Thursday, June 4, 2009

Organic Wines - Parducci Wine Cellars and Paul Dolan Vineyard

We usually chuckle when we read about a winery's sustainability practices, assuming the worst - a terrible marketing gimmick. But that is definitely not the case with Paul Dolan and his influence at Paul Dolan Vineyards and Parducci Wine Cellars. In 2004 Dolan and several members of the Thornhill family purchased Mendocino's oldest winery - Parducci, which was founded in 1932 - and formed the Mendocino Wine Company. He incorporated the ground breaking farming techniques that he developed at Paul Dolan Vineyards and along with other innovations has helped Parducci to become "America's Greenest Winery" and the first carbon neutral winery. Take that Oregon.

Now, we only care about the carbon neutral aspect because its a good business practice to conserve energy; but the other vineyard and winery are revolutionary. For instance, the company vehicles have been refitted to use recycled restaurant oil as fuel - now that's back to the future. In the vineyard, animals take over for pesticides and artificial fertilizer. Birds and chickens control insects whereas owls and raptors control small rodents. Bees pollinate wild poppies that act as vineyard cover and goats control weeds as well as provide fertilizer along with neighboring cows. The proprietors also created a wetlands surrounding the winery that handles waste water by absorbing metals and sugars. Add in water conservation and recycling programs, solar and wind power, and other practices and its easy to see how that they moniker, "America's Greenest Winery" is not far fetched.

Now, the Mendocino Wine Company consists of several brands with the largest being the Parducci label. This brand purchases fruit from local, family-owned farms with many of the vineyards staying in the family since Parducci first started purchasing their grapes in the 1930s. "To Parducci, 'Family Farmed' means quality and sustainability." In fact, 67% of the fruit that Parducci grows or purchases is certified Fish Friendly Farming, Organic, or Biodynamic. But what about that quality? We samples two of their wines, the 2007 Parducci Pinot Noir and the
2008 Parducci Sustainable White. Both retail for about $12, but don't be mislead. The Pinot Noir was fantastic, creamy with hints of chocolate - resembling a Burgundy wine more than the nearby Russian River version. The flavor is black cherry - but the finish is cream - as you can guess - extremely smooth. The Parducci Sustainable White is naturally a refreshing wine made from five grape varities - starting with Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc and ending with smaller percentages of Viognier, Muscat Canelli, and Tocai Fruiliano. What's not to like about this combination. The result, a floral aroma from the muscat, clean citrus acidiy from the blancs, and some depth with the Viognier. The Tocai Fruiliano? Don't know. Does it matter; this is a good summer wine.

The Paul Dolan Vineyards brand consists of five organic wines and one Biodynamic, the Deep Red. We learned that organic wines are those in which the grapes were grown using certified organic practices with no sulfites added. Biodynamic is more complicated with the vineyards certified to follow the Demeter standards as well as the teaching of Rudolph Steiner. Finally, the winery must be Biodynamic certified to follow the practices of Demeter. From this brand we sampled the 2007 Paul Dolan Chardonnay, made from old vine Chardonnay. Actually the vines are close to 40 years old planted on two properties: "a cool-site vineyard north of Lake Mendocino and a warmer-site vineyard near the Russian river in Hopland". Three quarters of the wine is then fermented and aged in French and American oak for 8 months; the rest in stainless steel. This recipe imparts the standard Chardonnay flavor with a slight vanilla finish. A nice wine and at $18, very affordable.

We can't wait to get our hands of the rest of their portfolio. These are good wines priced at our level. We may have to drive through Sonoma and Napa on our next trip West and take a look at these revolutionary vineyard practices. And for those that can't visit, you can read more about organic farming and sustainability at the Mendocino Wine Company and Paul Dolan Vineyards websites.
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