Monday, May 12, 2008

Organic Wine Week, Part 1: Chardonnay

This week I'm focusing on a pair of organic wines to highlight the increasingly wide range of options consumers have if they want to drink wine that has been made with organic grapes.

There was a time when wines made with organic grapes were difficult to find, but that is certainly not true any more. In fact, you are probably drinking wine made with organic grapes and not even realizing it. One of the things that has struck me is that some wines don't identify themselves as using organic grapes on their labels.

One of the reasons for this may be that current regulations require that a wine labeled "Organic" must not only be made with organic grapes, there must be no added sulfites. Sulfites are added to wines to help stabilize them for shipping and storage, so it's pretty hard to find a wine that is "Organic." It's far more common to find a wine that is made "with organic grapes." If you look at the tiny type at the bottom of the Jeriko label, you will see that it indicates that organic grapes were used. Wines labeled in this fashion have been made with certified organic fruit, but do have sulfites added for stability. If you want to find out more about organic wine, visit the Organic Wine Company and read up on their notes regarding how wines are classified.

My latest recommendation for a white wine made with certified organic grapes is the 2005 Jeriko Estate Chardonnay. ($19.99, WineQ) Jeriko Estate now uses only certified, organically grown grapes in their wines, all of which are grown in vineyards in Mendocino County. This was a creamy chardonnay that gets its body from partial malolactic fermentation in oak, and its crispness from a majority of fermentation time spent in stainless steel tanks. It was a pleasant bright straw in color, and had aromas of summer orchard fruits like pear and apple, and some late summer hay. The flavors you will find in this wine are of apples and cream, with a faintly buttery aftertaste. All in all, I found this a nicely made example of a creamy, California Chardonnay with good QPR. It will appeal to anyone who likes a richer style of chardonnay, but one that is still fresh and crisp.

With a wine like this, there is nothing better (in my opinion) than oven-fried chicken and slaw. I like the recipe for buttermilk-dipped, pan-browned, and oven-fried chicken from Cooking Light which tastes every bit as decadent as the real thing but leads to only a fraction of the guilt afterwards. The creamy, tangy buttermilk and caramelized flour coating is a perfect pairing for a creamy Chardonnay like this one. And for the slaw, do yourself a favor and try this one with dried cherries, sweetly spicy pecans, apples, cabbage, and a vinegar-based dressing. I cheated and picked up a package of already sweet and spicy pecans from Trader Joe's, and only used green cabbage, by the way, and it was fine. The apples in the slaw really pick up the apple notes in the Chardonnay.

As I get older I'm finding I care more and more about the environment. I stopped drinking bottled water, I'm buying a hybrid car, and I'm eating more organic, locally produced food. It's a good thing to be able to extend this philosophy into my wine drinking, with such tasty results.


Leigh said...

As a long time supporting of organic farming and locally produced food, I'm with you philosophically. Our boutique wine shops have carried a nice selection of organic wines for the last two or three years. I've been favorably impressed with those that I have sampled. I hope more wine producers will move in this direction.

BTW, thanks for the visit and the link - I appreciate the encouragement!

Dr. Debs said...

Sorry for the slow response, Leigh. I'm buried in grades! I am impressed by them, too, and if I can drink wine that's affordable and good AND is better for the environment, why not?

Welcome to the blogging world!

Unknown said...

There is a really great website called that sells luxury organic gift baskets. They have organic wine called Chateau Molin de Peyronin Bordeaux and a champagne called Guy Chaumont Cremant de Bourgogne Brut.
Some of the gift baskets include various types of fine organic chocolates of different varieties, from bars to pavers glace to truffles.
They also offer cool organic candles, baby products and veriflor flowers and there are a lot of different variations and the prices seem very resonable.