Whether through intellectual masturbation or action, we're all trying to do our part to be green. We recycle, buy organic food, or chat about how cool solar power could be. But buy organic wine, we have not. Organic food sales have grown nearly 20 percent per year over the past seven years but, for whatever reason organic wines haven't captured our imaginations or mouths. (Think they might taste gross? My palate has not detected a discernable difference.) Countless wineries -- frequently not revealing their environmentally-sound activities on the labels -- grow organically, biodynamically or sustainably. Their naked harvesting by the light of the waning moon and pesticide-free farming better nurtures the soil and health of the vineyard. But that's only the beginning. Many forward-thinking wineries are digging deeper into the green. This is what you may not know already.
Let the Sun Shine In
Although stricken with numerous solar panel thefts in recent months (with some thieves apprehended already), California wineries have enthusiastically embraced an energy source abundant in wine country: solar. Over one hundred wineries now satisfy either all or part of their electricity needs through the same food source their main crop does. One of the first to successfully adopt solar was organic producer Honig Vineyards and Winery, who crafts delicious, juicy-tart sauvignon blancs.
Turning Water into Wine Energy
Wineries consume thousands of gallons of water to clean their tanks and winery floors as well as water the vineyards. One winery in California, Napa Wine Company, hopes to transform the inevitable wastewater into hydrogen energy. They built an experimental, small scale, treatment plant that, through organic matter hydrolysis, converts the biological material in wastewater to energy.
According to ReCork America -- a company that collects and resells corks for reuse -- 13 billion natural cork wine stoppers flow into the world market each year. At present, the majority fill the vast expanses of city landfills. But at least they eventually biodegrade. ReCork America has a better idea. They began encouraging consumers (and restaurants) to drop their corks at participating retailers and partnered with green companies to reuse them for products like flooring tile. It's been fairly successful, but most of the bounty has been shipped to Portugal, where the deepest demand exists (and where their major funding originates). That carbon footprint, however, practically stomps out the purpose. So they've recently landed a partner closer to home -- Canadian shoe manufacturer SOLE that has developed a cork blend for its footwear products. Let's hope more businesses get creative.
A Green Star
Parducci, led by the father of the biodynamic movement Paul Dolan, represents the widely heralded trailblazer for environmentally-responsible grape farming. Dolan literally wrote the book on green winegrowing. (Available free online at www.pauldolanwine.com -- a pretty entertaining site, too). The winery and the vineyards have a complete recycle mentality, from a reclamation system that reuses all the water in the winemaking process to a 100 percent conversion to renewable energy. He's even headlining at the 2009 Green Wine Summit in Sonoma in December to preach the green gospel.
Paul Dolan 2006 Zinfandel Mendocino (California) Rich with what makes zin so scrumptious: blackberry, blueberry, earthy cocoa, white peppery spiciness, soft tannins and sweet vanilla. A big, robust wine but so smooth, the bottom of the bottle will hit you fast. Sw=2. 4 stars. $18.
Geode 2006 Chardonnay Santa Barbara This winery is so vibrantly green, they even send out seed-studded press sheets with their sample bottles. But what the wines boast in eco-friendliness, they lack in taste. Essence of popcorn Jelly Bellies. But worse. Kinda depressing. Sw=3. $16. 2 stars.
Renewable Hydrogen Production Becomes Reality