Flying Pigs, Wm Blake and Green Choices in Making Wine

2 points of view

2 points of view

The natural wine movement has made an impact only in parts of the wine industry that care about going green. In other sectors of the wine industry where the goal is a $300 / 95 point bottle of Napa Cab, impact is marginal. “Green washing” for the sector that cares is real. For the high priced high points sector green means cash. Making copious amounts of cash in any sector of the wine business is something of an illusion. At least until you get to the scale of filling millions of bottles (Scheid Vineyards mega bottling facility) or owning hundreds of brands (Diageo, Constellation).

If you are a vintner who wants to make what s/he considers ethical or moral choices that may yield a better wine product then the choosing can be complicated. Our fanton vintner is a veteran Napa winemaker who has consistently sought to balance economic and vinification choices. He has put together his more complete thoughts on this topic, which he introduces with an obscure song reference, of course.

The Green Manalishi: So was that green dog which inspired Peter Green’s song title really symbolic of money? Or simply a consequence of his fervent William Blake dream? Whether or not it represented money and by extension his perception of greed, in today’s world replete with constant, incessant green-washing – does anybody need substances to see a connection between the concept of ‘green’ and filthy lucre?

As Kermit once said (that would be Kermit the fictional amphibian, not Kermitflying-pigWEB the legendary wine importer) “it is not easy being green.” So the next time you find yourself shopping in a grocery store with an organic fruit and veggie section in one corner and a fairly generic wine department in the other, you might consider asking yourself ‘just what is green?’ And more importantly ‘how is it measured?’

While we eschew a dogmatic approach such as bio-dynamic – we do ascribe to being ‘Locavore’ and always endeavor to be ‘Sustainable’ and use sustainable in a classic sense of the word; which for us means remaining in business, vintage after vintage. We always approach things pragmatically, yet in a manner as enlightened as possible.

In the vineyard it means minimal tractor work, cover crops and alternate row tilling – to reduce fuel consumption, to encourage micro fauna and biodiversity, plus minimize soil compaction. hottypigWEBAlso we approach farming responsibly, with minimal spraying, limited to the application of fungicide (to prevent mildew) and occasionally an herbicide (Round-up for weed control, which is applied using a quad, because it requires less fuel than a tractor and reduces soil compaction). We never use pesticides.

The wines we craft in the cellar only use grapes and grape juice, occasionally augmented with naturally occurring acids (tartaric and malic), selected yeast strains (usually cultured, so we can realize specific and predictable outcomes), sometimes bentonite (which is mined from the earth) and a judicious amount of SO2. In fact, less is added to our wine than are the number of ingredients found in a jar of celebrity attached pasta sauce.

pigs get "natural"

pigs get “natural”

Also, we strive to make a difference with our packaging decisions, such as using bottles manufactured in California. This choice supports jobs in our own backyard. Even though Chinese glass is less expensive, it has a substantially greater carbon footprint, being manufactured in a coal fired [not gas fired] factory, and requiring a copious amount of dirty bunker fuel just getting the glass to port). Another minor detail is the use of a pure tin capsule (which is 100% recyclable, whereas a plastic based, poly-lam capsule is nothing more than future landfill).Much like the current ‘farm to table’ restaurant movement, one hears the phrase ‘vineyard to bottle’ so much these days that one should take pause and wonder, what does this really mean? And how does it reflect in my purchases?

Well the sad news is it applies as much to a wine bottled in Manteca or Modesto as it might to some poor chicken being ‘humanely’ processed in Livingston. “Not that big” is necessarily bad, as it offers a certain level of economy, as reflected by the fact Wal-Mart is our country’s largest employer. However, does big embody and promote meaningful, environmentally friendly practices? Or is it nothing more than an illusion, rather analogous to the Farmer John murals in Vernon?

Fanton provides a google images link where you can sample much of the notorious Farmer John piggy murals.

About the Green Manilishi… Peter Green inspired the original Fleetwood Mac. “Oh Well” was their big hit pre Nicks and Buckingham. This song was a fixture on our beach town playlist. Beautiful mid palate. Rocks the start. Finishes with beauty and dignity. Goes well with acid and reefer and as Green points out is really good “for talking with God.” Thanks for reminding me Fanton!

5 Comments

  1. Wavatar
    Mouse says:

    we are so glad to see a new posting! one wonders whether using California to make wine makes a lot of sense.

  2. Wavatar
    doc says:

    WTF!!!! I thought you were dead! Resurrected, a la Jesus? Welcome back amigo.

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