Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Organic Wines Reviewed

Organic labels merit a taste: "The government seems to warn us about everything these days, and wine is no exception. I've already written my opinion about the "Contains sulfites" hoo-ha.

I think the government warning label should read something like this: 'Do not consume too much, too often, in the morning, at work, in the hot tub or while driving. Do not drink if you're on a first date, if you're pregnant or if you're both. Do not drink if you're prone to substance abuse or if you're an airline pilot. And if you're the captain of a supertanker, lay off the Port until you're in one. By all means don't drink if you're prone to doing stupid things like taunting a raging bull, running naked through the streets or going hunting with your buddies.'

Now, one of the things you will find on a wine bottle label that makes sense is an organic designation. Organic farming and winemaking are practiced by people who care: They care about the taste, they care about their workers and they care about the environment.

Be sure to note that many of the wines in California source grapes come from organically farmed vineyards but aren't labeled as such because in the past organic wines tucked back on store shelves with the kosher and the non-alcoholic selections. This is changing rapidly as the organic revolution continues its march. Spread a little sunshine of your own and drink organic. All wines reviewed were purchased at Wild Oats. Find Valley locations at www.wildoats.com.

2004 BuenaVentura Sauvignon Blanc, Lontue Valley, Chile ($13.99, not pictured) - This is another low alcohol (12.5 percent) wine recommendation for 2007. It's made with organic grapes, and the color is a superpale platinum yellow. The aroma is a little gun-smoky with melon and an herbal touch to the finish. The taste is full, ripe and rich. The finish has enough tartness to please any Sauvignon Blanc lover. 84 points.

2004 Nuevomundo Sauvignon Blanc, Reserva, D.O. Isla de Maipo, Chile ($16.99) - Also made with organic grapes, this is almost colorless, a pale silver with the slightest hint of straw. The wine has a light ripe pineapple aroma, a little oxidized. It has a nice level of fruit concentration and tartness. 75 points.

2004 Badger Mountain N.S.A. Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Wash. ($14.99) - The blue bottle is weird. This is an organic wine, so it has no added sulfites. The color is a rich, golden, deeply-colored yellow. The aroma is focused and tight. The taste is very balanced, smooth, pleasant and delightfully rich. 88 points.

True Earth Chardonnay, Mendocino, Calif. ($13.49) - This wine is made with organic grapes, and the color is a dull dishwater-yellow. Nevertheless, the aroma is a steely focus of melon and citrus fruit, and the taste is bold and expressive, with a nice creamy richness in the finish. 89 points.

2004 Sonop Merlot, Western Cape, South Africa ($15.99) - This wine is proud to announce that it's vegan. It is a dark amber and ruby red, and the aroma is nice and bright with raspberries and earth tones. The taste is big, dry and bold. The fruit is way in the background, but if you like a simple "Right Bank" Bordeaux, you'll love this. 87 points.

2005 Badger Mountain N.S.A. Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Wash. ($19.49) - Again, no added sulfites. It's a kind of expensive number so it's too bad they had to use an old Blue Nun bottle. Inside, the color is vibrant ruby with a vermillion and purple hue. The aroma has some fruit somewhere, but I'm having a hard time identifying it except that it's on the ripe side of things. The taste is dry, with tight currant fruit. It's a sturdy wine, good for that next organic barbecued steak dinner. 86 points.

True Earth Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petite Syrah, Mendocino, California ($13.49, not pictured) - This wine is made with organic grapes. It's a lovely, deep royal red with a grippy, dry and earthy aroma. The taste is lovely and balanced, a restrained wine. I recommend it if you like dry European-style reds. 89 points.

2004 Nuevomundo Cabernet/Malbec, D.O. Isla de Maipo, Chile ($17.99) -This wine is made with organic grapes. The color is a stunning velvety-rich robe of deep red. The aroma is shy but confident with dark currant fruit and earthiness. The taste is very Bordeaux-like in that it's classic earth, wood and thick, dark-skinned currants. I like this. 90 points.

Another screw-top plus: Wineries that choose to seal the deal with screw caps use less sulfur to stabilize the wines."

Reach Tarbell, owner of Tarbell's restaurant in Phoenix, at wine@tarbells.com.

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