Good wine pairs best with good people. That’s the lesson Chevonne Ball learned from French winemaker, Robert Perroud, in the mid-2000s, and it’s a sentiment that’s stuck with the sommelier and wine educator throughout her career.
In 2017, Ball launched Dirty Radish, a travel and consulting business that exposes drinkers to the luxuries of wine and food culture in France, as well as Ball’s home state of Oregon. Perroud’s words of wisdom became the core of her mission to help more people realize that they didn’t have to break the bank, or know everything about vino, to enjoy it. They simply needed to try it, and all the better if they did so alongside a few good people.
“What I really wanted to do was just get people to enjoy it, because as much as I know about wine, at the end of the day it’s all about whether you like it or not. Do you like what’s in your glasses? And who are you sharing that glass, that bottle, with? That’s far more important than knowing all the details and the tech sheets of wine,” says Ball.
Before inspiring wine lovers and novices through her own business, Ball helped enhance the guest experience at Portland’s James Beard Award-winning restaurant, Le Pigeon, and its sister-restaurant, Little Bird Bistro, which has since closed. Her years of work in hospitality and as a wine buyer and consultant in the U.S. and France has served as the blueprint for creating memorable moments for the community she’s fostered.
“Creating these incredible experiences and watching people get to experience it — that’s my joy,” she says. “It’s nothing better than taking someone to the place where the wine is made and having them get it. I can literally see the moment it clicks in their brains because they’re in the place with the winemaker getting this behind-the-scenes experience.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated travel, Ball, one of Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40 Tastemakers in 2020, opened up her platform to more than just wine discovery. She began tackling issues of diversity and inclusion — or rather, the lack thereof — within the wine industry, through her Instagram Live “Tea Talk” series. She also used her knowledge and expertise to educate others on biodynamic wineries, which she believes align humanity and nature.
As global warming and climate change become a greater issue, biodynamic agricultural practices and sustainability have gained traction with winemakers looking to become a little bit more green. Vintners taking a biodynamic approach follow farming rules that treat the vineyard as one single, living organism. And while each aspect that impacts the vineyard — from the soil, the weather, wildlife and so on — plays a different role, biodynamic vignerons believe they work in unison to keep the vineyard functioning. And, of course, the vineyards are farmed organically. The use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are avoided at all costs.
“Biodynamic agriculture holds particular appeal for winegrowers. It calls for close attention to nature’s cycles and harnesses energies not always obvious to the naked eye. More than most, biodynamic winegrowers rely on nature’s ability to transform materials, on metamorphosis and the cycles of decay, death, and life,” Ball says.
As travel restrictions ease, Ball is back focusing on her next French wine tour, planned for Spring 2022. She’s also preparing a new project at a hotel and restaurant that will uproot her to Norway. She is still, however, keeping her glass full of biodynamic wine — particularly biodynamic Gamay Noir from around the world. She recommends three worth trying.
This wine is produced under the Domaine Pérol estate, which was founded in 1912 in Châtillon d’Azergues in Southern Beaujolais. All grapes are hand-harvested, and whole cluster fermentation takes place in concrete vats for six to eight days. “It is a crowd-pleaser for most palates, and it is incredibly understated. The bright fruit is balanced with the undertones of terroir that come through in the lingering minerality,” says Ball.
A blend of organically farmed, whole cluster Gamay and Pinot Noir from California get the carbonic fermentation treatment before the wine is bottled and ready for drinking. Each variety is picked at a different time and fermented separately before it all comes together in a bottle. “This wine is bright with high acidity. A delicious afternoon wine,” says Ball.
This certified organic wine is produced in the rolling hills of Chehalem Valley within Oregon’s renowned winemaking region, the Willamette Valley. Biodynamically farmed on land with naturally low soil pH and plenty of mica/silica, the Gamay is Old World in style. “The wines are delicious, and the Gamay is bright, floral, and often laced with a hint of anise. The perfect wine with a late afternoon lunch and good friends,” says Ball.