Bang for Your Buck, Bon Vivant, Drink Well, Entertaining, Environment, Green Wine Practices, Porch wine, Sustainable wine, Wine Recommendations, Wine Reviews, Wine Tasting, Winemakers, Wineries and Vineyards
Confession: I don’t drink a lot of wine from New Zealand. But I’m not one to turn down the opportunity to have dinner with Erica Crawford- yes, that New Zealand Crawford, at A Rake’s Progress. Truthfully, I was hoping her wines from the Love Block label might surprise this New Zealand skeptic, and that’s just what happened!
The Love Block wines, first produced in 2013, are all sustainably farmed. This started as a logical extension of a health scare which prompted Erica to take a look not just as what she was eating, but the products she used to clean her home, beauty products, and ultimately what was going into the wines she produced. I love when vineyards take a sustainable approach, but if the resulting wines don’t taste good it’s a lost effort in my book.
“It’s not always easy, but it is hugely gratifying.” – Erica Crawford
These wines achieve a really high quality level, without sacrificing environmental or health integrity. (They also happen to be vegan, a request from one of Crawford’s daughters.) As Crawford said, “it’s not always easy, but it is hugely gratifying.” Eventually, they plan to transition the vineyards to certified organic, but want to ensure quality and consistency before making this transition.
We started with the pinot gris- a natural start on a somewhat muggy DC day. I often find these wines can be a bit flabby or one dimensional. However, the Love Block was well balanced with plenty of acid and a beautiful minerality balancing out the melon, pear and passionfruit notes. Super easy drinking- this is a wine that doesn’t need food to enjoy, but it complemented the array of salads and late summer produce from A Rake’s Progress beautifully. SRP $22.99
New Zealand is perhaps most famous for its sauvignon blanc, and it’s frankly not a style I’m drawn to. They’re often “loud” wines- the fruit, the grass, that distinctive cat pee note…it’s all a bit much for me, lacking subtlety in favor of brute force. Not so here. I got plenty of fruit in the form of pineapple, lemon, and tinned yellow peaches, but this was balanced by lovely green, herbaceous notes. If New Zealand and Bordeaux had a lovechild, this would be the resulting wine and I can see it pleasing fans of both old and new world styles of Sauvignon Blanc. SRP $21.99
The pinot noir was actually my favorite wine of the trio. It had lovely notes of violet, black raspberry, black pepper and a subtle mushroom note. Silky and smooth, medium bodied, but just enough complexity to keep me reaching for my glass over and over. The family style meal featured everything from smoked trout to prime rib, to roast chicken, and the wine was versatile enough to pair well with all three dishes. Again, this wine straddled old world/new world styles, making it an easy pick for dinner parties or a hostess gift. SRP $29.99
The wines are available for purchase at the following DC stores and online:
- Bacchus Wine Cellars
- Circle Fine Wine and Spirits
- Ace Beverage
- Burka’s Fine Wine and Spirits
Have you tried Love Block wines?
Behind the Scenes, Bon Vivant, Bubbly, Champagne, DC Champagne Week, Drink Well, Environment, Events, Green Wine Practices, Travel, Wine Health, Wineries and Vineyards
In an age when we are ever more cognizant of what we’re putting in our bodies, Champagne is hiding a dirty little secret.
During a visit to the grand cru village of Verzenay last April, I explored the vines to take a look at what the devastating frost of last spring had done to the vines. Due to elevation, these particular vines were spared, but I was distracted by what I saw in the soil.
Verzenay in April, 2017
I thought perhaps that unruly tourists had left trash behind. Only when I looked more closely did I realize there was plastic waste and refuse for as far as I could see. I knew that Paris and Reims had used the vineyards as dumps for ages- it was a practice, upon conception, that benefitted the vines. For a long while waste was essentially organic compost, but in recent decades, plastic was dumped in huge amounts. The practice only stopped in the 1990s. Some champagne houses that take less care with grape sourcing still haven’t cleaned up their act.
However, the future of champagne is bright, led by committed vignerons who are leading the way with sustainable practices in a region that faces more than its fair share of climate challenges. From organic to biodynamic practices, many of Champagne’s grower producers- and even some of the large houses- have taken huge steps to not only clean up the vineyards, but are integrating solar panels, plowing their vineyards by horse, fertilizing with manure and compost.
Ecueil in October, 2017.
In December, I’ll be hi lighting a selection of these exceptional cuvées during a presentation and tasting for DC Champagne Week. If you’d like to learn more about natural winemaking practices taking place in Champagne, please join me at Dio Wine Bar. Featured producers include Louis Roederer, Pierre Paillard, Maillart, Lacourt-Godbillon, Franck Pascal, and Moussé & Fils. Purchase tickets here.
Are you surprised to still see garbage in Champagne vineyards? I was!
This week Washington DC is hosting the The Green Festival. The wine industry is currently undergoing it’s own “greening” process, and clients are making more and more informed decisions when purchasing wine.
But what does “drinking green” look like? (And no, I’m not talking about kale smoothies!) It can be a complicated process and there are many ways to go about it!
Although vintners make countless choices in their efforts towards sustainability and environmental harmony, there are a few main categories that have a major impact on how green your wine choices are.
1. Organic Wines:
This one can be a bit misleading, because the meaning of organic wine varies from country to country. The certification process also varies, and can be prohibitively expensive for smaller wineries. Many wineries that grow their grapes organically are not certified for this reason. Often, the bottle will give you an indication of whether the vineyard employs organic practices.
Often, “Old World” (European) wines use fewer and less harsh pesticides than their “New World” counterparts. This is largely due to their environmental laws prohibiting the use of certain harmful chemicals, as well as the wine making tradition of generations working with the land before the advent of chemicals and machinery.
2. Sustainable Wines
Sustainable wine practices include the planting of beneficial plants and wildflowers, use of bio-diesel fuel, water conservation practices, cork recycling programs, or the elimination of machinery. Hand-picking grapes and plowing by horse are just a few sustainable practices winemakers employ to reduce their environmental footprint. Economic viability and impact on the community- such as fair trade practices- are also often taken into account with sustainable wine making. These practices are often used in conjunction with organic or biodynamic practices.
2. Biodynamic Wines
Biodynamic wine making is similar to organic farming practices in that both take place without chemicals. However, biodynamic farming takes a broader approach, viewing the vineyard as an ecosystem, and incorporating astrological influences and lunar cycles. Biodynamic wines also avoid cellar manipulations such as adjusting yeast or acidity.
4. Drink Local
I was recently at an environmental fundraiser that paid careful attention to providing vegan meal options and flying in hi-profile environmental advocates. However, when I visited the bar I was shocked to see them serving non-sustainable, non-organic, non-biodynamic from the other side of the globe?!
I love foreign wine, but the cost and energy of transporting wine is not without its own environmental impact. Although it’s difficult to grow grapes organically in Virginia, many wineries, such as this one are making incredible strides towards reducing their environmental footprint. Drinking local not only helps the local economy, it helps the environment!
Do you try to drink “green”?