By the time Coderey finished his pitch, the vineyard manager was willing. The vines were a little more hesitant. "The first year, the vineyards are going to be very stressed. It's like if you have somebody who drinks 30 beers a day, and one day you tell him, 'No more.' He's going to be shaky for a while."
That was the case with the Gimelli Vineyard in San Benito County, the primary source for Bonny Doon's 2005 Ca' del Solo Sangiovese — which, as it happens, was the wine that first got me curious about biodynamics in the vineyard. It displayed something of the minerality Coderey mentioned, and a more layered character than most domestic Sangioveses I'd tasted. But the word that kept running through my head was "clean." The wine had a clarity on the palate that caught my attention. I won't discount the power of suggestion — I'd read about the Bonny Doon biodynamic project before tasting the wine — but subsequent bottles have seemed to substantiate my initial experience.
And while we're on the subject of clarity, it's worth mentioning Bonny Doon's "commitment...to the great virtue of transparency" (here I'm quoting the label), as manifested by the label's graphic: a "sensitive crystallization" of the wine that manifests "a wine's organizing forces." It's another target for the skeptic, but Coderey doesn't shy away from the topic. "What you're looking at is a petri dish, 90mm wide. You mix some wine, some purified water, and some copper chloride solution. You put the petri dish in a dehydration chamber -- it's on shock absorbers, because you don't want any vibration. You raise the temperature to about 95 degrees, the water evaporates, and the crystals form. It takes about ten hours."
And what does it mean? "You get three zones. The center is connected to the fruit itself — the bigger the center, the more fruity the wine. And the more centered the center, the more balanced the wine is. Then you've got the peripheral zone, which indicates the minerality of the wine. It should be very well defined. If it's not, it's because the wine doesn't have any minerals." Between the two, there's the median zone, which "indicates vegetal and floral character. You want a balance between these three zones." On top of that, there are two layers of crystallization, one spreading from the central point, and one feathering out above that. "The first, we call the life forces; that's your indication of how powerful the wine is. The second we call the organizing forces. The more organized the wine, the more mineral it is. The crystallization is going to give you lots of indications about the wines and, therefore, about the vines and, therefore, about the soil. Everything is connected."