Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Podcast: Carol Grieve of Food Integrity Now Interviews Me About Organically and Biodynamically Grown Wines

Happy holidays!

Have you ever been curious about organic and Biodynamically grown wines?

Carol Grieve of Food Integrity Now recently interviewed me for her podcast.  Enjoy this 30 min. audio interview with me about organically and Biodynamically grown wines.

The first 12 minutes are available in the inline player here:

Enjoy the entire 32 min. interview online here:


Or download or embed the interview with links here.

A handy chart to help you learn more about the various types of wines can be found in the Shades of Green article. Here's a thumbnail of the chart - that covers farming types. (Wine types is a separate subject).

There is one error in the chart above (which I have asked the publisher to remove): there is no bottle labeling for "Ingredients: Biodynamic Grapes."

I will also be publishing a new guide to all of the types of wine certifications in 2015.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tip from Santa, Part 2: MapIsArt - Map Your Favorite Wine Country Locations

Tired of stupid gift suggestions for wine lovers? You can immortalize your favorite vineyard's terroir or the area you visited on a trip to wine country by mapping the location onto a serving tray, lampshade, coaster set, or marble clock.

Learn more at MapIsArt.com.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Tip from Santa: Here's One of the Best Deals of the Year...

Straight from the KL email newsletter:
Bryan Brick | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 02, 2014
Arguably the most popular of the co-branded wines with our staff last year was the 2010 version of this wine so it had a lot to live up to this year. The good news is the staff is every bit as excited about it this year and we hope that enthusiasm will rub off on you. Bob Lindquist was more than happy to work with us again this year and put together this 100% Syrah bottling from certified Demeter Bio-Dynamically grown vines in the cool Edna Valley Appellation. Unmistakably Syrah from the first sniff of the nose the bold cracked black pepper, fried bacon, fresh sage and licorice ropes. Already in a great spot to drink this lovely Syrah has plenty of power but no gruffness, sort of like a well manicured beard it’s burly but not necessarily a bad thing. Full of complex and intertwined flavors of beef blood, Asian plum, black currants and a load of smoky, savory goodness. Long and finishing with good energy and lift this is a Syrah that certainly stands out from the pack and over delivers on its price tag. Perfect for hearty winter braises and potluck get-togethers.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Free Streaming Through Dec. 12: Don't Miss the FIlm "Symphony of the Soil"

Ever wondered what terroir really means? If so, bone up on soil science, because that's a major component. My friends Deborah Koons Garcia, Vivian Hillgrove, Nancy Schiesari and others teamed up to make this landmark film which has received rave reviews in The New York Times and elsewhere and has screened around the globe. It makes soil understandable - and will make you sit up and take notice of the way we're currently treating soil, which is the resource we depend upon for food and shelter and life.

"Soil is... the largest pool of organic carbon, which is essential for mitigating and adapting to climate change. In an era of water scarcity, soils are fundamental for its appropriate storage and distribution."

This week, from Dec. 5-12, in honor of the United Nations' designation of 2015 as the International Year of Soils, Deborah has made the film available for anyone to see online for free. The only other way to see the film is to pay $25 for a DVD (which you should do - it makes a great holiday gift or school or library gift).

And be sure to check out the United Nations' site, too.

Here's the film in its entirety (only through Dec. 12):

San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 Wines: 7% From Certified Organic Vines

San Francisco Chronicle's wine writer Jon Bonné's come out with his latest annual list of the Top 100 Wines. It's a list that could not be more opposite of the Wine Spectator's. Look at the Wine Spectator and you'll see the idiosyncratic approach of this powerful industry voice, highlighting mostly international brands and many corporate wineries. This year there was not a single, organically grown U.S. wine on the list.

By contrast, Bonné's list reflects the local, Slow Foods movement's orientation - emphasizing small lot wines from artisan wineries on the Left Coast.

This year's list omits many of the artisanal greats, but perhaps Bonné likes to mix it up, highlighting different producers each year.

While certified organic vines account for less than 3 percent of the wine grapes grown in California (where 90+ percent of U.S. wine comes from), they represent a disproportionately large percentage of the wines on this list (and many other top wine lists) with 7 out of 100 on the list.

However, don't expect to see the words "organic grapes" on the label. Most of these wines (with rare exceptions) are not bottle labeled. Many are featured in the apps I've written.

Enjoy these fine finds.

The * indicates a wine that is bottle labeled. 
The double asterisk ** means the wine is included in one of the apps. 


From Napa….

• Inglenook, Cask Cabernet (2011, $75)**
• Neyers, Conn Creek Cabernet (2011, $48)**
• Spottswoode, Estate Cabernet (2011, $150)**


From Santa Barbara County's Sta. Rita Hills...

• Transcendance, La Encantada Pinot Noir (2012, $45)


From Sonoma County...

• Ridge - Geyserville (2012, $38) (90-95% organic)**

From Napa...

• Storybook, Antaeus blend (60% Zinfandel)**


From the Carneros (Sonoma County)…

• Horse & Plow, Pinot Gris (2013, $26)*, **

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tempranillo Day Cometh

One of the best red wines you never heard of, Tempranillo is one of California's great unknown successes. Its producers celebrate Tempranillo Day on Nov. 13.

Only a few brave souls grow it, but once you've experienced a good one, you'll bow down to their wisdom.

Originally from Spain, this is a grape that's far more appropriate for California's climate than many of the more widely grown varieties planted here.

There are five pioneering vintners with organic vines who make Tempranillos. Surprisingly, three are from San Luis Obispo County from vintners in Edna Valley and Paso Robles.

Wines I Know

1. Verdad, $30*

My hands down favorite Tempranillo, this is made with Biodynamic grapes from the vintner's estate vineyard in Edna Valley (in San Luis Obispo County). I've even found it at the hipster Cafe 123 in Berkeley on tap.

Says wine critic Stephen Tanzer in his review of the 2009: "Musky red berries, cherry and herbs on the nose...lively red currant."

2. Martian Ranch & Vineyard, $35

A great winemaking team at Martian produces just 200 cases of this Tempranillo. It's made on native yeasts.

Wines I Know Of

1. AmByth Cellars, $45

This natural wine producer adds no sulfites to its tiny lots of wines. It's also a Biodynamic grower and it  makes all of its wines in the Biodynamic Wine category.

2. Castoro Cellars, $24

Castoro Cellars is one of the largest organic growers in the country. It makes 300+ cases of this organically grown Tempranillo from its Whale Rock Vineyard in Paso Robles.

3. Upper Five Vineyards, $28

This Oregon vineyard is tiny - just 5 acres - but is located in the hot, sunny Rogue Valley in the southern part of the state. About 150 cases are made. Most is sold locally, including at the Ashland Food Coop.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Montinore's Riesling Makes Eric Asimov's Thanksgiving Wine List in New York Times Today

Eric Asimov's Thanksgiving Day wine roundup published today in the New York Times includes Montinore's Almost Dry Riesling ($16) as one of the recommended wines for serving with the holiday feast.

It's the only organic or Biodynamically grown wine on the list. As usual, the readers' comments are as interesting to read as the article.

Here's the link... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/12/dining/wines-for-thanksgiving-that-refresh-the-palate.html?ref=dining

Slow Money Conference: Good Ag on the Menu

Fabulous livestreaming online of the Slow Money conference today and tomorrow.

This morning Elizabeth Candelario from Demeter USA spoke on a panel. Throughout the day there are lots of great leaders and new ag luminaries and real food foodies in the lineup.

Check out the speaker list at: https://slowmoney.org/national-gathering/2014/program

Livestream is here: https://slowmoney.org/national-gathering/2014/live

Twitter stream: #slowmoney14

Here are the opening night presentations: Douglas Gayeton of the Lexicon of Sustainability and the farm entertainer of all time Joel Salatin.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

A First in Wine Labeling: Ingredients Labeling Pioneer Ridge Vineyards to Put "Organic Grapes" on Bottle Label

California's prestigious Ridge Vineyards, an industry leader with a history of advocating for honesty in wine labeling, announced yesterday that it will start to label its organically grown wines with the words "organic grapes" on the back of the bottle, effective in the spring of 2015. 

Scheduled for release in April of 2015, this is the first Ridge vintage
to display the words "organic grapes"on the bottle.

The winery began transitioning its estate vines on its Cupertino and Sonoma sites to certified organic farming (under Organic Certifiers) 7 years ago and has now certified 270+ acres of organic vines.

Announcing its organic farming direction in its Fall 2014 Trade newsletter, CEO and Head Winemaker Paul Draper said, "We decided to farm organically because we believe it leads to better grapes and higher quality wines. True organic farming focuses attention on the health of each individual vine, and on the soil's microbial life....This approach in the vineyard, plus our traditional approach to winemaking, will provide the finest possible wines for our customers."

Draper has called for wineries to state wine ingredients on the label (including additives and commercial yeasts). Bonny Doon has also advocated for ingredients labeling as well. The only other winery I have come across that does ingredient labeling is Beaucanon Estate in Napa, run by the de Coninck family of France. The Beaucanon wines all contain commercial yeast; the Ridge wines are all vinified on native yeast. With the exception of these two wineries, most wines do not say what kind of yeast is used or what additives are in their wines.

One wine writer recently spoke up at an industry gathering saying she could not wait for the day "when wineries will have to label all of the pesticides used in making this bottle of wine." While that day is still probably far off, the wine industry is an anomaly - while food shoppers have learned to read ingredients labels, the powerful political forces in the wine industry have kept ingredients labeling at bay.

Up to 25% of grapes in a bottle of wine labeled as from California may be from abroad. Typically those added grapes come from Chile. Even wine labeled Mendocino AVA, for instance, may contain up to 15% foreign grapes. (An exception is Demeter's "Biodynamic Wine" standard which ensures that 100% of the grapes come from the winery's estate).

In the U.S., many higher end wine producers certify their estates as organic and publish that information on their web sites, but do not put the words "organic grapes" or "made with organic grapes" on their labels, making it difficult for consumers seeking organically grown wines to find them.

In Napa and elsewhere, about half of the fine wines that could be labeled with the words "Ingredients: Organic Grapes" - including estate grown wines from Araujo, Chappellet, Frog's Leap, Hall, Inglenook, Spottswoode, Staglin, Tablas Creek, and Turley Wine Cellars - do not put the words "organic" on the wine label.

Is it possible that Ridge's announcement signals a change in marketplace trends on the labeling of fine wines? Let's hope so.

Other prestigious vintners who do put organic labeling (but not ingredients labeling) on their bottles include: Brick House, Ghost Block, Grgich Hills Estate, Porter Creek, Quivira, Qupé, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Sokol Blosser, Storybook Mountain Vineyards, Verdad, and Volker Eisele Family Estate, among others. 

Note: Any wine certified as Biodynamic Wine would automatically designate a wine that is vinified on native yeasts and, except for the addition of up to 100 ppm of sulfites, does not contain any additives; this certification standard functions as an indirect ingredients statement.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

VIDEO - Soil: It's a Happening Thing

Soil - it's not just dirt and it's not just inert below ground. Recently Dutch researchers captured the action of three worm species over a month to show just how alive the soil system is with observable worm activity. (Much more goes on at tinier levels, too).

Enjoy this rarely seen view of what happens underground...

Bioturbation - Worms at Work from Wim van Egmond on Vimeo.

Organic Vines Inside: Five of VWM's 20 Most Admired Winemakers Have Organic Estates

Vineyard and Winery Management's latest issue of the 20 Most Admired Winemakers is a prestigious list indeed, featuring a real who's who of U.S. winemaking.

Is it worth remarking upon that 25% of the winners have organic estate vineyards?

Those winners include two of the state's grand, old men - pre-eminent winemakers Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards and Josh Jensen of Calera - who pioneered terrain that was not yet proven when they began. Now those spots - Monte Bello in Cupertino, Ridge's heritage vines in Sonoma County and Calera's lonely, limestone laden outpost in Mount Harlan in San Benito County -  are hallowed ground.

John Williams of Frog's Leap has taken the path less traveled as well, farming organically since 1981 and making dry farmed wines that truly do express terroir, growing on vines that are more deeply rooted.

These three all have certified organic estate vines - 83 acres at Calera, 277 acres at Ridge, and 200 acres at Frog's Leap.

Two more farm organically but are not certified - Cathy Corison of Corison Winery (on the 8 acre Kronos vineyard surrounding her winery) and Ted Lemon of Littorai (on his 3 acre Pivot vineyard surrounding his winery).

(One could even say Joel Peterson of Ravenswood has organic vines, too, but since those 14 acres only amounts 650 cases of wine [out of 1 million], we will resist.)

And on the list of six honorable mentions, one more - Paul Dolan - has been a pioneer of the Fetzer and Bonterra brand, the largest U.S. producer of organically grown wines as well as his own brand, Paul Dolan Vineyards (which now continues under new ownership).

Bravo for Team Organic.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Montinore's Borealis Featured on Rachael Ray's Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations

Congratulations to Montinore Estate for being included in Food Network television cooking star Rachael Ray's list of recommended holiday wine pairings in her magazine Everyday with Rachael Ray. 

Borealis (4,500+ cases/$16 list) is a wonderfull, one of a kind blend of Biodynamically grown Alsatian whites from Oregon's Willamette Valley. The wine's made from Gewürztraminer (39%), Muller-Thurgau (37%), Riesling (19%) and Pinot Gris (5%).

Now the winery is offering discounts of 20% on purchases of 6+ bottles through Nov. 11.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Napa, Myth and Nature: A New Napa Cuisine by Meadowood's Christopher Kostow

Christopher Kostow's new book A New Napa Cuisine is going to be a big hit - and deservedly so. It's gorgeous, giving nature a glamorous, Zen-like look both on and off the plate.

It marries the philosophy-trained, three star Michelin chef's "back to the land" aesthetic with award-winning haute cuisine and soulful photographs - all introduced by a line from nature's American poet laureate Ralph Waldo Emerson. It's designed to, like wine, promote an appreciation of the good life as that which comes from healthy, vibrant, fertile ground, be it domestic (in the St. Helena Montessori school garden Kostow frequents with his daughter and his dog Charlie) or wild (foraged herbs and mushrooms from the woods).

(Let's remember that it was the local 1968 Agricultural Preserve, which many vintners opposed, and the Sierra Club's lawsuit in 2000 against the county and the vintners that saved these woods from destruction. James Conaway chronicled both of these worthy battles in his two superb nonfiction books Napa: An American Eden and its sequel The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land and the Battle for Napa Valley.)

Bees play a role - Kostow cooks potatoes in beeswax and carves tiny slivers of honey (presumably sourced from Napa) to accompany dishes. The video's images evocatively hark back to a time of natural purity. (Sad it is to find then that in 2012, Napa's vintners and growers applied 1,219 pounds of imidacloprid, the bee killing fungicide banned in Europe, over 4,358 acres - a tenth of the county's vineyards).

But back to the beauty…the photographs in A New Napa Cuisine are shot by Peden+Munk, who Kostow partnered with on the publication, taken as he was with their style. Indeed, the food photos look more like art than food. This is tweezer cuisine. (This is not a holiday present for a hearty eater or a quick cook - better to buy Mark Bittman's newest cookbook How to Cook Everything Fast for hungry and in-a-hurry-types).

When it comes to the wine, does Kostow's nature aesthetic carry through on the wine list at The Restaurant at Meadowood? It's not usually a chef's prerogative to oversee this hallowed ground, particularly in wine country, but one can always see if the wine program is in sync with the chef's aesthetic.

For those who are looking for organically grown wines, a few from certified vines do appear on the Meadowood wine list (though you would have to be an expert to spot them).

For those who would like to enjoy Kostow's cooking aesthetic paired with wines that echo these values, here are some beautifully farmed wines, on the restaurant's published wine list, to consider:

• Araujo: Cabernet, Syrah and Viognier
Dana: Cabernets
• Domaine Carneros: Brut, Le Reve (Blanc de Blancs)
Niebaum Coppola: Rubicon
• Neyers: Merlot (Conn Creek)
Pavi: Pinot Grigio
• Robert Sinskey Vineyards: Pinot Blanc, Rosé (Vin Gris)
• Radio Coteau: Terra Nuema Pinot Noir
Spottswoode: Cabernet (library selections)

There's always a leading edge and a trailing edge. Let's hope A New Napa Cuisine, in its real and symbolic effort to replace formal white plates with hand thrown pottery plates, might one day contribute to a new aesthetic about wine and the way it's farmed - i.e. a soil and earth centered approach that doesn't say "let's reach for the Roundup."

Kostow acknowledges, near the end of the book, the history of Napa's environmental trials and tribulations, writing, "Although I have not been here that long and am thus blessed by the ignorance that fact brings, I have read about the battles of the 1980s and 1990s pitting development against ecological preservation [editor's note: the Ag Preserve battle was in 1968], vintners against the farm bureau, and old farmers against an influx of Silicon Valley wealth. Although I have my opinions about these issues, and the embers of these battles are still warm, these things are no more than the landscape that I have found - much like the collective history of a country and a world created the place into which we were all born.

"Is this not the secret to America's success, a collective amnesia that allows us to build on what we find without the shackles that the past creates? Maybe this is the reason that regeneration happens here…"

It's a pleasure to find such a thoughtful and intelligent voice in Napa Valley - someone who's intimately tuning into its present and reimagining its future anew.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kudos to Sonoma Harvest Fair Winners - Hawley's Meritage and Muscardini's Cassata Cabernet

Two organically grown wines won big at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair's Professional Wine Contest. Winners were announced Oct. 3 and both Hawley and Cassata took home medals.

1. Best of Class - Hawley's 2010 Meritage ($52)
Hawley's first Meritage release - the 2010 - has been on quite the winning streak. This blend - 48% Merlot and 48% Cabernet Sauvigon with 4% of Cabernet Franc - has won several major awards at both the state and county levels. Not bad for a wine's inaugural release.

Paul Hawley with California State Fair awards for Hawley 
First it took home an award at the California State Fair as the Best Red Wine from Sonoma County and the state's best Bordeaux Blend.

Then in October, it was Best of Class at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

It's aged 2 years in French oak. 500 cases made and some are apparently still for sale on Hawley's web site.

The wine is bottle labeled "Made with Organic Grapes" (which means both the vineyard and the winery are certified organic).

Aromas: dark berry and plums on the nose with notes of flint and clove.

John Hawley (with his falcon) in the family's Dry Creek vineyard
2. Best of Class - Muscardini Cellars' 2012 Cassata Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

The 23 acre Cassata Vineyard in Glen Ellen in Sonoma Valley is the source for the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that fueled Muscardini Cellars' Best of Class win in the Cabernets $35-45 class. The vineyard is certified both organic and Biodynamic.

The Cassata family also makes olive oil, which it sells on its own Cassata-Sonoma web site, along with its newly released 2008 Utopium Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

IN PHOTOS: New Kid on the (Cabernet) Block: Sonoma County's Viluko Vineyards Debuts Its First Releases

Sonoma's got a new winery with organic vines. On October 4, Viluko Vineyards welcomed visitors to its first open house and to celebrate the release of its new 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (800 cases/$50) and 2013 Sauvignon Blanc(144 cases/$22).

Viluko also announced the debut of its second label - Split Rock - and its inaugural release - the 2010 Split Rock Cabernet (86 cases/$30). 

Proprietors Pedro Arroyo, a Chilean born real estate investor, and his wife Karen Arroyo, purchased the 500 acre property along Mark West Creek (in the Mayacamas Mountains east of Santa Rosa) as a getaway, but were later inspired to become vintners, hiring Tim Milos as their winemaker.

The Latin American influence was felt in the gourmet Peruvian food catered by Sazon, which displayed incredibly sophisticated flavors and cooking. They paired well with the Viluko wines, which are food friendly and would pair well with a wide variety of cuisines.

Visit the winery's web site for details on tasting and ordering the wines.

The estate vineyards - 38 acres in vines - were certified in 2005
The 2011 Cabernet (800 cases/$50)
Mark West Creek runs through the property
(but is not used for any on site use)
The rustic barn made a picturesque setting for the open house
Split Rock is Viluko's second label; it makes one Cabernet ($30)
Interior of the barn
Delicious Peruvian cuisine from Saron

The wine lineup - from left to right - Split Rock Cabernet, Viluko
Sauvignon Blanc and Viluko Cabernet Sauvignon

Portland Magazine's Top 50 Oregon Wines - 2014: Small (Lot) is Beautiful?

Five organically grown wines made Portland Monthly Magazine's annual ranking of Oregon's Top 50 Wines this year including a surprising choice in the top organic spot. The tiny Croft Vineyards Pinot Noir, only 180 cases made, took 4th place overall with a 98.5 point score.

This microwinery produced only 300 cases of wine last year. (This year it's ramping up to a whopping 500 cases). Located in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA in Polk County, west of I-5, Croft Vineyards grows grapes, mostly sold to other vintners. (King Estate and Spindrift Cellars each make award-winning single vineyard Pinots from Croft). Croft has two vineyard properties with 50+ acres in vine.

Next year's vintage is already hitting the shelves - and production has doubled - to 350 cases. The price remains the same - just $35.

“I know Croft for its great sauvignon blanc, but I think we were all floored when this wine was unveiled. It displayed those classic cool vintage Oregon characteristics, making it immediately charming but with potential to improve over the next five years." said judge Michael Garofola (general manager at Accanto in Portland), quoted in Portland Monthly.

Riesling and Pinot Noir producer Brooks Wines had two winning wines in the top 50, including its 2011 Temperance Hill Pinot Noir ($48) which got 97.5 points. Temperance Hill, perhaps Oregon's greatest Pinot Noir vineyard, regularly produces top wines, as does Brooks.

Ribbon Ridge Pinot producer Brick House almost always has a wine in the top 50 and this year was no exception. It's 2012 Cuvée du Tonnelier ($45), comprised of grapes from its oldest Pommard vines, took 21st place with a score of 97.3 points. Quoted in the magazine, judge and wine director Joel Gunderson said, “It’s pretty simple—you should drink Doug Tunnell’s wine as often as you have the opportunity. I think of his wines as being soft-spoken but incredibly opinionated (and I often agree with his opinion).”

A second wine grown by Croft Vineyards, Andrew Rich's 2013 Croft Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (390 cases made, $22/available for pre-order now), scored 96.74 with the judges, putting it #36 on the list.

Rounding out the organic winners was King Estate's 2012 Domaine Oregon Pinot Gris (921 cases made, $28), now sold out at the winery but available from at least one online merchant. King Estate has the largest contiguous organic vineyard in the country - with 470 acres in vine - but it makes only three wines solely from certified grapes. (One of the others is a single vineyard designate from Croft). The Domaine Oregon Pinot Gris is one.

The total cases made of all five of these wines combined is less than 2,000. Three of the wines were micro productions - 200 cases or less. Is this proof that small is beautiful? 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Celebrate Food Sovereignty Day: Miguel Altieri (Video)

After attending a panel on agroecology hosted at Berkeley's Brower Center recently, I've started auditing the agroecology class at U.C. Berkeley to learn more from some of the experts in the field. And so it's only appropriate to mention that today IS Food Sovereignty Day - and to celebrate the role vineyards are starting to play - albeit on a minuscule scale to date - in embracing agricultural biodiversity. Just like in olden times, when farms grew not just wine grapes, and olive trees, but, as small farms, many diverse crops.

If we believe that wine is food - a concept traditionally embraced in Europe - we can think more about how wine production fits into the broader food production system using the agroecology lens. This lens emphasizes biodiversity, small scale farming, polyculture and a systems approach to managing a farm, maximizing on farm inputs and minimizing the use of fossil fuel based fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides common in California's 500,000 acres of vineyards (where 98 percent use them).

Grains grown between vineyard rows in Mendocino at Frey Vineyards
A number of wineries with organic vineyards have been evolving approaches that increasingly embrace biodiversity. In fact, a delegation of Chilean students and experts recently visited a number of these U.S. wineries in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. (More on that story in a future post).

Miguel Altieri, a world famous agroecology leader, heads the agroecology dept. at Berkeley. He's also served as a leader on food policy programs to the United Nations and has been an expert consulting on food policy for the Vatican as well as Prince Charles.

Here's a brief (4 min.) 2012 video interview in which Altieri explains the problems - how industrial ag has failed to feed all of us - and how agroecology provides solutions.

Read more about his work online at agroeco.org or this interview and find more videos here.

Farms that are also wineries including Preston Farm & Winery and Front Porch Farms, both in Healdsburg. Quivira also farms a limited number of crops and showcases endangered food varieties (which Slow Foods have deemed threatened) in its Ark of Taste garden,

In Mendocino, Nelson Family Vineyards and Frey Vineyards are involved in the Mendocino Grain Project, interplanting rows of grain - for local consumption - between vine rows.

Harvesting grains at Frey 
Look for more on this topic in future posts, and, in the meantime, enjoy this Altieri video.

Monday, October 13, 2014

8 Great Sonoma Vintners with Organic Vines Open Their Doors - Nov. 1

Are you the type of person who finds it off-putting to make an appointment to visit a winery? The Sonoma Nov. 1 tour program is a great way to visit some of the wineries that are not open on a walk-in basis.

This year's tour options include the following wineries with organically grown wines:

• Richard Arrowood's Amapola Creek

A standout winery below the famed Monte Rosso vineyard, in the newly designated Moon Mountain District AVA, it's run by Richard Arrowood, who put Sonoma Cabs on the map before selling his Arrowood Vineyards (now owned by KJ) and setting up shop at higher elevation. He's been a proponent for organic grape growing, converted by his vineyard manager Phil Coturri.

You'll see the estate and try the wines, many of which come from his certified organic estate vineyards.

Look for: Cabernet

• Canihan

A Sonoma Coast producer, located near the Carneros, this Pinot Noir producer craft artisanal wines, all from its certified organic estate. Known for Pinot, it also produces a praiseworthy Syrah and Rosé.

Look for: Pinot Noir

• Dane Cellars

Tiny artisanal producer, whose winemaker - Bart Hansen - works for his day job at Lasseter Family Winery in Sonoma Valley. He makes one wine from Lasseter's certified Justi Creek vines under the Dane Cellars label.

Look for: Justi Creek Syrah

• Kamen Estate

A shining gem that's the creative collaboration of owner Robert Kamen (screenwriter par excellence) and vineyard manager Phil Coturri (organic and Biodynamic grape whisperer) who have made the fruit from these cobbled soils sing. Spectacular vineyard views from the estate.

Look for: Cabernet, Syrah and more

Laurel Glen

A fabled Sonoma Cabernet producer getting its mojo back now that it's under new management. The vineyards are now in transition to organic certification. Sample the Bordeaux wares.

Look for: Cabernet Sauvignon

• Stone Edge

A new Moon Mountain label that brings Mayacamas Mountain fruit to life, it's also under vineyardist Phil Coturri's grape growing tent. Its best wine got a whopping 94 pt. score from Parker and sells for $80 (a fraction of what Napa's Parker point equivalents cost).

Look for: Cabernet Sauvignon

• Winery Sixteen 600

Tiny micro-brand from the Coturri family's own small vineyard, producing high alcohol wines from Moon Mountain vines.

Look for: everything on offer


$110; available online now. Previous years have sold out. Click here for more info.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

IN PHOTOS Celebrating at Adamvs - New Wine Release, New Tasting Room

Last Sunday (Sept. 21) proved to be a beautiful day to celebrate both the weather and Adamvs' inaugural 2010 wine releases at the winery's new tasting pavilion. The Howell Mountain winery, a relatively new kid on the block, opened the doors, ceiling and wine bottles in honor of the new tasting room and hospitality center.

Adamvs, Latin for "of this red earth" is a play on both the red, Howell Mountain soils on which the vineyards sit and the name of its owners, philanthropists Denise and Stephen Adams, who already know something about great wines, owning two Bordeaux chateau in France.

The couple bought what was formerly White Cottage Ranch in 2008 and are doing everything right to make this Howell Mountain's Next Great Estate:

• The site: great Napa mountain terroir 

The 28 acre vineyard have glorious views and sunny exposures above the fog line. Neighbors include DANA and Dunn Vineyards.

• The farming: organic and Biodynamic certification

• The management: significant Biodynamic knowledge (along with elite winery experience)

Heather Conlin was formerly with another elite Napa label; previously she was the general manager at Bonny Doon Vineyards during its Biodynamic go go years.

• The winemaking: superstar consulting winemaker and rising star winemaker

Philippe Melka (DANA, Entre Nous, Skipstone and others) is the consulting winemaker; Jason Valenti is the winemaker.

To this list, as of Sunday's fete, one can add The tasting room. Designed by architects Kurt Melander and Peter Benoit, it is as original and creative a pavilion as one could imagine and true to the Adamses notion of a place inspired by nature.

Constructed out of walls made of log pieces (from the site itself), artfully held together with log fitting metal work, the building's shape and flow through design enable guests to effortlessly shift in and out of enclosure and expanse. A small courtyard is nestled between the pavilion and a separate cube shaped structure which serves as both kitchen and wine library.

Enjoy these photos of the day; click on the photos to see them display in a larger size
Adamvs Winery sits atop a hill on the property, above the tasting room
Winemaker Jason Valenti gives a tour of the winery
Amid the fermentation tanks with the crush pad in the background
The pavilion and cube with courtyard in the middle
The tasting room pavilion
Interior of the pavilion
The logs coupled with the open air ceiling provide see-through airiness.
(A cover slides over the open ceiling when shelter is needed.)
The view above
Exterior wall and ceiling
Inside the nearby cube: the wine library
The pavilion provides a great space for intimate entertaining
Celebrating with classical music
Delectable treats included pastry wrapped duck nibbles
The guest book

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ridge Vineyards - A 50 Year Perspective on the 2014 Harvest

Paul Draper on the 2014 harvest…early, early, early - in fact, Draper says, it's the earliest it's been in 50 years.


Congrats to the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries - 5% Have Organic Vineyards

Of the 100 wineries chosen as Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries of the Year, announced on Monday, five percent have organic estate vineyards - and not just a few vines, but sizable estates.

And in case you didn't know, only about 2.5% of California vineyards are certified organic; the fact that the top 100 features twice as many organic growers as there are in the state should say something…quietly…

Here are the winning wineries, in the international competition, for 2014:

Frog's Leap - 130 estate acres and 70 additional acres; estate vines first certified in 1989
Storybook Mountain Vineyards - 42 acres; estate vines certified in 2008

Ridge Vineyards - 277 acres total (including its Monte Bello and Sonoma estates); estate vines first certified in 2011 (and continuing to transition today)

Qupé - 40 acres; certified in 2009

King Estate - 470 acres; certified in 2012

In addition, two of the featured wineries buy organic grapes (Bergstrom and Big Table Farm) while another Concha y Toro includes the organic wine giant Bonterra in its extensive portfolio.

All of these wineries and their wines from certified organic or Biodynamic vines will be featured in Our Next Big Project (stay tuned for news of this development - sign up for our email newsletter - on the top right of this page).

Harvest at Casa Barranca Winery: A Family Affair

Monday, September 22, 2014

Honey, There's A Bear in My Vines

While most vintners worry about troublesome pests - birds, rodents and more - there are few who have to guard against grape loving bears. Storybook Mountain Vineyards posted these before and after photos on their Facebook page of what harvest ready grapes look like before and after a visit from a local bear. Alas, the Seps (Storybook's owners) lost 3 tons to this hungry critter this year.

Harvest Beauty Shots, Continued: Organically Grown Orange Muscat

With less than 100 acres of orange muscat grown in California, who knew there was an organically grown one? The one and only is grown in Mendocino's Sanel Valley, near Hopland by Nelson Family Vineyards, on its 17 acres of certified organic vines.

Here it is being harvested a week ago. Look for the wine here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Old Vine White - Compagni Portis - Arrives at Carlisle Winery

Carlisle Winery doesn't source organic fruit overall, but there are a few, coveted old vine vineyards it buys grapes from that are certified organic - and the renowned Compagni Portis - a rare, heritage, white field blend - is one of them.

Here's the fruit arriving at Carlisle's winery. It was bigger harvest than usual - hurray!