Organically-Grown Girls’ Night

Editor's Note:

This post is the second from our Corvallis guest blogger, Clare Cady, author of the Semi-Urban Homesteader blog. Help us convince her to become a permanent member of our team!

I have to admit, I was very excited to have a posting as a guest writer here on The Oregon Wine Blog - so excited that I created a companion post on my blog, Semi-Urban Homesteader. I wanted to talk to my audience there (a small group of faithful!) about the intersection between winemaking and sustainability. I decided to do a simple write up on what makes a wine organic. I thought I would share that here along with my most recent sampling which comes from the organic (and local!) category.

From the blog posting…

“Often in liquor stores (and more often in food co-ops) we will see areas designated "organic wine," but the term "organic" is often so overused that it often becomes meaningless beyond green packaging and Pollanesque supermarket pastoral. I will admit that I have not really spent time figuring it out (I generally go for local first, organic second when it comes to wine).

For starters, there needs to be an acknowledgment that along with confusion around what it means to be "organic" in our supermarkets, each country in the world has a different standard. This is important to think about when dealing with wine seeing as so much of the wine in this country is imported (other food as well). What is agreed upon across the board is that the way the grapes are grown is very important. There should be no pesticides or chemicals and all other methods of growing need to be earth-friendly.

Where things start to become hazy is the position on sulfites. Sulfites are a naturally-occurring product of fermentation, and an excellent wine preservative. However, because many people are allergic to them, in order to be considered an organic wine there can be no added sulfites. This is the US standard, so if you have a sulfite allergy be sure that the organic wine you are about to drink is domestic. That said, there is no such thing as a completely sulfite-free wine…”

And on from there…

I enjoy wine of all kinds from all places (even that blueberry wine from New Hampshire I sampled with Josh a while back), but my personal beliefs often color my wine selections. Generally I go for a local wine over one that travels a long distance, and when I get the chance I roll with something organic. That said I am not allergic to sulfites, so certified organic is not that important to me. For example, the Early Muscat from South Stage Cellars I wrote about recently was not certified organic, but it was local to where I was and it made sustainably. All in all I have a code I try to stick to, but in the end there are amazing wines that totally trump ideals.

I decided to review an organic wine for this post (duh – why would I do anything else at this point?), and decided to fold it in with Washington Wine Month. I went with a pick I found at my local co-op: 2007 Ruby Red Wine from Klickitat Canyon Winery, a small family business in Lyle, WA with a dedication to sustainability and wine. At Klickitat, vinter Robin Dobson and his partner Kathleen Perillo have created a system of growing and harvesting they call eco-dynamic farming. This includes using native plants in the vineyard as a means for pest control, and harvesting in a way that does not disturb the local ecology. Using no pesticides, not adding sulfites, and avoiding any other additives to their wine, the folks at Klickitat are committed to creating a quality product in line with their ideals.

Tasting organic…

I spent the weekend up in Portland visiting friends, and decided that was a great time to open the Ruby Red with my friend Jess – girl time, if you will – after taking a hike in the beautiful Forest Grove Park. The bottle promised a dry varietal that was ‘completely free of residual sugars,’ and was an unsulfured, unfiltered, vegan extravaganza. I will say that after reading the label for a second time I was feeling a bit wary about the wine. I spend a fair amount of time doing things that might be classified as crazy-hippie-new agey (you know, building houses out of mud, tanning deer hides…the usual), but this seemed even a bit woo woo for me.

In the glass the wine was a beautiful brownish-maroon, dark and muddled looking in a way that belied the unfiltered nature. Upon tilting the glass we found the sediment coating the bottom. The nose was delightfully complex with strong aspects of blackberry, mineral and moss. Jess commented that she found it earthy and smoky with a hint of floral sweetness that overlaid the whole aroma. The whole thing brought back to us the hike we’d just finished – earthy, loamy, and filled with forest bounty.

Unfortunately the taste did not stand up to the lovely nose. Initially all that I got was a strong punch of sour cherry and cranberry with little else in the mix. Jess noted that she found it very bitter on the tongue and that the tartness was in the middle. There was no finish. The wine tasted not like it had just been uncorked, but that it had been left out for a time and had oxidized, giving it a flatness and lack of complexity that did not match our olfactory experience.

Don’t get me wrong, it was not bad by any stretch of the imagination. It had a lovely dryness and the tart flavor and smooth texture made it beautifully mouth-puckering and intense. However Jess and I agreed that this was a wine that would be better with a meal rather than a stand-alone to drink by the glass. We also were in accordance that it would not stand up to more powerful flavors, but would be nice with a classic steak – probably not what was intended by creating a vegan wine, but what you gonna do? What Jess and I did was sip, enjoy, and get ready to clean up and go out for a night on the town!

We tried to take a nice photo, but that's not really in our nature (no pun intended)