Though I’ve lived in the Bay Area for three years, I don’t drive, and so this past weekend marked only my second trip up to Wine Country. I had some friends in from out of town, and when choosing our itinerary my only requirements were that we visit a few green wineries.
As a friend pointed out to me though, you’re almost more hard-pressed to find wineries that don’t have some sort of green aspect to them, these days. From solar panels, to wind energy, to organic growing standards, wineries are becoming more and more eco-friendly every day.
There are a number of resources on finding green wineries in California. The Bay Area Green Business Program lists wineries both in Napa and Sonoma counties that meet their requirements. You can check out this sustainablog post rating some Bay Area wineries. And though this winery guide from Green Girls LA is a few years old, it’s still fairly accurate and comprehensive.
Of the wineries my group stopped at this past weekend, my favorite by far was Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford, CA. Don’t let the difficult to pronounce name deter you; Grgich Hills is the only winery in Napa Valley that features exclusively biodynamic wines. When you first start explaining biodynamic processes, you’re met with a lot of skepticism. (As soon as I said “cycles of the moon” I could see eyes rolling in my group.) Fortunately our server at Grgich was able to explain it in a very practical way.
Biodynamic wineries are, by definition organically certified, they just take it a few extra steps. Because they remove any chemicals from the process, they look at their vineyards as ecosystems, taking a holistic approach to the way they care for the land and their crops. A particularly interesting practice involves burying a cow horn filled with manure in the soil. It sounds almost like witchcraft, but in fact it adds calcium and other nutrients to the soil in an efficient way. (Read more about the biodynamic philosophies and processes on Grgich’s website. They’ve also recently gone solar.)
Ok, so solar panels, compost, that all sounds great… but how does it taste?
Perhaps it’s my particular palate, but the wines we tasted at Grgich were my favorite of the day. I love Zinfandels, and the ones we sampled here were fantastic. We took home a bottle of their 2005 Zin, and were also treated to an off-the-menu sample of Miljenko’s Old Vine Zinfandel, grown from vines over 100 years old. Both my husband and I who normally have very different tastes in wine agreed that it was our favorite of the day. Unfortunately, though, The release was very limited, and we tasted the last drops of it before it sold out.
I’m no wine expert by any means, so I love visiting green wineries like this, where the staff are more likely to discuss soil quality and cover crops with me, than try to woo me with tasting notes. Although, that being said, I can’t wait to try a glass of my fruit forward Zinfandel alongside a plate of pasta with tomato sauce… Mmm…
For more wine-related posts on Green Options, check out: