Wine Guy: Organic and biodynamic wines take center stage

Kermit the Frog couldn’t have said it better when he sang the song “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”

Organic, and to a greater extent, biodynamic wines must go the extra mile in farming and winemaking to satisfy the rigorous standards set before them, often times at great expense. Even so, more wineries and vineyards are going green to capture a growing niche market of consumers who are looking for environmentally friendly products. And now with a new competition dedicated exclusively to earth-friendly wines, green wines are now winning gold.

For a wine to be labeled “organic,” a USDA accredited certifier inspects the vineyard to make sure the growers meet USDA organic standards. Assisting the USDA in California, where 90 percent of all wine is grown in the U.S., is the California Certified Organic Farmers. CCOF promotes and supports organic food and agriculture through its certification program, trade support and other traditional trade association activities.

Biodynamic farming takes organic practices to an entirely different plane of being and produces among the lightest carbon footprints of any effective farming technique. The basic concept involves returning as much to the earth as the farm takes from it, while minimally using products imported from outside the farm borders. Tangible and intangible cosmic forces are even considered, creating a curiously esoteric agricultural philosophy.

Both methods are more expensive and labor intensive, but are viewed by their practitioners as essential to the long-term health of the vineyards.

“My family has been involved in organics since I was growing up,” said Brittany Rice, winemaker for Sunstone Vineyards and Winery and its sister property, Millesime Cellars, both organic producers. “We get to share something more pure.”

The extra effort Rice and her team has put in is paying off, as her wines were the big winners at the recently completed Green Wine Competition, where biodynamic and organic wines are showcased. Wine judges from around the United States descend upon Santa Rosa each summer to sniff, swirl and spit green wines in search of the very best the world has to offer.

Rice’s wines earned nine silver medals, with one elusive gold awarded to her Millesime Cellars Bleu Saphir, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. Of the more than 200 wines entered, only eight gold medals were awarded to wines in the organic grapes category.

“I’m definitely excited about (winning) and headed toward doing more competitions,” Rice said.

Sunstone and Millesime wines are available for retail purchase in San Diego at The Wine Bank or The Wine Cellar and Brasserie. A vast selection of local restaurants also serve these wines, including Peohe’s Restaurant, Old Venice, Bertrand’s and Mr. A’s and Anthony’s Seafood Group, among others. Sunstone and Millesime award winners range in price from $42 to $68, with the suggested retail price of Bleu Saphir at $58.

For a complete list of winners at the 2009 Green Wine Competition, visit

  1. To learn more about Sunstone Vineyards and Winery and Millesime Cellars, visit