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Wine (Whine?) Time
Bo-vine Frankenstein: Joe Eskenazi's cover story on Biodynamics ["Voodoo on the Vine," Feature, 11/19] adopts the tone of hard-hitting exposé, but what exactly is the sinister plot he's hinting at? That Biodynamic wine growers are freaky medicine-show hucksters fleecing the unwitting wine-buying public? If it's an attempt to uncover a scam marketing ploy by kooky winegrowers, he's well off base.

The cost difference between Biodynamic wines and any other wines of quality in the marketplace is negligible. Eskenazi points out the main cost driver in the wine market nicely — the investments of capital and labor in a system that produces lower crop yields than conventional farming and mandates obsessive attention to detail. That is simply a description of conscientious grape growing, and is a decision for all growers, not just the "weird" ones.

Yes, Rudolf Steiner was a kook, but Eskenazi conveniently glosses over a critical aspect of the Biodynamic philosophy in favor of witch-hunting. Long before any grape grower can start breaking out the star charts and playing bovine Frankenstein, his or her vineyard must be organic. Whether or not you believe in Biodynamics as a beneficial growing practice, I think it's safe to say a consensus has been reached on the upside of its prerequisite of organic farming.

So Biodynamic growing is based on some odd practices and strange beliefs. The conventional practices of spraying chemical pesticides on fruit and using growing methods that create monocultures that strip land of any future agricultural worth are arguably pretty far out as well. I would argue that any practice that eliminates the use of pesticides and requires greater attention to sustainable farming practices is worth the weirdness.

Steve McAghon

San Francisco

Ten points for using the word "quackery": Thanks to Joe Eskenazi for this article. As a UC Davis graduate who has been formally trained in agricultural science and the science of winemaking, I find it painful and insulting that I have to give lip service to this quackery in order to maintain employment viability in this close-knit industry.

Sustainable farming is possible only if all options and their costs and benefits are considered. Sometimes conventional farming techniques are the safest, cleanest, "greenest" choice, but they are automatically ruled out because of slavering, dogmatic loyalty to organic or — shudder — Biodynamics.

Matthew Read


Grave concern: Vodou ("voodoo") is a brave faith that defied the spiritual pit that formed when Christianity and slavery linked hands and frolicked across the Caribbean at the expense of the African people.

Perhaps the author of this article meant "Hoodoo on the Vine" versus "Voodoo." Or perhaps his understanding of world religion hasn't exceeded the "stick a pin in the voodoo doll" phase. Regardless, I am certain that many former practitioners of Vodou are turning over in their graves. Literally.


Web Comment

Poorly Trained
It's the Pittsburg: Regarding Sandy's letter about seats for pregnant women et al. [Letters, 11/19]: She comments, "Maybe I was just on the wrong train." And the answer is, "Yes, definitely!" She's on the Pittsburg line. 

I take the Richmond line into San Francisco from the North Berkeley station every day with my two children, aged 10 and 11. Whenever there aren't seats, without exception, someone will offer us their seats — without us even asking. Even when we get seats, but they aren't right next to each other, people offer to move so we can all sit together. The kindness is almost embarrassing, since we're all strong and healthy — we don't really need to sit down (or right together). 

A friend of mine lives by the Walnut Creek station with her two children, and she travels into S.F. with them every morning. No one gives up their seats, ever. She has to focus on young people and ask them to let her kids sit down. When the three of us house-sit for her and take the Pittsburg line into the city, we have the same experience: No one offers.

Is there a sociological difference between the two areas? Is the longer ride in from Pittsburg a decisive factor? I don't know. I just know there's a world of difference between the two lines. 

Rodney Thomas



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