September 23, 2005


Since I began making wine in 2001, it turns out that I’ve harvested my grapes on the exact day my beloved San Francisco Giants play their last game of baseball for the year.

In 2001, it was a limp last day of the regular season in early October, the Giants wrapping up a marginal season with a meaningless game. In 2002, it was the heartbreaking but inevitable last game of the World Series in late October, the night after the then Anaheim Angels staged a stunning comeback that made Game 7 a fait accompli. Only the beauty of a golden harvest kept my spirits up that day.

And on it goes. I call my philosophy of when to harvest grapes Giantdynamics, which has to be less controversial than the current debate raging over biodynamic agriculture and grape growing.

Biodynamics is based on the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century. It is a hard concept to sum up, but essentially it is farming organically with a spiritual component of sometimes bizarre rituals and time-tested pagan farming practices including planting and harvesting by the phases of the moon.

Of course, modern science vs. traditional “organic” farming approaches already provides plenty of fodder for ideological debates. Should we use all kinds of synthetic fungicides and pesticides in the fields, or should we farm more naturally to create and sustain a beneficial ecosystem that might reduce or eliminate the need for synthetic products? Doesn’t sound like much when you sum it up, but the daggers fly whenever this topic comes up.

Add in a nice dose of Steiner’s anthroposophy to the mix and you’ve got intellectual meltdown on all sides. Witness the biodynamics thread current raging over on discussion forum.

Personally, I’m interested in biodynamics more for the results and what techniques might truly have a positive effect on grape quality. But I won’t rule out the more mystical elements of biodynamics, no matter how crazy they sometimes appear. One thing’s for sure – we never know as much about the world as we think we know. Stranger things in our world have turned out to be true than whether or not burying a cow’s horn full of manure under the proper phase of the moon will yield a healthy crop. Who would have thought the world could be round without everyone on the lower half falling off?

So I’m curious to see if someday we can know more about what parts of biodynamics really work, if not all of them, and why. While I may not immediately run out and practice biodynamics in absolute, more power to those that do, including some of the leading wine producers in the world.

Heck, I’m too busy practicing Giantdynamics, which suggests that harvest should take place a week from Sunday when the Giants likely wrap up another disappointing season with…hopefully a win.


Barry Bonds said...

Have fun slogging through the rain on Sunday, Vincent!

Vincent Fritzsche said...


Thanks for reading élevage and for contributing your thoughts. I'm honored to have your attention. Here's hoping you'll return with comments on the wines you enjoy.

Anonymous said...


What do you make? I did a small batch of Syrah from Sonoma in 2000 and a Zin from Sonoma in 2002. After those two, I'm holding off until I can find a decent local source. (My equipment spends most of its time making beer . . .) No control over picking is not cool, particularly for one who is sensitive to high alcohol. The Zin soaked out to 32 Brix. There is only so much aqueous correction one can make! See you in Therapy.


Dave Nelson

Barry Bonds said...

Thanks for asking, Vincent.

My current favorite is the 2003 Balco Brothers "The Cream" Barossa Shiraz. You should see the Grateful Palate markup on that one!

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Anonymous Dave,

I've made a variety of things, such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. And Willamette Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in 2002, when it got ripe and wasn't half bad. Think a light cabernet from the Touraine. This year I'm focusing on getting more professional experience, so I'm going to make just what I can scrap together. But it's not as much a priority as working in a cellar. As for sources, don't be shy calling up places you like and asking, perhaps sheepishly to gain sympathy, if they'll sell to a home winemaker. Usually, even if they say no, they'll be supportive. Maybe even give you a suggestion on who you might call next.

David Nelson said...

Nice selection of wines, Vincent. Thanks for the information. Sourcing grapes is more than a bit difficult here in the Midwest. I'm not too far from the Missouri wine country, but there isn't that much available to home winemakers, and there are numerous old timers who have access to the best plots (for Missouri . . .) and buy in much larger quantities than I can handle.