I was talking to my mother yesterday morning who told me how very cold she was because they were in the middle of a deep freeze in Northwest Arkansas, with a spring snow blanketing the towns just to her north, and temperatures resting in the mid 30s. Snow in Arkansas isn’t uncommon, snow in Arkansas in April….well, not the norm to say the least. Our climate is changing, and if we don’t take actions to limit this change, the next generations will find themselves living in a very difficult world.
The production of wine is not the most earth friendly industry, as a whole. However, thankfully, hundreds of wineries throughout the world have changed their production methods to work cleaner, greener, safer for our environment, and with that, are producing completely representative wines that tell the story of the land, allowing the natural beauty of the terroir to shine.
As toasting Mother Earth is ideal everyday, specifically on Earth Day, pop open a bottle of Argyle Kundsen Vineyard Brut ($50) from the volcanic Dundee Hills of Willamette Valley. Knudsen Vineyard is home to some of the oldest vines in Willamette, growing highly concentrated, low-yielding, own-rooted Pommard Clone Pinot Noir, originally planted in 1974. The certified sustainable, salmon safe sparkler has gorgeous tension and density, revealing wildflower and toasty aromas, leading into flavors of toasted almond, creamy custard, ripe apple and pear, with a note of spice and cream on the finish.
Sonoma County, like many wine growing regions in the country, made a commitment in 2014 to work towards the entire county achieving farming sustainability within the following few years. An impressive goal, made difficult in years like 2017 and 2020 when wildfires devastated so much of the area. But, earth conscious vintners and wineries took on the challenge, with hundreds of vineyards throughout the region farming completely sustainable today.
From her sustainably certified estate vineyards in Petaluma Gap, Kimberly Pfendler crafts expressive, energetic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, now with the assistance of Winemaker Erica Stancliff, one of California’s rising stars in the field. From hand-harvested fruit, Pfendler Pinot Noir ($55) from elevations upwards of 2200 feet on the west side of Sonoma Mountain, reveals a bold, aromatic wine, highly influenced by their terroir, with black tea, blackberry, violets, and pomegranate. Lengthy and vibrant, melding freshness with tannin for a textured, balanced wine.
In addition to working with sustainable fruit, Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma’s Carneros region is also a Certified Sustainable winery, with stewardship of the land, care of the environment, and thoughtful care in the cellar being the driving forces of this premium producer. Ram’s Gate Estate covers 28 acres of sustainably farmed fruit, and the backbone of their winery, and their incredible Ram’s Gate Estate Pinot Noir ($80.) Beautifully structured and concentrated, while incorporating a lively bit of energy, the wine reveals fresh red fruit notes of cranberry, raspberry, red cherry, with an earthy, woody herb and floral violet note carried throughout.
Organic and biodynamic farming are the backbone of Sta. Rita Hills Sea Smoke Vineyards, understanding that a healthy ecosystem is the key, and completely necessary for keeping vineyards healthy for many years to come. Bonus, their handsoff approach, and respect for Mother Nature produces some of the finest Pinot Noir wines from the region. Sea Smoke “Ten” Pinot Noir ($80) produced from ten different Pinot Noir Clones, seemlessly melds ripe fig and blackberry with savory spices, toasted hazelnut, and a touch of wild lavender.
Napa Valley’s sustainably farmed Shafer Vineyards also focuses their sustainability and environmentally conscious efforts in both their Stags Leap District vineyards, and winery, utilizing solar energy, water reclamation, donating land to the Wildlife Resure Center of Napa Valley to rehabilitate birds in the area. Shafer One Point Five ($98) Cabernet Sauvignon showcases the richness of Stags Leap, layering black fruits, like blackberry, black plum, and cassis, with mocha and warm spice, with complexity and gorgeous structure.
From sustainably farmed fruit grown in Napa’s Rutherford and Oakville Districts, Flora Springs showcases the essence of earthy, dusty, Napa Valley fruit in their Flora Springs Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50). Balancing fresh acidity with smooth, easy tannins, the wine opens with fruity red cherry, black plum, and black currant, melding with leather and tobacco notes, dark chocolate, and a touch of spice.
Sustainability doesn’t have to be expensive. There are hundreds of highly affordable options that are also sustainable, organic, or farming biodynamically. From the Casablanca and Colchagua regions of Chile, Veramonte Wines produces their fresh, luscious wines from 100% organic fruit, revealing the varietal complexity and character in each of their selections, including their spicy, red fruit filled Cabernet Sauvignon and citrus and white flower Sauvignon Blanc (both steals for less than $12 a bottle.)
A leader in sustainability and the first certified B Corp winery in Portugal, Symington Family Estates allows the earthy, rocky, rugged terrain of their terraced vineyards throughout the Douro Valley to shine through their celebrated Port wines, and their newly released Vale do Bofim, ($13) a Douro red blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, and various other varieties a part of the classic field blend. Juicy and ripe, with red and black fruits, toasted spice, and cedar.
Celebrating their 75th anniversary, with the fourth generation of Mondavi California winemakers running the show, CK Mondavi delivers sunshine in a glass, from sustainably farmed fruit, in their California Pinot Grigio ($10) with lemon-lime, white flowers, orange blossom, and fresh melon. With approachable balance and luscious texture, CK Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon ($10) is fruit-forward with notes of black cherry and blackberry, followed by toasted cedar, chocolate, and spice.