Friday, September 28, 2018

Green Wine: Where Are We Now? My Newest Article in Beverage Media Is Now Available Online

My latest article on organic and Biodynamic wines is now live and online at Beverage Media. A lot of research went into this one. Thanks to all who spoke with me!

See it here.

Want to know more? Come to the Oct. 18 webinar I've organized (with Tim Widnes) for Women of the Vine & Spirits, featuring a number of the wineries mentioned in the article, as well as organic and Biodynamic pioneers Monty Waldin and Paul Dolan and the new retailer pilot program Jeff Cameron at Natural Grocers is rolling out.

This event is open to the public. Get details here.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Charlie Barra's 73rd Harvest - In Photos

Charlie Barra is one of the great, elder statesmen of organic grape growing and winemaking in Mendocino County. And here is he - at it again - enjoying the blessing of the grapes. It's his 73rd harvest!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Don't Miss This Article: Biodynamics Goes Big

Hats off to Betsy Andrews and the team at Seven Fifty Daily for this great article about many of the world's biggest Biodynamic vineyards.

The feature builds on the panel of experts who appeared at Demeter USA's International Biodynamic Wine Conference, for the breakout session Scaling Up: Implementing Biodynamic Viticulture on a Large Scale.

That panel featured wineries with more than 100 acres of Biodynamic vines including Eco Terreno in Sonoma, King Estate and Montinore Estate (both in the Willamette Valley) and Emiliana in Chile. The panel was moderated by Dave Koball, who established the 290 acre Biodynamic vineyard at Bonterra more than 20 years ago and now manages Eco Terreno's vines in Alexander Valley.

This latest article includes Gerard Bertrand, in southern France, which has 1,482 acres of Demeter certified vineyards (285 hectares already certified and 315 more are expected to be certified by 2020) - which will make it the largest in the world.

(The second largest is Cantina d'Orsogna, a cooperative in the Abruzzo in Italy with 864 acres, whose wines were poured at the conference Grand Tasting).

Emiliana has 674 acres of Biodynamic vines in Chile, making it the third largest in the world.

In the U.S. King Estate is the largest with 471 (although it only makes about 3,000 cases from these vines alone; the rest of its grapes are blended with conventional grapes purchased from other growers.

The southern Oregon winery was just awarded a Wine & Spirits Top 100 winery of the year and will be featured in the Wine and Spirits Top 100 tasting in October, pouring its Biodynamic wines.

Alois Lageder, another winery attending and pouring at the International Biodynamic Wine Conference is also featured in the article. The northern Italian producer has 135 acres of Biodynamic vines and is converting many of its growers to Biodynamic practices.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Wine & Spirits Top 100: The Organic Among Them

This year's Wine & Spirits Top 100 awards were announced. Of all the trade tastings throughout the year, this tasting is my favorite, as it really does have the best wines - and from a wide variety of regions, styles and producers.

This year, there were 35 U.S. wineries and of those, 9 make some or all of their wines from certified organic vines.


Big Basin Vineyards (organic estate)
Donkey & Goat (one BD grower)
Heitz Cellars (some of its estate is organic)
King Estate (some of its estate single vineyard wines are from BD vines)
Matthiason (its estate is now organic)
Radio Coteau (on the path to BD certification)
Raymond Vineyards (some of their Napa wines are from BD vines)
Roederer Estate (has some organic vines, but no single wine made from them)
Storybook Mountain (100% estate and 100% organic grapes


There are probably more from abroad, but these are the ones I know of that farm organically or biodynamically:

Felton Road (New Zealand)
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht (France/Alsace)
Domaine Sigalas (Greece/Santorini)
Gulfi (Italy)

Grab your ticket here.

DPR Webcast Next Week: Environmental Justice and Pesticide Safety

The Department of Pesticide Regulation is sponsoring a lunch and learn talk next Tuesday that will also be online for remote attendees to participate via an online stream.

Featured are:

• Nayamin Martinez, MPH, Director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network, who will talk about the IVAN online reporting system for pesticide-related incidents; bilingual farmworker advocacy and outreach; and communicating pesticide safety information at the local level.

• Martha Sanchez, DPR's Environmental Justice Liaison, who will discuss DPR's Environmental Justice Program; using pesticide illness data to focus outreach efforts; multilingual pesticide safety outreach (urban and rural communities); and working with county partners.

See the session agenda here.

Here's the webcast link.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sonoma Ecology and Biochar Experts Appear in Dirt Rich at Green Film Festival

David Morell of the Sonoma Ecology Center, Josiah Hunt of Pacific Biochar,
unnamed participant (sorry), and director Marcelina Cravat
Sonoma was well represented at the Green Film Festival in San Francisco on Sunday.

Eldridge resident David Morell from the Sonoma Ecology Center and Santa Rosa resident Josiah Hunt from Pacific Biochar spoke after the screening of Dirt Rich, which was executive produced by Petaluma resident Doug Gayeton and the Lexicon of Sustainability. Marcelina Cravat directed the film.

Paul Hawken praised the film as:
"Touching, instructive, endearing, astute, grounded, heartwarming and remarkable. Adjectives cannot describe how skillfully Dirt Rich portrays the emergent wisdom of the new breed of earth stewards, scientists, smallholders, agronomists and activists who brilliantly husband land (and animals) in order to midwife a regenerative civilization."
Sonoma has really taken a leadership role in advancing the use of biochar. Eco Terreno, an organic and biodynamic vineyard in Alexander Valley, was among the first wave of Sonoma wineries to explore using it and to make their own.


The California fires are featured in another film of interest to the wine community that screened yesterday. The spectacularly visual documentary The Human Element is a journey with legendary climate change photographer (his work is regularly in Nat Geo and NYT) James Balog.

Here's Balog on the film:


More info on the film is here.

The Green Film Festival continues this week with screenings at various locations.

Tonight the festival screens the two hour documentary Decoding the Weather Machine with PBS/Nova at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, next to the Coal and Ice multimedia exhibit at Fort Mason. You can watch the film online but the screening will feature the film's producers and climate scientists.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Oct. 20 - Head to Hopland, in Wine's Organic Heartland, to Fill Up Your Trunk

When I first got into organically grown wine, Hopland was a great awakening for me - here were wines I could afford to drink that were better (for $10-15) than what I could find in any supermarket or wine shop in Berkeley ($20 and up). (Sadly it continues to be that way.)

 The gateway to the Ukiah Valley in inland Mendo (and thus only a half hour north of Healdsburg), this little burg becomes a bustling hub twice a year as winemakers open their doors. Only this year it's different. They'll be opening their bottles all in one big central location, which is now called Harvest Days.

So no more driving from winery to can get your comparative tasting and try all the wines under one big tent.

And there's more to drink - choose from locally made cider and beer. So you can have all three. And local bites from produce, meat and cheesemakers. Plus a food truck.

Spend the night there too and plan to visit the wineries on Sunday, when you shop and save (they usually have weekend specials - good deals). There'll be live music both days.

Here's a list of the participating organic producers - almost all of the wines (Frey is the one exception) are "Made with Organic Grapes" from local growers. Alas, you won't find these wines at your local wine shop or at Whole Foods (mostly not) and only Bonterra at Safeway. So get thee to the countryside where the getting is good.


• Bonterra (all)*
They sell 25% of all the organically grown wine purchased in stores in the U.S. For a reason. Taste and price. (You can also find them at Costco for about $10, but Costco carries just the most popular varieties they make; you'll probably find a broader selection at the event.)

• Campovida (most wines)
Try the Filigreen Farm grown Pinot Gris (from coveted Biodynamic grapes - this is a very special grower in the Anderson Valley)...and the Dark Horse Primitivo.  

• Terra Savia (all)*
They are specialists in Chardonnay and sparkling wine. And also make fine, organic olive oils in their own mills in Hopland. (Put them on your to visit list).

• Yorkville Cellars (all)
Try all the Bordeaux varieties - they make bottlings of each and every one.

It's a whole different kind of wine country - where you can find wines are $20 and under! (* wineries with $20 and under wines).

And don't miss McFadden Vineyards and Blue Quail* in the downtown Hopland (about 1 block long). Best wine club to join if you're looking for a winner. You may be able to customize your shipment, too.

The event web site is here.

Tickets are $40 in advance or $50 at the door. Get tickets here.


If you're going to tour around on Sunday, you'll want to visit Testa, which has organically grown wine, but more exciting from a touring point of view - a picturesque old barn and gorgeous old vines. These are the real Italian immigrant planted vineyards. (Come back in November for the event where the nonas - the Italian grandmothers - cook. One of my favorite wine country experiences - the real down home stuff!)

Campovida is also a spot not to be missed - it's a luxurious and gorgeous farm, vineyard and retreat center...a dream place. Their winery makes small lots of wines - very boutique and artisanal wines. (They also have a great tasting room in Oakland in a brick warehouse district - hip, yes.)


It's a bit pricy, but VIchy Hot Springs is the best place if you're looking for more than just a hotel room. It has a nice pool and bubbly (though not hot) springs plus a jacuzzi (hot) - all in a sprawling, natural setting outside of Ukiah.


Two spots merit a stop for wine shopping. One is SIP Mendocino which specializes in a wide variety of wines from both the inland valley and the Pinot-centric Anderson Valley. The proprietress is a great resource and knows all the wines quite intimately. Finer wines can be found there.

For everyday wines, I love to visit the Ukiah Natural Foods Coop which has, hands down, the best collection and selection of high quality table wines from organic grapes. Mendocino is roughly 25% organic (in the vineyards) and many locals who grew for Bonterra began their own small labels which you can find here. Go wild. (You won't see this selection again when you go home.)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Prominent UK Supermarket Sales of Organic Wine Up 57% This Year

Don't miss this story from across the pond. One of Great Britain's largest supermarket chains reports sales of organic wine are booming.

Let's raise a glass of Bonterra to those hardworking organic growers in Mendocino County for fueling this green wave.

The wine buyer for Waitrose is quoted in the article as saying the selection consists of 54 wines from 18 different countries.

I'll be writing soon about a wine program here in America that features more than 500 organically grown wines on a supermarket's wine department shelves - stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Biodynamic Wine Lovers: Wave Goodbye to Montinore's Red Cap Pinot Noir - and Grab the Last of the 2015s

The most widely sold wine from Biodynamic vines in America - Red Cap Pinot Noir from Montinore Estate in Oregon's Willamette Valley - is changing its stripes.

Once a staple of Eric Asimov's lists of top 20 wines under $20, the lovely value Pinot is migrating from being a "Made from Biodynamic Grapes" wine to a wine made from a blend of both conventional and Biodynamic grapes. The winery will be increasing production - more than 100% - which necessitated a change in the composition of the wine.

All the other wines from Montinore Estate will remain 100% estate wines.

You can grab some last bottles of the purely Biodynamic vintage - the 2015 - from stores listed here on Wine-Searcher.