A few weeks ago we celebrated Earth Day, honoring Mother Earth in this time when climate change is still questioned and preserving our natural resources is more vital than ever. With this, many in the wine industry are making a concerted effort to farm cleaner, greener, more natural. Not only does this allow the true characteristics of a wine shine, speaking to the vineyard, the terroir and that particular vintage year, but also creates a healthier climate for all to enjoy.
This morning I had a chance to share a few key ideas behind this “natural” winemaking on KXAS-TV/NBC DFW, toasting to a few key wineries who are doing it well. More on the wines featured and a few others below. A link to the segment is here.
Gary and I also touched on the subject on our “Cogill Wine and Film, A Perfect Pairing” Podcast on reVolver Podcasts a few weeks ago, linked here, click “Episode 43.”
If you are still confused about the what is what, and which is best, you can also just look at the back of many of the wines you are enjoying drinking today as many regions have created simple sustainable indicators that wineries place on their back labels to note that they are farming and operating in a certified sustainable manner. Cheers!
Today there is no set accreditation or definition for “natural” wine though most agree that natural growers nurture biodiversity while embracing and observing nature. As we don’t have set rules for natural wines, we look to the regulations that define organic, biodynamic and sustainability; the key practices Green wineries are focusing on today.
Sustainable: Create self-sustaining vineyards, using nutrient-rich cover crops, bird boxes to eat destructive wildlife, fish-friendly farming, solar energy to reduce carbon footprint, i.e. clean/green farming w/ biodiversity. Some wineries solar programs offsets the same amount of Carbon Dioxide emissions that is the equivalent of planting 25,000 – 40,000 trees
- Lambert Bridge in Dry Creek, the land of robust Zinfandel, actually shines with Bordeaux varieties, including mineral rich Sauvignon Blanc, spicy, juicy Malbec and hearty Cabernet Sauvignon.
- One of my favorite sparkling wine producers, Domaine Carneros, celebrates sustainability in their vineyards and Mother Earth in their winery with the use of solar to offset carbon emissions.
- Jordan Winery in Alexander Valley creates a complete biodiverse universe on their estate with sustainable vineyard farming practices melding with olive trees and orchard fruit trees, cattle, the use of solar, and one of the most beautiful chef’s gardens in Sonoma.
- J Lohr Estate’s commitment to sustainability begins in the vineyards, with a focus on the health and vitality of the vines, which dictate the flavors the wines will produce to create terroir driven products.
- Always a favorite from Willamette Valley, Stoller Family Estates uses both sustainability in the vines and the winery to produce some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot in Oregon.
Organic: Many employ the similar farming methods used for sustainable winemaking, however, the use of any synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides in the vineyards are not allowed, i.e. no chemicals, only natural methods to manage your vineyards.
- HALL Wines, from Dallasites Craig and Kathryn Hall, farms all of their 500+ acres of classic Bordeaux varieties organically, certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). As winegrowers, the Halls have a strong respect for the environment and a commitment to sustainability in the vineyard, and the winery, becoming the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified Gold Winery in California.
- Begun by environmental lawyer, climate change and energy policy activist and a builder of high-performance LEED buildings, Eric Lemelson, Lemelson Vineyards in Willamette Valley focuses their efforts on the key principle of their founder, to be driven by values. What does this mean? The winery has a commitment to the environment, to the land and to their community…and, thankfully, to producing stellar Pinot Noir wine.
- Caspar Estate in Napa Valley is not only organic, but it also employs many of the focuses of sustainability, with biodiversity celebrated throughout the estate. In addition to vineyards and premium quality wine production, they grow olive trees for producing olive oil, have bee hives for honey production, have orchards and make a small amount of fruit-infused vinegar.
- Benovia Winery in Russian River is sustainable overall, but their historic Cohn Vineyard is farmed completely organically, producing concentrated, black fruit filled Pinot Noir.
- Inglenook Vineyards is one of the most historic properties in Napa Valley and since 1994 all of their estate vineyards have been farmed organically, allowing the true essence of Rutherford to shine through, especially in wines like Inglenook Rubicon, one of my top favorite wines of all time. Inglenook was the 9th Napa Valley vineyard to be certified organic.
- Similarly, Ehler’s Estate in St. Helena is farmed completely organically, celebrating the diverse terroir of their elegant estate that produces stellar Napa Valley Bordeaux-style wines.
- Covert in Coombsville producing earthy, concentrated and beautifully structured wines from Bordeaux varieties, under the expert leadership of Julien Fayard (our featured guest at the June 5 Dallas Uncorked anniversary dinner.)
- Raymond Winery and Vineyards in Napa has dedicated a portion of their Rutherford estate to biodynamic farming
- Brooks Winery in Willamette Valley producing great Pinot Noir, but also some of the most celebrated Riesling wines in the North West.
- Leon Barral in Languedoc, France is always a favorite for their complete non-interventionist, uber biodynamic approach.
There are actually many wineries that employ all three methods at their various vineyard sites with Benziger and Quivira being two favorites that look at the whole picture of biodiversity and holistic farming to create not only delicious wines, but wines that truly represent the vintage and vineyards, telling the story of the land.