We all love an occasional glass (or more) but other than its effect on your palette and mind, should we care what goes into our glass of wine? Absolutely. For starters, many wines are actually produced using animal byproducts, as well as forms of gluten, which is a concern for anyone with sensitivity. Through a process is called “fining”, “agents” are used to draw the solid, earthy matter in your wine and sink it to the bottom for discard prior to bottling. Some commonly used “agents” are hydrolyzed wheat gluten isolate, milk protein, gelatin, egg whites and fish derivatives, among others. Importantly, traces of these ingredients are not found in the finished product, but the byproducts are still used in production, nonetheless. In terms of wine production, larger vineyards and their subsidiaries have often become concerned about the final product and not the production process in terms of land preservation, maintenance and sustainability.
This vineyard has set the bar extremely high to address all of these matters. It has been the pioneer of organic farming and sustainable living since the 1960’s! The family-run property is also a poster child for biodynamic farming, the principal of which is to cultivate the most optimal soil health and not just crop health (again, not very Machiavellian). Biodynamic farms view animals on the land as an essential component of farm ecology and nutrient cycling, but do not make use of any animal byproducts as part of any production. This allows for balanced ecology with carefully-monitored care of all plants and animals involved, as well as a higher level of self-sufficiency and sustainability as a business. Of course, it follows that this vineyard’s wine is produced without the use of any chemicals or preservatives as well as without any animal byproducts. In terms of organic practices, not using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers is just the beginning. The vineyard also implements mechanical cultivation instead of using toxic herbicides, uses natural sulfur instead of chemical fungicides and biological controls to curtail mildew and rot. The biodiversity that results from these practices allows for natural predators and thereby eliminates the need for insecticides. The growers also practice a fertilization technique called “green manuring” which covers a variety of flora that protect the soil from erosion, fix nitrogen into the land and offer a habitat for many beneficial insects.
Lastly, all loops are closed in the system by practicing composting to recycle any natural, beneficial waste into the soil. And finally, the vineyard is located in Mendocino County, the first U.S. County to enact a ban on the propagation of genetically modified plants and animals. Mendocino County remains GMO-free since 2004. As far as the taste and ratings: though similar to other oft bought labels, bottle prices of this sustainable vineyard remain typically lower. For this particular bottle, it compliments bold tastes (think chocolate) and has pleasant tannins, leaving a long and smooth finish. With such clean production, no added sulfites are detected, lessening chances for regrets the next day (or, for some that are very sulfite sensitive, soon after consumption). Having a choice like this for a high quality vino is a true luxury for those who choose to exercise it. Need more be said?
Franciscan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Robert Mondavi Winery photo: source K&L Wine Merchants
Frey 2013 Biodynamic®, Cabernet Sauvignon Organic Wine from Frey Vineyards photo: source wine-searcher.com
U.S. GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.
Refer to your state’s guidelines for permission of legal drinking age.
- USDA-certified organic grapes and farming practices (including non-GMO yeast) through both organic and Demeter, USA-certified biodynamic® means
- Holistic land management*
- Conservation of on-farm resources, including currently being 50% solar powered (with the goal of becoming 100% solar powered) and implementing "carbon neutral" practices
- Local fertility dependence versus dependence on off-farm inputs
- Recyclable glass bottle
- Vineyard works with and supports the Inland Mendocino Land Trust to ensure future protection of surrounding forests and watershed (187 acres in conservation easement).