Earth Day is this Sunday and what better way to think green than through a glass, and the options run the gamete from high end to every day table wine, and come from all over the world. Yes, I suppose if you are really focused on reducing that carbon footprint than look within 100 miles of where you are now for your wine source, but I am a firm believer in supporting wineries all over the world that are making a conscious decision to work greener, organic and/or sustainably, keeping the environment in mind. Here are a few suggestions, including a few from Texas, to consider this weekend or any weekend. A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.
Cade Winery is a go to for anyone who is simply a fan of great wine from Howell Mountain in Napa Valley, especially for their mineral driven, steely Sauvginon Blanc, velvety, red fruit filled Napa Valley Cuvee and their luscious Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. I spoke with winemaker Tony Biagi last night about how the idea behind Cade, the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certified winery in the Napa Valley, and why creating a state of the art, completely green winery was so important to the Cade, and Plumpjack, owners. The idea for Cade had been floating around for a while before it actually opened its doors in 2005. Having found success in Oakville with Plumpjack Winery, owners Gavin Newsom, former San Francisco mayor and current Lieutenant Governor of California, and philanthropist Gordon Getty, partnered with Plumpjack Winery GM John Conover to create a new organic winery with its own personality on Howell Mountain, with the goal to achieve LEED certification. The solar powered winery was built from recycled materials, like old blue jeans, the winery is focused on quality and never backing down to the potential Cade has, and in the short time since their first vintage in 2005 they continue to show the potential the winery has, proving that when done well with quality in mind, working organically can produce incredible wine.
Another winery that has figured this out is Benziger, the family run winery in California’s Sonoma County. Benziger keeps three things in mind when creating their award winning wine – strong family, great wine and healthy vineyards. The family part is easy, when I visited this winery in 2010 they told me around 30 members of the Benziger family lived either on the estate or close to it; and they have long been producers of great wine; but the idea of creating healthy vineyards for both growing quality grapes and being good for the environment has really been the focus of GM/winegrower and winemaker Mike Benziger, who today uses certified Biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming methods for all of the vineyards used for Benziger wine. Though they appreciate the environmental statement working green makes, the real reason t0 employ these practices is simply because wine made without contaminants and chemicals will end up tasting better and taste like the place it was grown. As is obvious in their tropical fruit, citrus and honeysuckle filled Wente Clone Carneros Chardonnay, their Paradiso de Maria Sauvignon Blanc filled with baking spice, citrus fruit and a touch of cream, and their hearty, bold and incredible Tribute, with ripe blackberry, espresso and dark chocolate.
Grgich Hills Estate in the heart of Napa Valley has been producing wines from their 366 acre estate Biodynamically, without artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides since 2003, 26 years after their start in 1977 (a year after the famed Paris Tasting where Chateau Montelena won first prize with the Chardonnay Mike Grgich, then winemaker for Montelena, helped produce.) Old vines had been struck with a virus and experts said they needed to be replaced; instead of replacing the vines Grgich Hills switched to Biodynamic farming and immediately saw improvements in the vines, but also in the taste and quality of the wines produced from Biodynamically farmed vines. By 2006 all 366 acres had been converted to Biodynamic farming with organic and Biodynamic certification by the Demeter Association, the certifying agency in the United States. Today the classic California Chardonnay that Mike Grgich produced all those years ago, with notes of freshly baked, buttery bread, golden apple and honeydew melon, is still as tasty, now just a little bit healthier due to their green practices.
Further down the California coast lies the Santa Barbara region, quickly becoming known for their delicious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, often produced using green practices. Santa Barbara Collection wine showcase the luxurious lifestyle of Santa Barbara County and the high quality wine that can be produced there. Their 2010 Chardonnay is produced from SIP (Sustainably in Practice) Certified vineyards from the wineries Cat Canyon Estate Vineyard in Los Alamos. Filled with lemon zest, mango, pineapple and banana with hints of vanilla on the finish, this is a delicious wine for sipping throughout a warm spring day.
Two California wineries have taken their green philosophy to the next level by incorporating green materials into the packaging of their organic and/or sustainable wines. Clif Family Winery, the folks behind the popular Clif Bars, have a firm mission to craft wine and food using practices that care for the earth, including sustainable farming, environmentally friendly packaging and use of renewable energy. Their Clif Family Climber Pouch is a convenient, easy to carry pouch which holds two traditional bottles of wine, but uses 90% less waste than two traditional glass bottles and has an 80% less carbon footprint. Available in either their fruit forward red wine blend of California Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Petit Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot or Chardonnay. CalNaturale takes this a step further with their Tetra Pak carton made of recycled materials to hold their organically grown and sustainably produced Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon and Mendocino Chardonnay, available in either .5 liter or 1 liter packages.
I attended a blogger tasting of Chilean wines last week and tried Veramonte Ritual Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca Valley and made with the commitment to the environment as the backbone of the winery. This happens through sustainable farming practices and a big focus on water conservation, so far resulting in a 35% reduction of water use at the winery over the past 3 years. Their environmental focus helps craft their bright, crisp and balanced Sauvignon Blanc, filled with passion fruit and sweet pineapple layered with floral notes often found in Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.
For Texas wines, if you are looking for organic, sustainable or wines that believe in good stewardship of the land, Caprock Winery is producing a Viognier and Duchman is producing a Trebbiano and Vermentino from Bingham Family Vineyards which employs completely organic methods in their vineyards and farms.
Red Caboose Winery in Meridian, TX was built with sustainable design principles in mind, creating a winery with gravity wine flow, solar panels, geothermal chilling and cooling, capturing rainwater for irrigation, and using sustainable materials in construction.