Organic Wine

Shoreline Times - September 2006


Organic Wine

Producing wines using organic techniques is a trend that’s gaining ground. It’s a conscious trend toward healthy wine, that doesn’t mean removing the alcohol! In increasing numbers vineyards are more aware of sustainable farming husbandry using organic techniques. It means using no insecticides or herbicides in the vineyard, and reducing sulfites in the winemaking process. Though sulfites are a natural by-product of the fermentation process for many people this reduction is a gratifying trend. It takes a vineyard many years to be certified organic.

An extreme version of organic cultivation followed by some vineyards specially in Europe, including several esteemed Burgundy producers  is the organic regimen set forth by the famed Swiss philosopher Rudolph Steiner in the 1920’s. It’s called Bio-dynamics and it espouses a close relationship between the soil as a living organism, and its invisible relationship with the cosmos, using such devices as lunar and planet observations to determine favorable conditions in the vineyard and cellar.

American wineries to look for that are Organic, or Bio-dynamic include Frey Vineyards, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Frog’s Leap Winery, Benziger Sonoma Mountain Estate, Bonterra, Morgan and Lolonis.

Morgan Winery’s 65-acre Double L Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County is the only certified organic vineyard in the region. Instead of using chemical fertilizers owner Dan Lee uses concoctions such as a ‘compost tea, by steeping compost in a large bag in a vat of water. It’s an unappetizing technique I use for my roses in my garden! The resulting brew, rich in micro-nutrients is drip fed into the vineyard. Comparative wine tastings against vines not using the treatment show that the resulting wines had more detailed fruit expression, better structure, and better aroma.

Morgan 2003 Double L Pinot Noir – my favorite kind of Pinot Noir. Uses twelve different clones of Pinot this is Burgundian in style. Elegant and silky with ripe spicy black cherry flavors and a subtle minerality. - $39

Morgan 2004 Double L Chardonnay – Also Burgundian in style. Initially clean and austere, this gradually unfolds in the glass. Evolves from lemon-lime nose to subtle tropical fruit. Likewise the flavors develop from green apple to ripe pear and melon.  - $39

Lolonis Vineyards has been committed to organic farming since the 1950's. Cover crops are planted to aid keeping pests from the vines and help return nutrients to the soil. Ladybugs instead of chemicals are released every year into the vineyards to control pests too. The Ladybug is a symbol that’ become an intrical part of the Lolonis persona. Many of the wines are made by ace winemaker Jed Steele.

Lolonis Vineyards Red Cuvée V Ladybug Old Vines - a full bodied deeply colored blend of Zinfandel, Carignane, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Soft in texture this has plenty of rich blackberry fruit - $15

Lolonis Vineyards 2004 Zinfandel -  pure explosive Zin fruit. Easy going and exuberant dark fruits and soft tannins make this an ideal wine to accompany anything grilled. -  $20