In the world of viticulture, “organic” is not just a marketing buzzword. It’s a farming method that enhances the nutrients, water solubility and general health of the soil without applying harmful chemicals and pesticides – and, frankly, it does a better job. Beyond the soil, the debate rages on between winemakers who believe adding a few sulfites is imperative to a wine’s quality and those who believe that completely natural is the only way. But one thing that is agreed on in the organic wine community is that rich, chemical-free soil produces happier vines and more delicious grapes. Here are some of the best wineries in Napa making wines from organically grown grapes.
Natural winemaking is the name of the game at this hillside winery. With certified organic vineyards and certified organic winemaking processes – meaning, no added sulfites – Cain has defined its commitment to organic wine. Three Cabernet blends make up the portfolio of this 20,000-case winery cradled in a dip in the elevated Spring Mountain District just west of St. Helena and overlooking the Napa Valley.
Situated in the rocky soils of Rutherford, Frog’s Leap Vineyards are smack dab in the middle of the Valley. Owner and winemaker John Williams has been crafting earth-friendly, palate-friendly wines here since 1981. Today, the vineyards are completely organic and dry farmed – with no added irrigation necessary – and the winery operates on 100 percent solar energy, helping earn Frog’s Leap its Silver LEED certification. Make an appointment for a tasting so you don’t miss the estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon.
Peju was purchased by Tony and Herta Peju in 1983 in the Rutherford region of the Napa Valley, which is home to wine greats Robert Mondavi and Inglenook among others. The original 30-acre Rutherford Estate Vineyards are certified organic, and its additional vineyards – Persephone in Pope Valley and Wappo in Dutch Henry Canyon – are well on their way to organic certification. Peju’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon was just voted Best in Class in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine competition, but any Cabs here will be worth a taste.
Quaint and homey Casa Nuestra has been organically and sustainably farmed by hand since 1979, and today, more than 20 sheep roam the vineyards to do the mowing naturally. A part of the famed Silverado Trail of wineries, this small production winery in St. Helena, one of Napa’s northernmost appellations, is proud of its claim as the first Napa Valley winery to install solar panels. Book a tasting in advance to try the historical Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and the winery’s distinct red blend, made from field-mixed grapes.
St. Helena is also home to another renowned winery that’s practicing certified organic farming. Ehlers Estate Vineyard is made up of 42 organically farmed acres surrounding the winery’s original stone barn, built in 1886. With a rare-to-Napa Old World layout that keeps all the vineyards in close proximity, the vineyard crew can tend to the vines with care and appreciation. Visit with an appointment to taste a personal selection of their small-production estate wines.