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.

Wine Grapes and the "Dirty Dozen" Foods

I recently received an email from a reader asking about the "Dirty Dozen" of top 12 foods you should buy organic and how this affects wine.  Imported grapes are on the list at #10.  Vineyards can be sprayed by multiple pesticides and no matter how much you wash them, the contaminants have already penetrated their thin skins.  Another point to remember about this is that it does not only apply to imported grapes.  Domestic grapes are still on the EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides (at #21).  Also, this applies mainly to grapes grown for food and juice.  As for wine, vineyards are normally maintained by the farmers following sustainable guidelines.  In Europe, the European Crop Protection Association keeps a close eye on both grape and wine production.  For those who use pesticides, testing is conducted to ensure they do not surpass the maximum residue level for contamination level.  In almost all cases, contamination is at zero after the wine is ready for bottling.  Australia has strict government guidelines as well. 

In the United States, I am sorry to say, it's business as usual.  It is up to producers, landowners and citizens to watchdog themselves.  I am proud to say that many Americans have stepped up to watch over their land and their neighbors.  Most realize that it's a small and beneficial change over to organic practices.  Large producers like Fetzer, Sutter Home and Frog's Leap took the plunge into organics to create a safer environment for their workers and for preservation of the vineyards and water supply.

My best recommendation would be to go with producers who use sustainably, organically and/or biodynamically farmed grapes ("green grapes").  European and Australian wines should be fine as well.  Unfortunately, due to the lax regulations in the US, I cannot vouch for our producers who don't use green grapes.  Visit producer websites, research or contact them for more info.  After all, it's your health, your money and your wine experience!

Client Spotlight: Catbridge Cellars Grand Opening

When: Friday, Nov. 20, 11am to 8pm.  Saturday, Nov. 21, 11am to 8pm.  Sunday, Nov. 22, 12am to 5pm.

Where: Catbridge CellarsAntioch.

If you live in or will be near the Antioch area, make sure to stop by Catbridge Cellars, where one of my favorite clients, Cathy Williams, has just opened shop.  It's a great combination wine bar and shop, which features wines made by environmentally conscious producers.  I recently selected and helped Cathy stock her venue with over 160 wines, almost all of them made with grapes grown organically and biodynamically, and all sustainably farmed.  There are fourteen wines available by the glass, like organic choices Pavi Pinot Grigio, St. Cosme "Little James Basket Press" Grenache, Clara Benegas Chardonnay, and Gouguenheim Malbec.  Cathy will also be opening special bottles and offering cheese for the event.

The shop is a small walk from the Metra North Central Service Antioch Station, and, if you are driving, is just off the Rosecrans Road (route 173) exit of I-94.

For more things to do nearby, there is also the PM&L Theatre, and David's Bistro, who's appetizer menu will be available in Catbridge Cellars wine bar as well.

What is Organic and Biodynamic?

There is heavy interest and curiosity when it comes to organics and biodynamics, especially regarding wine.  There are many wineries that have been practicing, and many others scrambling to get certified.  But what exactly is organic and biodynamic wine?

Let's start with Organic Wine.  According to the FDA, this is defined as "a wine made from organically grown grapes and without any added sulfites".  The organically grown grapes, soil, and vines must be free of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, genetic alteration, chemical fertilizers, or synthetic chemicals of any kind.  After the grapes are gathered and pressed, the juice must be handled organically as well, with no preservatives (sulfites) added.  The grapes themselves contain naturally occurring sulfites, as all living things do.  These, along with very sterile fermenting, storing, and bottling techniques will assure the wine's potential to age.  There are also wines which are labelled "Made with Organically Grown Grapes" in which they use organic fruit and add sulfites.

Now on to Biodynamic Agriculture- this envelopes not only organic practices, but adds much more.  The philosophy centers around the belief that the farm itself is a living organism, in which all parts: plants, animals, soil, and farmers coexist and depend on one another.  Recycling nutrients, crop rotation, and astronomical calendars are thrown into the mix of harmony.  It is the single most natural and pure interaction possible in man's relationship to nature.

All of these practices must be approved by certifying agencies in order to be labelled as such, with Demeter USA as the lone biodynamic certifier.

You can find a list of all known Biodynamic Wine producers on ForkandBottle.com

(Image courtesy of flickr)