Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Organic" Wines for Thanksgiving

Ever wondered why it's hard to find a wine labeled "organic" or what "made with organically grown grapes" means?

When it comes to apples or pumpkins, organic means they're grown without any chemical pesticides or fertilizers. But when it comes to grapes used to make wine, it's not so simple. Even though quite a number of wineries grow grapes without any pesticides or chemical fertilizers, they can't quite call their wines organic. The reason? The way government wine standards are written, only those wines made without any added sulfites -- a naturally occurring preservative needed to stabilize the wine -- can be called organic. There's lots of info on organic and biodynamic wines and plenty international vino on offer (natch) at The Organic Wine Company.

So, until the law changes, most American green wines are labeled "made with organically grown grapes."

Wondering what to drink with your hormone-free turkey? Here are some eco-friendly wines to check out:

2005 Jeriko Estate Brut Sparkling Wine The first and only American sparkling wine made from organically grown grapes, the Jeriko Brut is a blanc de blancs made solely from chardonnay grapes grown in Mendocino County. It's elegant, crisp and luxurious.

2005 Bonterra Vineyards Viognier This white varietal most often found in France's northern Rhone is beloved for its lush character that's a blend of apricots, white flowers and honey. This one crafted from Mendocino County grapes is oaked so it's got a hint of vanilla too.

2005 Grgich Hills Estate Merlot This merlot made from Napa fruit has lots of personality with flavors of plums and cocoa and balanced tannins.

Mike Grgich, whom I met last fall when he visited the Hotel Del Coronado, is probably the nation's senior statesman when it comes to making wines from naturally grown grapes. He started doing things that way back in his native Croatia and never found a good reason to stop. He's most famous for making the 1972 Chateau Montalena chardonnay that beat out France's best white Burgundies in the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting. The story of Grgich's fervent quest to come to America and make good wine in George Taber's book is so inspiring, it will make you want to discover what his wines are about.

For more updates from food and drink expert Maria Hunt on the latest and best when it comes to cocktails, wine and cuisine, visit and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter The Bubbly Girl Chronicles

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