Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Green Wine

See the wine at these days, there is a movement towards slow food, local eating and sustainable farming. Quality producers are finding that sustainable farming practices may seem to be a little more labor intensive, but the payoffs are worth while. After all, chemicals are expensive, monoculture planting can result in plague that can wipe out a harvest, and pests can have free rein of the winery. Pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers infiltrate ground water supplies, drift in the air and can be hazardous to workers.

Over the last 20 years, growers have been returning to agricultural practices of 100 years ago. The energy costs are lower, the chemical costs are lower and the potential for the true expression of the land can come through.

Where this may sound like a bucolic utopia, the realities can be different. It does take work and it does take commitment. In California, many growers are working in this direction balancing the desire to make a positive change with the realities of growing on land that has become dependent on chemical interventions. And ripping up good producing vines to make room for less profitable plants…you’d better have a good vision of where you are going.

The cold hard facts are that it takes about 1000 lbs of grape to make a barrel. And about 250 cases of wine per barrel. Figure three tons per acre and eighteen months to get the grape in the bottle. And you get one shot per year. You just don’t gamble.

Many growers in California are going in a sustainable direction, but it will not happen overnight. However, in the long run, the results can be very positive. For instance, if your yield does go down, then one strategy is to create a better grape that will fetch a better price from a quality winery or that can produce a higher quality bottle.

It is becoming common to grow crops that build up soil and harbor predatory insects between rows of grapes. These crops can be harvested as saleable produce or returned to the soil to condition it. This creates an additional revenue stream for the vineyard.

One winery that caught our attention is Benziger Family Winery. The Benziger family has been developing a sustainable vineyard over the last twenty years. We are fortunate that we could purchase one of their wines in our “ship wine here at your own risk” state. I’m pleased to say they have an enjoyable product and we will be repeat customers.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Benziger Family Winery

Cabernet Sauvignon

Appellation: Sonoma County
Vintage: 2004
Alcohol: 13.5%
pH: 3.78
Price: $12.99

Color: Dark purple
Intensity: Deep
Aromas: Jammie black cherry, current, elderberry, light mellow oak, hay
Flavors: Cedar, anise, black cherry, blackberry, cinnamon, earthy, plum skins, chocolate, mint
Body: Full
Finish: Moderately long
Tannin: Soft, suede

Summary: This wine produced a nice balance of fruit flavors with spice and wonderful integrated tannins. Take your time with this wine. It will give you something new with every sip. We served this wine at an optimal 65 to 70 degrees F and as the wine opened up, it did the Dance of the Seven Vales. Cedar, dark fruit, chocolate…it was an adventure.

This wine was aged in primarily American oak with some French for 18 months. Visit to learn about this family endeavors.

This wine would do nicely with steak, roast beef, lamb, grilled food and chocolate deserts. Taster B and I found ourselves nibbling on some dark chocolate finishing this bottle watching a movie. Yeah, this is the good stuff.