Sunday, November 28, 2010

From Good Earth

Like many people, lots of wines I try are recommended by people I know. When I mentioned to a friend in California a bit back that I was doing a post on organic wines, she mentioned Bonterra wines. I made a note of the name but with quite a few wines already tried for my post, I put them on the back burner. Once I tried them, I really wished I hadn’t!

Bonterra means “good earth.” And the folks at Bterra Vineyards take that pretty seriously. Located on 378 acres in Mendocino County, CA, Bonterra’s McNab Ranch has been raising organic grapes since 1987. According to their web site, they “let the land and the fruit tell them what to do.” When they started in 1987, they were just experimenting with wine and food pairings. Once they tasted how wonderful the bounty was, they committed themselves to growing organically. They claim they are one of the first major vineyards in CA to commit to organic and sustainable practices. Today, a natural balance is created between the soil, animals and plants. They are regulated by the government and independently certified to ensure they remain organic.

They also use Biodynamic™ practices such as cow horns filled with manure that are buried to ripen over the winter. They dig them up in the spring and use the manure to fertilize the vineyard. They have found that only natural horn products produce the correct results.

OK, as fascinating as all this might be, let’s get to what you all really want to know about…the wines. Bonterra has quite a few, both red and white as well as a rosé. I would have loved to try them all but then this article would have gotten long and probably sloppy. I did try four of them and I will have to save the rest for another time.

Their 2008 Rosé was the first one I tried. I had bought it for $9.99 at our local ABC Wine Country. I opened it with my husband and a friend of ours. We drank it alone while simply hanging out. It was a beautiful deep pink color with the aroma of berries. It was dry with a crisp acidity. I detected hints of strawberries and melon with a small hint of spice. Our friend proclaimed it “Delish”and I had to agree. I have already bought another bottle and I can’t wait to open it.

I then moved on to the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon that I had purchased at Total Wine for $11.99. 81% of the grapes in this wine come from Mendocino County while the other 19% come from Lake County. The wine is aged in both American and French Oak barrels. When I poured it, the aroma of cherries and dark berries were the first things I noticed. These also carried over to the taste and were joined by cranberry and a hint of vanilla. There was a bit of spice with soft tannins and a nice lingering finish. I drank it alone but Bonterra suggests pairing it with osso bucco or grilled meats such as hanger steak. They suggest several other pairings as well and I can’t wait to buy more and try them out.

Next came my favorite variety, Sauvignon Blanc. It was a 2009 vintage which also came from ABC and cost $9.99. Like the Cabernet, the grapes for this wine come from two different counties with 60% coming from Lake County and 40% from Mendocino. The aroma of citrus was quite noticeable. It was mixed with a tropical aroma as well that was reminiscent of kiwi. I detected grapefruit in the taste as well as a bit of melon and green apple. It was light-bodied with a crisp acidity. Bonterra recommends pairing it with sautéed chicken, grilled shrimp and steamed clams. I drank it with a simple grilled chicken breast, a salad and roasted vegetables. It went well together so I plan to try some of their suggested pairings.

We moved back to the reds for the last wine, the 2007 Merlot. This wine is also barrel aged and light oak comes through in the taste. It had delightful aromas of cranberry and chocolate. My husband noted right away that it was “fruity” and I agreed with him. We both really liked it. In fact, my husband is already on his second bottle. We drank it with grilled flank steak. Bonterra recommends pairing it with a roasted meat ragout, grilled pork tenderloin as well as several other grilled meats. Given the fact that my husband is on his second bottle in only about a week, I think this will go onto our list of wines that we buy regularly.

These 4 wines are just a sample of the wines Bonterra offers. It seems they have something for everyone and I, for one, can’t wait to try the rest of their wines from the “good earth.”

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