Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden is located at the base of the Siskiyou National Forest in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. With a strong reputation for being one of the area’s most prominent producers of Rhône-style wines — and an unwavering commitment to biodynamic farming, sustainability and polyculture farms — Cowhorn is helping shine the spotlight on the high-quality wines from this region. We had the fortunate opportunity to talk to owner/winemaker Bill Steele and learn more about the impressive Cowhorn.
1) What is your farming philosophy?
Cowhorn is a certified Biodynamic vineyard and farm. Our wines are 100% estate featuring Rhône varietals, [like] Syrah and Viognier. We have been certified since 2006, incidentally the same year we started making wine. Biodynamic farming means no mono-cropping. Cowhorn is a perennial polyculture.
2) What do you tell naysayers of Biodynamics?
My view is farming is a personal preference. Think of when folks go to a restaurant. Some people will choose soup, some salad. There is no right or wrong answer. I like Biodynamics because 365 days a year, folks, kids and animals can visit as we don’t use synthetic chemicals. I really don’t try to convince folks of topics that they don’t aspire to. Biodynamics is a mindset. If you believe in healing the earth, if you believe that removing synthetic chemicals from your farm is good and if you believe that through diversity you can improve your farms immune system, then Biodynamics is for you.
3) What else do you grow besides grapes?
In addition to grapes, we produce 7,000-8,000 pounds of asparagus annually. We also grow lavender (1,000 plants) and hazelnuts. Regarding asparagus we looked for a crop that did not have a local presence. A crop that is a perennial and one that could be grown in six foot spacing, so that we can leverage our tractors (as our vineyard is on six-foot spacing).
4) What is a “Living Building Certification” and how does that pertain to you?
Living Building Certification is the Biodynamic equivalent of construction. The goal is to create an environmentally friendly facility, from the materials used to its impact on the earth. Our tasting room was the first in the world to achieve full certification. I like that the building is consistent with our Biodynamic brand. I also like that 60 some contractors came together to build the building in Oregon.