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Thursday, January 24 , 2019, 6:14 am | Fair 42º


Laurie Jervis: Of Bubbles and Still Wine, Sustainable and Organic Vineyards

During the past decade, I've soaked up a ton of wine knowledge. As a bonus, I actually remember most of it. I recently found a new term: grower champagne.

By definition, these champagnes are produced in the Champagne region of France — just like "real" champagnes. The difference: Grower champagnes come from estates that, well, actually grow the grapes that end up in the champagne. The key word here is "grower" of the grapes that are used in the champagnes.

Since I favor those who work the land and vines themselves, be they folks in my county or across the globe, curiosity won me over, and I sidled up to the bar during a "green" tasting at the Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant on Dec. 10.

While huge champagne houses such as Mumm, Moët & Chandon and Perrier Jouët use grapes sourced from several vineyards, grower champagnes come from one vineyard, or just a handful of sites that are adjacent to one another.

During the cafe's event, titled "Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Biodynamic, Organic, Balanced and Natural Wine Fair," representatives from three distributors (Farm Wine Imports, Southern Wine & Spirits and Wine Wise) joined local winemakers who also focus on sustainable, organic and, in a couple of cases, biodynamic and organic grape growing and winemaking.

Jenna Congdon, sales rep for Wine Wise, poured bubbles from five producers who favor sustainability — one of them, the Greek label Karanika, follows organic and biodymanic practices, and another, Vilmart, sustainable and organic.

All five labels happen to utilize grapes from old vines, be they in Germany, Greece or France.

The Geoffroy NV Cuvée Expression Brut Champagne is a blend of pinot meunier, pinot noir and chardonnay grapes from sustainable vineyards. The Geoffroy family has grown grapes in the village of Cumieres since the 1600s, although its first bottling was not until 1980, Congdon told me.

The evening also featured local wines grown from sustainable, organic or biodynamic vineyards. Included were A Tribute to Grace/Farmers Jane, Alma Rosa, Ampelos, Amplify, Beckmen, Bernat, Ground Effect, Lo-Fi, J Brix, Presqu'ile, Solminer and Roark Wine Co.

The winemakers from all of these labels focus on sustainable farming and winemaking. Two vineyards, those of Beckmen and Ampelos, are certified biodynamic sites, and the Bernat and Alma Rosa vineyards are certified organic.

Anna and David deLaski of Solminer Wine also farm a three-acre vineyard in Los Olivos that is certified organic. Yes, in practice, farming organically requires "a lot of labor," Anna deLaski said, "but we want to take care of the Earth." (As the Solminer website states, Anna's motto is "go green or go home.")

The couple are turning heads with their new releases, among them a 2013 Riesling and the 2013 Estate Sparkling Syrah, "Nebullite."

In practice, how do sustainable, organic and biodynamic differ?

Sustainable practices address water conservation and efficient use of energy, as well as air quality, social responsibility and habitat conservation. Click here for more information.

Certified organic vineyards cannot use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.

And finally, viticulturists farming vineyards that are certified biodynamic must follow the cycles of the lunar calendar, which dictates certain days for pruning, weeding, harvesting and much more. The biodynamic vineyard is considered an ecosystem, and all chemicals are strictly forbidden.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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