Though they’re still the exception, wines made with organic and biodynamic methods are becoming more and more prevalent. Here are nine bottles from producers who use one or the other, plus one from a winemaker who bucks the mainstream in a different way—by operating off the power grid.
Organic Winemaking & Viticulture
2007 Badger Mountain N.S.A. Organic Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)
Finding drinkable wines made without the use of sulfites can be a challenge, unless you’re fond of aromas like pond water and manure. (A side note: Sulfite allergies, which are rare, do not cause the classic “red wine headache.”) Washington’s Badger Mountain has a knack for clean, organic winemaking, as evidenced by reds like this one: juicy and bright, with ripe cherry fruit.2003 Coturri P. Coturri Family Vineyard Zinfandel ($45)
Coturri’s wines are never shrinking violets, and this ultra-lush Sonoma Zinfandel is no exception. Full of sweet black-cherry and plum-jam flavors, it’s also organically grown and vinified, using only natural yeast—as are all Coturri wines.
2006 Bonterra Mendocino County Zinfandel ($15)
Bonterra has been a leader in organic viticulture in California’s wine industry, utilizing techniques such as composting and integrated pest management (the use of beneficial insects to eliminate pests) along with traditional organic tactics, such as eschewing chemical fertilizers. Among the payoffs is this boysenberry-scented red.2007 Ceago Vinegarden “Del Lago” Chardonnay ($22)
The grapes for this graceful Chardonnay, which is bright with zesty acidity and juicy pear flavors, come from Jim Fetzer’s biodynamically farmed Clear Lake vineyard, part of his Ceago Vinegarden wine estate, which is located in California’s Lake County. NV Domaine Carneros Cuveé de la Pompadour Brut Rosé ($36)
As of Dcember 2007, all four of Domaine Carneros’s estate vineyards, located in southern Napa Valley, had received organic certification from the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers). This Brut Rosé, produced solely from those vineyards, is bright and fresh, with delicate berry flavors.
2006 Montinore Estate Willamette Valley Gewürztraminer ($13)
Montinore Estate’s 220 acres of vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley are farmed according to biodynamic principles, a rigorous form of organic viticulture that also has a distinct spiritual focus. Whether you buy into the more outré aspects of biodynamics, though, the approach clearly works here: This wildly floral, spicy white is a steal at the price.2007 Maysara Pinot Blanc ($17)
Maysara’s owner, Moe Momtazi, is a believer in biodynamics’ concentration on the holistic life of a farm—in essence, the farm has to be considered a living organism in toto, not simply vines planted on a patch of land. His graceful Pinot Blanc certainly has a seamless quality about it, perhaps as a result; it’s spicy and floral, with crisp green-apple and peach fruit.2006 Sky Saddle Chardonnay ($30)
A small biodynamic vineyard in Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll District supplies the fruit for this succulent, creamy white. Winemaker Matthew Wilson gives the wine 14 months of extended lees contact in oak barrels, helping refine its silky texture and giving it impressive depth of flavor.2006 Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir Mountain Terroir ($50)
This biodynamic Oregon producer, located on the slopes of an ancient volcano, makes a wide range of wines, among them this graceful Pinot Noir. It’s filled with luscious wild raspberry flavors bolstered by gentle tannins.
Off the Grid
2004 Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($42)
Luscious and powerful, this blackberry-inflected Cabernet doesn’t come from organic vineyards, but the winery is the only one in Washington state—and possibly anywhere in the U.S.—that exists entirely off the power grid. Rob Newsom relies solely on nature, his own hands, a propane generator and a battery bank to produce all of his wines.