In 2018 words like ‘organic,’ ‘biodynamic,’ and ‘sustainable’ get thrown around interchangeably, and I feel like half the time people who use them don’t even know what they mean. This is particularly true about wine. What does it mean that your wine is made with organic grapes? Will that impact the taste? Does that mean a higher price point? Are you giving up quality for some vague word that may not really mean that much? These are the kinds of questions that come up most often, and during the Fetzer Brands #WineStudio we did in January, we got to know more about the winery that even my sister’s boyfriend knows is the organic wine, Bonterra.
Since 1987, Bonterra vineyards has been farmed organically. The goal behind this from the get-go was to show what a varietal was capable of in the purest way possible. Instead of using chemicals, the winery now highlights the sheep and chickens allowed to roam the vineyards in order to munch on insects and trim weeds. What I would say is even more interesting than the label organic is the Biodynamic farming the winery stands behind. When certified as Biodynamic by Demeter, the farm establishes that it is a self-contained and self-sustaining living organism that is aligned with nature. There are as few external inputs as possible with the intent to allow the land and the nature around it to thrive. For Bonterra, it’s about respect, and as you’ll see with the two wines I tried, that respect has paid off.
The 2015 Merlot was a complex wine that we dove into as we discussed the ins and outs of everything organic. The inclusion of small amounts of Petite Sirah and Malbec added complexity to this Merlot which had aromas of blackberry and black cherry. The flavors of those dark berries with a hint of oak and smoke came through on the palate, leading to a wine that could stand up on its own and provided a lot of interesting layers for the group to discuss. It was a wine with structure that would pair well with burgers, portabella mushrooms, and any food with an earthy quality to it. The SRP for this bottle is $16, making it even more approachable for the average buyer. If you enjoy Merlot, this is one worthy of adding to your home.
While the Merlot was a solid, dependable option to add to your dinner table, the other wine we opened was the 2015 The Roost Single Vineyard Chardonnay. The grapes came from the Blue Heron Vineyard, located between the shore of the upper Russian River Valley and a blue heron nesting site. On the palate, this golden wine provided notes of juicy apples and citrus fruits, with a creamy nutty quality that added some additional ‘oomph’ to the bottle. It also had those vanilla and oak notes that come from French Oak Barrels, meaning it was a bottle that was too oaky for me. After a glass, I left the rest to my friends who happily finished it off. With an SRP of $45, if you are a Chardonnay fan the price is absolutely worth it, but if you tend to stay away from anything Chardonnay, I would not recommend starting with this bottle. You could love it, but I think with the SRP, it’s a bottle to really meant to be purchased by those who can appreciate it.
As Bonterra explained during our #WineStudio session, it’s easy to explain the difference between a strawberry that is organic and one that isn’t. Nowadays, many people understand what it means to farm organically when it comes to the fruit you eat. Yet wine can be a bit more confusing to some. However, at the beginning of every new bottle of wine, there are grapes and winemaking is just another type of farming. So while it’s important to me that a wine taste good, I also understand the value of organic wines, especially when they taste as good as the ones Bonterra produces. Cheers!
These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.