Biodynamics: Natural Wonder or Just a Horn of Manure?
By JAY MCINERNEY
Burly, heavily bearded Stu Smith has been tending his vineyard atop Spring Mountain with his brother Charlie for more than 40 years. The Smith Brothers have gained a quietly loyal following for their Smith Madrone wines, despite eschewing such Napa conventions as new French oak, irrigation and Robert Parker raves.
Stuart, the more loquacious of the brothers, has been known to complain about the high alcohol and the high prices of many Napa wines. Recently he has directed his contrarian streak at a fashionable new target: biodynamic viticulture.
Biodynamics is a system of organic agriculture based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, the German theosophist, specifically on a series of lectures he delivered to farmers in 1924. It uses many of the principles of organic farming—no pesticides or chemical fertilizers—but goes further, relying on practices like planting and harvesting according to solar and lunar cycles and combating pests such as moths and rabbits by scattering the ashes of their dead brethren.