Friday, January 5, 2018

Moving On Up (The Central Coast): Verdad and Qupé's New Arroyo Grande Tasting Room Rings in the New Year


 Sally Dalke and Janae Shaper-Brolin

Used to be that Los Olives was a sleepy little town. That was back in the days before the movie Sideways made Santa Barbara County the place to go for Central Coast wine tasting. But no more. Today Los Olivos is as precious as St. Helena in Napa County or Healdsburg in Sonoma County.

Qupé and Verdad used to have a tasting room in Los Olivos, until they took on an investor who promised to, among other things, give them the hottest spot in town - inside Mattei's Tavern. That was until Charles Banks IV, the new owner, was convicted of wire fraud in 2016 and lost his fortune and his reputation. He also lost the tavern, For Qupé, it was time to regroup, rethink and relocate.


The result is a fabulous new tasting room in the uncrowded town of Arroyo Grande, 15 miles south of San Luis Obispo, 45 miles south of Paso Robles, and 45 miles north of Los Olivos. That makes it accessible to wine tourists going to Paso or the Solvang-Los Olivos area. The new location in Arroyo Grande is also right on the well trafficked road to Pismo and Avila Beach.


The tasting room site is also much closer to Qupé's estate vines - the Biodynamically farmed Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard - in nearby Edna Valley. Here the coastal influences cool the site enough to produce what Eric Asimov of the New York Times calls "the best Syrah in America."

I would add that in addition to the Qupé Rhone estate wines, the Sawyer Lindquist Pinot Noir, also from the estate, should not to be missed. I served it (among 4 different Pinots) at Thanksgiving, and put it on my list of top bottles of 2017.

For those who don't know Verdad and Qupé, the wineries were created and run by the Lindquist family.

Qupé is one of the great California producers with deep roots in the Central Coast wine region and has a longstanding commitment to sourcing its wine from organic and Biodynamic vines as essential elements in creating the best quality wines.

Little known fact: on the winemaking side, the Qupé estate wines are also notable (in my mind) for being  certified "Biodynamic Wine," which means that no additives (except for a small amount of sulfite) can be added. This approach relies heavily on the pure flavors of the grape. You can count on one hand the number of great California estate producers who are willing to bet the quality of their wines on their grapes to this extent.

Vintner Bob Lindquist was one of the original Rhone Rangers. He saw the potential for great Syrahs in California, before that was "a thing," founding Qupé in 1982. In 2015, The Rhone Rangers honored him with a lifetime achievement award.



Louisa Sawyer Lindquist started in the wine business on the East Coast where she worked for the first winery on Long Island. Later she became involved in wine selling at Lauber Imports in New York, Julliard Alpha Wine and Spirits and at Southern Wine & Spirits in San Francisco before meeting Bob Lindquist. She began selling Qupé wines, but later launched her own label, Verdad, devoted to Spanish varietals (Albarino, Grenache and Tempranillo).

For many years her Biodynamic rosé was my absolute favorite (and I used to buy cases and cases of it). Sadly this wine is no longer made solely from Biodynamic estate grapes, following Charles Banks' investment in Qupé.

The Lindquists acquired their Edna Valley vineyard in 2002. The vineyard was farmed Biodynamically from the beginning. It was originally planted by Philippe Armenier and, since 2013,  has been owned and managed by Brook Williams who brought in Philippe Coderey as the Biodynamic vineyard consultant.

Here in the Arroyo Grande tasting room, for a mere $10, you can sip and savor all of these great wines, plus their Pinot, with a view of this charming small town that feels more like a community, and less like a tourist trap.

The wines themselves will continue to be in the location of your dreams - in a dramatic setting in the Santa Maria Valley. The winery will be open twice a year for special sales just as it has been for the past several decades.

There's a turntable in the tasting room with a bunch of vintage tunes - check out their collection. Bob is also a great Dodgers fan and there's a wine club trip to see a Dodgers game each and every year.

Here's to a happy - and prosperous - new year for Verdad and Qupé in their new home.

Louisa and Bob Lindquist

Celebrate Napa's Newest Organically Certified Vines From Matthiasson Wines

For many years, Steve Matthiasson has been a leading viticultural light in Napa (and sometimes Sonoma), where he's tended some of the most famous organic vineyards. His clients at Premiere Viticultural Services (which he founded with his business partner Garrett Buckland) include a who's who list of top tier Napa clients. Among them are Eisele Vineyard (formerly Araujo Estate), Acumen (a new label from Atlas Peak I'll be writing more about soon) and Spottswoode.

On the winemaking front, he's been one of the "cool kids" of Napa for wine-buying hipsters from the Mission and the main man sought out by somms for the delicate flavors he strives for in his wines.

On top of that, the Matthiasons also represent the dream of the hardworking young couple able to find a tiny corner of Napa to buy a vineyard and a house in and then - wowsa - make it in the wine business (without having a family fortune tucked in their back pocket already).

When the Matthiasson were starting their winery, Steve and his wife Jill Klein Matthiasson got the property certified organic. But they made a simple mistake, and lost their CCOF certification. Now after a hiatus of several years, they've come full circle on their Oak Knoll Matthiasson Vineyards property - going back to organic certification (through Stellar Organic Certifications, the organic side of Demeter USA) for the vines that they tend and make into wine under their Matthiasson Wines label.

There, on their home vines, they explore lesser known varietals - Refosco, Ribolla Gialla, Tocai Friulano, and Schiopettino - as well as familiar faces - Cabernet France, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

But the Matthiasons have gone further than their own vines, sourcing grapes selectively from some of the other, fine organic sites in Napa. Count Harms Vineyard (a Biodynamic vineyard that Matthiasson now farms) and Yount Mill (certified organic since the early 1990s) among them. Altogether, they use fruit from a total of 10 vineyards - of which 5 are certified organic and 2 are in transition to organic certification.

Check out this list of the wines from certified vines below. (And note that since organic certification takes three years to achieve, you can count on 2015 and 2016 vintages to have been farmed organically as well as the 2017 vintages.)

Certified Grapes

• Cabernet Franc (2017)

• Cabernet Sauvignon - "Dead Fred" (2017)

• Chardonnay - Harms Vineyard (all vintages)

• Chardonnay - Linda Vista (2017)

• Pinot Meunier - Yount Mill (all vintages)*

• Refosca (2017)

• Ribolla Gialla (2017)

• Schioppettino (2017)

• Semillon - Yount Mill (all vintages)*

• Sweet Vermouth (sold out)

The process of getting certified isn't that much fun...so thank you to Steve and Jill and all the other people who worked on this for making the extra effort.

Can't wait to try them all!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

dosa by DOSA: Oakland's Hot New South Indian Restaurant Debuts with Horse & Plow Wine on the Drinks Menu


dosa by Dosa, the new Oakland offshoot of San Francisco's South Indian restaurant opened this month in Oakland and is attracting quite a good lunch crowd, as I've observed today while enjoying a banana turmeric lassi (a combination that's new to me but could be addictive) this morning and watching the place fill up.

The South Indian inspired menu features some dishes not found at its big sister in SF - a breakfast menu with egg dosa or ham and egg dosa, and, on the regular menu, a habanero mango dosa. You'll also find a chennai fried chicken, as well as tandoori chicken (excellent) on the small plates menu. (Both were, to my taste, quite spicy. If you like things a little less spicy, they are able to accommodate. Next time.) Delicious.



A shout out to the wine director for selecting two organically grown wines (out of a wine list of 11 wines by the glass or bottle). That's a ratio of nearly 20%. Wouldn't it be nice to see that more often everywhere you go?

The wines from organic vines are the Horse and Plow Chardonnay and The Gardener's Sonoma County Pinot Noir, both of which are made in Sebastopol. (You can read more about Horse and Plow and The Gardener here.)

Check out the restaurant online or follow them on Instagram.

Dosa by Dosa is located at 2301 Broadway, in what is fast becoming the hippest part of downtown Oakland - the neighborhood around Impact Hub. With all the Millennials in downtown Oakland's new apartments, I'd expect them to do a rip-roaring business for takeout - online ordering for pickup is available through the web site. And there are enough menu options to keep you coming back for more - it would take weeks to work your way through all the salads, small plates, dosas, wraps, and rice bowls.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Flash Sale! $99 A Case for Organically Grown Bokisch Albarino

Bokisch is putting on a Flash Sale on its 2015 estate Albarinos. Sale ends Jan. 8. Hurry!

This wine normally sells for $18 a bottle. The sale price is $8 a bottle for an estate grown, organically farmed beautiful white wine. This is a wine that regularly receives Best of Class awards in various wine competitions. I kid you not.




Monday, January 1, 2018

8 Things I Learned about Los Angeles Wine History from Reading Thomas Pinney's Fabulous New Book The City of Vines

Thomas Pinney's new book The City of Vines: A History of Wine in Los Angeles is the first, definitive guide to what happened - mostly in the 1800's - in Los Angeles, the first city of wine in California - a chapter of history that has escaped notice by most of us today.

Two years ago, on what was meant to be a quick trip to LA, I decided to spend two days in the Cucamonga Valley, visiting wine history sites including Galleano winery (certified organic vines) and Rancho de Philo (not organic but equally historic) - both of which I consider to be national wine history treasures. (If this was the East Coast, they'd be treated with the same reverence as Sturbridge Village.)

Two days turned into two weeks - the whole area and its wine history was entrancing.

I traveled to Mission San Gabriel and several other Missions and photographed Ramona, the mother vine. I went to Galleano, near Riverside, three times. I wandered on foot next to freeways, looking at 100 year old dry farmed vines, certified organic, that went into ethereal $20 Zinfandels that no one has ever heard of.

Galleano's historic Jose Lopez Vineyard: the vines by the freeway are nearly 100
years old and made delicious wines. Certified organic and dry farmed, they grow
to just 18 inches high. 
I developed my taste for sherry, and learned about the pleasures of Rancho de Philo and Galleano's award-winning sweet wines and this year purchased a case of the Rancho de Philo. I'm getting an order ready for the Mary Margaret from Galleano now. Both have won international awards in London and elsewhere around the globe.

Rancho de Philo sherry

Here was a forgotten river of history...New World winemaking from Germans, Italians, Spaniards, Native Americans, Englishmen and the French dating back to the 1830s. And who knew about it? Not my big wine writing friends at the LA Times. Not Food & Wine magazine. Not my wine loving friends in Santa Monica and Venice.

Union Station was built over what used to be vineyards.

full-size image
Los Angeles was mostly vineyards as you can see in this 1848 map
On that trip, I bought a beautiful map by Michael Hart, the former vice president and general manager of the Sunny Slope Water Company in Pasadena, who, when he retired in 2008, spent three years researching and making maps of the early days of the region. A few of his works are on display at Mission San Gabriel.


An understanding of water sources was critical to the history of the winemaking.

So it was a great pleasure to read Pinney's book, which is a way into this world for the average reader who doesn't wish to devote two weeks of driving around the greater LA area in search of history (although I recommend that and would be happy to guide anyone who was interested on such a trip, for a small fee).

Here are 8 things I learned from Pinney's book.

1. LA Had a Grape Arbor a Quarter of a Mile Long

Bordeaux native Jean Louis Vignes, early LA's most famous and venerable winemaker, had never intended to come to Los Angeles nor to pursue winemaking in the New World, but instead had spent five years in Hawaii.

By 1833, he owned 104 acres in the heart of the city. His great vineyard was called El Aliso, after the giant, 400 year old sycamore on his site.

Pinney writes that El Aliso featured, "an arbor covered in vines that ran a quarter of a mile down to the river through the vineyard. This was one of the public attractions of the town..."

2. Bird Control = Slingshot + Stones

Keeping birds from eating the grapes was a tedious job. As Pinney tells us in a quote from Captain Phelps, who visited in 1842, "I observed...a scaffolding on which an Indian boy is stationed in the morning and remains throughout the day with a hat full of stones and a sling, with which he keeps away the crows and blackbirds who would otherwise destroy half the crop."

In addition, Angelenos had to fend off wolves, foxes and squirrels from their grapes.

3. California's Role as the Nation's Supplier of Wines Was Well Underway in the mid 1800s

By 1858, Kohler and Frohling (who later occupied the Glen Ellen estate of Jack London before the famous writer bought it) had already begun to make inroads into selling in major cities on the East coast.

4. Prohibition = Record Prosperity for Wine Grape Growers with Sales Doubling

Before Prohibition, commercial wineries made 55 million gallons of wine a year. During Prohibition, commercial growers sold enough grapes for home winemakers to make more than double that amount - 111 million gallons.

That number grew exponentially during Prohibition. Pinney writes, "In 1920, the first year of Prohibition, 26,000 cars of fresh grapes left California; by 1927, the peak year the count was 72,000 cars."

Not only that, but prices went up. "The prices paid for these grapes was the highest growers had ever received - up to $185 a ton..."

Grape acreage grew in California from 300,000 acres in 1920 to nearly double that amount - 577,000 acres - by 1926. (Today, acreage is around 550,000.)

Pinney writes, "twice as much wine was made at home as had been made commercially...As one wit put it, America might have become a wine drinking country if Prohibition had lasted long enough."

5. Prohibition Led to the Growth of the Central Valley as a Wine Growing Region

The boom in grape growing mostly took place in the Central Valley, where, Pinney writes, "new vineyards were limited only by the availability of water."

6. Prohibition Led to Quantity Over Quality

Hence, Alicante Bousquet gained in popularity, as it produced grapes in abundance.

7. Italians Dominated the Industry Only After Prohibition

No one knows why.

8. Whiskey Production Limitations During WW2 Led Distillers to Buy Wineries and Market Wine Through Advertising

Pinney: "Historically the distillers had no interest in the winemakers. That suddenly changed when the government directed that all whiskey production would cease on Nov. 1, 1942, and the distilling capacity of the whiskey firms devoted to producing industrial alcohol...By 1943, the distillers were the biggest players in the California wine game."

"After the war, the distillers got out of the wine business rather quickly," but they created the expensive advertising that promoted California wine, an enduring legacy. "They had money and used it to promote wine as no one in California had yet done, by print, outdoor, and radio advertising. Americans, even in those many regions essentially unacquainted with wine, now had wine thrust upon them."

I've touched upon only a few moments in the book, which is filled with revelations that will surprise and delight. Resolve to read it in 2018.

Postscript: I should also mention that Pinney is the author of UC Press book A History of Wine in America, another definitive history of wine. The second volume of that book won a prestigious award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals as the best book on wine, beer and spirits.

In addition, The City of Vines received a best book award from the California Historical Society

And, of course, throughout most of this history, pesticides were not used (until after about 1945). 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

New Survey from Sonoma State: 56% of Consumers Prefer Organic and Biodynamic Standards (Versus "Sustainable")


A new survey of more than 300 consumers conducted by Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute (and published on professor Liz Thach's web site here) says consumers do indeed value organic and Biodynamic certification. And surprisingly, the certification that most think is the most obscure - Biodynamic - came out ahead of organic, which is a household word.



The first question in the report focused on what interested consumers most and, while it's not surprising, with the definitions provided, that sustainable comes out ahead, what is truly remarkable is that Biodynamics comes out at 36 percent - a mere 8 percent behind sustainability. Given that hardly anyone knows what Biodynamics means - and if they think they do, they usually associate it with moonbeams and a certain Austrian philosopher - this is nothing short of incredible.

Organic comes out at 20%. 

The 300+ person sample was weighted towards Millenials (65%) and women (74%).

The big news here is that 56 percent of the surveyed consumers prefer organic or Biodynamic standards to the wine industry's heavily marketed "certified sustainable" category. 

COSTS

The survey went into consumers' willingness to pay more for ecocertified wines, a topic which is not on many people's minds because right now there is no price premium consumers pay for certified wines. However, it may be an important motivator for growers who don't think there is a marketplace reward for what some think will be more costly farming practices.

The myth that it costs a lot to be certified still continues to be an issue, despite the fact that the costs are relatively low compared to the overall cost of producing and marketing a bottle of wine. (See my Wines & Vines article "What It Costs to be Certified Organic or Biodynamic".) You can read the complete, original article including the all important cost charts here. If that link doesn't work go to this downloadable pdf of the entire Dec. 2015 issue of Wines & Vines where it originally appeared.

(The version of the article that pops up on Google omits the cost chart.)

What is still outstanding for most growers is the understanding of how much it costs for them to farm organically or Biodynamically - costs which usually boil down to two main issues:

1. mechanical weed control (organic) versus using glyphosate, a carcinogenic herbicide that is permitted and widely used by "sustainable" and conventional growers. Glyphosate will be banned in France in 3 years and its use has been restricted in Italy and the UK.

2. fungicides mixed with imidacloprid (a bird and bee toxin banned in the UK and Europe to protect bee health)

Meanwhile wineries that grow organically or Biodynamically charge no more for their wines - in each price and quality point - than their competitors - even though the chart below suggests that people would be willing to pay more.



I'm interested in talking to the authors of the study about their research and hope to publish more about the survey findings here soon.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Harvard Business School Publishes Piece on Organically Grown Wine

Harvard Business School Review published a new article on organically grown wines. Read it here. My articles are among the sources used in its report.

I'll be publishing more about the article itself soon. It gets some things right and other things wrong. Stay tuned for the deeper dive.




Thursday, December 7, 2017

Holiday Gift Giving: Best Books of the Year

Holidays are here and it's time to shop for gifts or just stock up on your supply of books for winter reading. Here are my recommendations for the best of 2017.

1. Best Wine Book of the Year: The City of Vines: A History of Wine in Los Angeles



This is the best untold story in wine. We're lucky to have a wine historian as esteemed as Thomas Pinney to finally tell the tale of California's original wine country and its subsequent prosperity, glory days, and demise.

One of my favorite wineries in the world is Galleano, a surviving Los Angeles area winery run by a family that has hung onto 100 year old organically grown (and certified) vines (and redwood tanks) to this day, making some of the best sherry you'll ever taste. Treat yourself to a glass of Galleano's Mary Margaret sherry while you read this excellent volume.

2. Best Food and Wine Book of the Year: The Gourmands' Way



Another extremely well written book by a polished writer covers the influencers who introduced the U.S. to French food and wine. It's an indirect exploration of the roots of our mass foodie-ism movement where Americans learn to care about organic farm to table foods (and hopefully organic grape to glass). Wine merchant and educator extraordinaire Alexis Lichine is one of those profiled. Enjoy with a glass of your favorite (organically grown) Bordeaux.

3. Best Wine Murder Mystery Book of the Year: Requiem in Yquem



Looking for some light reading? The fun and frivolous Winemaker Detective series from Le French Book is always good for a few hours of entertainment. This is the 13th in the series about the wine consultant Benjamin Cooker who gets help from his wise wife and his young sidekick. Written by two Frenchmen - Noel Balen and Jean-Pierre Alaux. If you're new to the series, this volume might entice you to explore all the others in the series. Drink with Chateau d/Yquem, of course.

An honorable mention also goes to Alice Waters for her touching memoir about the her discovery of French wine and food and the origins of her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. I liked the book but I really enjoyed the audio book, read by the author herself.

4. Best Wine Paperbook of the Year: Cork Dork



Looking for a popular nonfiction book about the world of wines and somms?  Bianca Bosker's smash hit Cork Dork is a winner, no matter how much or how little you know about wine. The paperback version came out in 2017. Check out the New York Times review. Drink with whatever overpriced, much hyped, hipster, small lot (the more inobtainium, the better) wine you prefer.

Holiday Picture of the Day: Ehlers Estate in St. Helena

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Top 10 Organic Vineyards in Napa: By Size

This week WineBusiness.com is publishing the top 100 vineyards in Napa, listing the top 10 (free online) and the top 100 (in its print edition). In response, I thought I'd publish a list of the top 10 organic vineyards in Napa (scroll down) to bring attention to this under recognized category of good neighbors.

The WineBusiness.com list, shows the influence of the top 100 vineyard owners who collectively own or lease 28,000 acres of Napa's 43,000 acres of wine grape vineyards. That's 65 percent of the county's vines.

Of the top 10, Big Wine - Treasury, Silverado, Constellation and E&J Gallo - together owns or leases 19 percent of the valley's vines.

In comparison, the organic vines are not owned by major corporations. In each case, the owners reside on or near the vineyard property.

Many of the organically grown wines made from these vines represent the highest rated in Napa. Heitz is world famous for its Martha's Vineyard Cabernet (ccertified organic by its owners). Wine critic Robert Parker awarded one of Hall's single vineyard, organically grown wines with a 100 point rating. Similarly, Inglenook, Frog's Leap, and others have won top awards internationally.

Several of the families - Pelissa, Bartolucci, Heitz, Grgich - trace the winemaking activities in their families back several generations. Some hit the land rush at the right time - Sinskey is one - and translated their values into organic farming. Others who achieved great success in business - Ted Hall, Eric Yuan, the Halls - also saw the wisdom of organic practices.

TOP TEN LARGEST VINEYARDS IN NAPA (Conventional or Organic)

Corporate (Australian)
1. Treasury Wine Estates - 410 owned / 3,416 acres
Treasury Wine Estate (based in Australia) sources from 3,416 acres (owns only 12% of what it sources from). That means it owns 410 acres. Treasury is one of the largest wine companies in the world, with $2 billion in revenues worldwide. In Napa it owns Acacia, Beaulieu, Beringer, Etude, Hewitt, Provenance, and Stags' Leap Estate (not to be confused with the more well known Stag's Leap Winery on Highway 29 [which is owned by Antinori and Chateau Ste. Michelle]).

Corporate
2. TIAA/Silverado - 2,500 acres
TIAA  (a Fortune 100 financial company based in Manhattan) owns Silverado Investment Management Co, which is better known name locally. TIAA is a pension investment fund.

Local Family
3. Bayview/Laird Family - 1,811 acres
Bayview/Laird Family is the largest enterprise owned by a Napa family. Unfortunately they are also the most likely to use the most dangerous, old school pesticides, according to my analysis of Pesticide Use Report, using mancozeb, for instance, long after everyone else in the county stopped using it. (Remarkably, a few old school Italian families in Sonoma continue to use it, as well, making Sonoma a strange anomaly compared to the rest of the state.)

Corporate
4. Constellation Brands - 465 owned / 1,330 acres
The giant Fortune 500 company is most famous for its takeover of Mondavi estate and brand in 2004, which marked a sad day in Napa's dynastic history.

Corporate
5. E&J Gallo - 1,123 acres
Despite getting a late start in acquiring Napa acreage, E&J Gallo is now the fifth largest owner in Napa, doubling its holdings this year with the acquisition of Stagecoach Vineyards in Pritchard Hill and Atlas Peak (the latter suffered heavy losses in the fires this year) in a deal that staggered locals. Gallo paid $180,000 for the 1,300 acre Stagecoach parcel, of which 600 acres are planted. The price per acre is $300,000.

Gina Gallo also owns the former Robert Mondavi home in Napa.

Local Family 
6. Beckstoffer Vineyards - 1,015 acres
Andy Beckstoffer's family fortunes began to rise when he was sent to work for Heublein on the destruction of Inglenook's prized vineyards, which Heublein acquired. In 1970 when Heublein decided to abandon the wine business in Napa, Beckstoffer began buying vineyards. Today his family owns land in Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties.

Local Family
7. Jackson Family Wines - 500 acre / 690 acres
This is the only Sonoma based company to make the top 10 Napa list. It owns Cardinale and Freemark Abbey.

Italian Family
8. Antinori California - 561 acres
Foresighted enough to see the potential of Atlas Peak long before others did, Antinori has a spectacular parcel here at the top of Soda Canyon Road. Miraculously, its mountain estate winery survived this year's fires. The company is a private firm headed by the Antinori family.

Corporate (French) 
9. St. Supery (Chanel) - 535 acres
The Skalli family started the winery, selling it to Chanel in 2015. Chanel itself owns 1587 acres (so one wonders why it didn't rank #4 on this list).

Local Family/Organic
10. Yount Mill Vineyards/Napa Wine Company - 500 acres (according to my records it's 557 acres)
Owned and run by a Napa family whose presence dates back more than 100 years, this iconic organic growers sells 88% of its grapes to Napa wineries. Prized for their quality, these sold off grapes are blended away in wines that are primarily made from conventionally grown grapes. However, the family vinifies 12% of their grapes - from historic blocks - into three family owned labels - Elizabeth Rose, Oakville Winery, and Ghost Block.

TOP TEN LARGEST ORGANIC VINEYARDS

Say the words "organic" and "Napa" and people may give you a funny look. Huh? Those two things go together? But the truth is that 7-8 percent of Napa's vines are certified organic, which shows the commitment to the highest level of eco-friendly practices of the families - yes, all of these wineries are family run - to making great wine from vines that are nourished and tended without the use of highly toxic chemicals.

(Although experts estimate that as many an equal number of Napa growers are organic in their practices, these other growers chose not to be certified.) In all likelihood, Napa has about the same acres of organic vineyards as it's more well known organic neighbor Mendocino County.

NOTE
Just because a winery is listed below, do not assume that all of their wines are organically grown. Many make and sell wine from other vineyards as well as their own. Starred wineries - * - are 100 percent organic estate.

Local Family
1. Yount Mill Vineyards/Napa Wine Company - 557 acres*
The Pelissa family's holdings were purchased during Prohibition when land was cheap. Their extensive acreage in Yountville and Oakville is sometimes locally referred to as the "Pelissa Hills." Their commitment to organic farming is based on family values and elders' concerns about the purity of the wells on the family property where many of the Pelissa descendants still live.

The most famous (and visible) of their vineyards is Ghost Block, located just north of Yountville on the east side of Highway 29, across the street from Mustards Grill. The family also owns Napa Wine Cellars, one of the county's most historic wineries (it dates back to 1877), which is now the family's custom crush facility.

At the peak of the Napa cult wine scene, three of the custom crush wines produced here were "cult wines." Organic family-owned vintners Volker Eisele Family Estate*, Pavi and Voss* (the last also sources its organic grapes from Yount Mill owned vineyards) continue to make their wines here.

Local Family
2. Grgich Hills Estate - 336 acres*
The Grgich and Hills families came together in the late 1970s to found their very successful winery on Highway 29. Today they own five separate parcels spread out from Carneros in the south (the best place to grow their Chardonnay) to Rutherford and American Canyon and up to Calistoga where they tend an historic Zinfandel vineyard.

Croatian born Mike Grgich may be the most famous name in American wine history, immortalized in a Smithsonian exhibit as the immigrant winemaker extraordinaire. Today his Croatian born nephew Ivo Jeramaz runs the winery with the help of Grgich's daughter Violet Grgich.

Local Family
3. Heitz Wine Cellars - 275 acres (out of 375 acres total)
The Heitz family has one of the deepest family histories in Napa, dating back to 1963 when there were only 12 wineries in Napa. Stag's Leap Winery founder Warren Winarski called founder Joe Heitz Napa's first artisanal winemaker. Today Heitz's descendants run the winery, making excellent Cabernet (the Trailside is all from certified vines, although they don't market it as such) as well as the world famous Martha's Vineyard Cab (and an excellent estate grown Sauvignon Blanc, rose and Grignolino).

NOTE
Both the Grgich and Heitz families got a big boosts from the 1976 Paris tasting in which both made wines that placed highly in the competition pitting California wines against France's finest.

Local Family
4. Inglenook - 230 acres*
The grand dame of historic wineries in Napa, Inglenook is the jewel in the crown. Famous today for being owned by the Coppola family - who bought the place in 1972 - insiders know its real fame is due to its historic origins as the first fine wine winery established in Napa by Gustav Niebaum in 1879. Niebaum wanted to move to Europe to have a world class winery, but his wife preferred to remain in the Bay Area, so voila - Inglenook was born. The Coppolas reunited the winery, its original name and vineyards over their 40+ years of ownership. All of its wines come solely from the estate, which was certified organic in 1994.

"Local" Family/Corporation
5. Hall - 211 acres
Compared to the other wineries on this list, Hall is a relative newcomer in Napa, using the fortunes of its owners' successful real estate business in Texas to buy into two prime small vineyard sites in Rutherford and St. Helena. Here they established two modern wineries bedecked with cutting edge artworks to attract visitors. Hall also bought extensive acreage in the more distant (and "affordable") areas of Napa - Pope Valley and Atlas Peak. (All of these grapes are blended with non-organic grapes purchased from other growers.)

NOTE
Hall has recently been the target of anti-development residents who oppose Walt Ranch, a vast new development on Napa's east side, where the Halls have received approval to cut down 17,000 trees on a 2,300 acre property to create a 209 acre vineyard and subdivide the land into future ranchettes. The Sierra Club and other groups are contesting the county's approval.

Local Family
6. Robert Sinskey Vineyards - 176 acres*
Dentist and Pinot Noir wine lover Robert M. Sinskey had the good sense to buy acres of vines in the Carneros in the 1970's. Today his son Robert Sinskey farms these lands organically - with the help of a large herd of sheep. The winery is best known for Pinot Noir and for growing what few in Napa grow - Alsatian varietals.

Local Family
7. Frog's Leap - 130 acres* / 200 acres
Ask around in Napa about organics, and the winery you're most likely to hear mentioned first is Frog's Leap, which has been the poster child for organics for decades with its organic vines, fruit orchard, chickens and vegetable garden. It was certified in 1989. It's the second largest producer of organically grown wines in Napa (after Grgich Hills, which ranks first), with a widely distributed Sauvignon Blanc and award-winning Cabernet. The winery owns 130 acres  of vines and sources from additional growers under long term contracts. It recently purchased an historic property - the Rossi Ranch - which has some of Napa's oldest heritage vines and makes small lots of old vine wine from these and other old vines it farms.

Local Family
8. Madonna Estate - 140 acres*
The Bartolucci family can lay claim to being among the oldest wine families left in Napa (along with the Pelissa's), establishing their first vineyards here in 1922 in Oakville. During the boom in Napa land prices in the late 1960's, the family sold their Oakville properties in 1970 and moved south to Carneros, buying 160 acres near San Pablo Bay. Today they dry farm their 140 acres of organic vines in Carneros, growing primarily Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their family history is on display in the tasting room on the well trafficked leg of Highway 12 between Napa and Sonoma.

Private Owner (Chinese)
9. Acumen - 116 acres
The successful Chinese businessman Eric Yuan embarked on a Napa winery project with the help of Stephen Rea, hiring an A list of viticulturists - Steve Matthiason and Garrett Buckland - to convert two large parcels of Stagecoach Vineyards on Atlas Peak to organic certification, completed in 2017. The group named the winery Acumen and opened an elegant, stylish downtown Napa tasting room and art gallery (featuring painted portraits of vineyard workers) this summer.

NOTE: A long fight by local residents against Acumen's plans to develop a winery and tasting room on the site, at the top of Soda Canyon Road, was defeated several months before the Sept. 2017 fires swept through Atlas Peak.

Local Family 
10.  Long Meadow Ranch - 78 acres 
Is there a family more dedicated to organic agriculture overall in Napa than the Ted Hall family? Raised by a mother who was an organic gardener, Ted, a very successful business consultant, believes in the viability of a vertically integrated business. This has led the family - including his wife Laddie and son Christopher - to create and integrate a hillside estate and a valley floor estate in Napa along with a St. Helena farm to table restaurant and winery tasting room. In search of cool climate Pinot Noir to add to their portfolio, the winery recently purchased 69 acres of vines in Mendocino's Anderson Valley, converting it to organic certification, which makes them that region's largest organic producer - a commendable act in a region where conventional farming predominates.