As the Northeast prepares to get pummeled by freezing weekend weather, the WE staff scramble to hunt for big reds to get through it. Here’s what we found.
BY WINE ENTHUSIAST
These bottles are ready for the weekend weather / Illustration by Julia Lea
This isn’t the piece we were supposed to be running on Wine Enthusiast today, but we also weren’t prepared for warmer-than-usual autumn temperatures in our little corner of New York to suddenly plummet to below freezing overnight.
So on this Friday afternoon at #WEHQ, we find ourselves running around foraging like squirrels stockpiling nuts before a storm, hunting for extra bottles to bring home for the weekend. Editors’ and tasters’ chairs are left vacant due to the unexpected commotion, as wine racks, shelves, cardboard boxes and dark corners of our office are scoured for the biggest, heaviest reds to curl up with for the next 72 hours.
Here are 10 of our recommended finds when it comes to big, bold reds across all price points. After all, if you’re going to be stuck indoors hiding from the cold all weekend, it’s best to have a friend to keep you warm.
Recommended Reds to Stay Warm
El Enemigo 2014 Gran Enemigo Chacayes Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc (Mendoza); $120, 94 points.
El Enemigo winemaker/owner Ale Vigil is the master of Cab Franc in Mendoza, and this wine tops the charts. After some heat on the nose blows off, chili powder, leather, black-olive and black-fruit aromas settle in. This feels grabby and intense, while roasted, spicy black-plum and blackberry flavors are initially aggressive on the finish before turning more exotic and complex. Drink through 2026; contains 15% Malbec. Editors’ Choice. —Michael Schachner
Far Niente 2014 Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville); $160, 94 points.
Sourced largely from the Martin Stelling Vineyard, this is a supple, soft wine, with refined tannins. A zippy nose of rose and spice scents paves the way for more powerful leather saddle, cedar and black tea elements. Its fruit is wild and brambly, recalling blackberry and dark cherry with enviable succulence. Editors’ Choice. —Virginie Boone
Sottimano 2014 Cottà (Barbaresco); $55, 93 points.
This wine’s iris, perfumed berry, truffle and baking spice aromas emerge in the glass as it opens, along with a whiff of crushed herb. The structured, elegant palate shows ripe Marasca cherry, vanilla and mocha flavors alongside fine-grained tannins and bright acidity. Drink 2019–2029. —Kerin O’Keefe
Cowhorn 2013 Reserve Syrah (Applegate Valley); $75, 92 points.
Black as coal, with a heavy, smoky, meaty nose, this is one of a growing number of excellent biodynamic Syrahs from Oregon. It marries tangy acids to chewy red and blue fruits, with streaks of coffee liqueur and caramel latté. Half was whole-cluster fermented, and it all spent time in 50% new French oak. —Paul Gregutt
Columbia Crest 2015 Grand Estates Syrah (Columbia Valley (WA)); $12, 91 points.
The aromas in this wine pop, with notes of dried herb, plum, vanilla and smoked meat. It brings a compelling sense of texture, coating the palate from end to end with exquisitely balanced fruit and savory flavors. It’s a knockout at this price. Best Buy. —Sean Sullivan
Four Vines 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi); $13, 91 points.
This beautiful wine has aromas as ripe as dried figs, flavors as deep as blackberries falling off the vine, and a welcoming, broad texture that begs for another sip. While full bodied, it’s easy to relax into. Best Buy. —Jim Gordon
Garage Wine Co. 2014 Lot #61 San Juan de Pirque Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo Valley); $39, 91 points.
Blackberry and raspberry aromas are spicy but mostly focus on good fruit character. This wine is evenly balanced, with firm tannins and bright acidity. Spicy, chocolaty flavors of black fruits finish with a not-too-forceful dash of brown sugar. Drink through 2024. —M.S.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Indian Wells Merlot (Columbia Valley); $18, 90 points.
Barrel aromas are at the fore, with notes of vanilla, cocoa and milk chocolate out in front of blackberry and black cherry. The palate also mixes fruit and barrel, showing pleasing depth of flavors and intensity along with a silky texture. —S.S.
Mendel 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza); $25, 90 points.
Ripe aromas of cassis, prune and brandied black cherry indicate the concentration on this Cabernet. A palate that doesn’t hold back is jammy but a bit heavy. Ripe berry, toast and charred flavors take on a chocolaty note on the finish. This wine is all about full extraction and big fruit. Drink through 2022. —M.S.
And finally, if you really don’t want to have to brave the outside weather all the weekend, it’s never a bad idea to opt for the box.
Vin Vault NV Cabernet Sauvignon (California); $20/3 L, 88 points.
This may be the most serious California boxed wine on the market, showing great flavor concentration and an appetizing texture that’s laced with fine-grained tannins. It has a deep red-black color, blackberry and dark chocolate aromas and a lip-smacking finish. Best Buy. —J.G.
Published on November 10, 2017
TOPICS: Red Wine
In late August, Barbara and Bill Steele watered the grapevines of their award-winning vineyard, providing them with a much-needed soaking on a 90-degree day. With the Chetco Bar wildfire burning 60 miles away, a smoky haze hovered over their fields and much of Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley.
Yet inside the new tasting room at Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden, the Steeles’ Demeter-certified Biodynamic® vineyard, guests breathed easy as they sipped on wine and nibbled on house-brined asparagus and Biodynamic® cherry chutney.
Completed in the spring of 2016, the bright and welcoming tasting room is not only free of harmful smoke and other outdoor air pollutants; it’s free of common indoor air pollutants as well. It’s the first tasting room in the world to have received the rigorous Materials Petal in a third-party certification process called the Living Building Challenge, which verifies that the building is free of toxic and bio-accumulative substances pervasive in most building materials. Invisible to the human eye and often odorless, these chemicals are not nearly as obvious as the smoke caused by the nearby wildfire. Yet, they can be just as harmful to our health.
“A building with healthy indoor air quality has a huge impact on the well-being of the occupants – especially for people who suffer from asthma, allergies or other respiratory problems,” says Erica Dunn, Director of Design at Green Hammer and the architect of the tasting room at Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden.
“It was important to us that the tasting room, like our wine, be a reflection of our values,” says Barbara Steele. “We are proud that we can tell our customers that this building is not harmful to their health. We don’t need to tell them, though. They can feel the difference.”
Helping people make healthy decisions
The EPA estimates that people spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, where on a normal day the air quality is worse than it is outside. In most buildings, the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations due to airborne pollutants coming from the building’s materials and other indoor sources.
For Dunn, ensuring healthy indoor air quality in the buildings she designs is as important as the quality of light or the flow of space – it’s a critical component to making a successful building. Until recently, trying to rid buildings of toxic chemicals was daunting, bordering on impossible, Dunn says. That’s because, except for a small percentage of known harmful chemicals regulated by the EPA, there is no requirement that manufacturers of building products disclose the ingredients in their products. “If you’re allergic to a certain ingredient such as peanuts, food labels can save your life,” Dunn says. “That’s not the case with most manufactured products.”
When selecting building materials for the tasting room at Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden, Green Hammer could not simply look up a type of flooring in a catalogue and find out what ingredients it contained. For each and every building material, ranging from 2x4s to doorknobs to drywall, Green Hammer had to contact the manufacturer to request this information. It was often not readily available.
But the tide is slowly shifting, thanks to pressure from companies like Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden and much larger players like Google that view healthy indoor air quality as a key to success. In 2014, with 70 offices in 40 countries, Google was seeking an easier way to find information about the materials it was considering for its office buildings. So it invested in Portico, a database of building products started by the Healthy Buildings Network. One can look up a product by manufacturer, product category, and whether or not it meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Living Building Challenge standards. While the tool is still in a pilot phase, it could dramatically shift the market by driving demand for products that are safer for human health.
“We all have a right to know what’s in our buildings,” Dunn says. “Businesses like Cowhorn are paving the way, making it easier for others to make smarter decisions about how they design and build. Green Hammer is excited to support them in this goal because it’s aligned with our values, too.”
Barbara Steele grew up in Marin County, moving to the Terra Linda/Marinwood area when she was 5 years old.
“I went to Oak View, Miller Creek and then to Terra Linda High School,” says Steele, 55.
It was a normal Bay Area career arc; she obtained an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley and an MBA from the University of Colorado. Back in the Bay Area, she worked at various Marin small businesses as a controller and chief financal officer, meeting and marrying her husband, Bill. In 1990, they bought their first home in Novato.
The rest would have been a normal Marin County story except that the couple took to visiting family in Oregon for vacations. An interest in farming took root, and a casual interest in homeopathy led to a more serious interest in biodynamics. A conversation about the intersection of the two ideas on a return from just such a trip led the couple to make a major life change.
Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden was founded by the Steeles in 2003. She had been helping some organic farms with financial analysis for about a year and became interested in shifting her career to an agriculture-related field.
“We were enthralled by the focus on improving the land, making it richer at the end of the year than the beginning, and by the principles of promoting health for the entire estate,” she says.
They bought a dilapidated farm in Jacksonville, in Southern Oregon, quit their jobs and moved north.
“We were able to find a single piece of property that allowed us to build a model of an economically sustainable and scalable farm,” she says. “We started growing produce in 2004 — corn, melons and potatoes — and in 2005 we planted our first vineyard. We now have 25 acres of vineyards, 2 acres of asparagus, and 1 acre of assorted bee habitat, herbs and other produce.”
Often called extra-organic or something to that effect, biodynamics follows the beliefs of Rudolf Steiner, who also pioneered the Waldorf School method, by emphasizing observation, analysis and creativity in improving the vitality of an organism. Which, in this case, was the Steeles’ farm. Enlisting experts in biodynamics and grape growing, the couple planted 11 acres of grapes, including syrah, grenache, viognier, marsanne and roussanne.
“We grow Rhone varieties because that is what our soil and climate can support. Our vineyard sits on old river bed soil in a cold valley of the Applegate,” she says. “Our soils and climate are very similar to the Rhone regions. We selected these varieties because the terroir of our site would best support full expression of flavors from our estate-grown fruit.”
Simply put, their goal is to become the preeminent fine wine grower and perennial polyculture farm in the New World. “This essentially means that we will not monocrop,” Steele says. “And that we believe our farm will demonstrate that many different crops, from wine grapes to asparagus to fruit trees, can be grown sustainably from a soil perspective as well as an economic perspective.”
The biodynamic method is different from the organic method as it does not rely on manufactured products for its growing system. “BD relies on the ancient relationships between plants, climate, soil, microbes and all critters large and small to work together to create good tilth,” Steele says. “By supporting fully functioning soil, we create immunity for our plants from disease and pests, and we support full expression of flavors from the fruit.”
Cowhorn produces two white Rhone blends, a red Rhone blend, a grenache, a syrah and a reserve syrah. They also produce a viognier and reserve viognier, ranging in price from a modest $28 all the way up to $75, with most hovering around $40.
“We are a certified organic grower and winery,” Steele says. “We have documentation for every grape we have grown and every wine we have ever made that it met the OG standards.” Cowhorn’s certifier is Stellar Certification Services. But Cowhorn does not label their wines as organic, they are labeled as biodynamic, with the Demeter certification stamp on every bottle.
“I think that showing respect for our bodies, our minds, our planet and our fellow travelers on Earth defines us,” Steele says. “People who love Cowhorn love fine wines and care about their choices. When you make a choice to support Cowhorn, you are choosing something that supports good health, good tilth and good community.”
As for Marin’s impact on her professional life, Steele says it was critical. “Working in small business in Marin for 15 years was the most amazing experience. I had the opportunity to work for talented business owners who shared their experience and methods with me. I really cannot list all the stories of things my employers did for me. But I will tell you that I started Cowhorn because of the education and compassion I was shown by my employers in San Rafael.”
Cowhorn wines can be found at stores and restaurants throughout Marin. More information about the winery can be found at cowhornwine.com.
Jeff Burkhart is the author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars: The Spirited Adventures of a Real Bartender” and an award-winning bartender at a local restaurant. Follow him at jeffburkhart.net and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s the biodynamic equivalent of construction,” Bill Steele, co-owner of the winery, said.
The tasting room at Cowhorn wasted only 5% of its materials in construction, provides enough solar power to be self-sustaining and leaves as minimal a carbon footprint as possible. Steele says he and his wife aim for that minimal footprint.
“That became the basis for our choosing biodynamic farming and the building was just an extension,” Steele said.
Steele says the building is “alive” in a sense. Instead of many typical materials, the tasting room was built out of local cedar, cork and core-10 steel that, instead of rusting, patinas instead to provide another protective layer when it rains along with a reddish-orange color.
From first signing the documents to take the challenge through construction, it’s taken three years to complete the building. Three weeks ago, the building earned that Living Building Challenge honor.
“Now we’ve got a tasting room that really stands out,” Steele said. “It is the first tasting room in the world to be certified Living Building Challenge and it’s something we take a lot of pride in.”
Steele takes even more pride in one other aspect of the tasting room.
“My wife and I are very proud that it was done in southern Oregon,” Steele said. “First of it’s kind. It wasn’t done in Washington, it wasn’t done in California. We had a tremendous group of anywhere from 50 to 75 subcontractors in the area that came together to build this building.”
Even from an outsider’s perspective, the building strikes the customer as one of a kind.
“It just looks different, it feels different, it’s got a cleanliness to it almost from an air quality perspective,” Steele said.
For our original coverage on Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden, click here.
To learn more about the Living Building Challenge, click here.
As of last week, there are only 64 buildings in the world Living Building Challenge certified – four of those are in Oregon.
Cowhorn builds first tasting room to LBC standards
Address 1665 Eastside Rd., Jacksonville
Hours Thurs.–Sun., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
By Maureen Flanagan Battistella
Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden’s new tasting room is a visual manifestation of Bill and Barbara Steele’s personal commitment to sustainability. Seated at the edge of the vineyard, near a rushing stream and under a bluff, the Cowhorn tasting room is an organic reflection of the landscape. Its muted colors harmonize with the setting and the building’s clean, simple lines don’t compete with the lush beauty of its surroundings deep in the Applegate Valley and along its river.
Completed in June 2016, Cowhorn’s is the first tasting room in the world built to Living Building Challenge (LBC) standards from the International Living Future Institute.
The Steeles’ farm and vineyard are Demeter-certified Biodynamic, so they are no strangers to rigorous standards, transparency and accountability. When they were ready to build a real tasting room, not just a space squeezed into the barn, Bill and Barbara buckled down to identify a building and design company able to execute their vision and reflect their Biodynamic philosophy. The Steeles found Green Hammer, a Portland design-build firm passionate about building green, and integrated progressive sustainable standards into their work, the Living Building Challenge among them.
“We want to create buildings that have no impact [on the land] or buildings that actually give back,” said Alex Boetzel, Green Hammer chief operation officer.
The company’s practice for any build is to work through an owner’s sustainability expectations in conversation and design to determine which standard is most appropriate for that build. It was the Living Building Challenge that made sense to the Steeles and best suited their ambitious vision.
“Biodynamic farmers have an aspirational goal to create a closed system, so we are challenged to minimize the outside inputs we bring onto the property,” Bill said. “The Living Building Challenge is to architecture and design what Biodynamics is to farming.”
The Living Building Challenge standard is based on 20 imperatives organized into seven performance “petals” or areas: place, water, energy, health/happiness, materials, equity and beauty. Every directive within a petal must be met.
“If you are so inclined, you can accept anywhere from one to seven challenges,” Bill explained. “Barb and I, in our wisdom, chose all seven.”
Green Hammer realized the materials petal was the most challenging LBC standard to satisfy.
“The core of the materials requirement is that there are 20 compounds that cannot be included in any material component that finds its way into the project,” Boetzel explained, specifically mentioning polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, found in many commonly used products such as hoses, valves and pipes. “Typically, manufacturers aren’t inclined to share information about material components, so there’s a lot of time that goes into product research and follow-up with material suppliers, vendors and subcontractors to be sure they’re willing to cooperate.”
Occasionally, the supplier isn’t even aware of where they’ve sourced their materials, like gravel or water, or which additives have been used. Subcontractors had to be trained to use only materials specifically selected for the project and understand that a bolt or adhesive couldn’t be casually introduced to the worksite because all materials must be vetted.
The LBC standards relate not only to construction, but also to operation and the mandates must be documented and metered for 12 months before certification is granted. For example, the water and energy petals demand the building, renovation or landscape and infrastructure be net positive; the building must collect and treat all water on site and produce more energy than it uses.
Both the Steeles and Green Hammer agree the Cowhorn tasting room will achieve full Living Building Challenge certification. “It will be a year of audits and inspections,” Bill said, but by the end of the year, Cowhorn’s may be the 41st building in the world that will be fully certified, the first tasting room fully certified and the first commercial building in Oregon fully certified.
Cowhorn’s new tasting room is not only sustainable, it is stunning. The building is a beautiful assembly of recycled steel, cork walls that soften sound and insulates, rock culled from the fields and crushed for foundation and roads, and recycled glass. The rock, steel and cork surfaces are visually appealing and also a tactile delight, the contrast of textures evident to the eye and the hand. The white glass backing the bar reflects the vineyard, surrounding hills and forests, inviting the outside indoors.
The Steeles know first hand both agriculture and winemaking entail much work and a mix of science and art. The new Cowhorn tasting room fuses the science of sustainability and the art of design to represent their wine philosophy, their core beliefs.
Cowhorn Vineyards 2013 Syrah 21
written by Sheila G. Miller
Until Barbara Steele started Cowhorn Vineyards with her husband less than a decade ago, she wasn’t much different from the average wine consumer—“For a special occasion we’d buy a $20 bottle instead of a $10 bottle”—until she got into the business and realized she didn’t really know how to make a $50 bottle of wine.
But the founders enlisted top talent, stayed patient, and Cowhorn developed to deliver some of the best syrah in Oregon.
Steele started the farm in 2003 and spent several years getting the property ready—building roads, adding irrigation—before her husband, Bill Steele, came to work the land in 2005. The winery opened in 2008.
“Biodynamic method is a farming method, but it’s also a lifestyle and a philosophy,” Steele said. “I use a phrase that’s often used in the corporate world, the 360 review. … I look at my life and the farm from that point of view—will it be good for the community? For the soil? For the crossflow of critters? Will it be good for customers and the wine club? That’s a really biodynamic way of looking at it. We look at our farm as though it’s an organism, like a whole body.”
One of the keys to making the winery as ecofriendly as it is? The buildings. After living in an old farmhouse and working out of the building, the Steeles built a home for themselves following passive house design. They put the farmhouse on a proper foundation, and it’s still used as a shop—“It’s our welding shop, it’s where our worm bins are, it’s where everything happens.” Then they built the winery building in 2006. Steele believes the building could earn a LEED silver standard certification.
“We also want our people to be in a good environment,” she said.
Now the Steeles are in the process of getting the new tasting room certified through the Living Building Challenge. If it’s approved, it will be the only tasting room in the world to achieve that ambitious standard.
“We’re definitely a mission-driven business,” Steele said. “We really want to show people that there are models of farming that are good for the environment and do work economically. That’s what gets us up every day.”
Plus, she said, the land is “a little magical.” The Steeles enlisted experienced consultants and a soil scientist to help with the wine. “They saw the magic here to make cool-climate wines, to make Rhone wines that are so misunderstood.”
Rhone-style syrahs fall into a few categories—from California’s hot climate to European Rhone Valley wines to Shiraz in the Southern Hemisphere. Then there’s the cooler-climate wines such as Cowhorn’s.
“When you pair biodynamic agriculture with cooler climates, you’re drawing out this nuance,” Steele said. “We’re all about creating wines of nuance, and you get something pretty powerful when you put a cool climate and biodynamic farming together.”
Steele said Cowhorn’s syrahs are similar to northern Rhone Valley wines. “We’re definitely fruit first. We don’t want to make something that is high alcohol or with a high oak finish,” she said. “We are an Oregon winery, and we have an Oregon palate. You enjoy that element of fruit first but at the same time there’s the baking spice and violet and aromatics.”
What’s next? Steele said her team is still getting used to working in a living building. After that’s sorted, the sky is the limit.
Path to Net Zero incentives and resources support new commercial construction that exceeds Oregon building code standards. A new offer from Energy Trust of Oregon is helping Oregon building owners design and construct some of the most energy-efficient new commercial buildings in the nation. Iron Horse Lodge in Prineville an example of local company using Pat to Net Zero.
Projects underway across Oregon include a wide range of building types like commercial buildings, low-income housing and rural schools.
“Our goal is to hedge against rising operating costs. This is critical to the economic longevity of our project since our rents are restricted for the first 60 years. Path to Net Zero helps us counter rising costs, and is a key part of our business model,” said Rob Roy, co-operating partner of Pacific Crest Affordable Housing, the developer and owner of Iron Horse Lodge in Prineville. “Things with small cost differentials over code can have large energy-saving impacts. LED lights and lighting controls are good examples.”
Energy-efficient design is already a part of Oregon building codes, but buildings often miss out on additional savings when building materials and systems are evaluated and designed individually rather than holistically.
Energy Trust’s Path to Net Zero tackles these challenges through a whole-building approach, and provides expert advisers throughout the design and construction process and financial incentives to help offset costs along the way. The result: high-performing buildings that surpass Oregon energy building codes by at least 40 percent. That means buildings would, over the course of a year, only consume the amount of energy produced on site.
“This is the future of commercial buildings,” said Jessica Iplikci, program manager, Energy Trust. “Many people don’t realize that commercial buildings consume 40 percent of all energy produced in the United States. We see net-zero design as a game-changer in commercial construction, and Energy Trust is leading the way.”
Launched just this year, eight Path to Net Zero buildings have already completed construction, and 30 additional projects have enrolled.
FROM PILOT TO FULL SCALE OFFERING
Path to Net Zero builds on expertise and lessons learned through a pilot phase from 2009 to 2014. Several pilot projects ultimately received Path to Net Zero certification through the International Living Future Institute, including:
• Chemeketa Community College in Salem
• Hood River Middle School
• June Key Delta Community Center in Portland
• EcoFlats Apartments in Portland
Jerry Vessello, capital project manager at Chemeketa Community College, has seen how Energy Trust’s approach can create an efficient and livable building. “Path to Net Zero allowed us to add natural ventilation and natural lighting which has led to a bright, well ventilated, comfortable and healthy building for our students, staff and instructors.”
MORE SUCCESSES AROUND THE STATE
Projects underway across Oregon include a wide range of building types like commercial buildings, low-income housing and rural schools.
“Our goal is to hedge against rising operating costs. This is critical to the economic longevity of our project since our rents are restricted for the first 60 years. Path to Net Zero helps us counter rising costs, and is a key part of our business model,” said Rob Roy, co-operating partner of Pacific Crest Affordable Housing, the developer and owner of Iron Horse Lodge. “Things with small cost differentials over code can have large energy-saving impacts. LED lights and lighting controls are good examples.”
Bill Steele, owner of Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden in Jacksonville, was able to cost-effectively design an expansion while reducing environmental impact. “We had a chance to minimize our imprint on the Earth, and why wouldn’t you take that chance?” said Steele. “It also seems like the right thing to do from both a brand perspective and a philosophical one. We can show people that it can be done. My old career was in Wall Street and what we’re doing is establishing a market.”
HOW IT WORKS
Path to Net Zero guides project participants through a series of easy steps, beginning with early design assistance and a facilitated design workshop that brings together the building team and an Energy Trust representative. This helps the building owner identify goals and challenges at the outset, with the full building team involved.
Energy Trust representatives then work actively with the design team, providing technical assistance, installation guidance and post-construction monitoring to help the owner pinpoint problems and implement changes.
Energy Trust provides financial incentives at each stage to help offset upfront costs that might otherwise make such an in-depth approach more expensive, particularly for smaller business. Path to Net Zero targets energy-efficiency savings of 40 percent better than Oregon code for most types of buildings. That number represents an interim step identified by the nonprofit group Architecture 2030 to drive commercial development toward a net-zero energy rating by the year 2030. For more information on Path to Net Zero, including videos describing completed projects and instructions on participating, visit the Energy Trust website.
About Energy Trust
Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping utility customers benefit from saving energy and generating renewable power. Our services, cash incentives and energy solutions have helped participating customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas save $1.7 billion on energy bills. Our work helps keep energy costs as low as possible, creates jobs and builds a sustainable energy future. Learn more at www.energytrust.org or call 1-866-368-7878.
• Architecture 2030—The 2030 Challenge
• New Buildings Institute—Zero Net Energy
• International Living Building Challenge—Net Zero Energy Building Certification
• American Institute of Architects—2030 Commitment
Do you know what’s in your wine?!
(And should you care?)
By Sara Schneider
WINEMAKING IS A SIMPLE PROCESS, right? Just crush some grapes, and the natural yeast on the skins will start eating the sugar in the juice, producing alcohol. Once the sugar is gone, press the wine off the skins and seeds, let it mellow, then siphon it off the sediment and bottle it.
I’m being simplistic, of course. There’s a little more to it than that. And increasingly – given the mind-boggling technological tools available – much more than that.
Let’s say you’re a winemaker who doesn’t trust the natural yeast to be strong enough to see fermentation through to the end. You can inoculate with a strain of yeast that’s been commercially bred to lend a particular flavor profile. What if you think your wine is too pale? Add Mega Purple or Ultra Red; these color- and texture- enhancing concentrates are derived from grapes, and therefore natural (or so the argument goes). Acidity too low? Add acid from a bag. Alcohol too high? Take some out with reverse osmosis. Wine too cloudy? Clarify it with anything from egg whites to isinglass.
I’m only scratching the surface of the processes winemakers are using these days. And to be fair, they’re turning out some decent affordable wine with these tools. But where on the spectrum of manipulation does a bottle lose its connection to a particular place and time, and become the wine equivalent of a McDonald’s burger?
Voices in the “natural wine” movement, especially strong in the West today, would have it that even the first step away from basic winemaking is a violation. The geek in me appreciates the argument; I love a wine full of the nuances that come through from a special vineyard in a great year. But Mother Nature is seldom a perfect nanny, and I believe that sticking with the purists’ “nothing in, nothing out” mantra is to risk making wine that goes beyond funkiness that’s interesting, to funkiness that’s downright revolting.
A conversation with Santa Cruz, California, winemaker Nicole Walsh assures me that I’m not alone in my position. “I’m not an absolutist,” she says. “I’ll make simple adjustments if I have to. For myself, I could make a completely ‘natural’ wine that’s very interesting even with huge flaws, but I wouldn’t be able to sell it.”
Walsh’s “smart minimalism,” as I call it, is the result of a decade-plus evolution at highly regarded Bonny Doon Vineyard. Collaborating with iconoclastic proprietor Randall Grahm in the early 2000s, she threw every tool in the book at their wine, which quickly grew from a 50,000-case production to somewhere in the neighborhood of 400,000 (including the enormous Big House label). “Additive city” is how she describes those days. Almost as quickly, though, Walsh and Grahm started moving away from intervention – selling the Big House label along the way – in the quest to produce true wines of place (terroir-driven).
Walsh continues to make Bonny Doon wines. But she’s also bringing a gentle touch to her own Ser Wine Company. Her approach is an anachronistic mash-up of tradition and science. On the one hand, she still loves using her feet to punch down the cap on fermenting wine. On the other, when she crushes grapes, she doesn’t just send a prayer to the gods that the natural yeast on them will start – and finish – fermentation. She cultures it to produce a strong “starter” to ensure success.
Wines like Ser – every vintage different, all fascinating – are the reason my hat is off to winemakers who work hard to keep their hands off their wine but know just when to step in with simple adjustments in the cause of deliciousness.
Six minimalist picks
Bonny Doon 2010 “Le Cigare Valant”
(Central Coast; $45)
Savory and earthy (violet notes excepted); plum and dusty berries layered with pepper, black olive, and cured meat.
Cowhorn 2012 Grenache 20
(Applegate Valley, Oregon; $45)
Tart red fruit – juicy Rainier cherries – with crushed herbs, white pepper, baking spices, and mocha.
Deovlet 2011 “Sonny Boy”
(Santa Barbara County; $40)
Earth, pepper, smoke, and mocha on the nose of this Merlot blend give way to cherry, violet, and fresh herbs.
Ser 2012 Cabernet Pfeffer
(Cienega Valley; $35)
Forget your Cabernet reference points – this rare variety is earthy and floral at once. Bright, spicy red fruit (cranberry, strawberry) gets a hit of pepper worthy of the name.
Siduri 2012 Pinot Noir
(Sonoma Coast; $32)
A velvet-packed palate of cherry, strawberry, and orange peel under intriguing cola and forest-floor aromas.
Sojourn 2012 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir
(Sonoma Coast; $54)
Loam and violet aromas lead to rambunctious cinnamon-cherry with hints of cola
MEDIA ADVISORY for Sept. 22, 2014
Barbara Steele Founder and Co-Winemaker
Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden
Founder and CEO Green Hammer
The intimate, energy-efficient space is a reflection of owners’ and customers’ values
JACKSONVILLE, OREGON [SEPT. 22, 2014] – Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden, a Demeter-certified Biodynamic® farm and winery nestled along Southern Oregon’s Applegate River, is best known among wine and food aficionados for its award-winning , goliath asparagus and stunning gardens. But now, Cowhorn is making a name for itself in the world of architecture. Its owners, Bill and Barbara Steele, recently broke ground on two buildings designed to meet some of the world’s most stringent green building standards.
“Agriculture is extractive by definition,” says Barbara Steele. “But we do it in a way that leaves the space as good as, if not better, than the way we found it. We want our buildings to follow that same philosophy.”
One of the first certified Biodynamic estate wineries and commercial farms in the United States, Cowhorn has long upheld the value of sustainable business practices. Over the last decade, the Steeles converted the 117-acre estate into an intricate web of garden, habitat, forest, riparian areas, farm and vineyard. Their 2012 Viognier received the second-highest rating by Wine Spectator for a domestic Viognier in early 2014 and won a 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Wine Enthusiast, garnering a score of 92 points from each publication. Given their commitment to quality and the environment, Barbara Steele says it’s only fitting that when expanding, she and Bill would utilize the most innovative green building technologies.
Working with Green Hammer, an Oregon-based integrated design-build firm, Cowhorn is following the Passive House standard and pursuing Living Building ChallengeTM Petal Certification for a new 2,200- square-foot tasting room. Expected to be 70-90 percent more energy efficient than conventional construction, the tasting room utilizes Forest Stewardship Council®–certified wood, natural daylight and local materials free of harmful chemicals and toxins. Inspired by the Steeles’ personal connection to their wine club members, Green Hammer architect Erica Dunn, AIA, crafted an intimate space for visitors to explore Cowhorn’s award-winning wine. Here, guests will be able to sip wine as they engage with the Steeles, and soak in expansive views of the vineyard.
“Biodynamic farming is really about working to enhance and support the dynamic nature of the first 12 inches of the Earth’s skin (the soil),” says Steele. “When you do that, everything else thrives. That’s how I felt when I walked into [buildings] pursuing the Living Building Challenge. They were dynamic, alive spaces. That’s what we are shooting for.” The Cowhorn tasting room is one of about 20 projects in the state of Oregon to register with the Living Building Challenge, according to the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), which administers the challenge and is also home to Cascadia Green Building Council and Ecotone Publishing.
Additionally, Rhone varieties the Steeles broke ground on a new 2,300-square-foot residence designed by award-winning Green Hammer architect, Jan Fillinger. Designed to meet the Passive House standard, the house will provide an inviting, energy-efficient retreat away from the winery for both the Steeles and their guests. “Without great clients, you can’t achieve a great project,” says Jan Fillinger. “Barbara and Bill have provided specific directives while letting us bring creative vision to the project.”
Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden Tasting Room and Residence Features
• Absence of all Living Building Challenge red-listed materials and chemicals in the tasting rom.
• Douglas Fir framing materials are FSC-certified.
• Oak flooring, trim and baseboard are FSC-certified.
• All paints and finishes contain low- or no-VOCs.
• Cedar, cork and Cor-ten steel are natural, no-toxin materials.
• Low-flow water fixtures throughout the home.
• Native and drought-resistant plants.
• Bioswales filter silt and polluted runoff.
• All stormwater is managed on site and diverted to the natural landscape.
• Designed to meet the Passive House standard—achieved with insulation, air-tightness and heat- recovery.
• Designed to be 70-90 percent more energy-efficient than a conventional building.
• Meets U.S. Department of Energy Net-Zero Energy-Ready Home standards.
• Whole-building high-efficiency heat recovery ventilator provides excellent indoor air quality.
• Air-to-air heat pump provides extremely efficient remaining heating and cooling.
• Triple-paned, gas-filled windows meet the standards of Passive House Institute US and Passive House International.
• Heat-pump water heaters meet highest standards for energy efficiency.
• 100 percent LED lighting.
• ENERGY STAR-certified appliances.
About Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden
Currently the only certified organic and Biodynamic winery in Southern Oregon, Cowhorn is among the first certified Biodynamic estate wineries and commercial farms in the United States. Guided by holistic-estate advisor Alan York, who recently passed away, consultant winemaker Ken Bernards, and environmental designer Buddy Williams, Cowhorn planted its first 11 acres of vineyard in 2005. Using state-of-the-art technology, winemakers Bill and Barbara Steele gently nudge native yeast through the fermentation process on a mission to make fine wine with few inputs, going from grapes to glass as purely as possible. Cowhorn’s 25-acre vineyard currently produces about 2,500 cases of wine a year—a mix of Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and white Rhone blends. The commercial farm produces more than 7,500 pounds of produce each year. David Schildknecht wrote about Cowhorn and the 2010 Syrah 58 in Wine Advocate, “… their renditions of Rhone varieties need no longer shy from comparison with any in the world …”
Learn more: www.cowhornwine.com
About Green Hammer
Green Hammer is an integrated design-build firm based in Oregon, creating healthy and inspiring buildings that are designed for people and built for life. Established in 2002, Green Hammer specializes in transforming buildings where people live, work and play, to improve occupants’ wellbeing, financial health and relationship with nature. Founder Stephen Aiguier is a leading green building expert and teacher on net-zero energy and Passive House design principles. The firm has received numerous awards including an Honorable Mention in the 2014 Forest Stewardship Council’s Designing and Building with FSC Awards and Earth Advantage Institute’s 2014 LEED-for-Homes Builder of the Year Award.
Learn more: www.greenhammer.com