Wine is often considered by its advocates to be the greatest expression of humankind’s relationship with the earth. Many winemakers too will argue that wines best convey a sense of place when grown in harmony with Mother Nature. A pioneering state in American environmentalism, California is a global leader in sustainable viticulture practices. This Earth Day, raise a glass to the many California wineries that are committed to keeping our planet healthy. Here are four of our favorites.
The Benziger family has been practicing biodynamic viticulture at their Sonoma estate since the 1990s. Today, all of their estate vineyards are certified biodynamic, and all their wines are either biodynamic, sustainable, or organic. Visit the property, and you’ll likely encounter sheep and cattle, both important contributors of vineyard “fertilizer.” The BENZIGER “Sonoma County” Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Sonoma, California) $20 is rich and gratifying (and a steal, too).
Nestled in the narrowest stretch of the Napa Valley, Ehlers Estate has been yielding grapes since the mid-1800s. In 2008, they earned their organic certification for 100% of their vineyards. Their specialty is Bordeaux varietals, and their entire portfolio is estate grown. For a plush yet powerful merlot, we recommend EHLERS ESTATE Merlot 2012 (St. Helena, California) $55.
Mike Grgich is an icon in the American wine industry. The winemaker behind the legendary Chateau Montelena chardonnay that won the 1976 Paris Tasting, Grgich founded his own estate in 1977. While he’s always been environmentally conscious, in 2006 Mike successfully converted all of Grgich Hills vineyards to biodynamic practices and switched the winery to solar power. The GRGICH HILLS Estate Chardonnay 2012 (Napa Valley, California) $42 proves that Mike is still a master of this grape.
Up in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, Kathleen Inman believes pinot noir’s finest attribute is its capacity to encapsulate the land from which it comes. To do that best, Inman Family Wines employs eco-friendly practices in both the vineyard and the crush pad. Try INMAN “Whole Buncha Love” Pinot Noir 2013 (Russian River Valley, California) $45, a 100% whole cluster, savory expression of pinot.