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Wine: Sustainable, Organic, Biodynamic. What Does it All Mean?


Written by:

Joe Becerra

Last updated:

Last night we had the opportunity be present at the Commonwealth Club meeting in San Francisco to hear winemakers Paul Dolan, Jonathan Frey, and Phil Larocca enlightened us on this very popular and important topic in the wine industry today. Each of these three individuals is considered to be a pioneer in the field of “green”practices in farming vineyards and making wine.

Paul Dolan is one of the most influential leaders in the field of sustainable and organic farming. Paul spent 27 years at Fetzer Vineyards and under his vision, Fetzer moved to organic and sustainable farming practices. Paul is currently one of the principal partners of the Parducci Winery and the Mendocino Wine Company. Parducci is the first and only winery to be designated as “Carbon Neutral.”

Winemaker Paul Dolan
Winemaker Paul Dolan

Jonathan Frey and his family own Frey Vineyards also in Mendocino. They are the first winery in California to practice organic and Biodynamic farming. Frey Vineyards is one of the few wineries that are able to use “Organic Wine”on their label.

Phil Larocca is the owner and winemaker of Larocca Vineyards in Sutter County. Phil’s approach to his winemaking is to make wines that are healthy for the individual. This means the Larocca wines do not contain preservatives or chemical residues.

One thing is clear about each of these individuals. They care deeply about the environment and are very passionate about promoting their ideas to the wine community.

Some of the key points of the program:

Organically Certified and Biodynamic certified to carry the most stringent of regulations. Any winery that has achieved this designation must meet strict requirements and must be inspected annually.

Sustainability does not have a certification board and is a less-defined term. In general, the term means to farm so as not to deplete the soil and to sustain the land for future generations. Sustainable practices include the use of solar energy, biodiesel fuels, and organic farming. It also includes “green”packaging of the wine from the bottle to the box. Sustainable practices include the use of heavy composting. Composting gives back to the soil.

These three winemakers believe that farming organically provides better flavors in the grape, more nutritional value. and greater grape yields.

Frey Vineyards and Larocca Vineyards do not add any sulfites to their wines. Parducci farms the vineyards organically but adds sulfites in the winemaking process.

Less than 1 percent of the wineries in the world practice organic and sustainable farming. However, there is a growing awareness among the industry that these methods are important for the environment and it is the “right thing to do.”

The following day after this very informative program, we shopped at our local Whole Foods store. On a shelf in the wine section labeled “eco-friendly wines,” we found several of the wines from Parducci and Frey Vineyards. We purchased a few bottles of each and will try them out over the next couple of weeks.

If you would like to hear the entire program, the Commonwealth Club provides a podcast of this event. You can find it at the Commonwealth Web site.

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.