Laura Dave, Author of Eight Hundred Grapes, on Biodynamic Wine

We picked up Laura Dave's book, Eight Hundred Grapes, because it seemed like a fun read, which we are happy to report, it is. But we were also enchanted by the setting, a biodynamic vineyard in California's Sonoma County. We spoke to Laura about what it means for a wine to be biodynamic and why she set her story there.
On biodynamic vineyards certain plants attract beneficial insects for pollination and as natural pest control.

Since I moved to Los Angeles, I’ve gone up to Northern California and Sonoma County quite a bit. I’ve always been drawn to how rustic Sonoma is. During one of my trips, I came across a biodynamic vineyard in Sebastopol. Even though I’d been to a ton of vineyards before, a biodynamic vineyard was something I had never seen. It had its own ecosystem; it had a farm, it had gardens, beehives. They made their own honey! It was so incredibly lush and beautiful. I ended up staying all day, taking the tour again and again. I loved what I was learning as I moved deeper into the research and started shadowing biodynamic winemakers and other small production winemakers in Sonoma County.

In my imagination about how wine was made, they smushed the grapes and then they ended up in a bottle. In reality it is akin to a chef making a stew. There are different barrels and different grapes, almost like the spices for the stew. One barrel has grapes from one part of the vineyard and another barrel might have the same kind of grape, but from a different part of the vineyard. After the grapes ferment for a while, the winemaker blends them and he figures out how to make the final stew as delicious and complete as possible.

There is a strong philosophy that governs biodynamic wine: the winemaking focuses on the land and the idea that whatever you take out of the land, you put back in. There are no chemicals, no additives, and no eggs (egg whites are often used to clarify red wine). There’s nothing to help you at the end. You use what the land and nature provide. You have to have an incredible amount of patience to make wine in this way and an incredible amount of faith.

Making wine in this way felt like a great metaphor for family. The faith you have to have, the patience, the fortitude, because it demands all of your energy, and sometimes it still doesn’t work out, and yet you have to give it your all if you even want a chance for it to work out.

Laura Dave is the bestselling author of four novels, including Eight Hundred Grapes, which has been optioned to become a major motion picture.  She lives in Santa Monica with her husband but frequently flies home to New York to see her family. Follow her on facebook and on twitter. 

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