"Don't panic, this wine's biodynamic" read the headline on a column in this space back on Dec. 27, 2006. It introduced Cowhorn, a new winery in the Applegate Valley that pledged to follow biodynamic practices.
A year and a half later, Cowhorn has wines on the market, and so does its winemaker. I recently tried three of them.
Cowhorn 2006 Syrah ($32) is a special, distinctive, rich wine that holds up well after opening. I thought it was at its best on day three. The aftertaste has a hint of sweetness.
Cowhorn 2007 Viognier ($32) is among the best of this varietal locally — well-balanced, good fruit, not too sweet.
Linda Donovan, who is Cowhorn's winemaker, has bottled a wine of her own — Donovan 2006 Rogue Valley Corner Vineyard Mourvedre ($22). Its label explains, "Nestled in the hills above Ashland, Oregon, is a small vineyard dedicated to growing mourvedre; this is the debut wine from that remarkable site "¦ "
I found the wine delicate and subtle, yet with definite, intriguing flavor.
"The Cowhorn wines are certified Biodynamic, and the Donovan is made using indigenous yeast and bacteria," says Donovan. "It is also important to say 'certified' because some people use the term without obeying the principals of farming and/or understanding what it means."
What's Biodynamic or biodynamic?
When doing Internet research, you see the word both ways, depending on circumstances. One site declares that Biodynamic is a trademark held by Demeter, the U.S. association of biodynamic farmers. The Web site I quoted back in 2007 has disappeared, but Cowhorn owners Bill and Barbara Steele agree with the definition it gave:
"Like organic farming, Biodynamic agriculture uses no synthesized herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. Unlike organic farming, though, Biodynamic producers build upon the organic base with their adherence to life's rhythms and a self-containing ecosystem."
The Steeles further state, "The Biodynamic approach includes holistic practices that vitalize life in the soil, on the land and in the atmosphere. As such, farming is seen as an integral part of culture (agri-culture) and is integral to the well-being of a community. Habitat preservation, water conservation and the well-being of the earth factor into each decision we make."
Three other Cowhorn wines now in release are its 2007 Roussanne ($18), 2007 Marsanne-Roussanne ($18) and 2007 Grenache Rose ($22).
Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden is located at 1665 Eastside Road, south of Ruch. Call 899-6876 or visit www.cowhornwine.com. It is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. There is a tasting fee of $5, waived with a purchase of six or more. Cowhorn wines also are available at Chateaulin and Ashland Food Co-op; find Donovan's wine at Chateaulin and Harry and David Country Village.
ALSO SAMPLED RECENTLY:
- R Label 2005 Per La Festa, red table wine. If you want to buy a good, local red wine for under $10, try this one. It's from RVW Company, part of Medford's Eden Valley Orchards, also home of EdenVale wines. The wine is a blend of five varietals — 46 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, 15 percent syrah, 15 percent cabernet franc and 4 percent malbec. I've seen it priced as low as $7.59 at Bi-Mart.
- Kendall-Jackson 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. Most of the world's superior sauvignon blanc comes from New Zealand, but this California white compares favorably with any. The flavor is rich and well-balanced, and it sells for just $11. The wine is 95 percent sauvignon blanc, 4.4 percent semillon, with tiny hints of viognier and muscat canelli.
- Barnard Griffin 2006 Fume Blanc. Silky texture and crisp flavor distinguish this white, found on the wine list at Rostel's in Central Point, where it's $5 a glass.
- Black Swan 2006 Shiraz Merlot. This earthy red from Australia tasted like prunes initially, then blossomed into an interesting, full-bodied wine. It costs only $7 to $8. Black Swan also has a 2006 Shiraz Cabernet out. It's a bit harsh for my taste buds. I'd stick with the shiraz merlot.
- Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) 2005 Napa Valley Syrah. If you like a hint of sweetness in your red wine, try this one. It was a little too sweet for me at times but still appealing. It costs about $19.
- Kendall-Jackson 2006 Syrah. A good, basic syrah for $12; not special, but tasty.
Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.