As winemaking has swept from the old world to the new world and across emerging regions within that, we need to look to wineries, like Bonterra Organic Vineyards, that employ sustainable practices. Despite the evolution and modernization of viticulture, the most refined practices are still the organic and biodynamic methods of old—staying true to the fruit of the vine by nourishing the soil that provides it.
Bonterra employs a broad set of holistic business practices. It is a certified Leed Corporation, using 100% renewable energy and, amazingly, is also zero-waste certified. Within the vineyards, regenerative farming includes cover-cropping, applying compost, and enlisting a host of animals as groundskeepers in place of toxic pesticides. Chickens aerate the soil as they cluck through row upon row, scratching and pecking at the vines to swallow up insects as they go. Three thousand grazing sheep also fertilize and aerate the soil, and mow the weeds as they prance back and forth.
Does this make a qualitative difference to the wine? I don’t know. But you know what feels great? The confidence that choosing this wine is unequivocally healthier for our environment that is otherwise under daily duress. As consumers, we are part of the process. We have the purchasing power and therefore the responsibility to choose the companies and the products that are sustaining our agriculture, and not the ones who are contributing to stripping it away.
So what about the taste? Well, if you’ve ever wondered what pairs well with gefilte fish, I can tell you that at our family’s recent Passover Seder, this Ashkenazi delicacy never tasted so good as when I paired it with the Bonterra Chardonnay. Its balanced acidity, green apples, a touch of oak and spice with a vibrant lemony minerality, was a true reflection of its varietal and, candidly, elevated my Auntie Essie’s gefilte fish. Its versatility also lent itself as a refreshing palate cleanser and compliment to the roast chicken and fingerling potatoes. Wine should create possibilities with each dish, and this Chardonnay does precisely that.
The Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon is the wine that I look forward to opening and sharing with company, and do so with pride, because it has that seductive plum-y depth that I expect from a Californian wine and the acid balance that makes it so versatile that I can pair it with a chicken or a brisket to enliven the flavour profiles of both. Soft tannins of ripe berries and currants, with notes of vanilla backed by an oak-y structure.
Every wine region has its challenges and its opportunities. The wine region of Mendocino County, a gorgeous, sun-kissed coastal dreamscape, is distinct. The practices employed by meticulous farmers at Bonterra in Mendocino, whether or not they look the same as in other regions, are energy-efficient and save money in the long run. We have confidence in their practices and in the beautifully crafted, fresh wines for which we don’t need to compromise our values. This wine lingers on the palate with a rich solid finish that beckons another pour.
We have to care about the way wines are produced. We don’t want to compromise on values any more than on quality. We know that regenerative agriculture has climate benefits, and we have to ask and demand, as eco-conscious consumers, that farming practices give back to nature what they take from it!
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.