Posts Tagged ‘biodynamic’

Visit to Organic Apple Farm in Mendocino

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

applesWelcome to 2011 and while we took a hiatus, and a few road trips, we discovered a few things outside of San Francisco. In Mendocino many wineries and coincidently grapes exist (some of which have an organic or even biodynamic angle) but on one particular day our palates had a taste for crunchy apples.

We stopped in at one of those apple stands while driving along Highway 128 and being that they offered conventionally grown apples we asked them about what chemicals they used. One lady replied that she didn’t know exactly but that they did spray. However she kindly mentioned their neighbors around the corner who grew organic apples. Back in the car.

Only because the lady pointed out the neighboring organic apple farm did we manage to find it. Although a sign for the Apple Farm does exist on Highway 128, it would be easy to miss. Pulling up into the farm, we immediately noticed the difference between the apple stands along 128. and this one.

The Apple Farm items (crates of apples, bottles of apple cider, apple vinegar) sit in a self-service corner with a change box and slot for the payment. Yes, they operate on the honor system here. It’s even easier to honor the fact that the Apple Farm has been operating organically since 1984. Since this place functions as a working farm they don’t operate tours per se but they allow visitors to wander though the orchards or even have lunch on the grounds. Those who ask nicely (and can find someone to ask) may even pick some fresh persimmons from the trees.

Crunch on some Sierra Beauties for those who like tart, crunchy apples and don’t overlook the “free box” of overripe persimmons and apples as they make great additions to a smoothie. And stopping here will make a great addition to any green-minded road trip to Mendocino.

Directions: Take Hwy 101 North, exit at Cloverdale (Boonville, Ft. Bragg, Hwy 128) continue NW on Hwy 128 to Boonville, continue on through Philo, 4 miles past Philo turn left at Philo/Greenwood Rd (also road to elk) farm is 1/4 mile on left at bridge.

DeLoach Biodynamic Wines (and Fresh Eggs)

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Mixing Pot for Biodynamic Brew

Mixing Pot for Biodynamic Brew

Just down the road from Inman, we made our way in DeLoach, a far larger operation then any of the small vineyards that we visited. However, large doesn’t mean that they don’t have sustainability in mind. DeLoach garnered organic status in 2008 and has upped the ante to biodynamic since 2009.

Like a true biodynamic vineyard, they grow and raise other crops, which they either donate to local food banks or during harvest season they feed the entire harvest crew three times a week.  Nice to see their social justice spreads to their workers and the community.

We could feel a buzz around the many acres. Normally, bees and the biodynamic honey symbolize two reasons why this vineyard appears so alive. However, the bees took a sojourn during our visit but the chickens made up for it. They use chickens to fertilize, and we got lucky enough to sample the über fresh pastured eggs (no cages for these chickens), which made the most delish poached eggs.

While most people relaxed in the tasting room, we got excited to see their biomass tank which acts like a giant bug jug where dirty water passes through a massive membrane then the water gets transported and irrigated into the fields. The biomass system cost about $1.2 million saves thousands of gallons of water each year but it will take many years for that system to pay for itself. In other words, DeLoach took the cost to be part of their long-term vision. Maybe not the most cost effective vision but a more sustainable one, which gets high marks from us.

Speaking of marks, we did sample some of the wines in their private tasting room that contains cabinets made from old wine vats and denim jeans insulation. But we didn’t just sit in the tasting room staring at the inside  insulation. We sampled a slew of wines with some of our faves being the  2006 Porter Bass Vineyard (Chardonnay), Pinot Noir 2007 Maboroshi Vineyard, and a tasty Zinfandel 2007 Forgotten Vines (which we didn’t easily forget).

The sustainability here doesn’t just come from the biodynamic cow horns and membrane that get stirred up in the preparations and the fervent vortex but the fact that DeLoach aims to create community, support workers and donate to organizations for others who may not be as fortunate.

The fact that DeLoach subscribes to the People, Planet, Profit mantra gets our vortex excited to visit again soon to see what other greenings they have going on but to sip some wine (and get a few eggs as well.)

Inman Winery – Pinot, Green and an Old Barn

Friday, September 10th, 2010
Inman Pinot on Terrazzo Countertop

Inman Pinot on Terrazzo Countertop

When someone puts more emphasis on their practices and product rather than their marketing then that might cause one to ponder. Such was the case when we almost passed by Inman Family Wines on our sustainable wine journey. They basically have no signage and they certainly don’t have a big banner (like some other businesses) stating “We’re Green.” Instead owner Kathleen Inman speaks softly and carries a big green stick. In other words – Green deeds not words.

Although Kathleen’s Inman has been selling wine and receiving accolades for over 10 years, she only recently opened her tasting room in July. But like the rest of her operation she thinks about the big picture, as she took the effort to repurpose an old redwood barn into the tasting room and production facility. Although it would certainly qualify for LEED (maybe Gold) status she wisely decided to use the $60,000 or so that it would cost to get LEED certified on things that actually make a difference.

The tasting room utilizes wood from the barn as doors and panels, Nearly all of the steel used to make the primary frame of the building came from post consumer and post industrial recycled materials (old cars), the countertops are either made from Terrazzo (repurposed wine bottles), and the remaining countertops (not quite completed) will be from a composite concrete with high percentage of fly ash. The roof boasts a full array of solar panels (enough to power 98% of the winery), and we wondered around back to check out the water reclamation biomass system, which costs a few hundred grand and will save over 54,600 gallons of water per year with the ability to save even more.

We even liked the story of a local contractor who offered to pave a black tarmac over her decomposed granite parking lot but she told him that they prefer to minimize the heat-island effect. She didn’t really say that to him but we just embellished the story a bit.

Lot’s of people talk big when it comes to Green this and sustainable that but she puts her philosophy (and her bank account) in action. Her farming practices come as close to organic and biodynamic (although she has not received certification yet) and probably exceed most of the standards. We nibbled on the grapes right off the vine (don’t try that at a conventional farm) before even sampling her well respected 2008 Pinot Gris , 2008 Endless Crush Rose, and three Pinot Noirs all 2007 – the Thorn Ridge Ranch, the OGV Estate (Olivet Grange Vineyard, which is the organically farmed vineyard surrounding the winery) and the Russian River.

Most winemakers have wine running through their veins but Katherine Inman has big carafe of Green mixed in as well. She believes in making great wine but doing it the right way. We clink glasses to that philosophy. Cheers.

Small Vines Wines – High Denisty and Sustainable Wine Thinking

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
Small Vines Wines vineyard

Small Vines Wines vineyard

We took a few days off to hit the wine country, no not Napa or Sonoma but rather the Russian River Valley. Keeping with our true nature, we explored and tasted our way through some of the more progressive thinking sustainable wineries in the region. We’ll start small and work our way up.

Small would mean Small Vines Wines. Like most others in the region vigneron Paul Sloan creates Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Small Vines grows on several small acre plots situated in Sebastopol and the vineyard that we visited takes up only about an acre but Sloan makes the most of his space. They use high density planting which seems to make sense but not many wineries use. Like high density Green building, doesn’t it seem logical to grow more grapes on less land? Why doesn’t everyone use this traditional technique used successfully for ages in Burgundy France? Because high density does not equal tractors, so mechanization doesn’t fit in the density style, thus the method (often like organic growing or biodynamic growing) remains labor intensive and more costly.

The high-density grapes need less compost because more nutrients can be found in the roots. More nutrients and less compost don’t just equal more sustainability but better wine quality as well. We sipped some pinot noir and chardonnay to be sure while Sloan mentioned how he views wine as a living entity and as an expression of place.

Unlike many wineries, we completely get how Sloan considers the whole picture when producing wines. Small Vines only produces a limited number of cases each year because if the operation gets too large Sloan said, “You lose your ability to be in tune with the whole system.” People often don’t understand or often abuse the term “sustainability” but considering the whole picture and caring about the Earth can’t be too far from what the meaning truly represents.

Photo by Valerie Summers

Fancy Food Show – A Grocery Bag of Tasty Treats

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Who doesn’t like food? Especially fancy food. Lot’s of people do as judged by the crowds filling the aisles and booths of the Moscone Center for the 35th Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. With so many munchies, nibbles and treats to delve though we had to restrict our nibbling, tasting and inquires to the ever expanding Natural and Organic section.

Food like anything else can be about expectation. We set the organic chocolaty bar fairly high and weren’t disappointed by the plethora of organic chocolates but we actually went in search of more interesting items. Zhena’s Gypsy teas marked our first discovery. Even though they’ve been around for about 10 year they more recently created five biodynamic teas and we felt much better after sampling the Caramelized Pear flavor. On top of the tea itself we had to like containers made from 70% recycled steel (and the cans are 100% recyclable because they contain no paper stuck with glue. They make their tea bags from non-GMO corn silk and can be composted as they biodegradable after 60 days. Having this teas makes us feel good better come 4 pm tea time.

We know that several natural partially organic (organic flour) bog bones exist but we could help from talking (no sampling for us) with the owners of Bare Bones dog bones. If they hailed from Cali then we might not of stopped but seeing that these guys make their all natural bones in Dallas caused us to discuss how people in Big D see these dog bones of all things. They mentioned that the people in Texas don’t exactly “get” the whole dog bone thing but they know that organic is some buzz word so they continue to go along for the ride. Go get ‘em Fido!

Field Roast impressed us not just by feeding us tons of samples of their various fake meats but by showing us their factory in  a renovated 1920s former dairy building in Seattle. These commitment to re-using an existing building cost them more than moving into some new factory but it showed that along with their commitment to use local veggies and minimal packing that their heart or rather their “meat” is in the right place.

We weren’t so happy to see all the companies pushing organic this and that in horrific plastic packaging. We saw enough gluten free, natural, corn syrup based products in the section (we don’t want to call anyone out at this point) that must have had various green marketing gurus earning their bonuses. We wish that they would spend less money on marketing about how good their product is and just make their product better.