Wine has a place on the agenda at the Organic Grower Summit (taking place Dec. 12-13) with Katrina Frey, of Frey Vineyards in Mendocino, and Phil LaRocca, CCOF Board Chair and head of LaRocca Vineyards in the Chico area, appearing on the new panel on organic beverages.
Bill Vyenielo, senior wine business consultant for Moss Adams LLP, will be the moderator.
According to the conference organizers, the Organic Trade Association says organic wine sales doubled from 2007 to 2016, when organic wines brought in $282 million in revenue.
Both panelists have wineries that make wine that is certified as USDA Organic Wine - i.e. made without added sulfites, which is the certification category that is less than 10 percent of off premise sales, according to Nielsen data. (Nielsen data does not include Costco sales or natural food stores' sales.)
Both producers make significant amounts of wine.
• Frey's production is 220,000 cases, from grapes sourced from its own 250 acres of vines and those of additional growers. Its wines are widely sold in natural foods stores and at Whole Foods. Frey Vineyards is the largest producer in the no added sulfite category.
• LaRocca's production is 25,000 cases harvested from the winery's 100 acres of vineyards.
Our Daily Red, sold only at Trader Joe's, is another large producer in this market, with wines at slightly lower price points. It sells about 100,000 cases annually.
Overall, more than 80 percent of organically grown wines counted by Nielsen come from "Made with Organic Grape" wines, which is a certification type that permits a limited number of sulfites. The leading brand in that category is Bonterra, with a 25% market share organically grown wines sold in the U.S. Bonterra produces 500,000 cases a year.
ORGANIC VINTNERS AFFECTED BY WILDFIRES
Coincidentally each of the two organic vintners featured on the conference panel has faced severe challenges from the recent spate of wildfires.
Last year's Redwood Complex Fire, which covered 36,000 acres in Mendocino County, burned Frey's winery, northeast of Ukiah in Redwood Valley. Luckily a new winery was already in the works, but the fires impacted business and the family. Only two of the family's ten homes still stands, and 18 employees lost homes. (Half of the employees are family members). Beba Frey, the 93 year old matriarch of the family, escaped. Frey expects to move into its new winery in 2019.
Today Phil LaRocca is facing peril from fire as the Camp Fire encroaches on his vineyards in Forest Ranch, The 142,000 acre fire is still burning. The town of Forest Ranch was under evacuation orders for six days until the order was lifted yesterday.
Education sessions at the conference also feature Pam Marrone of Marrone Bio, who has pioneered many organic products used in both sustainable and organic vineyards.
For more information about the two day conference in Monterey, click here.