only with your eyes. But two wineries are really a lot if you came across such characters like Fred filled with passion, energy and will to share the knowledge he has. The tour of the four wineries (the first two were Silver Thread Vineyard and Standing Stone Vineyard) in the Finger lakes ended up by a night camping in the middle of the vineyard by a warm night and under a starry sky. The day to follow will be a long drive from upstate New York to south east Pennsylvania state: the Amish country near where we’ll be spending a few days in another Camphill community (Kimberton Hills) – which we will be talking about in the French version of Holy Terroir.

Wine: between sky and earth

Published in: on July 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Standing Stone Vineyards, Finger Lakes (New York)

When a sunset over Seneca lake speaks for itself

Nothing will ever replace the direct contact with the places, the people, and landscapes that we get when we make the effort to

Standing Stone Vineyards

consciously investigate. In fact, when we meet in person the people who work the land and who produce food or wine, we get much more than the product itself. We get something else that goes beyond the physical and the sense organs – we get a glimpse of the reality itself.

In Holy Terroir, I am trying to re-transcribe all the visits I’m doing during this tour in North America. I’ve been talking about a

Bradley showing us the Riesling planted back in the 70's

biodynamic farm called Hawthorn Valley in mid upstate New York and Silver Thread Vineyard in the Finger Lakes region in the French version of the blog. You will be able to see some of the pictures of these places if you click on the link to the French version.

Once again, we followed the recommendations of the people we have met on the way in order to visit the wineries in the Finger Lakes region in this part of upstate New York. Millennia ago, glaciers retreated in this region and gave shape to a dozen

A "wine-thief" is needed to sample out the new vintage from the barrels

elongated lakes shaped as fingers – Finger Lakes. Native Americans were known in this area as the Iroquois confederation of tribes. In this lush, green, hilly environment, settlers came to buy the land to plant the first vines at the end of the 19th century. A lot of wineries went bankrupt during the prohibition era which lasted a decade between the 1920s and 1930s. At that time in this area, a couple of wineries survived due to sacramental wine for religious ceremonies.

A pannel of the 42 acres of vines under production

We didn’t know what to expect Claire and I before coming to Standing Stone Vineyard. Once again, Pascaline Lepeltier from Rouge Tomate in NYC was giving us the name. The drive was pleasant and arriving in the region under thunderstorms and pouring rain, I had the feeling to be in the monsoon season. But in that case, not like in India in2007, no leeches were coming into my pants from walking in flip-flops in the rain and sucking my blood

Japanese carps are to be seen in the pond

from my feet. Here in the Finger Lakes, I didn’t come across a scorpion yet. The morning we arrived at Standing Stone, the heavy, warm sunny weather inspired us to go straight to see the vines first with Bradley Bogdan, an employee who got involved in the wine trade fairly recently, with the eagerness for learning and knowledge in this field.

The vine plant produces much more than simply wine

As a student in psychology who worked also in the catering industry (psychology is much needed when dealing with customers), Bradley showed us around after we met the owner Marti Macinski who was on her way to a wine event this morning when we came. Standing

In the tank room

Stone Vineyard, before being a vineyard, saw chickens running around, as thousands of them were being raised on the premises. The domain has a lovely open space towards Seneca Lake with a slope facing west. Here practices are sustainable with low chemical input.

The wines reflect the climate and by tasting all the 15 wines in the ‘flight’ (an American term for a range of wines to taste), we taste the freshness of the milder climate in this part of the United States.

The common thread in the tasting is the freshness found in most of the wines we’ve tried. From prices ranging from 10$ to 19$, we get a reasonable bottle of wine. I’ve appreciated the gewürztraminer 08 which shows complexity on the nose, mouth-filling, the skin maceration brings body and flesh, and aromas of very mature apricots and rose petals reveal its temperament.

The tasting room opened to visitors

Published in: on June 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Camphill Village, Copake (New York)

Crafts such as stained glass are made in the Village

From Long Island to Hudson Valley, we still remain in New York state. Hudson Valley is also a wine production region but the reason we wanted to stop here wasn’t for visiting wineries at all, even if with more time I would

Even with a map, 'Camphill Village' still hides a lot of jewels

have loved to stop by and taste the wine from the region. It was something else which attracted us here, Claire and I. Before arriving here at Copake in this lush and green environment, we stopped on the way at The Pfeiffer Center in Spring Valley. And then we made our way to Camphill Village, Copake, at the border with Connecticut and Massachussetts.

As we arrived on a Monday morning at the reception of the Village, it was just the time for us to join a tour organised for a small summer camp nearby the Village. Linda, a villager from Copake, leaded the tour and took us around the Village in what is a beautiful place dedicated to the teaching of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Our visit on a cloudy, warm and humid Monday, will pass the woodwork-shop, the village green, the fountain hall, the weavery, the stain glass workshop, the farm, and all the places of interest in the Village.

Linda (with a pink shirt) will lead the tour before a summer camp group staying for few weeks nearby

Camphill Village is a unique therapeutic residential farm community in Copake, New York, where dedicated volunteers and people with disabilities share a full life together. Located in rural Columbia County 100 miles north of New York City, the Village comprises 600 acres of wooded hills, gardens and pastures. Villagers(adults with disabilities), co-workers and co-workers with children live together in extended family households and work together in a variety of craft shops and work areas.

Working manually in the Woodworkshop as an healing therapy

Crafts include candle making, stained glass, bookbinding, weaving, and woodworking. Land work includes a biodynamic dairy farm , vegetable, gardens, the Healing Plant Garden and Workshop and Turtle Tree Seed business. The Village also has a medical care centre, culture and arts centre, bakery, café, and gift shop.

Rudolf Steiner: "Colour is the soul element of Nature and the whole Cosmos"

Founded in 1961, Camphill Village is the oldest of eight independent Communities in North America. It draws on the 60 year experience of the international Camphill movement – over 100 communities, schools, and centres in 22 countries dedicated to building a full life with and for children,

Nothing more fulfilling for a human being than to feel useful, be productive and be creative.

youth, and young adults with social, emotional, and mental disabilities. The mission of Camphill is to uphold the true image of the human being, particularly where the unfolding of the individual is challenged by developmental disability. The Camphill philosophy was developed by Karl Konig in Scotland in 1940, a Viennese born doctor influenced by the work of Rudolf Steiner.

Over one hundred villagers with moderate to mild developmental disabilities have chosen Camphill Village as their home. They range in age from 24 to 94, over half are over 50. While the community accepts people from any geographical location, the majority come from the metropolitan north-east.

At any given time about 110 long- term resident co-workers and their children live and work in the village. They share responsibility for villager care, home making, workshop training, the farm, administration and finance, community outreach and the cultural, artistic and spiritual life of the community.

In the weavery, patience and perseverance find their meanings

Co-workers are volunteers who work out of commitment to the mission of Camphill and do not receive a salary as such. They establish a community

Where every material becomes art

budget to meet basic expenses(food, clothing, vacations, medical insurance, education, and training). They have credentials or training in curative education, social therapy, social sciences, the arts and humanities. Many have extensive experience in agriculture or crafts, and many lived and worked in other camphill centres.

Camphill Village is an important option among many fine services in New York State for adults with developmental disabilities. With its emphasis on family-centred care, the development of individual potential and inclusions, Camphill is a forerunner and model in the disabilities field, where these ideals are now the basis for public policy nationwide.

The biodynamic preparations are kept in a pentagonal hut insulated with peat, to be electro-magnetic waves proof

Camphill Village depends on charitable contributions for 47 percent of its operating needs. Contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the

The oven from where all these delicious pastries and breads are being made

law. Government funding through the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities(OMRDD), historically unpredictable and variable, now meets 53 percent of operating costs. Fiscal responsibility is ensured through careful monitoring of expenses, quarterly budget reports to the Board and an annual audit.”

A sense of beauty in the craftmanship

Published in: on June 23, 2010 at 7:51 pm  Comments (7)  
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Channing Daughters Winery, Long Island (New York)

Landing in Manhattan

After a week in the buzzing New York City, I had to give myself a treat and leave for a quieter and more peaceful surrounding.

See you again

The initial plan was to go north to Spring Valley only a 45 mins drive from Manhattan. I wanted to visit the Pfeiffer Center straight away. The Pfeiffer Center is where Ehrenfried Pfeiffer (1899-1961), a close student of Rudolf Steiner(1861-1925) and pioneering biodynamic practitioner, came to live in the mid 1940s until his death in 1961. But you know how it goes … we make plans and at the last minute, plans change. I think plans, in fact, are made to be changed.

With all these meetings in NYC, I had to tidy up all my notes, pictures and update my blog. It is a real job in itself to file up all the documents and addresses one gathers when traveling.

Some fresh air in a park in NYC

It was quite a surprise to discover that along the way here in North America. When I was traveling and working in Asia from 2006 to 2009, I made sure not to bring any electronics with me, to be as light as possible. As soon as my backpack was too heavy, I used to send a parcel to my home in France. It was quite something to unpack all of that when I came back home three years later. Thirty parcels from all Asia carrying with them the flavour of the country the parcel was sent from.

Most of the wineries I wanted to visit in North America are situated on the West Coast, being mostly in California, Oregon and Washington states.

Bridgehampton on Long Island

The only one I knew of before coming here were the Ontario vineyards in eastern Canada. Being in the US now, information about wineries are easier to get and I could collect a few names in the Long Island area (east of New York City) and in the Finger Lakes (north west of New York).

I’m not anymore alone on the road as from now, as Claire from Scotland has joined me in NYC and will travel with me for the next four weeks until we reach California.

Enjoying a walk on 'Jones beach' with Claire

Usually, I have to admit I’m more of an independent traveler, but in fact when we think about it, traveling with a partner is going to be more exciting especially when we’ll have to drive through the thousands of kilometers of the middle west. So let’s try that.

Long Island is a bit like La Baule in France or Brighton in England to a certain extent obviously. Wealthy New Yorkers go there during summer time to take a break from the city.

Passing a bridge at sunset

The Hamptons are quite famous on Long Island and if you want to look for the wineries, you have to go to the far end of the island on the South Fork or on the North Fork. Wineries are more spread out on the North Fork because of a warmer microclimate over there. Shinn Vineyards, for example, I’m talking about in the French version of the blog, is on the North Fork. Very few vineyards are on the South Fork as it is much cooler there.

Channing Daughters Winery

As an island, you can imagine the difficult conditions to grow grapes here as grapes are very mildew sensitive, a cryptogamic illness on the leaves which blocks the photosynthesis process and the normal growing of the plant. Every vinegrower will tell you that downy and powdery mildew are the nightmares of vineyards. In the conventional vineyards, they spray synthetic chemicals 8 to 14 times  to get rid of the pressure from this fungi. No need to say that all of these chemicals are to be found in the glass of the consumer thereafter.

Long Island does have approximately 35 wineries on its island among the nearly 300 that you find in the whole state of New York. Channing Daughters Winery was recommended by Pascaline Lepeltier from Rouge Tomate, whom I met the previous week in NYC. The tour of the vineyard was short and intense with the energetic and active character named James Christopher Tracy who is the winemaker and also partner of the winery. A very knowledgeable man, Christopher is preparing the very sought-after Master of Wine Diploma. To give you an idea of the level, there are 279  Masters of Wine (MW) in the whole world today.

James Christopher Tracy

One relevant and important thing that he mentioned during our visit is the actual origin of copper and sulfur which is wildly used in organic and biodynamic vineyards. At Channing Daughters, they practice sustainable farming and try to be as environmentally friendly as posssible. It is true that to fight against the downy midlew for example, large quantities of copper are spread on the vineyard. Where does this copper come from …?

Surrounded by grapes

The same with the Bordeaux mix, which is made with a copper sulphate base. Same question once again: where is the copper sulphate coming from? Except some volcano in the world where you are able to find natural sulfur in the form you need for your vineyards, usually it has to be mined with heavy machinery and then processed (petrol consumption) to result in the form suitable for your personal use. Large quantities of sulfur and copper are sometimes found in the organic and biodynamic vineyards. These two names (organic and biodynamic) don’t mean the vineyards are clean from any synthetic chemical. The proof is here with the relevant argument made by Christopher.

Tasting some of the 29 wines

We finish the visit with a tasting of some of the wines made by him. The choice is huge as they make no less than 29 different wines in a single vintage. A true game of blending indeed. Grape varieties are mostly originated from central Europe and northern Italy. You are able to find here some Blaufrankish, Tocai Friulano, Lagrein, Teroldego Rotaliano, Dornfelder, Sylvaner, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, etc …

Tasting room

The oldest grapes on the estate were planted in 1982. They have 28 acres here in the South Fork and bought 30 acres of land on the North Fork too. This is in order to create more diversity in their wines, which I find already very, very diverse. It is not everywhere on Long Island that you are able to taste a Ripasso or a Solera wine for example. My preference will go to the Sauvigon Blanc Mudd vineyard 2008 made out of 35 year old vines: great citrusy flavours, complexity, refreshing on the palate and fine delicate acidity which is very pleasant.

The ferry between the South and North Fork

Published in: on June 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

New-York wine scene

Nothing to declare...? All clear to cross the border!

When we think about New York, the first thing which comes to my head is probably the Statue of Liberty. At least it was the case not so long ago. Preparing this trip in the Big Apple a few months ago, I wanted to go and meet the wine scene over there. Olivier Cousin, a natural vigneron from the Loire Valley, gave me some addresses worth a visit in NYC and thanks to him I could get in touch with the jewel of the NYC  wine scene.

I arrived in NYC two weeks ago, and because of the intensity of my stay there, updating my blog took a bit longer than expected. Only a week in this city, that’s why I wanted to make the most of it obviously … My priority: meeting as many people as possible involved in the natural, organic or biodynamic wine trade. It could be retailers, importers, distributors, sommeliers, wine bars, wine stores, writers  and journalists. After a long drive from Toronto to NYC and a stop at Woodbridge Farm,a biodynamic farm in Connecticut, I arrived in NYC ready to collect as much information as possible regarding the wine scene over there. With two goals mainly: the first being collecting interviews for this blog and for the project with French magazine LeRouge&LeBlanc, and the second was to find partners to work with in America to import exclusive small estate fine wines from France.

At 'Woodbridge' biodynamic farm in Connecticut

All the week, I kept myself busy to investigate and to meet the characters behind the different names who make NYC so famous for authentic wines. It started with importers and 10 years old company Jenny & François Selections. The meeting with Jenny Lefcourt, an elegant and courteous lady, was the beginning of what was going to be a busy week.

Jenny Lefcourt from 'Jenny & François Selections'

Other importers in this niche market are Louis/Dressner Selections, Savio Soares Selections, Fruit of the Vine Inc, and Jon-David Headrick Selections. From all of them, I could only meet Kevin McKenna from Louis/Dressner Selections with their wines mainly from France, and then Italy, some from Spain and Croatia too.

Kevin McKenna from 'Louis/Dressner Selections'

From one appointment to an another, I went to meet representatives of the wine stores Maslow 6, Chambers Street, West Side Wine, Appellation Wines, Discovery Wines, Astor Wines, UVA, and 67 Wine. All of them offer a wide range of excellent quality wines from quality winemakers from all over the world but more particularly from France and Italy. At every meeting, the quality of the exchange was different. But after all, the common thread was the passion and the knowledge that those people have about wine.

Mollie Battenhouse, Jane, and Keri Kunzle from 'Maslow 6'

David Lillie from 'Chambers Street'

David Phillips from 'Astor Wines'

Andy Besch from 'West Side Wine'

Scott Pactors from 'Appellation Wines'

Tim Mortimer from 'Discovery Wines'

Every time it was inspiring to meet them. They defend the authenticity and the taste for good wine and food and quality products. Each one of them has its own particularity and special something which makes them so unique.

From the stores, I then toured the wine bars The Ten Bells with Fifi and Jorge, The Counting Room with Doria, Terroir, Maslow & Sons and Diner in Brooklyn, and Clo Wine bar with Steven MacDonald, which is original for its virtual wine list.

Steven McDonald from 'Clo Wine Bar' and the virtual list showing up on the table

Some restaurants worth the visit if you go to NYC are Trestle on Tenth with chef Ralf Kuetel, Rouge Tomate with  sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier DBGB with chef Daniel Boulud and sommelier Kerrie Obrien, and the restaurant Hearth.

Pascaline Lepeltier from 'Rouge Tomate' and I have been to the same sommelier school in Angers

But what would probably be the most remarkable encounter was my meeting with Alice Feiring, a free-lance writer for The New York Times who also runs a famous blog In Vino Veritas. Her book « The battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization » had a big echo in the wine world. It happened that I got her contact thanks to Jenny. And we could arrange a time for me to call her on the phone. When she asked me what I was looking for in the vineyards in North America, my answer was authenticity, character, and sapidity. She told me with humour that to find a complete  farm here in the US with vineyards also with animals, aromatic herbs, vegetables, cereals, orchards,etc…  one would have to wait for 150 years at least before finding such a thing. Funnily enough, we talked on the phone on a Wednesday morning, and NYC being a very small city indeed(?), it happened that we met in person in a restaurant I was visiting later on during the week. Without any appointment our meeting took place like that on a restaurant floor. So small is the world sometimes! We could exchange a few words.

World reknown newspaper, 'The New-York Times' remains the daily most read in the US

My week ended as it had started, under the heat of a warm, sleepless, vibrant and dynamic city.

"...Slow down Bryant...."???, but who is Bryant?