Some select the foods they eat solely on the basis of taste. Some are trying to affect their body’s health or shape. Others make food choices based purely on convenience. Children often don’t get to choose at all; they eat what they are given by the adults in their lives. The reasons for food selection are as numerous as the stars in the sky. One thing is certain: to those of us living in the United States, at least, it usually is a choice.
As I’ve researched and written about eco-conscious wines, including organic, sustainable, biodynamic and Fish Friendly Farming® (FFF) certified vintages, I’ve become increasingly aware that there is a lot of good wine out there—oh, blessed be, there is so much good wine! And with this abundance of exceptional fermented libation at my finger tips, especially here in California, I have had the opportunity to educate myself on more than just the nose and flavors in a bottle. I have learned as well about the growing practices, community outreach, ecological philosophies and energy-production sources inside the bottles I sip. And I have discovered a common-sense truth: the wine tastes better when it is eco-consciously produced.
There are numerous factors to consider in selecting a fine wine—including whether or not it was produced in an environmentally-friendly manner and if it has been certified as such. The national organic farming certification rewards growing practices. The international biodynamic farming certification focuses on growing practices as well as the laws of nature’s spirituality. The regional sustainable certification encourages improvements in many areas, touching on the above as well as energy resources, waste-reduction, working conditions and community responsibility. And the FFF certification offers another angle on sustainability, this time addressing land management of the farm as a whole. All of these factors influence my wine choices.
Of the many reasons to choose one food or wine over another, flavor is certainly at the top of the list. But when you discover that your favorite winery also operates on solar power, fertilizes through companion planting, bars chemical insecticides and fungicides, and constructs its roads to assure the health of native wildlife, a new level of satisfaction comes into play. My food and drink choices are not based only on (rightly so) selfish pursuits of flavor, accessibility and body image. My choices—and they are choices—encompass ecology, community, sustainability and ethics as well. It’s good to know that one does not exclude the others, but rather enhances them. Indeed, in my estimation the best wines on Earth are those that are eco-consciously produced!
I would be remiss in discussing certified wines if I did not mention a most integral certification found regionally in northern California: Fish Friendly Farming® (FFF). TheFFF certification offers another angle on sustainability, this time addressing land management of the farm as a whole. FFF is not so much concerned about the wine in the bottle, but the land the business is sitting on.
I grew up in a southern Michigan farm town with a grandfather who owns 130 acres of land. He’s planted mainly soy and corn, although in recent years he’s received government subsidies to not plant or been paid to replant native trees. My grandfather is a farmer, not a raw-vegan pioneer. He is a man who has a relationship with the land, not a set of visionary environmental ideals. And I know—because I am his granddaughter—that the burying of quartz crystal dust in cow horns of biodynamic protocol, which I value so much, would not hit the top of his hard-work farming priority list. But he watches the fish that lay eggs in his creeks, he notices erosion taking fields away, and he wants to live in accordance with nature—that with which he interacts daily—as much as he can. It is my opinion that the FFF is a farmer’s certification, based on the kind of land management that my grandfather would understand and value, and that I wish every vineyard and farm in northern California followed.
The FFF, drafted in 1999 in Santa Rosa, is available in the counties of Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa and Solano. Grape growers voluntarily enroll in the program’s workshops, where they learn about creating and sustaining environmental quality and habitat on private land. Attending the workshops is not a guarantee of certification; the farmer must complete a Farm Conservation Plan that includes an inventory of present land, resources and practices as well as an improvement proposal. The areas of focus are soil conservation, creek networks, water conservation, limited chemical use, restoring riparian corridors, new vineyard design and something called Beneficial Management Practices, which is specifically the protection and enhancement of salmon and trout habitat—the basis of the certification’s Fish Friendly Farming name.
Salmon and trout are indicator species, meaning they are very sensitive to human-induced environmental impacts—kinda like the canary with CO2. If water quality, temperature and aquatic food webs change, the salmonids’ population will decrease giving attentive humans an early notification of the overall health of the ecology. So it stands to reason, and I’m sure my grandfather would agree: Farming that keeps the salmon and trout in the rivers happy is farming that keeps everyone happy.
After the farmer has developed his/her conservation plan, the FFF staff present the plan to a team with representatives from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the County Agricultural Commissioner for onsite review and timeline implementation. The farmer then takes responsibility to implement the plan, sometimes sharing major project expenses, but funding at least 75% directly. Extensive monitoring is done, including photo-documentation. Recertification is required in five to seven years to ensure the plan was implemented and to update it if needed. Following the FFFprogram ensures compliance with the federal Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act as well as state pesticide laws. Surely farmers can go further than these minimum standards in their self-directed practices, too.
Some recent FFF projects include the return of storm-scoured gravel from creeks, where it was causing flooding, back to feeder rivers where salmon rely on the gravel for natural habitat. Another recent project assisted Michel-Chlumberger Winery to reduce bank erosion by removing invasive, Pierce’s Disease host plants and re-vegetating the corridor with native plants. This culminated with the release of steelhead trout juveniles by Healdsburg Elementary School students. And finally, funded by the California State Water Resources Control Board, FFF worked with Navarro Vineyards to implement the demonstration of soil control on a vineyard road originally generating fine sediment runoff into nearby creeks. By out-sloping and installing rolling dips, this project disperses erosive flow. It is these seemingly simple things that the organic, biodynamic and sustainable certifications do not handle, yet truly do make a difference in the long-term land management of a vineyard and farm.
With that in mind, I savor even more the taste of my wine from Husch, Preston, Bonterra, Quintessa, Volker, Artesa, Sinskey and Phelps—just a few of the 70 certified vineyards constituting more than 100,000 acres enrolled in the FFF program.
The “sustainable” wine certification is vital in the larger picture of what eco-conscious winemaking is all about. Yet this certification is by far the least organized internationally—and the most intangible to the wine aficionado.
While both the “organic” and “biodynamic”wine certifications concentrate on soil and plants (the former on what we don’t do to them and the latter on what we do), the sustainable wine certification has a wider focus. It evaluates not only a winery’s ecological sustainability, but also its social sustainability.
With certification points for business practices, energy efficiency, social responsibility, clean water management and more, the sustainable certification is a flexible point system that may mean one thing to one winery and something else entirely to another. But what it does mean to all of its certified vintners is that they are making a notable and quantifiable effort to improve culture, environment and commerce through their business model.
For example, Ampelos Cellars of Lompoc, CA, is recognized with the Sustainability in Practice (SIP™) Sustainable Vineyard Certification, for powering their home and vineyard with 100% solar power, offering English as a Second Language classes to employees and shipping private wine sales in 100% recycled newspaper pulp inserts. In fact, Ampelos Cellars is the only vineyard I know of that is certified organic, biodynamic and sustainable.
Agencies accrediting the sustainable wine certification are mostly regional, like California’s Sustainability in Practice (SIP™) and Napa Green, and Oregon’s Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE). They are born of a desire for recognition and encouragement within a wine-producing community—with the added bonus to tasters that something, even if we are unclear as to exactly what, is being done by our winemakers to practice sustainable business.
After a conversation about a city notice we received regarding how the mandated environmental cleanup of the local dry cleaner would impact our immediate air quality, my wonderful next-door neighbor said to me, “You are obsessive about health.” To which I responded, “No, just educated.”
I don’t sit up at night devising ways to restructure my drinking water or worrying that the city dogs might have peed on my tomato plants. But I do find enthralling the topic of how my well-being can be enhanced. I mean, is there any more riveting a subject? How can my life get even better? How can I love myself more? How can I take better care of the people around me?
I wish it were all altruistic, but let’s face it— like anyone else, I just wanna feel good. I wish to be healthy and happy and free. I wish to laugh a lot and make love often. So when I gather information and experience on winegrowing and business practices, it’s not to avoid something “bad” finding its way into my world, but to get a kick out of focusing my time and energy on things that make me feel better. Things that keep my mind healthfully entertained. Things that fill my wine with more than just a vanilla melon nose and a quick, mineral finish.
My education allows me to get more out of wine—and out of life. Of course, in the end, it’s what I do with my education that matters. I feel the only way I can make conscious choices is to have an education. After all, I can eat/drink/think/do anything I want. But I choose to do it a way that feels good.
Another label the green consumer can look for when choosing a wine is the vineyard’s biodynamic certification. Worldwide, there are more than 450 certified biodynamic wine producers and, from my experience, that number is rapidly growing.
The Demeter Association is the singularly recognized international biodynamic certifying body. Farms seeking the Demeter biodynamic certification must meet the same three-year waiting period as those certified organic by the National Organic Program.
Both the organic and biodynamic certifications regulate mainly soil and plants. While organic growing and certification focuses on what farmers do not use in production, biodynamics encompasses what they do use. I see the difference between organic and biodynamic as akin to that between vegetarian and raw vegan. Vegetarians do not eat dead animals. Raw vegans do eat living produce. Yes, raw vegans are also vegetarians, and so most biodynamic farms are also organic. In fact, Demeter offers—through its sister company Stellar Certification Services—a free organic certification to those qualifying for its biodynamic certification.
Biodynamic farming practices and certifications are based in the spiritual/practical philosophy of Rudolph Steiner, called anthroposophy, which integrates the ecological and energetic, as well as spiritual, in nature. The biodynamic philosophy dates back to 1924 and involves managing the farm as a living organism—something that could ideally sustain itself. Through asking questions and reading, I have come to understand biodynamics as a growing practice that unifies the raw, spiritual, environmental and occult. And to me, these practices are more than evident in the finished wine.
An oversimplification of some biodynamic farming practices, in addition to meeting and often exceeding organic standards, is:
During a tasting of some of the most exceptional whites on the central California coast, our pourer at Demetria Estate in Los Olivos, CA, described how he had brought in children from the local Waldorf school to dance amongst their vines one morning. Now, this surely isn’t part of the certification process, but is right in line with the biodynamic philosophy.
As is the case with organic wines, one will be hard-pressed to locate a biodynamically certified wine, but will find biodynamically certified vineyards. This is my experience, at least. And as discussed in Part 2 of this series, reading the wine’s label, asking for certification details, and assuring that the wine you are drinking was produced from the estate’s vineyard are helpful when attempting to actually taste biodynamically grown wines.
As a raw vegan, I am delighted that the wine world, in farming practices, is so far ahead of the food world. I can shop for organically grown produce at the farmers market and health-food stores. But never are my fruits and veggies labeled biodynamic. In wine country, however, biodynamic farming is becoming more and more prevalent as vintners discover that their crops are resilient to pests and disease, and their final product is of a higher quality. In fact, when Fortune conducted a blind tasting of 10 pairs of biodynamic vs. conventionally made wines, judged by seven wine experts including a head sommelier and a Master of Wine, nine of the biodynamic wines were judged superior to their conventional counterparts.
Currently, there are three ecologically important certifications vintners can achieve: organic, biodynamic and sustainable. We are all familiar with the organic certification standards for produce and prepared foods regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in accordance with the Organic Food and Production Act (OFPA), with standards set by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), administered by the National Organic Program (NOP)…oh, my.
Organic Wines Anyway, since California supplies the majority of organic produce for the country, consumers might be familiar with the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) certification label. However, there are many other accredited certifying agencies in addition to the CCOF. For a wine to be certified organic and bear the accompanying USDA seal, it must be made from organically grown grapes and provide information about the accrediting agency.
A certified organic wine must not have added sulfites (a naturally occurring antimicrobial and antioxidant byproduct of fermentation, which is also often added afterward as a preservative), and the naturally occurring sulfites must measure less than 20 parts per million. Additionally, there are some wine-making ingredients not approved for organic labeling by the NOSB. Hence, it is easier today to certify pop tarts than wine as organic. And so, actual certified organic wine is extremely rare.
Frey and Organic Wine Works are two certified organic wines. Throughout all of my tasting experiences, I do not know of any others. Organic Wine Works was notably the first wine maker to challenge the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and become the exception to the then-regulation that no finished wine could be labeled organic. Before the NOP was created, the ATF was the regulating agency.
Organic Vineyards Interestingly, there is a difference between certifying a wine organic and certifying a vineyard organic. One will much more commonly taste wine made from grapes grown on a certified organic vineyard, than certified organic wines like Organic Wine Works and Frey.
The organic certification is awarded to vineyards for upholding familiar organic farming methods, which include abstaining from most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering and ionizing radiation. Long-term soil management, distance between organic and neighboring conventional farms, the facility’s cleaning and pest-control methods, and ingredient transportation and storage are inspected as well.
How to Read the Labels Outside of Organic Wine Works and Frey, what you are looking for are certified organically farmed grapes. Sometimes the winemaker will mention their farming practices on the wine label in the form of “made with organically grown grapes” or “ingredients: organic grapes.” However, no certification seal is permitted, since the wine itself is not certified—only the growing practices.
The vintners will often display their farm’s organic certification in their tasting room, information literature or in a paragraph or two on their website. Once you know that a vineyard is certified organic, remember to read the wine’s label to make sure the bottle you are drinking was produced from the certified organic vineyard’s grapes. Often wine makers will supplement their own vineyard’s production by purchasing grapes grown on other growers’ parcels, which may or may not be certified.
For example, I am holding a bottle of Madonna 2008 Gewürztraminer (signed by the winemaker, Buck, himself!) that says Estate Grown on the label. Since I know Madonna vineyards are certified organic, I know that this wine—grown, produced and bottled on the estate—is made from organic grapes (plus it says “ingredients: organically grown grapes” on the back). However, this bottle of Ampelos 2006 Syrache-blend made from Byron and Alisos vineyard grapes is not necessarily made with organically grown grapes, even though Ampelos is the only vineyard I know of to hold all three certifications—organic, biodynamic and sustainable.
Hopefully, this information will steer you in the right direction. Obviously, there are other questions to ask and other things to learn when searching for the most delicious, health-promoting and eco-consciously produced wine.
As a raw vegan I am commonly first asked, “What can you eat?” To which I reply, “Anything I want,” reminding people that this is a choice, not a disease. Quite the opposite, in fact.
I choose to eat living fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Taking it a step further, I also choose to eat those living foods in season, organically grown and locally harvested. But I can eat anything I want. It’s all a choice.
The second question I am asked is, “Isn’t eating that way difficult?” To which I reply that eating processed, dead foods is a lot like hitting myself on the thumb with a hammer. Is it hard not to hit myself with a hammer after I know what’s causing the pain? No. In the same way, it’s very easy to eat living, local, organic, in-season food. It’s my pleasure.
The third most popular interrogative demand I am implored with as a raw vegan is the inevitable, “Do you drink alcohol?” And with a fervent cry I respond, “Wine is fermented, not distilled and that means yes, yes, I do drink alcohol.” At that point the questioner decides that I am in their eyes “normal enough” and that they, too, may consider eating more raw food themselves… as long as they “get to” drink alcohol, of course.
It’s all just conscious choice in my opinion. Just because I drink alcohol does not mean I drink a lot or even often. As much as I am a wholehearted wine enthusiast, I am still a health-living raw foodie and I don’t have time for hangovers or an overtaxed liver. And I am still a sassy kind of eco gal, so the standards I apply to my food choices also apply to my fermented beverage choices.
Four years ago I began educating my mind and taste buds about organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines. And of course, living in sweet southern California, it’s quite easy to keep my purchases local.
In fact, everything I’ve learned about wine—from its certifications to its terroir (distinctive personality)—has happened in the tasting rooms. It doesn’t get more local than that.
I am a hands-on kind of woman who wants more than to “know” about something and repeat that knowing to others. Rather, I prefer to experience something and share whom I’ve become with others. And what I’ve experienced as a farmtown-raw-vegan-nature-worshiper-turned-wine-geek is that certifying produce and boxes of crackers is a lot easier than certifying wines.
Over the next several weeks, I intend to share what I’ve learned about wines with you. I’ll cover how to read wine labels, as well as the ins and outs of organics, biodynamics and sustainability as applied to wine.
I am a self-proclaimed and very public eco-geek gal. The part of my life I do not spend honing my performance skills, I spend building my environmental savvy. Both are exciting beyond measure to me. And when I am very passionate about something, I genuinely enjoy immersing myself in the subject completely.
When wine tasting, my passion for the environment is magnified. I want to experience everything I can, not only in the wine, but in its farming practices, social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
And if I’ve scoured the Internet, cross-referenced literature, toured vineyards and chatted with wine makers, nothing throws a clinker in that research like a multi-vineyard bottle. My eco quality control falls down around my ankles and I am left standing there bare-bummed, wondering if the outsourced grapes’ vineyards share the same sustainability commitment as the labeling winery. It is possible for a winery’s vineyards to have certified biodynamic farming practices, for example, while the wine they are pouring was fermented from conventionally farmed outsourced grapes. Makes my eco-geek gal’s passion exponentially more difficult to satiate!
Sustainability Last blog entry I reviewed a bottle of 2008 Bouchaine Estate Chardonnay, and detailed several of the Bouchaine vinyard’s environmental accolades that have earned them a membership in the Napa Sustainable Winegrowing Group as well as the integral Fish Friendly Farming certification. Unfortunately, this week it will be more difficult to focus on the environmental commitment that went into Bouchaine’s 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir because I have not verified the farming practices of the Gee, Mahony and Casa Carneros grapes included in this pour—the disadvantage of multi-vineyard eco-conscious-wine reviewing. The advantage of multi-vineyard wine blending, however, is a cross section of Pinot Noir flavors that represent the Carneros Valley as a whole, rather than just one farmer’s lot. These handpicked Dijon, Pommard and Swan Pinot Noir clones are selected from Bouchaine’s “neighbors,” as they put it themselves, so I prefer to think of this wine as communally grown, winemaker crafted, and a fine terroir representation of south Napa’s Carneros Valley.
Cork With the cork pop comes, as with the 2008 Bouchaine Estate Chardonnay I tasted last time, a sweet freshness. The 2007 Bouchaine Carneros Pinot Noir cork smells deliciously fruity. However, although California’s Pinot Noirs have become quite the fruit-forward “gateway red” for white lovers, the cork on this Bouchaine just might be the most available fruit presence this bottle has to offer, so keep sniffing.
Eyes Ruby tear drops fall from this wine. A rich, romantic red at the exposed edges of the glass is the effect of a clean filtration process, with no fining at all. Michael Richmond, the winemaker, shares with me that Bouchaine’s “filtration process is sufficient to soften the mouth feel” of their Pinot Noir, and this grape “doesn’t have so much tannin to begin with—in contrast to, say, Cabernet and Syrah,” negating the need for fining to the delight of concerned vegans. Of course, as Michael adds regarding Bouchaine’s fined wines, “No vestige of any fining agent could get through that (.25 micron crossflow filter followed by a .45 micron membrane filter at bottling) gauntlet. Thus any vegan concern would be based on belief and moral principles, not on any tangible reality.” Which is similar to the perspective I share in my recent piece on Vegan Wines.
Nose The nose on this wine screams, “Drink me, eat me!” And right away causes me to go down that rabbit hole in search of fruit comparisons. If the wine is a warm room temperature, under a layer of desert sand you will discover black cherries and red licorice whips. This is a great nose.
Mouth Out of the bottle, this wine shocked me with its bold attitude. After relishing that fruity cork, I was truly expecting the fruit-forward, new-world, California-style Pinot that the world has come to love. But I found a dry Pinot Noir that kept its black cherry aromas all to itself in the actual tasting. Thus, although this wine is confident and immediately enjoyable right out of the bottle, I feel there is something missing—like the front and the back of my mouth are getting all the attention, while my mid-palate is being ignored. However, if you are patient enough to decant for four hours as I did (yes, I am decanting Pinot Noir), then you will be in for another surprise: this wine changes dramatically with aeration, from a confident two-tone to a well-structured specimen offering sophistication and smooth texture.
If you can wait the four hours, please do. If you are at the tasting room itself, favor the bottle that was opened yesterday, because with time, the cherries really do come out. Not like cherry fireworks igniting the night sky, but more like one highly prized gem-quality black cherry revealed to you, and only you, from inside a carob-syrup suitcase sitting on a Thai basil ransom note: “Hand over your patience and we will give you back your cherry.” If only…
Bring this wine to the party. Preside over a decanting ritual, and find a quiet corner where you can pour small tastes to your most relaxed friends. This Pinot’s structure is a yogi that opens up after a few long breaths.
Pairing The 2007 Bouchaine Carneros Pinot Noir is a delight for raw/vegan pairing because it can be sipped throughout the meal—from appetizer to desert. Start with a simple spinach and cauliflower salad dressed with light local olive oil and Himalayan salt, followed by fermented cashew/hempseed cheese on sun-dried tomato, pumpkin seed and roasted chicory flax crackers. Continue enjoying this Pinot Noir with a dessert bowl of pomegranate seeds and pine nuts—no silverware necessary.
I realize that because traditional wine reviews feature meat and dairy pairings, my raw/vegan suggestions might seem exciting but intangible. When my full wine-tasting book comes out, I’ll include the recipes and resources. For now, just riff off of my suggestions and create your own menu. Wine is, after all, entirely about one’s personal experience of it. This is your personal call to develop your sensuality, explore your tastes, learn your preferences and own your prerogatives through wine.
Oh, lovely life. I return home from a long day at the theatre with one mission: relax and take care of myself before early rehearsal again tomorrow—our first audience is Monday night. This is an intense time in the process. I open my screenless windows at midnight to let the blooming jasmine lurk in. I flop my shoes onto the wood floors and massage my own dancer feet. I am relaxing and taking care of myself the best way I can imagine. Oh, lovely life: This day ends with wine.
Life has gifted me a bottle of 2008 Bouchaine Estate Chardonnay to consider. I surely feel indulgent opening an entire bottle all by my lonesome. What a gift this truly is! I start with an entire glass pour of water, as I always do, and decide to stick to tasting pours, rather than glass pours, which I prefer anyway. I have an exceptionally clean raw vegan diet and find my receptivity heightened, making every sensual experience quite genuine.
I willingly admit a bias up front: I prefer to actually go to any winery’s tasting room, sit in the vineyards, notice the companion landscaping, feel the architectural presentation and engage the pourer in positive conversation. All this goes into the bottle of wine and affects the taste, affects the experience, affects the memory. Unfortunately, I am alone in my own living room tonight, so my review must feature only my limited at-home experience.
Fortunately, Bouchaine is a vineyard local to my state, California, and when I drive to south Napa for the third time this year, I will surely visit Bouchaine in the cooler-climate, gently rolling, green hills of the Carneros District where Bouchaine has been in continuous operation since 1929—longer than any other winery in the Carneros District and long before Carneros’ Burgundian varietals became noted worldwide. Personally, I do not purchase wine from stores because I so value this onsite tasting experience. For now, however, I will be cork sniffing in L.A.
Cork And that is just what I can’t stop doing: cork sniffing. This 2008 Bouchaine Estate Chardonnay opens with quite a clean cork. I smell an aging room that sparkles like sunshine from the bottom of this freshly pulled cork. If I could tour the cellars, I can smell that they’d be healthy and clean. And knowing how valuable cork sustainability is, I value knowing that Bouchaine is one of the first participants in the Recork America program to recycle wine corks.
Color The wine’s color tint is soft sunshine yellow, encouraged by a 30% stainless-steel fermentation that preserves brightness. I notice the clarity of the wine, too, achieved by the standard bentonite clay fining of whites, followed by a proprietary PVPP/casein (milk protein) fining specific to Bouchaine’s Chardonnays and Bouche d’Aro, reducing “yellow pigment and phenolics that can cause wine to taste like squash and pumpkins after a few years in the bottle,” says winemaker Michael Richmond. As a vegan, I appreciate his transparency in fining agents as well as Bouchaine’s transparency in almost every aspect of their sustainability commitment, as explained on Bouchaine’s website. Richmond has made himself available to me throughout this relationship to answer questions—almost as if I was getting to visit the tasting room itself.
Nose I can smell a crispness, like wearing shorts in April even when it’s too cold, because you are so excited for spring. This wine is that radical, early-spring warm day and I suggest chilling slightly, if at all. I personally want this wine to be on the warm side and open up to me, which it did with just 10 minutes of decanting. The nose changes perceptibly, from the obligatory burn-off of volatile esters to a cashew-cream mousse with a jackfruit and chalk center. This happens at approximately minute 10, if lightly chilled.
Mouth Fully 75% of the 2008 Bouchaine Estate Chardonnay grapes come from vines over two decades old. Dijon clones make up another 20%. But it is the final 5%, the Muscat grape, that is responsible for a sipping wine that coats the tongue quite perfectly. With an evaporation comparable to fresh walnut oil, the mouth is short but not abrupt. This wine is 70% oak-barrel fermented with a 50% malolactic fermentation. Mellow, shapely and bright, the finish is kind, moving down the throat just enough to remind us that this new-world Chardonnay respects its elders. Again, I prefer this wine served almost room-temperature warm.
Sharing Bouchaine’s Chardonnay is a wine that you should consider taking with you to an event. I have been known to take sustainably produced wine to a happening, even when I know wine is being provided. If you are like me, this is the wine to take because:
Sustainability And while you are turning friends on to a delightful wine, you are also supporting a vineyard that farms 84 of its 104 estate vineyards sustainably. It utilizes Integrated Pest Management (IPM), cover crops and organic compost to achieve a healthy microbial balance in the soil. It also practices minimal irrigation via direct drip systems, meaning it uses just seven gallons of water per plant rather than the usual 100 gallons. And to top it all off, the grapes are hand picked at harvest.
Bouchaine is a member of the Napa Sustainable Winegrowing Group and is certified by one of my favorite NoCal grape-growing-region programs, Fish Friendly Farming, thanks to its choice of replacing grapevines in the lowest-lying areas of the property, prone to winter flooding, with grasses that handle water runoff and contribute to the health of fish populations.
Winemaker Michael Richmond values the freedom of choice and application he says an organic certification would limit, stating “The objective is to have a vineyard that is self sustaining with a minimum of amendments. We would shirk from applying any materials that would threaten our beneficial insect population,” like predator wasps. This is the same reason Bouchaine does not poison pesky gophers—they are protecting their barn owls, too. Michael feels that “sustainability is the thinking man’s organic.”
Food Pairing Because I am longing for a response other than “grilled portabella” when I mention that I am a raw vegan wine and food aficionado, I will offer you my personal suggestion for a vegan food pairing with this 2008 Bouchaine Estate Chardonnay—please create a menu of your own, as well! This Chardonnay goes well with a chopped romaine salad dressed with raw walnut oil, sprouted quinoa with light miso and tahini sauce and unsweetened roibos and chamomile tea.
Yes, I sip hot tea alternating with wine. Try it. It works. And it’s my chance to relax and take care of myself before our first rehearsal with orchestra tomorrow. This wine is so clean, I can.
La Brea is the new Melrose. Remember the artists – of the fashion and fabric sort – remember how they dreamed of having a store front to display their designs. Back in the day that was Melrose. Where they could afford it. Where they all found their dreams coming true. And they did and they established a street famous now for the radiant, urban, west coast open air fabrics that decorate many a Hollywood body and every few years, the rest of the country as well.
They made it the center of local fashion and the rent went sky high and the new, young designers dreamed of Melrose openings, while only the established could showcase.
I live in the La Brea / Wilshire hood. The Beauty District. SoHo: South Hollywood. I am drunk and walking home. I live here. There are three noteworthy wine bars in my hood and I walk home from a Masi, northern Italy, Amarone style tasting with my television development partner and see the parking attendant, with his mohawk, reading a book while he waits for the next wine bar patron, like me, probably drunk already upon arrival.
Bless the northern Italian wines.
Graffiti hedgerows, cacti and succulent lawns, a stumble, a stagger – even the industry executives look deeply in the eye and they are real people and I am just a misty inhale, unafraid of … anything. Longing for the intimate adventure and learning everything I know from the community consciousness. All I do is listen. Really well. I don’t watch tv. I don’t read any newspapers. I don’t listen to the radio stations or even watch the Youtube. I listen hard to the people who talk to me and take it in like it was the voice of the Universe giving me vital information.
What is so vital about living? C’mon now. It’s not actually that hard to keep living. Anymore.
I’ve been to paradise where the people don’t need money. The land gives so much food, none would fathom paying a price for a banana. They gift and give and socialize and sit. And there isn’t a lot of work to be done. There is no property to own. I’ve eaten the raw cacao in paradise and I’ve walked the glittering sidewalks of Hollwyood. And the people – the people in both locales are the great variable. They are surprising beyond belief, but all the while predictable. Perhaps we should listen to each other deeper. Looking in the eyes of the executive and wasting time on a chit chat with the native.
My native people – the designers, the artists, the producers, the neighbors laughing every nite – so stoned – watching sports. I love them. I cradle a bottle of Masi Massianco in my arms. A gift from the tasting at 320 South Wine Lounge on La Brea in Hollywood tonite. A birthday gift. Because every day of October is a day to celebrate being alive to me. Happy birthday. No drunk driving. Just a stagger home and a chaser of oj, spirulina and MSM.
How did I grow up a farm town girl in Michigan and turn into the most integrated, authentic wild woman in the majorest of cities? I don’t feel any conflict. I feel every day with my wide open, screenless windows, I am outside. I am in nature. I am with community. I am healthy. I have opportunities. I am stimulated. I am curious. I am in the right place. Give me love, give me music, give me wine. I will do what I must to continue this blessing. Without revision, I offer myself complete. I give and give and receive. I receive, too.
Crawling to another wine bar. Seems like such a contradiction in terms. Wine is not usually a gung-ho go-get-em score-that-touch-down wake-up-hung-over kind of experience. Wine usually sits you down and says “Take your shoes off, relax … stay until the morning – or the next. Just watch the stars shift and tell me stories in whispers at the crux of my ear.” Wine wants to hear what you have to whisper. And my third stop that evening was the resting point for my enjoyment.A.O.C. provides a fuzzy blanket to spread out on. John, the pourer, enjoys wine like I do and I when it comes to reds, I’d take his suggestion before even cracking the menu. When it comes to whites and bubblies, well … I still like to feel in charge. Flights of bubblies and a glass of white to follow – this is a private pleasure of mine right now. And it’s so easy to alternate the light wines with water leaving no residual regret from a three-stop crawl the nite before. The pairing menu at A.O.C. is seasonal with vegan options available without special request and the raw vegan succotash is kind of something I dream about on a regular basis now. I’ve never made reservations before showing up, so I’ve never actually gotten to sit down. Instead, I belly up to the bar and get to know my pourer a little better. Make coo faces with my Lover and pretend I don’t notice that I’m the only one dressed in primary colors. It’s okay. Wine is color blind. And if the wine is good enough, so are those imbibing.