By: Jimmy On: July 18, 2017
Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden is a certified Biodynamic farm and winery in the Applegate Valley. If you’re not familiar with biodynamics, you are certainly not alone. The lack of awareness surrounding biodynamic farming has led Bill and Barbara Steele, the owners of Cowhorn, to take a relatively drastic step: they are offering guided tours of their vineyard and winery. On a cool, drizzly day in April, I had the opportunity to take one.
Charlsie, the Tasting Room Manager, led the tour. Over the next half hour, my understanding of biodynamic practices began to expand and solidify. The farm as a whole is a living organism. In order to produce high quality wine, all parts need to be healthy and thriving. To this end, Cowhorn uses as few external inputs as possible. This means the soil is rejuvenated through the use of cover crops, grapes are fermented using their natural yeast rather than a commercially available one, and the roads and building foundations are made out of rock that was already on the property.
And it isn’t a monoculture. In addition to several varieties of wine grapes, Cowhorn grows asparagus, hazelnuts, truffles, and lavender. Pest control is done without “‘cides”. There are no pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides used on the property. To take care of the occasional fungus, they spray cinnamon oil. Pest control tends to take the form of bears, birds of prey, and fisher cats. This wildlife is encouraged and is an integral part the farm ecology.
And there’s so much more to it. Bill makes organic sulfites and uses only the bare minimum necessary to stabilize the wine. Cowhorn’s employment practices are also designed to be sustainable. Employees earn a living wage and participate in everything from pouring wine to harvesting to crushing the grapes. There is even a lab in their on site winery so that Barbara can make sure the grapes are doing what they should during fermentation and aging.
At the end of the tour, with all of this information still swirling in my head, I found it best to enjoy the fruits of Cowhorn’s labor by unwinding with a flight of wine at the tasting room which was recently Living Building Challenge certified. I would encourage anyone interested in learning more about biodynamics or wine production to take a tour. More information and pricing can be found online at cowhornwine.com.