Spring BD Prep Activities

April 25, 2011

As I was examining the cherry blossoms last week, Buddy reminded me that it is time to dig up the horns. To refresh folks, we bury horns in the Fall to produce “Preparation 500” or the root stimulant used in the Biodynamic farming method. Buddy plopped himself down right in the center of the ring that marks where we buried the horns! As usual, the animals seem to know things before we do.

– Barbara Steele

Green wine gets new pitchman

April 22, 2011

This Earth Day wine lovers woke up to a new world of Earth-friendly choices with the public beta of ConsciousWine, a web portal devoted exclusively to wines that are as good for the planet as they are for the palate.

Starring the larger-than-life, 5-foot 6-inch Jeff Weissler, aka “The ConsciousWine Guy,” the site features a webisodic wine show, online radio program, blog and directory covering vintners who grow grapes and make wine the Old World way, naturally.

With a fun, casual style that is anything but snobby, Weissler helps wine lovers and treehuggers alike, get to the heart of what really makes wine green, and good.

“ConsciousWine was born out of two frustrations that I experienced as a wine retailer,” shares Weissler. “First, thanks to industrial agriculture and ‘better living through chemistry,’ wines from all over the world, even different varietals, started tasting the same. Yuck! Second, and sadder still, organic wine did not consistently equal quality, leaving early adopters with a bad taste in their mouth and forcing top-rated certified-organic grape growers to forgo the green stamp of approval for fear of being branded bad.”

To make The List, vintners must create vital, great-tasting wines from sustainably-farmed, organically-grown grapes, and engage in one or more of twelve practices ranging from biodiversity to water conservation to good worker policies. All the featured estates farm exclusively with OMRI-approved products, and many carry Demeter’s Biodynamic® brand, representing the most rigorous and respected sustainability standards in the field.

With no legal definition of sustainability, and more certification schemes than a connoisseur can keep track of, Weissler hopes to help confused consumers make sense of what green really means in the wine world, both on the ground and in the glass. His blog covers virtually every aspect of natural winemaking, focusing mostly on estate wineries that put people and the planet on the same bottom line with profit.

Weissler’s webisodic wine show will feature field reports focused on his twelve practices that give buyers a first-hand look behind the labels at holistic estates such as Ambyth, Cowhorn, Dominio VI, Michel-Schlumberger, Montinore, Paul Dolan, and a handful of hand-picked California and Oregon wineries to start.

As ConsciousWine rolls out to include more wineries and other regions, Weissler’s online audience will get to virtually visit them all, meeting the green scene’s most intriguing vintners, farmers, restaurateurs, sommeliers, and sustainability entrepreneurs.

For millennials on the run who would rather listen to, than read about new releases, Weissler’s tastings and reviews are available exclusively as podcasts, and often feature the winemakers.

This summer, ConsciousWine will also open an online winery-direct shop stocked with fine wine and food from holistic estates considered to be among the best in the United States, most of which go well beyond organic in their principles and practices.

The ConsciousWine Guy is supported by an ensemble cast of all-star friends from Ashland, Oregon, a tiny town that Jeff describes as “the intersection of Old World and New Age” located in Oregon’s up-and-coming Rogue wine region.

Despite being a 30-year veteran of the wine business, having worked for leading companies such as Zachys, Suburban Wine & Spirits, and Domain Selections, Weissler is reluctant to label himself an expert and the first to admit that he’s no sommelier. In his quest to explore the world of conscious wine, he has personally visited and vetted every winery on the website.

“I am a passionately curious tour guide to the emerging world of conscious wine,” shares Jeff. “My main goal is to bridge the grand canyon of public perception between organic farming and quality wine. I aim to debunk destructive market myths about green wine and demystify the seemingly magical processes at play on holistic wine estates that are producing some of the world’s purest and most pleasurable wines.”

FARM to FORK COWHORN dinner sold out

April 21, 2011

We just checked in with Chef Matthew Domingo, and the June 25th FARM to FORK dinner at the COWHORN Estate is now sold out.

In the context of an exceptional culinary experience, FARM to FORK dinners celebrate the local growers and winemakers whose commitment to sustainable food security makes the Rogue Wine Country such a nutritious and delicious place to call home.

Your evening will begin with a glass of wine and a farm tour, followed by a multi-course meal featuring Full Circle Ranch Bison. Located in the Williams Valley, the Full Circle family ranch raises buffalo that are 100% grass-fed on certified organic pastures for their entire lives.

Our friends at FARM to FORK have titled our dinner “Vineyard and Farm in One,” and we’re honored to be the only wine estate to host a dinner during the 2011 season.

Spring Frost Update

April 11, 2011

As you all know, Cowhorn specializes in cool climate growing. This year, our winter project was to expand our pump system. These bright and shiny new pumps will allow us to provide temperature control to the new vineyard acreage and the cherry orchard.

Check out these beautiful buds on the Lapin cherry trees! They aren’t in danger yet from frost, but only a few more days until they open to bloom. It will be the first time we use the new system!

– Barbara Steele

Demeter joins lawsuit against Monsanto GMO

April 5, 2011

The Demeter Association has joined a group of approximately 50 membership organizations, seed distributors and farmers/farms in a suit challenging the chemical giant Monsanto Company’s patents on genetically engineered seed , commonly referred to as GMO or genetically modified seed. We have thoughtfully entered into this action to preemptively protect our members and non-GMO farmers in general from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed. We are sure you are aware that in the past, Monsanto has indeed taken this aggressive course of action.

The case was filed on Tuesday March 29, 2011, in federal district court in Manhattan. In addition to Demeter, the plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. Some Demeter members are amongst the plaintiff group.

“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s genetically modified seed should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney in the case. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by GM seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”

As our members are well aware, once released into the environment, genetically modified seed contaminates and destroys organic seed for the same crop. Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets, canola and alfalfa now face such a fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each of those crops, too. Monsanto is developing genetically modified seed for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed all agriculture, at stake.

In the case, PUBPAT is asking the court to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement. One reason for this result is that Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don’t meet the “usefulness” requirement of patent law. Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening filing today proves that genetically modified seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false.

“Some say genetically modified seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that’s not possible, and it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply,” said Ravicher. “Monsanto is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB’s and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not. Now Monsanto says genetically modified seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not.”


The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) is a not-for-profit legal services organization affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. PUBPAT protects freedom in the patent system by representing the public interest against undeserved patents and unsound patent policy. More information about PUBPAT is available from PUBPAT.org

The Coming of Spring, Part 3

April 4, 2011

What if rather than saying we live “on” Earth, we say we live “in” Earth? “On” implies that Earth stops below our feet. Earth is hard, inert, beneath us. We are above Earth; many believe they are then superior to Earth. “In” implies that Earth is going on all around us. I think that Earth starts at the center of the core of the planet and continues to the ozone. We live in a relatively small band of space that circles the planet, usually only 20 feet or so! If I scratch the soil and scoop some up I see a universe of organisms that out numbers me by multitudes. The air around me is filled with organisms as well. Perhaps we humans live in a relatively small part of Earth and are really, really outnumbered by all of those who live in Earth with us. Do unto others as they would do unto you. It is humbling when you think this one through..

– Barbara Steele

The Coming of Spring, Part 2

What if rather than saying we live “on” Earth, we say we live “in” Earth? Such a simple change, just one letter, can dramatically change how one thinks. Every day we walk through rain (especially lately!), we drink water, the wind blows through our shirts and over our bodies, we breathe it in, we walk though our forests and woodlands, sinking in the mud, we swim in the ocean, sink in sandy beaches. Every day, every action, every breath confirms that we are “in” the Earth, one of the many creatures commingling in the web of life. Was it even ever appropriate to say we are “on” Earth?

– Barbara Steele