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What To Drink Now: Earth Day Wines

Suggestions for buying sustainable wine for a cleaner world.

Happy Earth Day! This annual holiday, that started in 1970 and is now celebrated in over 190 countries around the world, is the day to stop, take note of your surroundings and honor Mother Earth, as, similar to life, we only have one. On this Earth Day consider doing something good for our world, like beginning a recycle program, reducing your carbon footprint, planting a tree, supporting your local farmers or by picking up a wine that is made in a sustainable or organic way, as to not harm the environment. Here are a few suggestions; some were sent for editorial consideration.

2-wonderlustThere are many earth friendly wines that are pretty inexpensive, so it doesn’t cost a fortune to drink with consciousness, many that if you support will give a little something back to our world. Trinity Oaks, with their “One Bottle, One Tree” program that started in 2008 announced earlier this year that they had reached a milestone of 10 million trees planted, planting a tree for each and every bottle of their eco-friendly packaged California wines, each retailing for around $8 a bottle and widely available at grocery stores throughout Dallas.  Cultivate Wine, a Santa Barbara based company, has donated over half a million dollars to charitable organizations across the U.S. through the sale of their wines, and are members of the are members of 1 Percent For The Planet (1% FTP), contributing at least 1 percent of their net annual sales to environmental organizations. Wines in their portfolio include Cultivate “Wonderlust” Chardonnay-Moscatell and Cultivate “Copa Cabana” Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenère-Syrah, both Chilean wines retailing locally at grocery and wine stores for around $13 a bottle.

dreaming treeDreaming Tree, Bonterra and Belle Ambiance are two other brands that work with sustainability and affordability in mind. Belle Ambiance creates their economically friendly wines at their Delicato Family Vineyards certified sustainable winery from 90+ year old estate fruit. Their $10 stainless steel fermented Pinot Grigio is a fresh, floral and citrus filled juicy wine that would pair well with a warm afternoon on a patio. Bonterra began producing wine from organically grown grapes in 1993, while making wine that is affordable as well. Their $16 Zinfandel comes from organic fruit grown in Mendocino, Amador and Lake County, some from vines as old as 60 years, producing a rich red wine filled with spice, blackberry fruit and toasted vanilla, good for Texas barbecues.  Musician Dave Mathews even has his Dreaming Tree wines, available locally as wine stores for around $15 a bottle, packaged in sustainable, eco-friendly enclosures with recycled labels and natural, sustainably grown cork.

the puzzleFarming with a holistic, earth friendly approach is smart not only for the environment, but logical for owners as vineyard workers, winemakers and often, children of all of the above breath in the air of the vineyard each and every day, with kids playing in the vines. Keeping these vines from chemical treatments ensures that nothing harmful touches either the grapes or those exposed to the air surrounding them. Newton Vineyards on Spring Mountain has followed this methodology for years, believing that the air they breath is as important as the fruit in the glass, and understanding that allowing the true, untreated flavors of the fruit is the only way to truly express their character and the path they follow for all of their unfiltered wines like their lush, elegant and expressive The Puzzle Bordeaux blend. $125 available locally at Pogo’s.

benzigerMike Benziger, head of the expansive Benziger family in Sonoma takes this a step further. With somewhere around forty Benziger family members living in and around their Benziger Family Winery Sonoma Estate Mike wanted to make sure that with farming and winemaking practices were as clean as possible, utilizing sustainable, organic and biodynamic practices throughout their property, employing the best method or methods of each for each block of land, allowing the true characteristics of the fruit and the land to shine. Benziger Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon from sustainably certified benchland and mountain regions is filled with concentrated, ripe cherry, blackberry and earthy leather notes enhanced with spice and tobacco notes from 16 months of oak aging, a steal at $20 a bottle for the quality of the wine.

lange twinsLange Twins Family Winery and Vineyards in Lodi, CA doesn’t have quite as many Lange family members living on the property as the Benzigers, but you wouldn’t know it by their commitment to ensuring the land they farm and air they breath is a clean as possible through Lodi Rules Certified Green Sustainable Winegrowing Practices. Today, brothers Randy and Brad Lange, 5th generation winegrowers, believe in the following as a basis for their business, “respect for the land, responsible energy use and a desire to make the best and most environmentally-friendly wine possible.” Lange Twins Chardonnay highlights tropical fruit, citrus and creamy caramel notes while being very budget friendly, about $12.50 at Spec’s.

Lageder_Riff_Pinot-746Alois Lageder in the Alto Adige region of Italy has been making wine with an environmental, holistic approach since it was founded in 1823. Producing some of the most interesting and approachable white wines I have tried recently, that are both delicious, patio and food friendly as well as affordable. Their Riff Pinot Grigio reminds me more of a mineral rich French style Pinot Gris. Riff, the German name for “reef”, is named in honor of the Dolomite’s geologic origin where their vineyards lay in the Alps, which is filled with deposits of fossils from an ancient sea that encompassed the area. Green apple, ripe pear and a hint of white flowers fill the palate of this dry, crisp and very fresh white wine, that is also a great buy for spring – about $10, available at Spec’s stores locally.

cathy stollerStoller Family Vineyards in Willamette Valley, OR prides themselves on both their stellar wines, but their sustainable farming and production practices. When Bill Stoller and his late wife Cathy purchased the former turkey farm that is now the home of Stoller Vineyards most thought he was crazy as the Dundee Hills Jory soil wasn’t the best for farming, but Bill knew it was ideal for vineyards, choosing to plant a vineyard and farm it sustainably, achieving both LIVE (Low Impact Viticulture and Enology) and Salmon Safe certifications, employing solar energy throughout the winery and building a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certified winery, even reclaiming wood from a massive fire in Oregon to build their tasting room.  Stoller Rose of Pinot Noir is one of my all time favorites, consistently delivering layers of strawberry, tangerine and watermelon notes in this very small production wine. (I am awaiting the 2013 release with anticipation.) Their Cathy’s Pinot Noir, named after Bill’s late wife, blends Pommard and 667 clones of Pinot Noir for an earthy, spicy, red cherry and strawberry fruit filled wine with depth and elegance, just like its namesake. $100 a bottle, available via their website.

Sonoma Valley’s B.R. Cohn produces sustainably farmed and produced Cabernet Sauvignon from their Olive Hill Estate Vineyard that lies in a valley between the Mayacamas Mountains and Sonoma Mountain filled with gravelly, volcanic soils that are managed with sustainable practices. Their goal is to produce consistent wines while maintaining a commitment to clean farming practices. Filled with red fruit, licorice and spice notes, the wine is built for pairing with grilled steaks and roasted meats. $56, available via the winery website.

earth day

Festivities kick off tomorrow for Earth Day Texas 2014 with a screening of SlingShot, a film focusing on Segway inventor Dean Kamen and his goal to solve the world’s safe water crisis at 7pm at The Magnolia, with main festivities happening throughout this weekend at Fair Park starting at 10am on both Saturday and Sunday.  The event is free to attend with the goal to help North Texans celebrate the planet and educate on the many ways we can protect our environment, this year focusing on one of my personal environmental focuses, water.  Earth Day Texas will provide an eco-friendly, family environment filled with activities like arts and crafts, live music, environmental discussions, hands-on workshops and much more, including a free concert from Polyphonic Spree on Sunday night. Details on all activities here.