Earth Day Every Day: which wine to choose? Five Tips for “green” wine purchases

I’ve been eco-minded since I was small. My first memories are of the sand between my toes, the smell of damp earth under the house, and the joy of being one with a tree or a rock when climbing it. I’m a Girl Scout First Class, I backpacked from Mexico to Canada, and I have a BA from UC Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies plus graduate classes in conservation biology. I’ve hooted for spotted owls, surveyed for goshawks, hacked peregrine falcons, and preserved burrowing owl habitat.

These days, I spend as much time as possible in the outdoors, camping, traveling, and enjoying fine food and wine! Here we are in Zion recently on top of Angel’s Landing–then enjoying a meal with a bottle of Barolo at the campground.

I’m still an environmental activist,  speaking out about environmental issues at City Council and leading monthly bicycle rides around town. You can read more about bicycle issues over at my Bikergo Gal blog.

So, yes I have some serious “green” cred: I’ve been celebrating Earth Day since before it was invented. Caring about how wine is made and how “green” wine is came “naturally” to me–I also grew up running around my grandfather’s cellar!

Like many, I assumed that wine is “natural.” As I’ve learned more about wine over the past few years, I’ve been appalled at how manipulated wine is  and disgusted by some of the green washing that goes on in the wine industry.

So I do my best to navigate my way to purchase wines that are more green on the sustainability spectrum and produced as naturally as possible. And here on this blog, I try my best to call attention to “green” wines and “green” wine practices to support them.

This afternoon, my friend David Rodriguez is visiting from Puerto Rico–we met in Santa Rosa CA at the first Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008. He’s a world traveling wine blogger with a particular interest in wines that are made in traditional, “natural” ways that are sustainable and gentle to the earth. I look forward to learning from him about some of his recent finds –and tasting some of these wines also since many of them he is storing in my grandfather’s cellar!

Here are five choices you can make to green your wine–whether you prefer red or white! Happy Earth Day!

1. BIODYNAMIC. and 2. ORGANIC. It’s not easy to know what might be the “greenest” wine to choose. For example, you’d think a biodynamic or organic wine would be a no-brainer. But you don’t always know if they’re practicing sustainability in other ways. You have to look at the big picture. Still, it’s a great place to start and this info is usually (but not always) on the label.

Two of my favorite biodynamic wineries are Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon and from Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley, Quivera. There are more and wineries that have organic on the label or as discussed on their websites–if you look. Some of the wines are better than others; just because the grapes are organic or biodynamic doesn’t mean the wine made from them will be good or the winemaker knows what to do with the grapes…

2. The 3 Rs: REDUCE/REUSE/RECYCLE.  No I’m not suggesting you reduce the amount of wine you drink–just the resources used to produce it and get it to you!

Hardy Wallace who blogs at Dirty South and is featured above in the trailer is part of a grand wine-making and marketing experiment: the NPA (Natural Process Alliance) is making wine that you can bottle yourself in your own reusable stainless steel containers.While this may not be an option for you, depending on where you live, be sure to recycle your bottles.

Keep your mind open about boxed wines also: I received  samples of “The Big Green Box” — zinfandel, cabernet, pinot grigio, and chardonnay from Pepperwood Grove that I and my friends really enjoyed. Boxed wine is much less resource intensive than bottles of wine; the challenge is to find the stuff that’s good enough to drink.

3. SUSTAINABLE. Even some big producers are paying attention to practicing sustainability, like Sonoma County’s Frei Brothers (which donated wine to VCCOOL–thank you again!). In the big picture, sustainability makes the most economic sense. This is a big subject but what’s key to me is to determine whether the winery is doing a simple case of “green-washing” or whether taking care of the earth is truly part of their ethics and everything they do–including goals like zero-waste and being a member of 1% for the Planet.

4. LOCAPOURS. I’m lucky because I live close to Ojai where several wineries like Vino V, Old Creek Ranch and Ojai Vineyard are making wine using grapes most of which are sourced from within 100 miles of my house. I live less than an hour from Los Olivos, featured in Rex Pickett’s book and the movie Sideways.

When we were in Utah last week and had dinner at the Zion Lodge in the National Park, I chose to drink a wine made in Moab from grapes grown in Utah. Castle Creek’s “Outlaw Red” was a well made blend that went well with my meal; by the glass it was $8; a bottle from the winery retails at $11. The menu even listed wines that are grown sustainably (like Parducci) and locally (Castle Creek).

Last May during a visit to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, I discovered Guy Drew Vineyards. We tasted there with the owners for an hour or so and went away very impressed with their wines–we even purchased a few bottles!

Next time we go to Arizona, I plan to head for Sedona–not for the crystals or the red rocks but to visit some of the wineries as the wines that I’ve tasted during visits to Flagstaff are worth learning more about.

It seems that people in nearly every state in the union makes wine these days! Discover YOUR local wineries!

5. “NATURAL” WINE. Speaking of Hardy Wallace and the NPA, there is a movement is growing to call attention to more “natural” or traditional wine making practices. Check out the trailer above. Journalist Alice Feiring is a big proponent of this movement–here’s an interview with her from the makers of the upcoming documentary Wine From Here produced and directed Martin Carel.

From their faceboook page: “Through interviews of natural wine producers in their own working environment, the vineyard and the winery, the story reveals a budding natural wine movement in California. Passionate natural wine producers explain how they differ from other California wine producers, underlying the importance of organic and sustainable farming, the use of native yeasts during fermentation, and the stingy use of sulfur. The key to natural wine is minimal intervention throughout the winemaking process.”

4 thoughts on “Earth Day Every Day: which wine to choose? Five Tips for “green” wine purchases

  1. Pingback: Earth Day Every Day: 5 Tips for “green” wine « art predator

  2. G, you’re too generous. My koan these days is by Spanish writer & philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, who admonished, ‘Do not let your thinking interfere with your action’– My political wariness seems to have been getting in the way of my writing anything like this focused, comprehensive & practical overview. The ease with which you generously host & shelter my haphazard exploration of wine is only an indicator of its geat depth. Thank you.


  3. For that last sentence to be anywhere near grammatical, it should read, ‘The casual ease & generosity with which you host & shelter my haphazard explorations in wine is only an indicator of that generosity’s depth.’


Please Comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s