Wine solar panels at chimney rock

Published on May 20th, 2008 | by Sharon Troy

7

Biodynamic Wine in Napa Valley: Where Green is the New Red.

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solar panels at chimney rockThough 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.

grgich hills estateBiodynamic 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:

Wine, Tea, and TV Dinners: “The Green Does Food”

Drinking Carbon Neutral – America’s Greenest Winery

Wining about Global Warming

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About the Author

Sharon began working as Green Options' Office Manager, and has gone on to wear many hats, working also as Intern Coordinator, Editor, and Social Media Coordinator. In the GO office, she is perhaps best known as the founder and chef for the weekly "Soup Day." Prior to working with Green Options, Sharon earned a BA in Humanities from New College of California, and worked in the nonprofit arts and education sector. A vegetarian for seven years, and vegan for nearly three, Sharon has a bit of an obsession for plant-based food. When she's not hanging out in the bulk aisle of her local food co-op, Sharon is at home, trying to grow hydroponic basil, playing with her white fluffy cat, or annoying her neighbors by singing showtunes.



  • Rachel M.

    Fantastic! This was a much better explanation of biodynamic wines than I’ve previously gotten. Thanks!

  • http://leightoncookie.blogspot.com Cookiemouse

    It’s good to know that more wineries are going organic in the US. California wines are very popular in Europe and so it’s cool to know what to look out for.

  • Mathew Hudson

    I think that you may have overlooked a few other wineries which are both Biodynamic and Solar, Specifically, I refer to Robert Sinskey Vineyards and Frog’s Leap Winery, to name just two. I’m glad that Grgich Hills is in the forefront, as well.
    Cheeers, Mathew Hudson

  • Sharon Troy

    Thanks, Matthew. The wineries you mentioned were both on one of the lists I linked to and I’d had Frog’s Leap recommended to me. Unfortunately you can only see so many in a day, but I will definitely try to check it out next time I venture up North!

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