Sustainable Wine, Sonoma County Wineries and Good Pinot Under $30. What do they all have in common? Well, Sonoma County wineries and vineyards have embraced the idea of Sustainable wine and vineyard practices. What do those have in common with wine under $30? Not as much. Frankly, it is harder to find a lot of great wines under $30 in Sonoma County- they do exist though- and when you find them- they can be damn good. Typically, you will find a cross section between all three categories when a brand is owned by a large company, a wealthy family or has been IN the family since before land prices in Sonoma went for the roof.
Sustainably grown wine grapes, in theory, promote greatly reduced energy usage and a minimal ecological footprint. That sounds great, right? We have heard the term “green washing” thrown around when it comes to different practices- Fish Friendly Farming, Sustainable Wine, Sustainably Grown, Biodynamic, etc. What do they all mean and are some better than others? Are people just bullshitting us by using these? That depends. We feel, if nothing else, that they are all a step in the right direction- something is better than nothing, and if the consumer encourages wineries, then the wineries will encourage the vineyards to deliver what the consumer demands. That requires the consumer to do some research and vote with their dollars
My Brother, and business partner, uses the analogy of cooking when trying to describe sustainability- I think it works. Basically, he says ‘when you are cooking sustainably, you don’t just keep the best part of the steak and throw the rest away. You scrape out the can of beans when you are done- don’t waste. If you top your broccoli, use the bottom for something- or at least compost it.’ Ultimately, what he is saying is, ‘Take the extra step and be conscious.’
We love Pinot Noir and have been striving to keep our prices down- our Pinot Noir hovers around that $20-22 dollar a bottle price and our Sauvignon Blanc $16-19. After years of making wines in the higher price points, we decided that we not only wanted to make good Pinot Noir, but wanted to make a good Pinot under $30 a bottle- actually, a Pinot Noir sub $25 was our ultimate goal. We did not want to sacrifice quality of our wines, so we branched out and called on relationships we had built over the last two decades to find great vineyards in great counties to make great wines at a great price. The more we looked around for vineyards that would help us produce a sustainable wine, we found if we wanted great fruit at a good price, we would have to venture out and find the gems to bring back to our winery and blend with the Sonoma County wines we produce.
We found that the grapes to make a good Pinot under $30 were accessible, but venturing out of Sonoma County was really the key to making the wine punch above its' weight-class while still being able to produce smaller quantities in a price point that is dominated by huge wineries with lots of money, and still get the quality we demand from our wine PLUS have the wine made from sustainably grown grapes. Our wines have been made from 100% sustainably farmed grapes for two years. Some of the vineyards had been in the middle of getting certified sustainable for a few years prior to that and others have been certified sustainable for years. We worked with one vineyard in the Central Coast that has been practicing sustainable farming for years, and keeps the paperwork but does not certify his vineyard due to politics and cost. We have moved to other vineyards that are certified because the consumer demands more sustainable wines and grapes.
Sustainable wine and grapes is a dynamic topic, but is worth venturing into. The more you know, the more of an informed decision you can make. There has been a movement afoot for a long time on this topic (not just in wine), so it is great to see people demanding sustainable wine and grapes. Now, we just need other regions to follow Sonoma County wineries in their march to be 100% sustainably farmed. While you are at it, might as well demand a damn good pinot under $30…maybe even demand that it is called Lucky Rock. Up to you…