Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine

Grgich Hills Earthquake

Michael Eckstein, Associate Winemaker at Grgich Hills with damaged barrels of Zinfandel.

Our best wishes go out to all people, and all wineries, affected by the earthquake in Napa. Here is a roundup of what we’ve learned about some of our organic winemakers.

Frog’s Leap

On Twitter, Frog’s Leap posted:

Thankfully, we had minor damage & will reopen Monday. RT @TIME: The largest earthquake to hit Napa Valley in 25 years

Robert Sinskey

On Twitter, Robert Sinskey posted:

Robert Sinskey Vineyards made it through the earthquake largely unscathed! We are OPEN FOR BUSINESS! Come visit us!

Grgich Hills

On Facebook, Grgich Hills posted:

Thank you to everyone for your phone calls, emails and texts! We are all safe and sound, with minimal earthquake damage to a few barrels. Come on by our Tasting Room – we are opening up now for tasting only, no tours or stomping just to be on the safe side.

Domaine Carneros

The Los Angeles Times spoke with T.J. Evans at Domaine Carneros:

T.J. Evans, winemaker at Domaine Carneros in Napa, said a 3,000- and 6,000-gallon tank filled with sparking wine showed signs of minor damage after swaying from their concrete moorings.

Power was out briefly, leaving no way for coolant to calm the hot fermentation of the wine. The winery’s barrels, however, were undisturbed.

“We’re extraordinarily lucky,” Evans said. “We have a little survivor’s guilt.”

Tres Sabores

Tres Sabores on Twitter:

#napaearthquake an experience to be virtually launched out of bed. TS ppl safe tgdns but not good for rest/retail friends + wishes friends

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Cà de Noci Tre Dame 2013

A few days ago I had the chance to meet up with a good friend at Maialino, a terrific restaurant and wine bar on Gramercy Park. I got there first, and had just ordered a glass of a Valle d’Oste rosé when he blew in and said, “Let’s do bubbles.” That sounded good, so he chose one that was new to me, the Cà de Noci Tre Dame from Emilio-Romagna. The choice was genius.

Cà de Noci, named after an adjacent walnut forest, is run by brothers Alberto and Giovani Masini. They started in 1993 with Lambrusco, the region’s traditional grape, then decided to plant other native varietals, that had long been abandoned by the region, in 2001. Around that time they also started to farm organically, with very low yields, and to make the wines with minimal intervention. In the cellar there is no fining or filtration, and no sulfites are added.

The Tre Dame is a blend of Sgavetti and Termamira. It’s an extremely vivacious frizzante, thanks to a second fermentation in the bottle, a technique that is unusual in a region of mass-produced wines. Don’t look for any hint of sweetness in this savory fizz, though the cherry and currant fruit is amazingly lively and fresh. Because of the acidity and bubbles it works great with fatty foods, dry sausages and fancy pizzas. You can also enjoy a glass or three thanks to the 11.5% alcohol. Break the budget for this one because it’ll cost you around $35, but it’s worth every cent. Just give it a little chill and you’re good to go.

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Luca Roagna

Luca Roagna

Barbaresco occupies an outsized reputation in the wine world, relative to its modest size. The town occupies a narrow outcropping, surrounded by vine-covered hills undulating off into the distance. Only one main road gives access to the town center, leading directly to a thousand-year-old tower standing guard over the vineyards. Beside it stands a medieval church, while nearby a fine trattoria called Antica Torre dishes out Piemontese specialties like the delicious egg yolk pasta tamarin.

The Rocca Family

The Rocca Family

Organic wine is taken seriously in Barbaresco. Producers following organic practices include Punset, Cascina delle Rose, Moccagatta, Bruno Rocca and Roagna. The two Barbaresco producers we visited on a recent trip, Bruno Rocca and Roagna, exemplified the two ends of the winemaking spectrum, modern vs classic, and provided the perfect overview of the region’s winemaking.

Bruno Rocca’s holdings include 15 hectares, mostly in and around Barbaresco as well as land in Neive and Treiso. Bruno’s parents moved the family out of the town to Rabajá in the late 1950s and purchased their first vineyard. Prior to 1978, they sold grapes rather than produce their own wines, but Bruno was determined to create his own label. Today, they are practicing organic and produce ten different wines, from Chardonnay to Barbera d’Asti to Barbaresco DOCG. To match the growth of the company, the cellar has expanded over the years and reflects their modern approach to winemaking.

Unfortunately the limited production chardonnay was sold out long before we arrived for a tasting, so we started with a 2011 Barbera d’Asti from vines replanted in 2000, a lean wine with a good acidity. The 2011 Barbera d’Alba was a big wine, richer with more fruit and rounder than the Asti. A 2010 Barbaresco, described as entry level and approachable, displayed a warm earthiness, though the tannins overwhelmed at this stage. The 2009 Barbaresco Coppa Rossa married grapes from their Neive and Treiso vineyards, which give structure and elegance to a wine that can age for years to come.

Afterwards, we took a quick tour through the spiffy five-year-old winery, which is now outfitted with solar panels providing more than 90% of its energy needs. We descended through three levels, ending up in a large expanse populated with barrels aging Barbaresco. The facility is impressive, as are the strides the Rocca family has made as it moves into the second generation of winemaking.

Roagna Vineyards

Roagna Vineyards

Upon greeting us, Luca Roagna says “you can only understand the wines if you see the vineyards,” so we pile into his car for a quick ride up and over the hill. Roagna has four sites with varying terroir, from limestone and clay to blue marl to sand and we quickly see his dedication to organic winemaking. All the vines are old and native to the area. He believes in biodiversity and a quick comparison of his vines, blanketed in uncut grass, to neighboring rows laid out in bare earth shows, in stark relief, the value of organic practices. Everything Roagna does is as natural as possible, including adding very little sulfur and only utilizing natural yeasts.

Back in his cellar, we experience the opposite of the Rocca estate. While Rocca maintains a pristine facility, Roagna’s cellar reflects the old school winemaking he is known for. We started with a 2008 Barolo Pira from old vines planted in 1937 that displayed good acidity. A tannic, masculine 2008 Pajé revealed delicious dried dark fruit over time, while a 2004 Pajé was vibrant and tasted younger than its ten years. A 2008 Asili was very approachable while an elegant 2008 Montefico was more fruit forward and exuberant. After spending twelve years in barrel, the recently released 1998 Riserva Pajé is already drinking extremely well.

The Rocca Estate

The Rocca Estate

With each wine, Luca aims to achieve a pure expression of nebbiolo. His respect for tradition remains evident in both the vineyards and what’s in the bottle, underscoring Roagna’s well-deserved reputation for excellence.

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Punch writer Aaron Ayscough reports that demand for limited Natural Wines in Paris has led some restaurants to try and keep them hidden from customers not deemed worthy:

The simplest defense against cherry pickers, practiced at wine-shop-slash-restaurant Le Verre Volé and celebrated Belleville bistrot Le Baratin, is to have no wine list at all. Ostensibly this is to ensure that each table arrives at the optimum wine choice. In practice, it also ensures that clients are screened before each wine sale.

Meanwhile, at the Left Bank’s historic Café de la Nouvelle Mairie there is a generous list of natural wines—but it’s only shown on demand. In my experience, staff members I don’t know typically point me to the blackboard of glass-pour wines when I request the list. Each time I must insist that there is indeed a wine list—often making a silly rectangular motion in the air with my fingers—before the server concedes and hands it over.

Read the full article at

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Edible Manhattan

Organic Wine Journal just got written up in Edible Manhattan by writer Alia Akkam. Check out the article here.

“We don’t want people to drink a biodynamic wine just because it’s biodynamic. It should be judged on its own merit, like with conventional wines. But if two products are equally good, why would you not take the organic one, where the winemaker lets nature do the work?”

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A new organic and biodynamic wine bar is opening in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. From DNAinfo:

Sunrise/Sunset, 351 Evergreen Ave., opened last Thursday with just bar hours, starting at 5 p.m., said owner Henry Glucroft, 29, who also owns Henry’s Wine and Spirit at 69 Central Ave.

Glucroft, a self-professed wine aficionado, wants to expand the wine list to include more than 100 bottles of natural, organic, biodynamic wine by next week, he said.

The bar currently serves 10 wines by the glass and offers three champagnes. Glucroft, who spent much of his childhood outside Paris, gravitates towards natural, biodynamic wines because they’re made from grapes in self-contained farms that don’t use any pesticides and don’t add chemicals.

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The makers of the documentary Wine The Green Revolution have put some smaller videos online to explain organic and biodynamic winemaking techniques.

Here is one where Pierre Masson explains Lunar and Astral Rhythms.

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Domaine de Montcy

Domaine Montcy Vineyard

Laura Semeria loves a challenge. The Italian native was a sommelier and food producer, but on a trip to Loire Valley she fell in love with the nearly-forgotten grape Romorantin. Coming across a young, but floundering estate, she was determined to buy it and set out to do big things.

Laura took over Domaine de Montcy in 2007 and began converting it to organic practices in 2008. In 2010, she started the process of becoming biodynamic. No doubt, her neighbors were taken aback at the Italian showing up with her newfangled ways, but she made it work. Today, her winery is thriving, she’s built a two-room guest cabin in the middle of her fields and she even encourages lingering among the vines, with signage spotlighting the different grapes.

Montcy Guest Cabin

Guest cabin at Domaine Montcy

The domaine makes 12 different wines including several expressions of Laura’s beloved Romorantin, which she ages 18 months on lees, and is her only grape not used in a blend. We started with a fresh, vibrant 2011 Cheverny Tradition that is 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Chardonnay, then moved on to 2011 Clos de Sondres, a 50/50 Sauvignon/Chardonnay blend that exhibited more body and power.

Next were two expressions of Romorantin – a 2009 Cour Cheverny, more acid driven and a bigger vintage than usual, and 2010 Plénitude, which was sharp with prominent acidity. Moving on to the reds, we tried a nicely structured 2010 Cheverny Rouge Louis de la Saussaye (60% Pinot Noir, 25% Cot/Malbec, 15% Gamay) and a vibrant Cot (Malbec) & Pinot Noir blend. To finish, the 2009 Cour-Cheverny Claude de France (100% Romorantin) was lightly sweet (39 grams/rs) with plenty of acid to back it up.

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