Earth Day Wine Selections

Earth Day is April 22 and it's time to start thinking of ways to celebrate.  What better way to enjoy the sustainable fruits of our Earth than with wine?  I have four wines for you, each from a distinct place which represent a deep commitment to environmental stewardship and community care, the essence of Earth Day!

- Protea Chenin Blanc ($14.99). I hate to start with my favorite but here goes.  This wine is amazing as both an easy drinker and possessing some mid-weightiness.  It has some acidity, making it great for food pairing, but the flavors are lush with honey and tropical melons.  Even cooler, the grapes are grown without training on "bush vines", sprawling about Franschhoek Valley all natural-like and growing some amazing fruit.  To take it one step further, the packaging is made to be upcycled and you'll be sure to argue not only who over who gets to keep the bottle but what to do with it later!

- Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay ($21.99).  Made entirely of estate fruit on the Chilean Coastal Range just 15 miles from the Pacific, bathed in sunshine and buffeted by cool ocean breezes.  Certified organic and biodynamic farming capture all the site has to offer.  A fabulous example of what the varietal can do when made in a classic style with preserved natural acidity and light oak.

- Loveblock Pinot Noir ($35.99).  The fruit is grown in the furthest southern reaches of the world of wine on the Someone's Darling Vineyard, which is accredited through New Zealand Winegrowers' Sustainable Winegrowing program (SWNZ).  Five clones of Pinot Noir are combined to make lovable, smokey and floral aromatics along with ripe berry and herbal notes.

- Tangley Oaks Merlot ($14.99).  This winery has a partnership with Lamanda Joy (Master Gardener) and is on a mission to preserve and strengthen communities across the US through community gardening.  That, along with the fact this wine is a great bargain from Napa Valley, makes it an Earth Day no-brainer.

Champagne Keeps Getting Greener

Vineyards of Vizernay, Montagne de Reims, ChampagneNew Programs Continue Multiyear Carbon Reduction Campaign:

As Earth Day approaches, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) is furthering the Champagne region's leadership in environmental preservation with new initiatives to reuse woody biomass and wastewater from wine production.  
The region has launched an appellation-wide program to transform the 150,000 metric tons of wood waste generated from vineyard pruning into energy, reducing pollution and helping replace fossil fuels used in wine production with a renewable source of energy. 
Through this BIOVIVE (Biomasse Viticole) initiative, the Champagne region is working with local utilities to cut the current carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 10,000 metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking 5,000 vehicles off the road. 
Similarly, wine production results in 600,000 cubic meters (m3) of wastewater and byproducts each year. Since 1990, when only five percent of wastewater was treated and reused, the Champagne industry has steadily increased its environmental stewardship; now 95 percent of wastewater is treated and 91 percent is recycled. 
"Champagne only comes from Champagne. The distinctive land and climate of Champagne cannot be replicated elsewhere and the people of Champagne understand that they must be protected to preserve the region's centuries-old wine-making tradition," said Sam Heitner, director of the Champagne Bureau, the U.S. representative of the CIVC. "These efforts are just a few of the environmental initiatives that the Champagne region has undertaken as part of its campaign to reduce the region's carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020."
Champagne is not merely a type of wine; it is a unique region with a long history of winemaking expertise. Located 90 miles northeast of Paris, the region covers less than 80,000 acres. Only grapes handpicked in the carefully delineated plots inside the appellation can be used to produce Champagne. The CIVC, comprised of all the grape growers and houses in Champagne, has led these environmental initiatives to ensure that Champagne continues to focus on quality and preserve its unique wine-growing location. 
The region's leadership in emission reduction began in 2002 with the first-ever wine region environmental impact assessment. Based on the audit results, the Champagne region set itself the goal of cutting carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020 and 75 percent by 2050.
To achieve this, there are currently more than 40 initiatives to reduce the region's environmental footprint. For example, after the CIVC determined that the production, packing and shipping of wine bottles accounted for 33 percent of the region's carbon emissions, it announced a new standard bottle in 2010 which, at more than two ounces lighter, will reduce the region's annual CO2 output by 8,000 metric tons, equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of 4,000 cars. The new design consists mainly of changes to the neck of the bottle and was tested extensively to ensure that it maintains the performance, safety and character of the bottle historically used in the region.
"In 2002, the Champagne appellation showed true leadership by engaging in the most comprehensive environmental audit of a wine region that had ever been conducted," continued Heitner. "Introducing a lighter bottle, reusing wood waste and capturing wastewater are small steps that, when implemented throughout the region, help make a significant difference in the carbon emitted from the Champagne appellation."

- Information obtained from the Champagne Bureau

Earth Day Chicago

Earth Day is coming up on Friday, April 22nd and there will be many ways for Chicagoans to get involved.  Here's a list of places to go and specials to take advantage of:

  • Chen's Chinese & Sushi and Koi will be offering special Green Menu Items which include Vegetable Dumplings ($4.95), Edamame ($4.50) and Green Tea Ice Cream ($3.95).
  • Cityscape Bar has whipped up an Organic Drink Menu featuring an Organic Pear Fizz, Peak Organic Amber Ale and Momokawa Organic Ginjo Sake, each $5.
  • RIVA at Navy Pier will be offering an Organic Wine Menu featuring Candoni Merlot and Pinot Grigio, each $7/glass.
  • Uncommon Ground Devon will be hosting a Great Lake Brewing Co. Dinner on April 20 at 6pm, starting with passed appetizers followed by a 4 course meal featuring grilled asparagus, truffled devil egg with ham praline and green goddess dressing, spicy duck breast with baby artichokes and spinach & duck confit tortellini.  Great Lakes beers are included with the $55 price tag.
  • Uncommon Ground Clark will be hosting a Michigan Seedling Farms/Von Beaumont Wines 4 course meal on April 21 at 6pm featuring bluepoint oysters, gnocchi with black trumpet mushrooms, asparagus with goat cheese and Dietzler Farm steak with wild ramp smashed potatoes.  $40/person.
  • At Province, chefs Cleetus Friedman of City Provisions Delicatessen and Randy Zweiban of Province collaborate on a multi-course meal of seasonal, sustainable finger foods highlighting local farms paired with cocktails from Death’s Door Spirits.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit Chefs Collaborative, and Organic Valley will match all donations.  April 22 at 5:30pm.  $55/person.
  • All Big Bowl locations will be giving away a free Earth Matters Tote Bag.  Every time you use the bag to pick up Big Bowl food in the future, you will receive 50 cents off!
  • Prairie Fire West Loop and Prairie Grass Cafe Northbrook will be offering Earth Day Wild Things Dinner Specials which include sauteed ramps with ramp butter crostini ($15), crumb crusted wild striped bass over spring morels and River Valley mushroom ragout with Three Sisters Garden pea-shoot sauce and a petite salad ($31), grilled lamb skewers with wild watercress pesto, grilled spring onions, dandelion greens, croutons and warm local bacon vinaigrette ($26) and a Prairie Organic vodka martini with wild watercress pesto-stuffed olives ($10).
  • Elate River North will be offering $5 TreeTinis to benefit planting trees in areas of need.
  • All participating Starbucks will be offering free coffee or tea to customers who bring in reusable travel cups.
  • Foodlife on the Magnificent Mile will be giving away $5 gift certificates and seedling bookmarks to those who share their best tips on how to "Go Green".
  • The Hotel Palomar will host the Walk in The Park Benefit on April 22nd from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.  It's Kimpton Hotels interactive Earth Day fair benefitting The Trust for Public Land will showcase local Community Supported Agriculture farmers, green vendors and recycled "trash art" with food & drink from 312 Chicago, Atwood Cafe, Sable Kitchen & Bar and South Water Kitchen.

Celebrate Earth Day with Organic Wine

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration of environmental awareness.  It's observed every April 22nd and I can't think of any better way to enjoy it than to pop open a bottle (or two!) of wine made with organically grown grapes!  Here are a few selections which I recommend:

Colome Malbec.  This wine is made in the Salta province of Argentina with the highest altitude grapes in the world.  The wine is aged in French oak and is mostly Malbec combined with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat.  It's dark, juicy, spicy and can be had for around $25.  Hard to beat this producer for the price either!

Grgich Hills Chardonnay.  Not only are the grapes grown on this estate organic, but biodynamic as well.  Mike Grgich has been involved in making some of the best wines in the world for longer than Earth Day has been around, especially Chardonnays.  His Chardonnays have small oak nuances like vanilla and toast and preserve the grape's natural flavors by using Burgundian practices, like no malolactic fermentation.  Minerality and tropical flavor explodes, and all for around $40.

Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio.  Not only does Mr. Lageder make great wine but he does it for a great value- most of his wines are priced around $15!  Coming from northeast Italy, this Pinot Grigio is the total package- it's lightly creamy, floral and aromatic, with a touch of spice and loads of citrus fruit.  Open some oysters, roast some fish and enjoy.

Maysara Jamsheed Pinot Noir.  Making good Pinot Noir can be easy in Oregon, but it's not a sure thing.  When you take a loving approach to the grape and grow it organically, it just seems to come out right.  That's no different than what Maysara practices, and they churn out Pinot Noir that is full of berry flavor, spices, herbs and minerality on a yearly basis.  Get it for around $20.

Descendientes de Jose Palacios "Petalos" Bierzo.  This wine is made from ancient Mencia vines in northwest Spain.  Take the dark purple juice and combine with new French oak, and you get a wine an excellent profile: berries, licorice, flowers, minerality and smokiness.  I still can't believe you can buy this for around $18!

Peter Lehmann Shiraz Barossa.  It's no surprise that this wine is an awesome deal as it's made from organic grapes, priced around $15 and comes from down under!  A wine so full of plum flavor with hints of cocoa, oak, cherry and grippy tannins should be on your Earth Day list.

Chono Carmenere Reserva.  If you're planning on eating beef this Earth Day then this is the wine for you.  Cherry, vanilla, tobacco, baking spices and overall bold flavors make this a steal of an organic deal at around $10.  Grab a bit of Chilean value from this family vineyard produced, hand picked wine.

Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence Rouge.  What?  Another deal from southeast France?  Is it possible?  Of course.  They've been churning out big value for quite some time and this organic wine is no exception.  Priced around $18 and full blueberry, cherry, cassis, pepper and spice.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache and Syrah.

Sokol Blosser Evolution.  Another Oregon organic, this is a blend of eight different varietals: Müller Thurgau, Riesling, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.  Just because they pack all those grapes in there doesn't mean it affects the price as it's only around $17 per bottle.  Great spring wine too!

Bonny Doon "Le Cigare Volant".  An awesome California Rhone varietal blend of mostly Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault.  Their organically grown grapes produce alot of fruit flavor like raspberry and cherry, along with anise, chocolate and both earthy and smokey tones.  Gotta love this meaty wine for under $30.

Well, we went through ten wines from around the globe and alot of different varietals.  There are obviously so many more options when it comes to "green wines", but these are a good start.  If you can't find these, make sure to consult with your wine shop consultants and I'm sure they will steer you in the right direction.  Also, since you're making an effort to try these wines, make sure to do your part: reduce your carbon footprint, plant a tree and recycle!  You'll help secure your children's future along with the planet's natural beauty.  After all, we were given the Earth as a gift.  Let's try to keep it clean.