Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sonoma Barrel Tasting Weekend Sale At Truett Hurst: Syrah/Zin Blend Just $18

Truett Hurst Winery in Dry Creek will be participating in this weekend's (and next's) 34th Annual Barrel Tasting.

As part of the festivities, they're putting the biodynamically grown 2009 Balance wine on sale. It's a blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Zin and 20% Primitivo.

Normally $24, it'll be on sale for $18. (At those prices, a case might be in order.)

I've been to the Dark Horse Vineyard outside Ukiah where this wine is grown - the vineyard is a showcase for all that's good about organic and biodynamic viticulture.

Tasting notes (as published on "On the nose, it features a mélange of cranberry, clove and orange peel. In the mouth, its ripe fruit flavors are joined by earthy notes and fine tannins."
(Note: Gayot has published a Top 10 Organic Wines list that includes two wines that are in fact, not organic, nor certified: the Quivira Grenache and Sokol Blosser's Evolution. I called to let them know.)

Pinot Lovers Rejoice: 2007 DeLoach Masut Case Sale! (35-40% Off)

If you love organic viticulture and Pinot Noir, there aren't soooo many gorgeous wines to choose from. And if you love biodynamic viticulture and Pinot Noir, there are even fewer.

Therefore it's great news that DeLoach is now selling its 2007 Masut-Vineyards-sourced Pinot Noir.

This is a wine that normally retails for $45 a bottle - if you buy a case, it's now $400 or $33 a bottle (for regular customers). Wine club members at DeLoach (you can join) get it for $350 a case - or $29 a bottle.

Get the sale info here.

Masut will be unveiling its 2010 Pinot Noir at a special May event. Get more info about the event here. The new Pinot release sells for $40 a bottle.

Save Money - Up To 23-33% Off: 34th Annual Sonoma Barrel Tasting March 2-4 and 9-11

Attention: Wine Roadtrippers: This weekend and next is the 34th Annual Sonoma County Barrel Tasting.

For Press Democrat coverage on the event, click here.

At the barrel tasting event, the focus is on tasting the newest vintages in barrel and - at most wineries - buying futures - i.e. buying the wine before it's ready to be released.

The key phrase here is FUTURES in which "discounts apply."

For Porter Creek, for instance, we're talking 23-33% off the retail price.

You can taste certified futures in organic and biodynamic wines at just three wineries: DaVero, DeLoach and Porter Creek. [Here's the complete list of all participating wineries.]

Personally I would head straight to Porter Creek, one of my all time favorite California wineries - Alex Davis was one of the top 5 "Winemakers to Watch" by Chronicle wine critic Jon Bonne in 2011.

The 4,000-case a year winery has been featured in many, many fine restaurants (the estate Pinot has been at French Laundry and Chez Panisse for instance) - but they haven't let it go to their heads at all, as you'll see when you stop by to see the rustic, humble, intimate tasting room (in a shed).

Here are photos I took at Porter Creek about a year ago.

Read more about them:
Chronicle article - a tasting room visit
On Yelp (reviews)
Video of Porter Creek Vineyards
NYTimes review of Porter Creek Zin
• WSJ Article: Rock Stars of Pinot Noir

So for lovers of Pinot, Chardonnay, Syrah, Carignane and Zin - yes, you can get 23-33% off retail prices by buying this weekend or next.

(The estate Pinot will not be available, because it's in short supply, but there will be plenty of Fiona Hill and Hillside Pinots on offer.)

Last year I bought about ten cases of their wine (and have more coming from buying futures last year.)

In previous years, I have been able to call and place an order over the phone, so I believe it is not necessary for you to actually show up to take advantage of the futures pricing.

Here's what else will be available for (organic or biodynamic) barrel tasting:

• DaVero (certified biodynamic)
Sagrantino (Italian native)
Sangiovese Rosato (rose)

• DeLoach
Maboroshi Pinot Noir (certified organic)
Estate Pinot Noir (certified biodynamic)

Video of the Day: Paul Dolan on Organic/Biodynamic Viticulture at Mendocino Wine Co.

Sadly, Paul Dolan and his partners in Mendocino Wine Co. (the Thornhill Brothers who have some big bucks) have apparently parted company, but Dolan will rise again. Here's a look at Mendocino Wine Co. and Paul's Dark Horse Vineyard (certified biodynamic) before the "divorce."

Paul Dolan Wine will still continue to be a separate brand, as it has been in the past.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sanford Video Conversation

Here's a 12 minute video interview with Sanford, after his Vintner's Hall of Fame induction was first made public.

While I wish they would have left the music out of the audio mix, the content of what he is saying is great.


Spring Wine Events: Save the Dates to Drink Organic!

Coming Up: Spring Wine Festivals that actually offer at least 10-20 organically grown wines!

• April 21
Los Olivos

Santa Barbara County Vintners Association Festival

"No viticultural region in America has demonstrated as much progress in quality and potential for the Santa Barbara region."
-Robert Parker

Organically grown wineries participating:
All Organic or Biodynamic
• Ampelos
• Beckmen
• Verdad

Some Organic or Biodynamic
These wineries' estate vineyards are certified (but they also source grapes for blends from further afield).
• Alma Rosa
• Qupe

A Few Organic or Biodynamic
• Au Bon Climat

This year the festival is being held in a much better location than last year's festival, which was on a very unlevel and windy field in Lompoc.

Los Olivos is a much prettier town, filled with tasting rooms. (Unlike Napa or Sonoma where tasting is onsite amid the winery and vineyards, more SBCounty wineries have tasting rooms only and many of them are located in Los Olivos). The town is the location of a number of famous scenes from the movie Sideways.

The grand tasting is on Saturday afternoon; Sundays are open in order to visit individual wineries, which have food, live music, deals and generally get festive. Tickets are $75. Direct buses also will run from Santa Barbara and other locations to the festival.

The crowd is very Santa Barbara - you'll get a good hit of SoCal vibes, and a crowd that ranges from 30s to 50s in general.

Accommodations: Last year I tried out the Motel 6 in Lompoc where the price was right ($40). There are dozens of beautiful pampering places in the region.

If you are going down from the Bay Area for a weekend, try to add a few more days to your trip to enjoy area sights. You could also stop off and see the Paso Robles wineries as well. Biodynamic Ambyth Estate and French-owned Tablas Creek would be at the top of my list there. See my map for more details.

For me, the winningest reason to go to this festival is that all of the winemakers themselves show up - and pour and chat - which is something you won't find when you visit their tasting rooms.

Au Bon Climat, Qupe and Verdad also have awesome sales on Sunday, in their warehouse, which you is not open at any other time of the year. The warehouse is located near Bien Nacido, one of the ultimate vineyards in all of California. Its in a steep, secured canyon (which has a few organic blocks).


• May 5-6
Hopland, Mendocino County
Hopland Passport

This is one of my personal favorites - the wines are affordable! And there are tons of organically grown ones to try!

Hopland's crowd is a bit younger than Santa Barbara's. Word is out among Sacramento and the Bay Area that this is a good deal - so expect crowds, but lots of food and music and wine.

Hopland Passport is famous for having great deals on wine so be sure to come with an empty trunk. Stock up! It's better than the supermarket wine you'd be buying the rest of the year. And why not buy *and drink* local?

I've blogged at length about Hopland Passport. Read this post for all the details on which wineries to visit and where to stay.

Overdue for His Close Up: Pioneering Santa Barbara County Winemaker Richard Sanford Inducted Into the Vintner's Hall of Fame

Richard Sanford in Buellton
Dick Sanford's story is so against-all-odds, it's hard to believe it hasn't been done as an HBO documentary.

Trained as a geologist at U.C. Berkeley, Sanford returned home from the Vietnam War looking for his next life, a life he hoped would be lived in harmony with nature.

He scoured the countryside looking for likely Pinot Noir country. He understood the significance of the unique east-west orientation of the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County, which let cool maritime breezes into the hot valley, creating high contrasting temperatures between day and night - a plus for growing wine grapes.

He famously drove down Santa Rosa Road, in the center of the valley in the Santa Rita Hills, with his temperature gauge hanging out the window of his VW van - to see whether the conditions were as favorable as he thought for growing Burgundian varieties. They were - but only he had the foresight to recognize it. It took more than two decades for others to follow his lead.

His "hunch" paid off, launching what is now a $360 million wine industry for the region that employs close to 4,000 people.

Last Monday Sanford was inducted in the Vintner's Hall of Fame at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, alongside Peter Mondavi, Sr., Joe Heitz and 4 others. They bring the total number of inductees to 40.

Other organic vintners on the list include:
• Andy Beckstoffer
• Randall Grahm
• Mike Grgich

All of the historic, early pioneers in the Hall of Fame (pre WW2) - Gustav Niebaum, Charles Krug, Georges de la Tour, Andre Tchelistcheff, were organic as well.

It's fitting that Sanford was awarded this honor. He is the only vintner from the southern part of the state to be included in this illustrious lineup. It's a reward richly deserved. I might have to break open a bottle of  an Alma Rosa Pinot Noir from El Jabali (the vineyard he planted in 1982) to celebrate.

You can read more of his story here in this interview with Michael Cervin.

And enjoy my earlier post (with a video of him) here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Volker Eisele - Rare Video

I have written about Volker Eisele in previous posts as one of my all time favorite Napa wineries, but wanted to share a new video I just discovered from the Gold Medal Wine Club so you can get an idea of what I am talking about.

Of course, I really recommend that you read the book Napa by James Conaway (read Jancis Robinson's review here) to get all the details of Volker's efforts to save Napa Valley from development. But, failing that, enjoy this brief video.

Affordable Wine Touring in Napa? Part 1: Places to Stay

Last week I had occasion to visit Calistoga with a group of medical experts on hot springs - yeah, baby. Aside from doing wine research, what could be better than researching hot springs? And that's what we did for four straight days.

But that leads me to my real topic - so many times it just seems impossible to stay overnight in Napa's wine country because everything is so darn expensive. All those honeymooners and 1%-ers seem to drive the cost of overnight accommodations into the stratosphere, depleting one's wine budget.

Luckily there are a few remaining outposts of places to stay where the per person price is UNDER $60. I found one; and if you counted Harbin Hot Springs (35 min. drive north of Calistoga), the number could get up two. I've also added in two more that are $80 a night for a room (which could be very cheap if you are two or more).

In Part 1, I've covered places to stay. In Part 2, I'll cover affordable wineries in Napa - sound impossible? No - it just takes unrelenting research...

#1 Calistoga Spa Hot Springs

Are you two or more? Then the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs is a very good deal - just $120-140 gets you two queen sized beds, with a private bath and a kitchenette.

Here you'll also get access to the enormous swimming pools and mineral waters (heavily chlorinated as mandated by the health department), outdoor sunning areas, and more amenities.

It's also open on a day use basis (first come, first served) and was mobbed with school children on winter break when I was there last week. Pools are $25 per person during the day - weekday only (unless you have booked a spa service).

I ran into a friend in the parking lot who has been coming here for 20 years - she and a friend come for a three night getaway once a year.

Here are the reviews on Trip Advisor.


#2 El Bonita

El Bonita, clean and very conveniently located just south of the village of St. Helena, has rooms off season for just $79 a night. It's located on busy Highway 29.

Here are the reviews on Trip Advisor.


#3 Mountain Home Ranch (in the hills west of Calistoga)

It's not for everyone - it's really rustic - and a drive from town - but this country bed and breakfast has cabins for only $70 a night (for one or two). Pets can stay for another $10.

Here are the reviews on Trip Advisor.

#4 Harbin Hot Springs

Okay, it's 35 minutes away on a remote windy road, but the tent cabins, dome rooms, and basic rooms (especially in Azalea) are lovely - and affordably priced, especially during the week. It's definitely a hippie-dippie resort and not for everyone, but the free yoga and world-class watsu massages may offset that for some people (you have to be in the "alternative" world to appreciate it). And there's real camping for them that wants it.

You can't beat the prices.

Here are the reviews on Trip Advisor.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chronicle's Top 100 Wines of 2011: 6 Organically Grown Wines Make the List

The Chronicle's Top 100 Wines of the year is a mysterious list indeed. Missing are most of the wines ranked highest in Wine & Spirits Top 100 or Wine Spectator or the Wine Advocate.

Wine critic Jon Bonne's choices include 25% Pinot Noirs this year.

Three of the wines chosen are in my app (marked with a *) - and are priced under $20!


Fume Blanc
• Grgich Hills Estate, 2010, $30
I've visited some of these vineyards which are open to the public on rare tours. Grgich is most famous for Chardonnay and makes some gorgeous Cabs. The Fume Blanc is widely available.

• Qupe, 2010 Sta. Ynez Valley, $18
Qupe is always a winner with Rhone varietals and are masters of Syrah. It's nice to see their Rhone white getting decent attention. This organic vineyard has been closely connected to the winemaker for decades.

• Verdad, Sawyer-Lindsuqist, 2010, $22
Verdad specializes in Spanish varietals and their Albarino is consistently ranked high. (I also love their rose). Qupe and Verdad are his and her brands - the winemakers being married to each other. This wine comes from their own biodynamic vineyard.


• Horse and Plow, 2010,  $15*
One of the most affordable wines on the list, this is sourced from longtime Testa near Ukiah. I've got a case of this in my cellar and probably should have a few more. Usually sells out quickly. Made from Carignane, Syrah and Grenache.


Pinot Noir
• Calera, Reed Vineyard, Mount Harlan, Pinot Noir, $50
Calera is the knockout master of Burgundian wines. Is there ever a year it isn't on the top 100 list? It deserves its near permanent seat.


Cabernet Sauvignon
• Chappellet, Pritchard Hill, 2008, $135
This legendary Cab producer is in transition to organic.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Vineyard Vacation Rentals in Organic Vineyards, Part 2: Mendocino County

If you want to have that real wine country experience - you know, the one where you wake up and look out the window and are surrounded by vineyards - there are few places you can go that are organic. This post takes a look at where to stay in Mendocino in the Hopland/Ukiah area - an area that has many hotels but few B and B's. A vacation rental offers a charming way to be in wine country here.

Unlike Napa or Sonoma, where there are fewer organic vineyards (and consequently you may find the vineyard being sprayed while you're renting it), Mendocino has a high proportion of organic vineyards - and now the number of rental properties located in a vineyard has grown from one to three. There's also a fourth option.

As I've written about in the past, Italian heritage winery Testa has a great place to stay. It's a lovely old house on the grounds of this historic, rustic winery, complete with a beautiful old bard, and a cellar that produced through Prohibition. (Ken Burns Prohibition series fans: this place is a Must!)

The only caveat about Testa: it's located a little too close to 101 to be considered a rustic getaway. However, the historical aspect of the place is a big plus, plus the home interior is tricked out in vintage  furnishings and ambience - it's a sweet place for a gathering - and it has a pond where kids can play.

Now there are two other options in Ukiah/Hopland area - a mere two hours from the Bay Area, straight up 101 - one is luxe (and priced accordingly - but might be a good spot for a wedding party or Big Event) and one is a sweet spot on a fourth-generation vineyard run by the Milone family. Both are surrounded by certified organic vineyards.

A third alternative is Spirit Canyon, a beautiful vineyard setting, priced very reasonably, adjacent to organic viticultural expert Glenn McGourty's 1 acre Arneis vineyard overlooking the Russian River and a nearby cattle grazing pasture. (Although Spirit Canyon is not 100% organic, it is a gorgeous place to stay and the use of herbicides is minimal.)

1. Terra Savia - Sweet Hopland Home Overlooking Vineyards

Terra Savia's vineyards have been in the Milone family for four generations. On this property, you can stay in the 1,600 square foot home with two bedrooms and two baths. It sleeps four.

The nightly rental rate is $150-250; it rents by the week for $1,050.

It's located in Hopland, near 101.

While Chardonnay is by far their most grown varietal, the winery itself (located in an industrial structure nearby) also incorporates an olive oil production facility. You sample and buy artisan olive oil here as well as sample their award-winning wines. They are best known for Chardonnay and for their Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine, produced at nearby Rack and Riddle. Their wines are widely available at Whole Foods.

Enjoy the pictures below. And here's the link for full details.

2. Jeriko Estate - A True Luxe "Estate" Experience

Having a wedding or Big Event? Jeriko's six bedroom estate may be the place for you.

The 6 bedroom, 6 bath house - with 7,000 square feet - features a pool, billiard room, indoor pizza oven, to living rooms, and many other amenities. It's surrounded by 180 acres of vineyard. You can easily sleep 12 in the house.

It's owned by Danny Fetzer, the youngest brother of the Fetzer family offspring. The family started nearby Fetzer winery (before selling to more than a decade ago) but retained acres and acres of their original vineyards. The Fetzer family has played a major role in organic viticulture in the U.S., starting the largest organic brand Bonterra and continuing to farm organically or biodynamically on their family-owned properties.

Staying at Jeriko will cost you - the daily rental rate for this estate is a hefty $1375 to $1975  - but that works out to be about $230 to $320 per bedroom per night - or the same price as a luxury hotel (where there any in the area). But what you get is a truly memorable experience. If 12 people all chip in, the per person price would be around $115-$160 per person per night - just a little more than the price you'd pay to stay at a mid range chain hotel in the Ukiah shopping mall district.

Here you'll have the experience of feeling like a wine baron, enjoying the private pool with your friends, and gazing out at the beautiful vineyards and rolling hills across the Sanel Valley. Next door you can also visit Saracina (one of my favorite area wineries - with a cave tour and some of the best wines in the region.)

Jeriko Winery is within walking distance as well. It has recently received biodynamic certification.

Here are the posted photos from Trip Advisor - or go see all the photos there.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Alsatian Festival Founding Member Handley Cellars Profiled

Virginie Boone of the Press Democrat's lovely profile of Milla Handley is worth a read. Milla is the only winery in Anderson Valley with certified organic vineyards and she was one of the first to grow the Alsatian varietal Gewurztraminer.

(Only the Gewurz is from the estate's organic vineyard; Handley also sells a Riesling and a Pinot Gris but these are sourced from non-organic vineyards in Mendocino County.)

Read more here

At $18 a bottle, this is a white wine you'll want to try.

The Organic Side: Alsatian Wine Festival in Anderson Valley This Weekend

Don't have your President's Day weekend plans together yet? Quick, jump on it and get up to the 7th Annual International Alsace Varietals Festival this weekend (Feb. 17-18).

The highlight of this festival is the opportunity to taste Alsatian varietals from French and German (and New Zealand) producers side by side with their American counterparts (from California, Oregon and NY).

Alsatian wine varietals include Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer - all wines worth getting to know as they offer some of the most exquisite tastes.

They're a much overlooked and worthy change from Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs.

You can follow the conference on Twitter at @AlsaceFest.

Participating organic wineries include Handley Cellars (Mendo estate only) in Anderson Valley, McFadden (all) from Potter Valley/Hopland, and Hagafen (selected wines only) and Robert Sinskey (all) of Napa. 

(Though these are the only organic viticulture wineries in the festival, there are many other wineries in the U.S. - primarily in Oregon - that offer Alsatian varieties raised and certified organic so if you are a connoisseur of these varietals, seek them out as well. These include Bethel Heights, Cooper Mountain, Lemelson, Montinore, Pheasant Valley, Sokol Blosser (only some wines) Snoqualmie's Naked (from Washington) and more.)

The event takes place in downtown Boonville.

Following a technical conference in the morning ($45), Food Network star Beau MacMillan will offer a 30 minute cooking demonstration from 12-1.  Samples of his food will be served at Saturday's Grand Tasting from 1-4. Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $65. Click here for details.

Organically Grown Wines to Taste:

Hagafen: Riesling
Handley: Gewurztraminer
McFadden: All on offer 
Robert Sinskey: All on offer

Area wineries will be open and offering special discounts and food tidbits from 11-5. This is when you can visit Handley Cellars, the only winery in Anderson Valley with an organic estate vineyard.

If you can't get a place in pricey Anderson Valley (likely to be quite full), I recommend Ukiah motels. For budget pricing you can't beat the Motel 6 ($40) which I have found to be quiet and clean, and the front desk staff friendly, bright and helpful. Midrange motels can be found in abundance in Ukiah near Starbucks et al in giant shopping centers district. If you are in Ukiah, don't miss shopping for organically grown wines at the Ukiah Natural Foods market - one of the best selections of organically grown wine in the state.

California Wine Exports Up: 20% of Overall Sales

In 2011, California vintners increased exports to countries where currency exchange rates made U.S. wines more attractive. 

Exports from the U.S. increased 22% last year to a record high of $1.39 billion. Volume was up nearly 6%. That represents a growth of 275% from 1994 to 2011 (from $196 million to $541 million).

The U.S. is now fourth in wine production - behind France, Italy and Spain.
A third ($478 million) of exported U.S. wine went to Europe with revenue rising 10% from 2010 while volume was up only 1.4% (28 million cases).
Other major destinations are Canada, $379 million, up 23 percent; Hong Kong, $163 million, up 39 percent; Japan, $105 million, up 39 percent; and China, $62 million, up 42 percent.

There is no breakdown of how organically grown wines fit into these statistics.

2011 Grape Crush Report: Fewer Grapes, Higher Prices

The United States Department of Agriculture reported in its preliminary Grape Crush Report for 2011:
• 3,869,894 tons of grapes were crushed last year (3 percent less than the amount crushed in 2010)
• Reds outnumbered whites (1,917,132, to1,425,557 tons); both down 7% from 2010
• Average price "reached a record high of $588.96 (a ton)," - up 8% from 2010 price and up 3% from the previous record set in 2009.
• Average price for red wine grapes was $702.70, up 12 percent; white wine grapes $541.11, up 8 percent; raisin grapes $265.15, up 23 percent; table grapes $219.20, up 26 percent.
• Top varieties: Chardonnay (14.4%), followed by Cabernet Sauvignon (9.9%). Thompson Seedless, the leading raisin grape variety crushed, accounted for 8.4 percent. (This is what's in the Green Fin organic label found at Trader Joe's).
• Fresno, Madera, Alpine, Mono and Inyo counties (and Kings and Tulare counties) was the largest producer at 1,494,796 tons. 
The full report has some nice graphs and many more facts. Read it here.
Unfortunately, it does not provide any breakdowns of organic viticulture.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Congratulations to the Organically Grown Double Gold and Best in Class Award Winning Wines from the SF Chronicle Wine Contest!

While many of the top wines do not compete in the SF Chronicle's annual wine competition, it is one of the biggest events - and one of the biggest public tastings - in the country. It is the biggest event in the U.S. for U.S.-made wine. More than 4,000 wines from 1,500 wineries were entered. (For more, view the 2008 video below.)

Judging took place last month. The public tasting ($65/80) takes place this Saturday from 2-5 at Fort Mason in SF - it's not exactly an intimate gathering and it usually sells out so the crowd is at capacity.

Here's video snippet from last year's public tasting to give you an idea of what it's like:

If you attend, I suggest seeking out the following outstanding wines, given some of the highest award ratings by the judges, and all of which are organically grown - mostly in Mendocino, with a few from Napa, the Sonoma Coast and Dry Creek.

Here's the list of organic gold, double gold and best in class winners to try. Many of them are wineries I regularly follow on this blog, so it's a delight to see them succeed so well in this competition.

Sauvignon Blanc
• Voss, 2010, $20
I first tasted this at the Family Winemakers of California event; it's in a class by itself - nice to see it get this recognition. It's grown in the heavy clay soils of Rutherford in a winery started by an Aussie who also makes wine in New Zealand (where they know their Sauvignon Blanc). Sauvignon Blanc is the only wine Voss makes. It's also nice to see Rutherfordians be organic...not very many are.
This wine is a standout.

Yorkville Cellars, 2010, Semillon, $20
There aren't very many Bordeaux whites grown in California, so this is a very small category. Nonetheless, the judges don't have to award Best in Class.

Yorkville's owners lived in Bordeaux before establishing their winery in Mendocino County (it's on the road leading to Anderson Valley) and they've made it their life's work to grow all the noble grapes of Bordeaux - the only winery that does.

Montemaggiore, 2008, Paulo's Vineyard, $38
This Dry Creek winery is a dream, boutique winery, raising grapes biodynamically, and making quite a name for itself with Syrah. (This year Montemaggiore also won a gold in the same price range - for its 2009 Montemaggiore Estate grown [not Paulo's Vineyard] Syrah.)

• Terra Savia, 2007 Blanc de Blanc, $22 (generally less; often available at Whole Foods)
One of my personal standbys and an OBG.

Under $20
• Patianna, 2009, $16.99
Patty Fetzer's Chardonnay is homegrown and organic through and through. It's a beautifully cultivated vineyard,  lovingly tended to by old hands who know what they are doing. And this is a wine with good distribution in general.

• Handley Cellars, 2006 Brut Rose, $40
Expensive, delicious. 91 pts, Wine Spectator. Often sells out early.
• Terra Savia, 2010, Brut Rouge, $22
The first rouge brut from Terra Savia - I am dying to try this. I have a soft spot for pink bubbles.

Under $20
Paul Dolan, 2010, $18
Another old hand in Mendocino, who knows what he is doing, is Paul Dolan. He used to run Fetzer, started the state's largest organic brand, Bonterra, and now does his own thing under his own name. A reliable producer.

Rhone Varietals (White)
• Montemaggiore, 2010 3Divas (Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier blend), $25
This fastidious, boutique winery, known for its Syrah, is so beautifully cultivated (and completely organic/biodynamic). This is the second year Montemaggiore has released a white Rhone blend.

Sauvignon Blanc 
Under $20
• Paul Dolan, 2010, $18

Pinot Noir
Canihan Family Cellars, 2009, Sonoma Coast, $49.99
This wine isn't listed on their web site so I'd like to doublecheck that this new vineyard (coast) is certified organic. All of their regular estate wines are. Find out at the show and let me know. I'll also shoot them an email right now. This is a small family run outfit with a great track record of winemaking.
Marimar, 2007, Cristina, $49.99 (Club only)
Handley Cellars, 2009 RSM, $52
Pinot File: "First rate." Great pinots come from Anderson Valley, but Handley is the only winery there with organically certified estate vineyards. This vineyard is located on a steep hillside.

Montemaggiore, 2009, $38
Biodynamic Montemaggiore also took a Best in Class in this price category.

Under $19.99
Frey 2010, $13.60 (generally available at Whole Foods)
No sulfites.
Paul Dolan, 2009, $25

Others of the usual suspects from Mendocino - McFadden and Barra - also won medals in the silver and bronze categories.

Glenn McGourty: Organic Viticulture's Impacted Viticulture

Let's face it - it ain't easy growing grapes organically. It's not nearly as formulaic as chemical systems with dangerous herbicides like Roundup. You have to be more observant, more sensitive, and more tuned in to the grapes to succeed in organic circles.

But little known is how organic wine growers have impacted the sustainability movement. Glenn McGourty, PhD, tells us how organic viticulture's approaches - cover cropping, cultivating biodiversity, and minimizing sulphur application - have led the way for sustainable wine grape growers (who are not yet organic).

McGourty is also the editor of the newly released Organic Winegrowing Manual (published by U.C. Davis) which I wrote about earlier.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Glenn this summer for a book proposal I am working on on organic viticulture pioneers and leaders.

McGourty writes a regular column in Wines and Vines called Grounded Grapegrowing and is widely recognized as one of the leading lights in organic viticulture in the U.S.

Read the article online in this month's Wines and Vines here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Seize the Weekend - Carpe Chocolate!

Wine and chocolate for Valentine's Day - yeah baby.

Two wine regions in the hinterlands are celebrating with festivities.

Up in Mendo, Barra of Mendocino, in Ukiah, is offering delicious treats this Saturday. Tickets are $25 and include assorted goodies. See details here.

Port, muscat and homemade truffles are on the agenda.

"Please join the wine and spirit-makers of Redwood Valley for their third annual chocolate and wine extravaganza. Professional chocolatiers will present tastings of exquisite dark and milk chocolates, truffles, dipped strawberries, heart-shaped cakes and more, paired with Redwood Valley's dark, rich ports, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, muscat canelli and world-class liquers and brandies. Via Magazine has called this an "Esteemed Wine and Chocolate Event". Admission is $25.00 and includes an embossed wine glass as well as entry to all listed wineries and distillery. Designated drivers admitted free."

Out in Lodi, 45 wineries are participating in the Lodi Wine and Chocolate weekend. Among them is the sole certified organic Lodi grower/winemaker, Lucas. I look forward to touring it sometime soon.

The Lucas Winery
18196 N. Davis Road, Lodi 95242
(209) 368-2006
"Turn your tasting glass into a very personal memento with help from our expert tole painter, Ester Torrens, who was a huge hit during our First Sip activities.  Truffle Gateaux will be here to provide samples of their fine chocolates for pairing with our wine and purchasing for your sweetie.  Artist Mike Tate will be creating very affordable art for our guests."

BevMo's 5 Cent Sale: Go for the Rose and the Riesling

One of the year's best wine sales, BevMo's buy one, get the second bottle for 5 cents sale is now on.

Out of 341 wines on sale, only two domestic wines are organically grown:

Bonterra Rose 13.99
Double Gold winner in SF Chronicle Wine Contest

Effectively, $7 a bottle!

I've not tried this vintage. Bonterra in other vintages tends to make a rose a bit sweeter than my taste but in general I think their wine is great weekday wine. And if you're having a party, stock up.

Pacific Rim Organic Riesling $15.99

Effectively $8 a bottle!

In general, Pacific Rim has not been as good as it was during its Bonny Doon owned days, but half off at this price could be a compelling reason to buy a case. Go for it!