The Cowhorn Winery has always tried to be a good land stewart, recycling bottles. But the owners are taking it up a notch, recycling the bottles through a California company that sterilizes bottles so they can be reused.
The evolutionaries over at THRIVE have created a new way for more Rogue Valley residents to get easy access “real food grown by real farmers.” Aho!
Rogue Valley Local Foods is a year-round online farmers market featuring produce, meats, eggs, cheeses, wheat products, flowers, jams, honey and seafood all grown within 100 miles of the heart of the Rogue Valley.
It is part of Thrive’s mission to connect consumers with local businesses and cultivate a more sustainable local economy. This is a win-win system for food producers and customers alike. Farmers save time, and buyers are able to shop from their computer year round, all while directly supporting local family farms and businesses.
How does it work? Each week, local farmers post their fresh, in-season produce, meats, dairy and eggs online, creating a virtual farmers’ market for our entire community. Buyers place their custom orders based on available products. The program offers convenient drop-off locations for farmers and convenient pick-up locations for consumers.
Anyone can use this service. It is open to families, individuals, and businesses, with special pricing is for caterers and restaurants. They even accept Oregon Trail Cards for all you backwoodsy types. Everyone benefits from local, sustainable agriculture.
Bill Steele, co-owner of Cowhorn Winery calls in from Applegate Valley, Oregon to describe their innovative Biodynamic farming practices for growing grapes and other organic fruits and veggies. The Steeles are also working to close the loop on wine bottle waste.
Grape harvest down, but wines should be tasty
Rain plunked off of grape leaves in the fields of Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden while, inside, the fruit crackled with the fermentation process.
Harvest of the prominent agricultural crop is wrapping up around the state, and predictions are for tasty wines but reduced volume.
The Oregon Wine Board indicated that the cumulative growing degree day values throughout the state are down slightly from 2008, which it indicated was one of the best vintages for the state. Lower yields, small berries and full flavor development at lower brix levels — a measure of sweetness — have the potential to lead to high-quality, lower-alcohol content wines, according to the initial report. Grapes are still being harvested, so a final report is not yet available.
A relatively dry winter, followed by a comparatively cool and wet spring, prompted some growers to deliberately cut some grapes from the vine early to encourage the remaining ones to ripen. What they are bringing in has some regional growers praising the crop.
At Cowhorn, a boutique winery in the Applegate Valley, vines are not asked to produce large volumes in the first place, explained Bill Steele, who owns the business with his wife, Barbara Steele.
“We’re not a grower but a winery,” he said. “We don’t get paid by the pound. We actually get paid by the bottle.”
The winery wrapped up harvest just ahead of the recent stormy weather, which has brought about 2 inches of rain in the past week. The three-day picking brought in 24 tons of red syrah and grenache and white marsanne, roussanne and viognier.
Wooldridge Creek Winery was bringing in the last grapes on Friday, said Greg Panritz, winemaker.
“What would normally happen in a month happened in six to seven days,” he said.
The pinot, tempranillo and merlot appear to be especially nice, he said, although they won’t know how the wine actually turns out for eight months to a year.
Bridgeview Vineyards still has another week or so go to in its harvest, said Rene Eichmann, vice president and winemaker, but the rain hasn’t appeared to be a major barrier.
“For some strange reason, virtually all of our grapes have made it just great,” he said. Cabernet is the only type that may not be the greatest this year, he added.
It’s been a harvest of discovery, as he has processed dry- harvested grapes and those picked during a near-downpour and found very little difference in the content. The machine used to pick the grapes shakes the canopy.
“It actually shakes all the rain off the grapes, as well,” he said.
Some wineries strive for higher brix, but the lower sugar content this year isn’t a barrier to Bridgeview’s wines, Eichmann said.
“Overall, I’m really happy,” he said.
At Cowhorn, the red grapes landed in large, covered tanks with the skins on, which is what gives the wine its color. The three white types were processed separately in a giant press.
If blended — such as for the Spiral 36 combination of marsanne, roussanne and viognier — they’re combined in a large tank before being pumped into barrels with native yeast. Enough room must be left in the barrels to allow room for carbon dioxide, which is released during the fermentation process. The wine will be transferred to bottles after they’ve had a few months to ferment in the barrels.
Cowhorn is a “biodynamic farm,” so everything possible is done to reduce outside influence — from building using trees or rocks from the property to not using synthetic chemicals.
They spray a light mixture of compost and water, called compost tea.
They also grow a mixture of crops, with asparagus being the second-largest at 5,600 pounds this year. Other items grown on the property include artichokes, cherries and hazelnuts.
Steele said he and his wife were living an organic lifestyle before they moved from California, so the biodynamic approach appealed to them. He also praised how helpful others using the same practices have been.
With the grape harvest complete, Cowhorn turned to tilling between rows, where cover crops of radish, mustard, crimson clover and barley will help to crowd out weeds.