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What I’m Drinking Now: Sustainable and Organic

Sustainable Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot Grapes at Bennett Lane

The organic, sustainable, biodynamic, eco-friendly, save the earth trend is something we are seeing a lot of, and personally, I am a fan.  Though I don’t have (or honestly want) a wind turbine in my back yard, I wish I had solar panels on my roof. 

It is encouraging to see more and more farmers embracing green practices, especially in wine.  With that I have been drinking more and more earth friendly wine.  Here are a few that have stood out.  Some have been sent for editorial consideration, some I just love.

Climber Wines from Clif Family  has just released their new selections.  The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, was deliciously light and easy drinking. Not overly acidic, but balanced with tropical fruit flavors blending nicely with citrus flavors of lemon and tangerine.  Owners Kit Crawford and Gary Erickson have a great love for the outdoors, mountain climbing and all things nature, as displayed in their well known Luna and Clif Bars.  They, along with winemakers Sarah Gott and Bruce Regalia, have created sustainable growing practices that care for the earth.  The Clif Family Farm recently became CCOF certified, and continue their efforts in the winery to reduce their carbon footprint by expanding the carbon offset program. 

Liberty School  in Paso Robles, CA has a belief that good wine making comes from good vineyard practices.  Utilizing self-assesment guidelines set out in the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices designed by The Wine Institute and California Grape Growers Association, they are able to create wine that keeps an eye on helping the earth, while maintaining a value driven price point.  The 2008 Cuvee is a Rhone Style blend of Syrah, Petite Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier.  With ripe berry aromas matched with smoky, peppery notes, the Cuvee is a wine that can be enjoyed on it own, or matched with anything from house smoked salmon to Texas barbeque. 

Retzlaff Organic Vineyards in Livermore; Retzlaff taster Daphne Seymour; Organic Cabernet Grapes at Retzlaff

I was in Livermore, CA recently and visited Retzlaff Vineyards.  Certified organic grapes surround the casual tasting room and production facility, almost like you have been invited into their house.  Tasting room manager Connie Vandevanter makes you feel this way too.  The Estate Blend Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot is a stand out here with big plum, cherry and licorice flavors that create a lovely, lengthy finish. 

Napa’s Etude Estate has been producing high quality,  vineyard designated Pinot Noir from their Carneros estate since 2004, with Deer Camp being their first.  Named after an old deer camp structure at the base of the vineyard.  The 2007 Pinot Noir blends earthy truffle aromas with lush blue and blackberry with a finish that lingers on the palate well past the last sip.  Etude lies within the 1300+ acre Grace Benoist Ranch.  Protection of the natural wildlife on the ranch (everything from deer and wild turkeys to rattlesnakes and bobcats), wetlands within the ranch and conservation of natural flora, oak and bay trees, are important parts of the work Etude is doing to create responsible vineyards.  They have even installed owl boxes throughout the estate to provide a natural habitat for owls to live and breed, eliminating the need for poison to be used in gopher control.   

Naked Merlot from Snoqualmie Vineyards

Snoqualmie Vineyards makes a line of Naked wine from Washington State that is completely organic from vine to bottle,  flavorful and uncomplicated, and a great value (all are less than $15 retail.)  USDA certified organically grown grapes are used throughout the winery to create wine representative of the Northwest, and Snoqaulmie’s sustainable philosophy.  The Horse Heaven Hills Vineyard Riesling and Columbia Valley Merlot were the two on top of my list.  The Riesling does a nice job of balancing fruit with acidity to create a slightly off-dry wine filled with stone fruit, baking spices and slight minerality.  Black cherry and blackberry aromas exude from the Merlot, with an abundant, fruit forward palate.

In 2007, after 40 years of specialized wine making for wineries such as Chateau St. Jean and Arrowood, Amapola Creek Vineyards and Winery was created simply because Richard Arrowood asked his wife “who would I be if I didn’t make wine?”  And, this creation by the esteemed winemaker is producing outstanding small lot Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel.  With certified CCOF organic vines on a small 20 acre estate in Sonoma Valley, the focus is the land, meaning hands off winemaking that allows the terrior to shine through.  The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is proof of this.  Filled with currant, anise and black plum layered with nutmeg and mocha.  Balanced and well structured, the wine coats the mouth in a velvet with vibrant flavors.

Bennett Lane  is a winery at the very top of the Napa Valley region in Calistoga.  Though they source grapes from a handful of vineyards throughout the valley, owner Randy Lynch’s Vineyard in Calistoga is completely sustainably farmed, and they have detailed requirements for their producers to help with the valley’s sustainability, creating responsible wine making.  For instance, soil erosion prevention plans are in place, composting of  bi-products and grape skins, only organic and soft chemical use on the grapes.  The Lynch’s are still relatively new to the industry, founding the winery in 2003, but they are producing complex wine with bold flavors.  The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon shines.  Filled with black cherry, dried currant and chocolate with structure allowing it to be enjoyed now or aged for a few years.