Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Perusing the Supermarket Aisle OR Why You Should Join a Wine Club

You know the feeling - it's 4 pm or 5 or 7 or 9 pm (or whatever) and you've got to run to the store to pick up something for dinner and you think you just might take a little amble down the wine aisle, just to see, if, perhaps, perchance, some miracle has occurred and there's more to choose from than 50 kinds of Gallo (labeled Barefoot, or whatever) or something more than Mondavi Woodbridge or something else you might even later be ashamed to cook with. All that lies before you at every single level of shelving is a vote with your dollars for a huge corporation that practices total monoculture, uses pesticides, isn't known to take good care of field workers, uses precious water resources to grow crops where they normally wouldn't grow, and denudes the landscape of any remaining biodiversity.

Aside from this bleak set of hundreds of "choices," there may be the occasional Italian Pinot Grigio or other European import (organic status unknown but unlikely to be organic in any way) in a heavy glass bottle that traveled on a ship halfway around the globe to arrive at your neighborhood market.

Is it time to consider stocking up on a supply of good "house wine"? Join a local wine club from an organic and biodynamic winery and you can drink fabulously well for as little as $12 a bottle.

Keeping it simple, here are two wine club suggestions to get you started: Yorkville Cellars (all organic) and Ceago (all biodynamic). Both feature nothing but organic or biodynamic wines so there's no confusion over which bottle to get. Both have been in business for 20 years or more and both are unlikely to be found on your supermarket's shelves (alas). So just go direct.

I visited both this weekend and I have to say you can't go wrong with the full lineup of either of these wineries. Both are set amidst landscapes of biodiversity in exceptionally scenic spots, too, so you could definitely skip the shipping by visiting and buying in person.

Best of all, prices are a steal for wine club members.

Yorkville Cellars

• Located at the southern end of Anderson Valley
• Run by an English woman and her American husband (they both lived in France and their brand is heavily oriented to Bordeaux, er, Aquitaine, one and the same place, the latter name being the one the English gave to the area when they ruled it).
• Hillside and flatland vineyards
• 100% organically grown; CCOF certified since 1986

Yorkville Cellars Wine Club: 3 bottles per quarter. About $60 to $75 per shipment, including shipping and applicable sales taxes. Annual costs = $180-225 at the minimum wine club level. 20% off on all wines for the case a year club; 30% for case a quarter members.

So for the same price that you would spend on a stupid supermarket wine (if you succumbed), you could get (all prices at the 30% off price):

• A Sauvignon Blanc raised on a beautiful hillside surrounded by biodiversity, birds, wild grasses, and trees for $12.60
• A Rose (just in time for summer) of Cabernet Franc (unique) for $12.60
• A Cabernet Sauvignon rated as a Best Buy by Wine & Spirits magazine for $19.60
• A Bordeaux blend of all six noble grapes (called Richard the Lion Heart) for $26.60.
• List of all wines here

They also make a lovely white Graves blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc called Eleanor of Aquitaine.

While I am not in love with the way Yorkshire Cellars markets its wines (the list of awards on its web site is not my cuppa), just get beyond the web site and marketing and get your nose into a glass of their wine.

I do like the product - see if you do, too.


• Located in Lake County in the small lakefront town of Nice (Route 20)

• A gorgeous Spanish style estate with scenic grounds and lakefront boat dock
• Elegant tasting area with umbrellas in a picture perfect courtyard
• Vineyards in Mendocino and Lake County
• Started and run by Jim Fetzer in 1993
• Demeter (biodynamic) certified since 1996

Ceago Wine Club: 4 bottles three times a year. About $115 per shipment, all inclusive. Annual costs = $345 at the minimum wine club level. 20% off on all wines for all wine club members.

While Ceago's wines are priced very reasonably without any discounts, but with a club membership you could get (all prices at the 20% off price):

• A Sauvignon Blanc from Kathleen's Vineyard (named for Jim Fetzer's famous mom) for $12.80 (it was on special at the winery this week for an additional 10% off)
A lovely Lake County Chardonnay for $12.80
• A Muscat Canelli (a little on the sweet side) rated People's Choice in Lake County for $12.80
• A Syrah for $20.60
• A white dessert wine (I'm a sucker for a biodynamic dessert wine, of which there are very few) of late harvest Semillon for $17.60
List of all wines here

All this - and these wineries are farming at the highest levels of viticultural practices, with experienced hands in the cellars, and exuding natural goodness - all without pesticides, herbicides, or other odious practices - and in settings of lush biodiversity and surrounding intact landscapes. Not to mention the wines' myriad beautiful flavors.

So tonight - don't go for the Italian Pinot Grigio at the supermarket. Get online (or in the car) and toodle over to these web sites to check out the wares and order yourself up some house wine that properly honors the grapes and the land on which they were grown. At everyday prices.

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