Sunday, December 1, 2013

Top 100 Wine Picks from the Chronicle's List: The 7 Biodynamic or Organic Among Them

I read today's Chronicle and almost missed the Top 100 Wines article in the magazine, what with all the shopping season fillers. But I did see the headline on the front page of the paper saying it was inside, so dug around deep into the shopping inserts' innards and finally found it.

I was happy to see a few Biodynamic® or organic vineyards and vintners in the winning spots. Here they are (below).

All of these are in my forthcoming apps on Biodynamic or organically grown wines (coming soon - really and truly).


Ceritas - Porter Bass ($55, unobtainium - mailing list only - only 150 cases made)

Made by the guy (John Raytek) who's married to one of the family members (Phoebe Bass) whose vineyard this is. It's been farmed organically for several decades and a certified Biodynamic® vineyard since 2009. Every critic goes goo goo ga ga over this. I wish I could try it. The couple got married in this vineyard even - so what a love story it is that the wine is so special, too.

Other Whites

Cowhorn® Spiral 36 ($28) - 650 cases made

A highly lauded wine, this white Rhone blend was also rated by the Wine Advocate extremely highly recently and has become a perennial favorite with critics (and wine drinkers). (The Wine Advocate even called Cowhorn's prices "alarmingly low" - oh no!)

One minor correction to Bonne's article - the Steeles were beer drinkers when they bought their land, intending to grow vegetables and fruits. They quickly discovered they had two types of soils - one good for produce and one that was a perfect match for growing Rhone varietals. That is when they brought in Alan York, a Biodynamic viticulturist, to help them plan their vineyard which was certified Biodynamic in 2008.


Heitz Cellar-Grignolino ($19)

This historic Napa producer has begun converting more and more vineyards to organic certification, with the help of their very able vineyard management company Jack Neal & Sons, run by Mark Neal. It's nice to see this trend.

This particular wine was the only one I could afford to buy when I first visited the winery about 30 years ago (and I have been enjoying it ever since). It's a grape rarely grown in California - there are only 50 acres at most; Heitz has eight of them.

Pinot Noir

• Brick House-Les Dijonnais ($52) - 620 cases made

Brick House is one of those wonderful boutique Willamette Valley wineries - and it makes Pinot Noir from a number of different clonal combinations. I visited in Sept. and this one was my favorite, so I am happy to see that Bonne also likes it.

Brick House has bene organic for 23 years and Biodynamic for 8. It is also dry farmed.

Longoria La Encantada ($50)

It was a sad day when Richard Sanford first lost his Sanford winery (from a bad business deal) and later when his second winery had to declare bankruptcy, but his legacy lives on in his vineyards (and his Alma Rosa winery will recover - we hope). At least he was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame.

This wine is made from his organically farmed vineyard by the Longorias. Sanford was a pioneer in organic viticulture in Santa Barbara County - and was of course, the first guy to figure out how right a place it was to grow Pinot Noir.

Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot (nice to see the M word mentioned)

Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - 2010 ($145) - 2,596 cases made

A perennial Napa standard bearer. It's been called the Grace Kelly of wines. And the Spotteswoode estate vineyard (where this is grown) has, of course, been an organic pioneer, certified back in 1992 and this past year hosting the Organic Napa Grape Growers conference. Keep up the good work!

Robert Sinskey POV ($38) - 8,000+ cases made

This wine is a Carneros grown Merlot-Cab Franc blend with some Cabernet in it (the percentages are "proprietary") from Biodynamic vineyards (certified from 2006-2012). While Napa's Rutherford- and Yountville- and Oavkille-ites strut their stuff about their sunshine and warm temps, Bordeaux wine grapes in the Carneros have not gotten their due.

I must say I was very happy and surprised by this wine making it to the Top 100. It's about time Sinskey got more rave reviews like this one - he does not submit his wines to points-rating critics and has relied on word of mouth among the wine and food cognoscenti (leading chefs, etc.) to make his wines' reputations. That's a hard row to hoe. I am very delighted to see this wine getting this kind of attention - especially as he makes beaucoup cases of it! (About 8,000 cases, according to his web site - almost a third of his production.) And because it's in the realm of affordability for people who are not one percenters.

As he says on his web site, "From our point of view, certain parts of the “upper” Carneros region will one day be known as the “Right Bank” of Napa and recognized for how Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon respond to cooler climate and marine influence for bright and distinct expressions that, when blended together, make for a particularly supple and elegant, cuisine oriented wine."

And, as Sinskey pointed out to me in a recent interview (to be published in 2014), the Carneros is still not as cool - temperature wise - as Bordeaux. So there. One needn't pay a king's ransom for decent red wine from Napa. Bravo.

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