Wine that sustains


POSTED: Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Who wouldn't enjoy sipping gourmet wine in a beautiful garden, surrounded by fine art, under a gorgeous moon? Those inclined to cater to their finer sensibilities would surely jump at the chance. And that's what the Contemporary Museum is banking on for “;August Moon,”; a wine-tasting benefit for the museum's education programs.

The evening's spotlight will shine on the vintages of 27 wineries from the United States, Portugal and Australia. All operate sustainable farms, with some practicing organic or biodynamic farming. The event will offer a rare opportunity for wine lovers to meet boutique winemakers.

“;Many of these are mom-and-pop operations. These are husband-and-wife teams that press the grapes and scrub the tanks themselves,”; says Tim Garrard, of Wine Merchants of Hawaii, which is providing the wine. “;This event allows the public to meet people who make wine for love and passion.”;

BOUCHAINE VINEYARDS, a participant in the fundraiser, is in the Carneros region of Napa Valley in California. The winery produces pinot noirs, chardonnays, sauvignon blancs and rieslings. Bouchaine has employed sustainable farming techniques for seven years after deciding they “;wanted good stewardship for the land,”; says Greg Gauthier, vice president of wine production. “;We're trying to re-create a self-renewing environment.”;

At Bouchaine that means techniques that nourish the land and address pest control without chemical pesticides.

“;Cover crops of hop, rye and legumes ... allow us to fortify the soil,”; says Gauthier. “;Those plants add needed nutrients and help retain moisture in the ground so there's no waste water.”;

Because the Bouchaine soil is high in moisture, it accommodates another technique, deficit irrigation, which allows the farm to water later in the season, when variation (grapes turning color) occurs and additional moisture is necessary.





        » Place: The Contemporary Museum, 2411 Makiki Heights Drive

» Time: 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 8


» Tickets: $75 and $125


» Reservations: Call 237-5210, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or visit www.tcmhi.org


The cover crops also draw insects away from the vineyards. That, coupled with the addition of birdhouses, controls pests.


“;We build birdhouses for bluebirds, which eat bugs, and kestrel hawks that chase away starlings that fight us for the fruit,”; Gauthier says. “;Owl boxes are for the owls that take care of jackrabbits and gophers.”;

Gauthier admits that in using sustainable techniques, yields decrease a bit. “;But in being sustainable, you agree to give up some degree of fruit to the ecosystem,”; he says.

Gauthier says sustainability practices are prevalent in vineyards. He estimates that 60 to 70 percent of all grape farming is sustainable. And though he says he can't taste a marked difference in the flavor of the end product—the wine—Bouchaine is committed to green techniques because it's the right thing to do.

“;We want to be good farmers and good neighbors. One thing you learn in sustainable farming is that it's kind of a circle: What goes around comes around. There's a spiritual benefit.”;

FOR PRACTITIONERS of biodynamic farming, the altruistic principles of sustainability certainly apply. The technique, rooted in a series of lectures in 1924 by Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, has provided the foundation for much of the practices of green farming today, including modern organics and the concept of a self-sustaining ecosystem.

But the bottom line is this: Blind taste tests repeatedly confirm that grapes grown biodynamically results in better-tasting wines.

Biodynamics is based on a holistic view in the broadest sense.

“;The totality of biodynamics is in the context of the whole of Earth and the cosmos,”; says Phil Dwyer, who's been farming biodynamically for more than a dozen years and teaches the method internationally.

While Dwyer is the first to admit that these sound like “;kooky concepts,”; in practical terms, biodynamics takes into account the influences of the solar and lunar cycles on crops.

“;When you hear about the world's largest produce, they usually come from a northern area like Alaska or Finland,”; Dwyer says. “;In those parts of the world, the sun shines for something like 20 hours a day during certain times of the year. In Hawaii I can grow corn, but it's not as tall as in other places because the length of daylight isn't as long. But I can also grow corn in winter, too. So, sunlight affects growth.

“;Likewise, from the biodynamic perspective, the lunar cycles are related, too.”;

Dwyer says water and liquid on land are affected by the waxing and waning of the moon the same way the tides are. Working in accordance with these cycles benefits yield.

“;When you sow seeds a few days prior to a full moon, they germinate several days sooner and more completely. Lettuce, for example, comes up two days faster, and almost all the seeds pop up, versus just three-quarters of the seeds germinating,”; he says.

Biodynamics is concerned with the vitality of the farm as well. Practices such as the presence of farm animals, cover crops, manure composting and spraying crops with herbal-based mixtures contribute to a thriving farm.

“;We're out to create not just a healthy food environment, but a farm that's full of life force, too,”; Dwyer says. “;That contributes to the fine nuances that are special to wine connoisseurs.”;

GARRARD CALLS “;August Moon”; a win-win for the museum and Wine Merchants, which is fulfilling its mission of “;getting wines into the mouths of the public.”;

“;There are lots of great small wineries, but the big ones dominate the market,”; he says. “;This is a means to finding out about smaller boutique kinds of wines that usually get no exposure.”;

The wine will be complemented by cuisine from restaurants that include Twist at Hanohano, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and the Contemporary Cafe. In addition, HASR Wine Co. will be selling bottles of every featured wine, and a silent auction featuring wine and art, made with recycled and sustainable material by John Koga and Derek Bencomo, will raise funds as well.

Georgianna Lagoria, director of the Contemporary Museum, says the fundraiser will support a vital component of the museum: its children's programs.

“;These programs are how we most greatly touch the community. It's an important way to perpetuate art and artists,”; she says.

Lagoria adds that the cuisine and artwork round out the event nicely.

“;Food, wine and art—there's so much crossover. It's a feast for the senses,”; she says.