"Just like people want to know where their food comes from, they want to know what's in their wine." - Jeff Cichocki, Lead Winemaker, Bonterra Organic Vineyards
Organic is pretty mainstream now, but it really wasn't so long ago that fans of organic foods were all considered hippy-dippy, tree hugging, health freaks. How times have changed! From food to fabrics to cleaning products, pretty much everyone embraces organics in some aspect of their lives. Wine is no exception and all over the globe winemakers are converting to organic farming practices. Better late than never for those winemakers but Bonterra Organic Vineyards doesn't have to jump on the bandwagon, they've been leading the way and their Mendocino County vineyards (north of Sonoma and Napa Valley, California) have been organic since they were founded in 1987. All of their wines are made from 100% organically farmed grapes.
Jeff Cichocki, Bonterra's lead winemaker, has been with the winery for more than ten years and jokes that "other winemakers think that I'm a glutton for punishment" but he truly believes that keeping chemicals out of the vineyard makes better wine. After all, no wine lover has ever tasted a glass of wine and lamented about the lack of chemicals -- we want to taste the wine and Bonterra asserts that "organic grapes produce the purest expressions of the varietals and land on which they are farmed."
image courtesy of Bonterra
Winemaking begins in the vineyard and organic practices certainly start the grapes off on the right track. But organic doesn't guarantee that the wine will be good. The winemaker still has to apply their intuition and skill to make crucial decisions on when to harvest and how to transform the hard-earned fruits of their labor into wine. I don't drink organic wine all the time but I was introduced to Bonterra a few years ago and the wines have impressed me with their freshness, expressiveness, and balance. Organic farming is an added bonus that I really appreciate when it comes to wine: it is better for the land and the vineyard workers, and I certainly want to reduce the amount of chemicals I consume. Added bonus -- Bonterra's well-made & earth-friendly wines don't break the budget.
Have you been a part of the anything-but-Chardonnay camp? Bonterra Chardonnay 2017($14) may make you reconsider! Made from organic grapes and easy on the budget, this vibrant wine tastes fresh and alive. Zesty citrus flavors are rounded out by a hint of creaminess and crisp minerality. A great everyday wine!
Stop hating on Merlot because of THAT movie! Just because Merlot is pretty doesn't mean it isn't interesting. Bonterra Merlot 2015 ($16) is a delicious reminder of Merlot's charms. Luscious and plummy, this juicy red gets extra complexity and hints of spice from small amounts of Petite Sirah and Malbec.
Beyond their organic farming, Bonterra also has three ranches that are certified biodynamic. Their simple definition of biodynamic is "a holistic view of agriculture with high awareness of the interconnectivity between earth, plants, animals, humans, the moon and planets." For example, preparations made from herbs, minerals, and manures are applied to the soils at specific times to enhance their fertility. The Roost "Blue Heron Vineyard" Chardonnay 2015 ($40) is a superb single-vineyard wine that eloquently expresses the terroir of this special land nestled between the shore of the upper Russian River and a blue heron nesting site and preserve. A voluptuous and elegant Chardonnay, The Roost glimmers in the glass and captivates the palate with rich flavors of lemon curd, butterscotch, pear, and kisses of spice.
The Butler 2013 ($50) is another standout from Bonterra's biodynamic, single-vineyard selections. A blend of mostly Syrah with Mourvedre, Grenache, and Zinfandel, this bold wine is intriguingly intense. Exquisitely structured but not aloof. The Butler serves up rich dark fruit with sexy hints of spice and licorice.
Are you ready to explore wines made with organic grapes? Bonterra is a great starting point. Visit their website to learn more about Bonterra's full portfolio of wines; they have an impressive selection of varietals. Cheers!