Organic, and Then Some: What Biodynamic Means to Beckmen Vineyards
By Peyton Whittington Published April 2023
Sustainability continues to drive consumer decisions and many businesses are following suite, including Beckmen Vineyards.
Beckmen Vineyards has been family-owned and operated since 1994, known for their biodynamic farming practices and widely beloved by our guests for their quality varietals which utilize growing techniques that complement the land, rather than commandeer it. Here is the story of their sustainability.
Tom Beckmen was the son of a cattle buyer who spent his early years working on a ranch outside of Chicago, delighting in getting his hands dirty to gather onions and pick sweet, vine-ripe tomatoes. But Tom’s spirit was equal parts farm boy and entrepreneur. He founded the visionary music technology company Roland Corp. U.S. in 1978, selling everything from keyboards to amps to synthesizers.
Roland revolutionized the way music is made and enjoyed worldwide, but a different calling was tugging at Tom’s heartstrings. He sold Roland in 1993 to pursue a life of winegrowing alongside his son Steve as the founder of Beckmen Vineyards in California’s Santa Ynez Valley.
Years later, Tom’s oldest son Jeff would echo Tom’s career path. Jeff left a 24-year career on Wall Street in 2016 to join his family at Beckmen Vineyards as Director of Sales.
We sat down with Jeff to learn more about Beckmen Vineyards, including its status as a certified biodynamic farming operation and what this atypical winemaking process means to the family.
Jeff will be the first to tell you that his brother Steve is the mastermind behind Beckmen’s farming practices. With Steve’s agricultural know-how, Jeff’s business acumen and dad Tom at the helm, Beckmen Vineyards is a veritable family business dream team.
“It makes my job easier because I know the product is good,” Jeff said with a chuckle.
There are a variety of reasons for why that is. First and foremost, Beckmen Vineyards is a biodynamic, closed-system farming operation where the land sustains itself without the need for external treatments, like herbicides or pesticides. The vineyard’s “Beckmen on Biodynamics: Part 1” blog puts it like this:
We often explain that biodynamic farming is, “organic and then some.” To be more specific, biodynamic agriculture is a system designed to raise fruit in a state of nature. The fruit is treated by human hands rather than corrected with chemical sprays. Vines are protected with plant-based remedies, not poison. Farming decisions are made with regard to nature’s rhythms. Farming like this isn’t meant to be the most productive way, but if you care most about the flavor of your fruit, we believe that it is the best way. This is why farmers that consider quality, not yield, are so attracted to biodynamic wisdom. This is how we became believers.
Conventional farming practices usually correct problems with the vines or fruit after the fact, either with chemical treatments or additives during the winemaking process. Biodynamic farming, in contrast, seeks to eliminate these problems altogether by creating a “closed loop” environment where the vineyard’s health is largely self-sustaining.
“You need to start with good grapes to make good wine,” Jeff said. “Health begets health.”
Not only does Beckmen Vineyards employ revolutionary farming tactics, but the land the winery sits on is also naturally gifted with the ideal soils and climates for delicious wines. Their Purisima Mountain Vineyard boasts almost 500 feet of elevation with limestone subsoil. This kind of soil is rarely found in California and is prized in regions like Champagne and Burgundy for producing grapes that make wines with great body and intriguing flavors. The second vineyard, the Thomas and Judith Beckmen Estate Vineyard, has a warmer climate than the first with gravelly, well-drained soil.
Each vineyard produces grapes with their own unique flavor profiles, but sometimes the Beckmens blend varietals from each vineyard to produce a truly unique product, like the Cuvee Le Bec. As it so happens, this is also the wine that Jeff would bring with him to a deserted island because it’s easy-drinking and well-balanced, thanks to the blend of grapes from different terroirs. (He reaffirms, however, that choosing a favorite Beckmen wine is not unlike choosing one’s favorite child.)
With the care and dedication put into each bottle of Beckmen wine, it’s not surprising that the label was once served in the White House. Yes, Beckmen’s 2007 Grenache was the featured pour at former President Obama’s first state dinner with former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the special guest. Celebrated Chef Marcus Samuelsson was a fan of Beckmen wines and knew the grenache would pair famously with the dinner he had planned, which fused the best flavors of American and Indian cuisines.
From the rolling hills of Santa Barbara County to the White House all the way to a shelf at your local ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, Beckmen wines have undergone no small amount of strategy, trial and error and hard work to become the delicious wines they produce today. Shop Beckmen wines here or learn more about the winery’s journey to become a biodynamic farm at their website here.