A closer look at biodynamic wine & why you should drink it. {Interview}

{Albena Hristova via AllPosters.com}

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Did you know  the most common geometric shapes found in aum wine cellars is known within the science of sacred geometry as the Mercaba structure?

The Mercaba structure is also found within the human brain in the areas that protect the DNA strand. Aum wines have been known to increase lucid dreaming, sharper focus and broader awareness within the body, mind and spirit.

Rebelle Society is excited to host a series of inspiring and informative dialogues featuring different creative businesses and entrepreneurs who are successfully combining their passion and talents with their work and service; in order to mutually acknowledge and support like-minded individuals and ignite each other’s creativity. 

Today, Pete Hoffman, owner of Aum Cellars, an organic and bio-dynamic vineyard and winery located in the heart of Napa Valley California, takes us on a virtual wine tasting.


M: Hi Pete, thanks for taking the time to answers a few questions about organic wine and the mysteries of wine making. First things first: What types of wine do you offer?

P: We are open by appointment only and we sell primordially farmed, Single Source Estate Cabernet, Russian River Pinot Noir and a Sierra Foothill Zinfandel, Petit Syrah blend.


M: And what type of wines do you produce?

P: I am dedicated to the art and science of hand crafting the best tasting, primordially farmed, single source and healthiest wines as humanly possible.


M: What is Biodynamic wine?

P: As the viticulturist for Benziger Family Winery—Biodynamic pioneer in wine growing in the United States—biodynamic farming, like primordial farming, is a systematic approach to farming and husbandry, where the ranch in which the wine growing is taking place, is recognized as its own organism within a closed system.

Soil health and vitality are the basic premises with more focus applied to the biological diversity of the soils and environment, from predatory bird management in the skies to mycelium management and diversity within the soils.

As opposed to the standard conventional, corporate farming that prefers to focus their attention to the annihilation of weeds and insects, Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like roots, acting like an internet of information for the vines, helping the vines collect nutrients and water.

Bio translates to Life and Dynamic translates to Enhancement.

In my wine growing process, mycelium management and focus on a healthy diversity of micro organisms within the soil substrate is the building blocks to biodynamics.

The other side of the coin for biodynamics is the spirit and intention within the place where the vines are growing is recognized as real as the the trees growing around the vineyard.

What is the intention behind it—you may ask? To manifest our highest human potential.


M: So, what then is organic wine?

P: Like Biodynamic wine, organic wine avoids synthetic herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers. However, organics doesn’t take into play the ethereal side to farming, or rather, the spirit side or intention-based side to the farming.

For example, as a yogi, the most important reason I make wine is because I am convinced that wine is a product that carries the spirit of nature…My role is to bring reverence and respect to this process while accompanying its maturation process and avoiding any synthetic intervention.


M: Whenever I drink organic wine, I never get a headache, why do you think that is?

P: There are a lot of reasons why some people get headaches in regards to drinking wine. Molds, histamines and too high a level of sulfates—all tie into causes for headaches.

The wine industry has so many steps within the winemaking process. For example, there are many wineries in California who don’t farm their own vineyards. They purchase grapes from many different vineyards with little to no control over the farming methods and to make matters worse, most vineyards these days are corporately farmed and most wineries are corporately ran.

There are little to no links between the farming and the winemaking. Winegrowing and winemaking have very specific pathways to quality, vitality and health. If there isn’t a real connection between the growing and winemaking and fermentaion, let alone the packaging, who knows where the headache problem came from.

Ultimately, with the new introduction to corporate wineries and corporate farm management companies—like chicken, veggies or any other thing we put in our bodies these days—it is strongly recommended to know your source.

Ideally, look for wines that are vineyard designates, single sourced or estate properties that focus on primordially, biodynamically or organically farmed practices.

M: How did you become interested in wine making?

P: Perhaps it was making wine with my father as a child that first spurred me to get into the wine business. I grew up in Southern California, the original wine country. I studied Ecology and Systematic Biology at Cal Poly SLO and started farming wine grapes straight out of college in the early 90’s.

In 1996, I made my first barrel of wine and ever since, every fall, when I see those grapes hanging on the vines I have this compelling desire to make wine out of them. Some people like video games, others golf… Like catching a cold, I caught the winegrowing and making bug.


M: And how were you introduced to yoga?

P: When I was in my late 20s I hurt my back trying to lift something too heavy. A friend of mine recommended I start taking some yoga classes to help strengthen the back.

Begrudgingly, after a couple of classes just not my back, but my entire body started to feel better. Within a couple of months something else started to happen that I didn’t see coming: through the form came a new level of consciousness.


M: You have combined two of my favorite things, wine and yoga. So thank you. What determines an organic winery?

P: Keep in mind, there are certifications for vineyards and there are certifications for wineries. What determines a winery organic or Biodynamic is based on what materials the winery uses in the winery for fermentation and nutrition aids to the fermenting grapes as well as what types of preservatives one can use.

A organic or biodynamic vineyard is a completely different certification in terms of what type of materials one can use in the farming of the grapes. Specifically, an organic wine cannot contain sulfites. However, in Europe they are going to pass a new law that states organic wines can have sulfites.

Personally, I prefer the Biodynamic methodology of determining health, not by exclusion of sulfites, but rather by limiting the amount of sulfites in a wine to only 40ppm. All my wines contain less than 40 ppm sulfites compared to most store-bought wines (between 300 ppm to 550 ppm of sulfites — one of the chief reasons for the headaches).


M: How big is the vineyard?

P: I have two vineyards: one is about two acres and the other, about four acres.


M: I know very little about growing grapes, but I’ve heard that the vines can be hundreds of years old. Is that true? Do you export those vines from other places?

P: Most vines in California are between 1 to 15 years old. Corporate farming squeezes as many grapes as they can each year out of the vines—resulting in vines lasting about 15 years.

After 15 years, the vines are so stressed from receiving all the salts and acid fertilizers and the roundup surrounding their roots have created mycotoxins through the vine, that the vine no longer has the ability to defend itself from viruses and bacteria.

In areas where there are deep soils with a good water source and the vines aren’t competing with other vines for water and nutrients, vines have been know to live over 100 years. Zinfandel grapes were some of the earlier varieties grown in California with less vines per acre due to dry farming and specific soil and moisture parameters. Most of the vines that are over 100 years old are zinfandel.


M: What constitutes a good growing season?

P: Like baking cookies, temperature and length of time cooking is what constitutes a good growing season. Keep in mind different varieties require different baking times and temperatures.


M: Does your wine go into any type of competition?

P: I only joined one competition a couple of years ago. It was an international competition for millennials. I placed Silver with my Cab and Bronze with a Viognier. I was a risky proposition since my cab was competing with the regular 15% alcohol cabernets. Most of the time my cabs are between 12.5 and 13.5 alcohol.


M: What comes into play when deciding on an award-winning wine?

P: Again, this is variety specific, but for Cabernet, I look for balance complexity, concentration and completeness. Balance meaning, seamless tannin more towards the middle and back of the palate with a sweet entry, round mid palate and long lingering finish.

Complexities would be hints of chocolate with real fruit flavors and subtle oak notes and concentration that will deliver a wine with presence in 10 years, meaning a tannin that borders firmness while young, yet still soft enough to drink early.

Color, clarity and varietal characters shouldn’t even be in the discussion because all wines should have good color, clarity and varietal character.

Last, when deciding on an award winning wine, look to the person who made the wine and internally decide on how authenticity, knowledge and integrity does the winemaker have.

Do they know all processes of the wine product? And finally, how healthy the wine is? How did it make you feel the next day?



M: Where can we find your exceptional wines?

P: You can come visit me at the winery, check out my web page AumCellars.com, email me at pete@aumcellars.com or follow me on twitter @aummann. If you are old school and just want to call me, that works too. {(707)266-8803}


M: What’s on the horizon for Aum wines?

P: There is a documentary on aum and my wine process called “Aum you are what you drink” that is in the works and is scheduled to come out some time next year.


M: Thank you, Pete, for educating us on organic wine and your incredible vineyard.

P: Thank you, as well, and good luck on your new endeavor with this wonderful team of people making a real voice for yoga, health expanding our consciousness.

Peter Hoffmann is a Napa Valley winemaker, viticulture expert, and entrepreneur who spent over 20 years studying the science and art of wine growing and wine making. He studied Ecology and Systematic Biology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a minor in viticulture. He has been growing biodynamically and organically for the past 15 years. The Napa Valley Wine Project calls him a “Quantum Farmer who takes wine growing to the extreme of micro farming.” His unique winemaking techniques have been published by the Mother Nature Network and also featured in Napa Valley Decanting, and he’s presented at the Yoga Journal Conference San Francisco, San Diego and the Science of Non Duality Conference in Marin for the past two years. Learn more about Peter & his winery at AumCellars.com & connect with him on twitter


More Creatives in the Rebelle spotlight: 

>> A little more life: The Art of Yoga through the lens of Robert Sturman.

>> When Yoga meets & marries Martial Arts.

>> Behind the Scenes of Potrait Photography with Sherry Sutton.






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Sharon Pingitore, better known as Mamaste, is a yoga teacher by passion and people-connector by default. Some of her duties include (but aren’t limited to): virtual manager, eVision board designer, recruiter, editor, professional playlist maker, reporter, ambassador, blogger, Pinterest pro, Facebook fanatic and head cheerleader. If any of these “jobs” intrigue you, send her an email and she’ll be glad to explain! You can connect with her via Facebook and Twitter.


  • Mamaste
    Mamaste commented on December 4, 2012 Reply
    I had the pleasure of meeting Pete and his beautiful wife at the Yoga Journal Conference in San Diego this summer. I can personally recommend his fine Cabernet. A beautiful wine. ~Mamaste
  • Ramanjit Garewal
    Ramanjit Garewal commented on December 4, 2012 Reply
    Dear Mamaste …:-) A fine write up … Will join you for a glass … Cheers … Love … :-)
  • Richard La Rosa
    Richard La Rosa commented on December 4, 2012 Reply
    Great interview, M. I’m going to follow-up with an actual tasting to compliment this virtual one. Stay tuned…
  • Andrea Balt
    Andrea Balt commented on December 5, 2012 Reply
    Thank you Mamaste & Pete. Very interesting. I feel like I just attended my first class in biodynamic wine. Cheers!
  • Christian Ryd Høgsberg commented on December 5, 2012 Reply
    Must taste that soon :)

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