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The wines of earth friendly wineries

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Down to Earth Month has officially come to a close but those in the California wine industry will continue to forge the way in making an environmental impact on green practices. A large percentage of the Wine Institute’s membership is utilizing some form of sustainability whether it is a winery or a grape grower. The movement continues to expand as more discover the benefits of these eco-friendly principles.

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Proving that sustainability is a way of life in the wine industry, the Sonoma County Winegrowers and the Sonoma County Vintners have put forth an initiative to become the nation’s first 100% sustainable region. The goal is for this three-phased program to be completed in five years.

Through the past month I have visited and written about several wineries who were sustainable, organic, biodynamic or fish friendly. Those wineries were, Ampelos Cellars, Buttonwood Farm & Winery, Lava Cap Winery, Narrow Gate Vineyards, Ponte Family Estate and South Coast Winery Resort & Spa.

Of late I have sampled the wines of many wineries that are both Wine Institute members and incorporate earth friendly practices into their winemaking. Here is a list of those wineries I have reviewed over the last year that in some form or another practice sustainability.

J Vineyards & Winery was one of the first wineries to incorporate sustainability into their winery. From the their onset in 1986, this winery has been at the forefront of being eco-friendly. They are Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing and are one of the fifteen wineries represented in the Wine Institute’s book Down to Earth: A Seasonal Tour of Sustainable Winegrowing in California.

Melissa Stackhouse, winemaker for J Vineyards & Winery says, “At J we consistently strive to reduce our carbon footprint by adopting cutting-edge sustainable practices. Although our sustainable process started in the vineyards, it has grown to include the J Visitor Center, Production and Business Offices. The action of becoming sustainable has essentially put us on the path to become better and better in our endeavor to exist as quality winegrowers in a much larger ecosystem.”

I have tasted many of the wines of J Vineyards and it is quite evident that these practices come through. Most recently I sampled their 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay. This is a wonderful balance Chardonnay in both acidity and minerality that notes grapefruit and pear.

Riverbench Vineyard and Winery has consistently produced some very elegant wines especially their Pinot Noirs. They are Sip certified, which means sustainable in practice. General Manager, Laura Booras says, “We chose the SIP program because it takes into account lots of important things, such as resource conservation, pesticide and herbicide use, and so much more. But the part that really attracted us was the people aspect, because the SIP program takes into account how you treat your people and community. As a small, family owned business that was super important to us. We want to make sure we’re doing the best things we can for our environment and the animals AND people in it.”

Goldeneye Winery is also known for their outstanding Pinot Noirs, reflecting the terrior of the Mendocino Coast. This winery is Certified California Sustainable Winergrowing.

Hawk and Horse Vineyard, a winery that is Demeter Certified Biodynamic makes extraordinary wines including the 2009 Block Three Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine has 5% Petit Verdot that softens the flavors. The wine is full of blackberries, cream and cocoa. The texture is rich and smooth. The 2009 Latigo, a late harvest Cabernet Sauvignon is a real gem when it comes to dessert wines. It is a wine you cannot put down.

Grgich Hills Cellar is dedicated to natural and sustainable winegrowing. It is quite evident in both their Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. I was especially taken with their 2009 cool climate Merlot that tasted more like a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hahn Family Wines is Sip Certified and very committed to these principles throughout the winegrowing and winemaking process. I am especially fond of their Pinot Noirs under their Lucienne label.

These are just a smidgeon of the wineries that caught my eye during tasting events. There are many others that are green in their practices and I hope to discover more before next year’s Down To Earth Month.

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