7 Good Causes, 15 Top Wines
The wine industry is taking all kinds of environmentally-friendly measures. Here are some of the best winemakers with a cause, plus a top bottle from each.
The Cause: Green Buildings
Green Initiative: Gargiulo Vineyards' new tasting room in Napa Valley is made almost exclusively from recycled materials, such as roof beams from a decommissioned bridge, flooring from a high school gym, a reworked barrel as a chandelier and walls made from vineyard stones.
Wine to Buy: 2007 Money Road Ranch Merlot A richly textured red, Gargiulo's Merlot has lush cocoa and black cherry notes.
Green Initiative: This Oregon producer built the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold-certified winery in the U.S.; it uses solar power, waste-water reclamation and energy-efficient heating and cooling.
Wine to Buy: 2009 JV Estate Chardonnay This unoaked Chardonnay from Stoller is clean, crisp and fresh.
The Cause: Integrated Pest Management
Green Initiative: This Oregon winery keeps pastures and forestlands around its vineyards untouched to provide homes for natural predators like hawks and owls, helping eliminate the need for chemical pest control.
Wine to Buy: 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir WillaKenzie's most affordable Pinot bottling reveals soft, ripe raspberry fruit and hints of anise and rosemary.
Green Initiative: Lolonis releases millions of ladybugs every June, July and August to control insect pests in their organically farmed vineyards—a practice they started more than 50 years ago.
Wine to Buy: NV Lolonis Ladybug White Cuvée III A blend of Colombard, Sémillon, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, this white has juicy pear-melon flavors.
Green Initiative: Owl boxes in Dolan's vineyards help control voles and other rodent pests; manure from mobile chicken coops provides an alternative to chemical fertilizers.
The Cause: Land Preservation
Green Initiative: People may not associate Gallo (which owns Frei Brothers) with eco-awareness, but since the late 1970s, the company has set aside an acre of untouched land for every acre of coastal California vineyard it has developed—making for an impressive total of more than 6,000 acres so far.
Wine to Buy: 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Mostly sourced from Gallo's Barrelli Creek Vineyard, this juicy Cabernet shows cassis and peppercorn notes.
The Cause: Recycling
Green Initiative: Fetzer has reduced the material it hauls to landfills by 95 percent since 1990, roughly the same amount of garbage that would've been produced by 17,000 homes. (The company is the largest grower of organic grapes in California.)
Wine to Buy: 2007 Shiraz Spicy and full of dark berry fruit, Fetzer's Shiraz isn't wildly complex, but it is tasty.
The Cause: Salmon-safe
Green Initiative: Oregon's Benton Lane started working to control runoff and erosion from its hillside vineyards back in 1996. This helps keep nearby rivers clean so that salmon eggs can hatch.Wine to Buy: 2009 Pinot Gris
Classic green apple and pear notes define this juicy, drinkable Pinot Gris.
Green Initiative: Winemaker Mike Januik's 225-acre Stillwater Creek Vineyard was the first in Washington's Columbia Valley to achieve salmon-safe certification.
Wine to Buy: 2005 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Merlot Plush tannins and ripe boysenberry fruit make this red a model of Washington state Merlot.
The Cause: Solar Power
Green Initiative: Honig has 819 solar panels; its website offers an interactive display that shows exactly how much power the panels are producing at any given moment.
Wine to Buy: 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc Honig's Sauvignon Blanc is melony and firm, with a bright, zesty finish that lasts.
Green Initiative: In 2003, this Sonoma County producer installed roughly 80,000 square feet of solar panels on the roof of its barrel house, producing about the same amount of power that would be used by a town of 800 homes.
Wine to Buy: 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Graceful black cherry fruit, velvety tannins and a long, rich finish make this red taste far more expensive than it is.
The Cause: Wildlife Protection
Green Initiative: This Santa Rita Hills winery lets the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group keep a hack box in its vineyards. After being rescued from bridges and skyscrapers, peregrine falcons are released from it into the wild.
Wine to Buy: 2006 El Jabalí Vineyard Chardonnay This honeysuckle-scented Chardonnay is one of several good wines from Alma Rosa.
Green Initiative: Rather than building fences, Sonoma's Medlock Ames created wildlife corridors to allow wild pigs, deer, bobcats and mountain lions to pass through its vineyards without damaging the vines or themselves.
Wine to Buy: 2007 Chardonnay Though full-bodied, this creamy Chardonnay is elegant and focused, with lemony flavors that end on a mineral note.
2009 Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc
This longtime organic producer uses clean, renewable geothermal energy for heating and cooling its winery buildings. Its Sauvignon Blanc is as crisp and juicy as ever.
2009 Sokol Blosser Estate Pinot Gris
Biodiesel-fueled tractors, LEED certification, solar power—Oregon's Sokol Blosser is at the forefront of eco-friendly U.S. wines. Plus, it makes this delicious, nectarine-scented Pinot Gris.