Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Qupé Mother's Day Sale: 10-20% Off

Let the Mother's Day sales begin.

The latest one to reach my email inbox is the Qupé offer - which is a fitting homage to proprietor Bob Lindquist's mother Sonnie.

From the Sawyer Lindquist vineyard, one of California's finest Biodynamic vineyards, two wines are on sale (and both are highly recommended):

1. Viognier (2012)

Normally this lovely white wine is $35 a bottle - on the pricey side. The 20% off sale brings it down to $28. 

2. Sonnie's Syrah (2010) 

Normally it's $55; now it's on sale for 10% off, which gets you a bottle for $49.50. This is the best Syrah Bob Lindquist makes and is chosen from select barrels only. It's a bit of a splurge - but isn't mom worth it? The wine is named in honor of Lindquist's mother Sonnie.

Congratulations, Cairo!

What's the latest Napa vineyard to be certified organic? Gamble Family Vineyards' Cairo vineyard in Oakville.

The winery already has a 12 acre, meticulously farmed Yountville vineyard, bordered by Conn Creek and the Napa River, where it grows Sauvignon Blanc, making it into some of the best SB that Napa has to offer.  (Anthony Dias Blue, of The Tasting Panel calls it, "exquisitely nuanced" while Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle calls it, "a snapshot of the quintessential Napa approach right now - fermented with indigenous yeasts…with aromas of stone, lemon peel and waxy pear.")

Now its 2 acre Cairo vineyard - where it makes its flagship $125 Cairo Cabernet Sauvignon - is also certified, as of last week. Vintages from 2011 (the current release) through 2014 are from certified in transition vines, and vintages from 2014 onward are from certified grapes.

Enjoy these photos - perhaps someday with a glass of the Cairo Cab in hand.

Tome Gamble and his dog Cairo looking back on the Oakville vineyard
and winery. The vineyard is named for Cairo.

Gamble is also celebrating construction of its new winery in Oakville next to the historic Lincoln Ranch.

Of course, Cairo had a hand - or, er, a paw - in it.

Cairo overseeing delivery of the new winery's catwalk.

And while you can find out more about the guys behind Gamble on their web site, Cairo has not been left out. See here.

POSTSCRIPT: March 2015
The Gamble Vineyard is no longer certified organic by CCOF.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Pretty Good Guide to Green Wine Categories (Infographic)

This info graphic comes from…and it's helpful in trying to understand the different categories of "green" wines.

  what are green wines infographic

I'd add a few notes:

1. "Biodynamic® Wine" (a certified wine category) are the only certification that guarantees NO additives other than sulfites. There is no "natural wine" standard or certifier.

Most "natural" wines made in the U.S. are not from certified organic vineyards. (There are a few exceptions - AmByth wines, Cooper Mountain's LIFE Pinot Noir, and Preston's new organic Syrah - all of which have no added sulfites.)

Frey Wines' Biodynamic Wines are also made according to "natural" wine tenets - i.e. no added sulfites, native yeasts, etc. - but the natural wine movement has shied away from embracing them because they are not as artisanal as other "natural" wines.

2. Organic Wine and the USDA

We do not have only one wine standard in organics. We have three organic wine standards - Organic Wine (no added sulfites), Made with Organically Grown Grapes (up to 100 ppm of sulfites), and Ingredients: Organic Grapes (0-350 ppm of sulfites - like all other wines).

But the main issue with organics is not sulfites - the main issue IS pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.

3. Many organically grown wines are in fact NOT LABELED. In fact, most organically grown wines (from certified vineyards) from top producers in our best wine regions are not bottle labeled with certification.

4. Contrary to what you might think, brand stories about organics may be misleading as much as the LACK of a brand story about organic grapes. If you get my drift.

You have to look, wine by wine, at what producers actually make from organic vines. Some tell a big story but only make a few wines. Some tell no story and make 100% organically grown wines. (That's why you need to get my apps!) But now you CAN find them.

5. The info graphic should be completely changed, in my view, into two pictures - one about organics and one about "sustainability." One is about not using poison and one is about economizing and trying to be a good citizen (while using poison).

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Easter Bunny? As Seen in Napa (Video)

So sorry I didn't get this video posted in time for Easter, but if you take the long view, it's still technically "Easter Week."

Enjoy this video of Bunny Foo-Foo, the new sculpture gracing Highway 29, at HALL Wines in St. Helena. The video's not the ultimate in moviemaking, but the theme (bunnies, okay) is right on the mark.

HALL makes four organically grown, single vineyard wines from its 278 acres of certified organic vines. (It blends many of the grapes.) Two are from Sonoma and another two are from Napa.

One of the two Napa single vineyard wines - Exzellenz - was recently rated 100 pts. by Robert Parker.

The title is a reference to vintner Kathryn Walt Hall's days as the U.S. Ambassador to Austria (1997-2002). The grapes come from the Sacrashe vineyard and is available to wine club members only.

For more on Bunny Foo-Foo, click here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Celebrating Earth Day: Check Out Our Newly Released Biodynamic Wine Apps

Here they are - three, count-em, three - new apps on Biodynamically Grown Wines.

Now you CAN - find the more than 300 wines made from certified Biodynamic vineyards. And yes, the apps are available for both Apple iPhone users, Android users, and all tablets.


All three apps include:

• Introductory articles covering Biodynamic farming, pesticides, growers' and scientists' research, the history of Biodynamically grown wines in the US, and much more
• Detailed wine information including cases made, price, and vineyard and winemaking details


The two wine finder apps include:

• Wine listings (150+ in each app)
• Sorting filters to help find wines: critics' picks, where the wine comes from (appellations) and more. There are about 25 different ways combined with 3 additional filters - that gives you hundreds of filtering combinations.


In addition, there's a tasting and touring guide that includes:

• 50 wineries to visit from Lompoc (in Santa Barbara County in California) to Seattle (in Washington)  and everything in between
• Winery clusters are located in Napa and Sonoma in northern California and the Willamette Valley outside Portland, Oregon
• Trip planning features - find wineries with bocce ball, owner tours, gardens, food, and more
• Eat/sleep overviews - find suggested farm to fork restaurants and interesting accommodations, including farms and B&Bs
• State of the Art Phone Mapping - GPS to lead you to each and every location (and will even order a cab for you)
• Facebook, Twitter and video links to connect you to winery social media streams


The apps cost $9.99 each and come in these flavors:


• Apple App Store Link
• Google Play Link

The original, the first, the only guide to Demeter certified wines grown in the USA. Get the app and see what you can find in your local wine shop or grocery aisle!

This baby has 160+ wines made according to Demeter winemaking standards - this means you know what's in the bottle and a bit about how it was made. It also means you'll find the Demeter logo or Biodynamic language on the bottle.

To make it snappy, there are two kinds of Demeter certified wines - one lets winemakers do a few things in the cellar (use organic yeast, for instance) but not very many things (unlike conventional wine with up to 200 additives).  This standard is called Made with Biodynamic® Grapes.

The other standard - a gold standard, really - is Biodynamic® Wine. This means no additions (other than a low amount of sulfite). I repeat - no additions.

Carcinogens used in California from
growing wine grapes (State Data)
Both standards allow no more than 100 ppm of sulfites (a low amount). Sulfite has been used to prevent wine spoilage for millennia.

 And, of course, the real chemicals we need to talk about are not sulfites but pesticides.

None of the following are used in Biodynamic (or organic) vineyards: imidacloprid (the suspected bee killer, used in the vast majority of American vineyards and agriculture), no Mancozeb (linked in many scientific studies to Parkinson's disease, and more), no Roundup, no other dastardly stuff.

Wines in this app: 161

Wineries in this app: 31

Wines rated 90+ pts.: 65 (more than 40% of the wines)

Wines that cost $25 or less: 41

There are wines you can find in most Whole Foods and Costco's (from a producer who make 70,000 cases a year) and wines that can't be found in any wine shop (40 microproduction wines). There are 90+ pt. rated wines under $25 and there is even one of Napa's finest and most expensive historic Cabernets ($175+).

Get the app and see what you can find in your local wine shop or grocery aisle…it's the wine finder game app, really.

I can find a few at my local grocer in Oakland including one of my affordable favorites - Verdad's Rosé.

(Of course if you can't find them on the shelf, contact the wineries to buy the "inobtainium" - i.e. wines left behind in our byzantine and overpriced wine distribution system.)


• Apple App Store Link
• Google Play Link

Not satisfied with merely finding certified wines? Move on to the next level of the game - finding the wines from certified vines (only).

What's the difference?

Many producers certify the vineyard - but not the wine - meaning they have more options in the cellar (no restrictions on yeast, sulfites from 0 to 350 ppm, etc.) but the vines are grown according to the same Demeter farming standards.

These wineries can talk about Biodynamic certified vineyards on their web sites but you won't find any Demeter logos or Biodynamic language on the wine labels. Call them the stealth wines.

This app lists all of these certified vine made wines - or at least that is how the vintners are representing these wines. A number of these wines come from estates with all Biodynamic vineyards. Many have not certified the wines because they've felt there hasn't been enough consumer interest in Biodynamic certification to make it worth their while. (Hopefully - with your help - that will change).

See how many of these you can find…(and if you can't, order directly from the winery).

Wines in this app: 157

Wineries in this app: 49

Wines rated 90+ pts.: 53 (a third of the wines)

Wines that cost $25 or less: 47

Of these wineries:

Wineries with estate vineyards (meaning they grow their own grapes): 29

Wineries purchasing Biodynamic grapes: 20

Most of these make single vineyard designate wines (meaning 95-100% of the grapes are from the designated vineyard).


• Apple App Store Link
• Google Play Link

Go to the source.

Now that you've learned about the wines, meet your vineyardists and winemakers on their home turf - the wineries. See where the wine comes from, sip and savor and perhaps buy wine or join a wine club. (After all, what's the difference between a wine club and a CSA - Community Supported Agriculture? None.)

Plus you'll find pretty much all of the wines for sale when you visit the winery. Take a tour with an owner or vineyard manager (aka farmer), relax in Biodynamic gardens, and stay awhile while you enjoy the fruits of everyone's labor - including soil organisms, microbes, yeasts, insects, birds, vines, growers and others. Yeah baby. Soak it up. What better way to celebrate Earth Day!


California: 31 
Colorado: 1
Oregon: 8
Washington: 3

P.S. Today we're working on our new web site to provide one spot to learn about all of these three apps. Pass this blog post along and sign up for news of our app home site launch at!

Worst. Green. Wine. Video. Ever.

Was Wine Spectator trying to get us excited about "green wines" with its Earth Day video about Bonterra? It feels more like going to church. A dark room with Bad Lighting. No B-roll. A lackluster, forced dialog.

Biodynamics is much more exciting than this. And so is Bonterra. What were they (i.e. Wine Spectator) thinking?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Best Film About Wine/China/Cabernet You Never Saw: Red Obsession

Somehow this film passed a lot of people by, but don't be among them. Red Obsession is (newly) one of my favorite wine films of all time.

You don't even have to know anything about wine or care about wine to enjoy it.

It's an inside look at the madness of the rage for Bordeaux wines and of the growing enthusiasm of Chinese wine aficionados for the wares of Aquitaine. A story of global proportions and classic syndromes. Visually stunning and completely compelling viewing. 

See the trailer here; you can buy it on iTunes ($12.99).


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Brooks Winery Breaking Ground on New Winery

Last September I had a chance to see Brooks Winery in Oregon's Eola Amity Hills, but I didn't get to tour the vineyards. Now we both can, thanks to the magic of YouTube. 

Hear winemaker and vineyard manager Chris Williams explain what's out there in the winery's vineyards, which you will sooooooon be able to tour. Brooks just started construction on a new winery and tasting room that will sit on the same site. See the second video for a look at Janie Brooks Heuck breaking ground on the winery's new 12,000 square foot building.

Winemaker Chris Williams on the vines...


Proprietor Janie Brooks Heuck breaks ground...

IN PHOTOS: Rhone Rangers Awards Robert Haas Lifetime Achievement Award

Celebrating Robert Haas' lifelong promotion of Rhone wines, the Rhone Rangers this weekend awarded him their annual Lifetime Achievement award. Enjoy hearing what his peers have to say about him this video below...and check out the lovely photos below from the award ceremony held Saturday night.

Haas started Tablas Creek, one of California's top Rhone producers.

The winery makes 18,00 cases of 20+ estate wines (many of them highly rated) from its 100 acres of certified organic vineyards.

Robert Haas with former winner Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard

Jason Haas and Robert Haas

Monday, April 7, 2014

IN PHOTOS: Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting: Up and Coming Brands (Part 2 of 2)

This post features younger brands with up and coming wines:

• Chacewater, located in Lake County with estate vines in both Lake County and the Sierra Foothills
• Campovida, located in Hopland, with some wines from organic Mendocino vineyards
• Martian Ranch and Vineyards, a Central Coast producer with 8 wines from its Biodynamic estate

Chacewater makes organically grown wines from its Sierra vineyards;
it also has vineyards (not organic) and raises olive trees in Lake County
Chacewater's Syrah ($20) and rosé of Syrah ($16)
Campovida, located in Hopland, sources 7 wines from
certified organic or Biodynamic vineyards
Campovida's Grenache comes from
the Dolan family's certified
Biodynamic Dark Horse Ranch 
A standout: Campovida's organically sourced Viognier 
Martian Ranch and Vineyards' general manager
Dawn Wilson and proprietor Nan Helgeland
celebrate their latest releases. The Santa Ynez
Valley winery's  20 acre vineyard was certified
Biodynamic in 2014. A number of their 9 wines
have been featured in the LA Times,
the SF Chronicle and the NY Times.

IN PHOTOS: Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting - Part 1 (of 2)

It was a beautiful day by the Bay Sunday as dozens of wineries and hundreds of tasters gathered for the annual Rhone Rangers grand tasting held in a new venue this year.

See this post and the following one for photos of the event. 

This post focuses on established brands with Rhone wines including Big Basin, Morgan, Quivira, Qupé, and Tablas Creek. See the second post for smaller, up and coming brands.


1. Quivira's new Biodynamically certified rosé - a lovely first release…I look forward to trying this out all summer long. 

2. Tablas Creek's En Gobelet - a Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend with 24% Tannat - my personal fave of the day.

3. Cassoulet from the Girl and the Fig catering - how perfect a pairing with Rhone wines.

[Not pictured: Bonny Doon which has two Biodynamically certified wines - both of its Le Cigare Blanc wines.]

Ferries hired specifically for the event brought attendees
from the city to the East Bay venue at Craneway Pavillion
Morgan's Double L estate vineyard, certified organic, is the source
for Morgan's Double L Syrah (the 2011 garnered 90 pts. from Parker).

Pictured below: Big Basin's Bradley Brown with his Old Corral Syrah
sourced from certified organic estate vineyards;
Antonio Galloni (Wine Advocate, Vinous) rated it 94 pts.

Quivira's Ned Horton, vineyard manager, and Andrew Fegelmen,
Director of Marketing, with Quivira's impressive Rhone lineup. A third
of Quivira's wines (12 different wines) are sourced from certified Biodynamic
vineyards, making it the second largest Biodynamic producer
in Sonoma County. New this year: an all BD-sourced rosé.
Instead of the usual grand tasting fare (cheese nibbles, etc.) attendees were
treated to cassoulet from the Girl and the Fig's catering program
 a perfect pairing with Rhone wines.
Central Coast producer Qupé's booth was the most popular booth at the
trade and media tasting, with its decade long reputation for top drawer
Syrahs and other Rhone wines. (That's winemaker Bob Lindquist in the
blue shirt on the right.) The winery sources 25% of its production from its
Demeter certified (Biodynamic) Sawyer Lindquist vineyard in Edna Valley.
Qupé's finest Syrah was recently voted California's best by a
New York Times tasting panel.
Tablas Creek was the other popular spot with a
continuous crowd sampling wines.
Well known for its "real" Rhone roots, it famously
imported vines from its parent company,
the Perrin Family in France's Rhone valley.
Founder Robert Haas was honored with a
Lifetime Achievement award for his role in
promoting U.S. grown Rhone wines.
Pictured above: winemaker and vineyard manager
 Neil Collins and Jason Haas, general manager.
My favorite wine of the day was their En Gobelet, a GSM
blend with the added excitement of 24%  Tannat.
(It could have been the cassoulet speaking,
as I tasted both together, but regardless, it
was the wine of the day for me.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

California's Best Rhones - Grand Tasting This Sunday in Richmond

Credit: Anagram Press
The annual love fest of Rhone producers and Rhone wine lovers takes place this weekend in the Bay Area's premiere waterfront location in the historic Craneway Pavilion in Richmond. (It's a breaktakingly beautiful spot.)

Credit: Anagram Press

In addition to the Grand Tasting on Sunday afternoon (3 pm for general public; 1 pm for weekend pass holders and trade), there are seminars Sunday morning (one on microproducers; another on grenache - $75).

Saturday evening there's a $150 winemaker dinner (benefits scholarships; currently sold out) at which Robert Haas, partner and co-founder of Tablas Creek, will be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to American grown Rhone wines. (He should also get an award for having 120 acres of certified organic vines - 100% of the Tablas Creek estate is organic.)

All inclusive weekend passes are sold out but there's still plenty of room for the Grand Tasting ($65).

There are lots of organic and Biodynamic producers attending this annual Rhone Rah Rah. Here's a list. (Producers who are 100% org/BD in brand are in bold.)

1. Morgan - Estate grown Syrah (Double L)
2. Big Basin (Estate Syrah)
3. Bonny Doon (its Le Cigare Blanc wines are certified Biodynamic)
4. Campovida (some wines sourced from organic or Biodynamic vines)
5. Martian Vineyards (Santa Barbara producer with certified Biodynamic vineyards; up and comer with affordable prices; 100% of wines in brand are from its BD estate vines)
6. Morgan (a few estate wines are organically sourced)
7. Quivira (7,000 cases - 1/3 of production - comes from three BD certified vineyards; 10 wines are certified BD wines)
8. Qupé (100% of estate wines are all Biodynamically grown and certified BD)
9. Tablas Creek (star producer when it comes to Rhones - all estate wines organically grown; the only exception is its Patelin wines which are sourced from estate grapes as well as grapes from neighboring vineyards)

Getting to the event itself can be easy and/or fun. Ferries are running from Pier 43 in the city directly to the venue, which is in the historic complex of World War II ship building monuments, including the NPS's Rosie the Riveter museum (next door to the Craneway). You might also want to check out the restaurant in the complex - Assemble. (Reservations would be a must this weekend; get one on Open Table). In addition to the ferries, the event producers will be running a shuttle bus to and from the nearest BART station.

Click here for all event details.

If you go, here are a few of my favorites (though I haven't tasted all of the wines from the producers listed above):

• Enjoyed (Tasted)

Qupé/Verdad's Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, Edna Valley 
***Qupé's Sawyer Lindquist Syrahs - and everything from this vineyard (indeed this is my favorite California Syrah to date - coincidentally it is New York Times' wine critic Eric Asimov's as well)...some of the other Qupé wines from Bien Nacido are in the certification pipeline...don't miss the rosé (of Grenache) from Qupé's sister label Verdad

***Tablas Creek - I'm not sure what they will be pouring (maybe not their version of a Chateauneuf de Pape), but pretty much everything is top flight..

• New to Me

Martian Vineyards - I haven't tried these (yet) but am looking forward to - you can buy these in the Mission at BiRite Market (one of the few California BD sourced wines available there)