Sunday, April 14, 2024 Apr 14, 2024
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What to Drink Now: Earth Day Wine

Sip green and help save the planet.

Toast Mother Earth this week with natural wine, one of the most popular ecologically-friendly beverages today.

Domaine Léon Barral 60-year-old Grenache; all photos by Hayley Hamilton Cogill
Domaine Léon Barral 60-year-old Grenache (all photos by Hayley Cogill)

There is actually no set “natural wine” accreditation or definition. However, many winegrowers nurture biodiversity while embracing nature. They use organic, sustainable, and/or biodynamic tools in the vineyard and practice low intervention in the winery.

Lamb and sheep are used as "nature's lawn mowers" in Green farming
Lamb and sheep are “nature’s lawn mowers” in Green farming.

Sustainable wine growing features the use of cover crops, bird boxes, and composting to create a self-sustaining environment. Organic vintners follow these practices and don’t use chemicals in the vineyards or sulfites during wine making. Biodynamic growers create an ecosystem that allows vines to thrive while benefiting all he other inhabits of the land. (Note: a few selections were sent for editorial consideration.)

mas de la dameProvence’s Mas de la Dame is organic under “Qualité France.” Their gastronomic Rosé is made richer than many Provençal Rosés by blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre with Grenache and Syrah. $17.Central Market.

Languedoc environmentalist Didier Barral of Léon Barral, elevates the model of green farming. He believes any disruption in the vineyard will harm the land’s natural ecology. He farms without machinery, chemicals, pesticides, or anything that will disrupt the harmony of the vineyard to creates wines with distinct character.

Basket vines of Assyrtico in Santorini
Basket-vines of Assyrtico in Santorini.

gavalasBasket-vines made in the volcanic soils on Santorini have traditionally been farmed sustainably. The dry, sandy soils have always been predominantly phylloxera free. This fact paves the way for  clean farming techniques for their Assyrtiko wines. My favorites include Sigalas, Gaia, and Gavalas.

California carries the Certified Organic Farming (CCOF) designation. Caspar Estate has made the organic philosophy their backbone. Biodiversity throughout the estate is created by growing olive trees for oil and cultivating wildflower honey from estate beehives. Wild yeast fermented Caspar Cabernet Sauvignon layers Rutherford earthiness with black fruit. The wine, olive oil, and honey are available here.

Napa’s second CCOF winery, Spottswoode, was just awarded the 2017 Green Medal Environment Award for their green farming efforts and involvement with the 1% For The Planet movement.

ehlers sauv blanc sign

In 2008, Ehler’s Estate became CCOF when they made terroir-driven, St. Helena wines. Though known for their Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) and Sauvignon Blanc ($32), their Cabernet Franc Rosé ($36) is a springtime favorite. Available here.

phelps cabJoseph Phelps Phelps Foundation advances the winery’s sustainability efforts. In addition to clean farming, they focus on their surrounding Napa community. They donate land for farm-worker housing and recently gifted a 480-acre conservation easement to the Land Trust of Napa County. Their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon highlights the warm, dry vintage with ripe cherry and dried fig. $70. Get it at Total Wine.

Demeter-certified Biodynamic Brooks Winery focuses on the land’s natural resources to produce stellar Oregon Riesling such as the native-yeast, old-vine “Sweet P” Riesling. $24, available here.

cohn pnSonoma’s Benovia Winery utilizes organic farming to produce their Cohn Vineyard Pinot Noir. It’s a rustic, refined and authentic wine. $75.  Available here. 

Hall Wines, owned by Dallasites Kathryn and Craig Hall, earned CCOF in 2010. It was the first California winery to be distinguished as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certified facility in 2009. Both accreditations make Hall the ideal place for stellar Cabernet Sauvignon. Try their Coeur layered with rich black fruit. $70. Available here. benziger

Benziger Family Winery is a leader in green farming. They utilize biodynamic, sustainable, and organic methods at their estate vineyards and only buy fruit from others who use the same techniques. The family believes healthy growing practices create regionally distinct wines. Their Tribute was the first Demeter-certified Biodynamic Sonoma County wine. $80. Spec’s.

Solar panels on the tasting room at Stoller Family Winery
Solar panels at Stoller Family Winery

Dozens of additional wineries focus on sustainability. Many use solar technology to reduce their carbon footprint. Several include StollerCline, Domaine Carneros, RaymondFlora Springs, J Lohr, and Goldeneye. For some, using solar technology offsets 250,000 pounds of Co2 annually. That translates into planting 40,000 trees. Save the earth, indeed!

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