In past years, I put a lot of time and effort into writing posts about Earth Day. Lately, not so much. There's only so many variations you can do on recycling and compost.
But a couple of weeks ago, I received a pitch from the BevMo! chain of discount stores, inviting me to a tasting of eco-friendly wine -- and I always pay attention to pitches that promise to buy me a drink.
Besides, my carpool partners and I were due for another of our monthly dinners out together, so this seemed like a fun way to start our Girls Night Out.
So Wednesday night, the three of us actually ventured outside the Valley, over to the BevMo! store in West Hollywood, where knowledgeable Donny poured us a flight of very pleasant, affordable organic wine -- which proves that eco-consciousness doesn't have to be expensive.
We had some debate over what to call cheap, affordable vintages: Table wine? Plonk? We agreed to refer to bottles that cost $10 or less as "everyday wine."
We began by sipping ZD Winery's 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay. I am not a huge chard fan; I don't like the oaky flavor you get in most of the affordable ones I tend to buy. But there was very little oak taste in this - it felt light and refreshing.
And I wasn't surprised: ZD is one of the wineries I visited the last time I was in Napa with my sister and I remember coming home with several bottles of the stuff then. (Whoa! Going on six years now! I think we're due for another trip up there.)
What I hadn't remembered was that the folks at ZD have been farming their grapes organically since the 1980's (before being certified as such about 10 years ago). And since 2007, the entire operation has been running on solar power. That's pretty darned eco-friendly, if you ask me.
The ZD Chardonnay turned out to be the most expensive vintage we tasted on Wednesday: BevMo! is selling it here in Southern California for $24.99. It tastes like it costs more.
Donny's next pour was another nice selection from Napa Valley: Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc. Now THIS is my favorite variety of white wine, extremely drinkable and refreshing in a warm evening in the Valley. But I've had more luck with New Zealand products than wines produced here in California. That's why I was so impressed with the Frog's Leap: It had a wonderful, grapefruity aroma and its price was right in my wheel house: $15.99 for "ClubBev" members.
And it, too, is certified organic.
Donny poured us another Sauvignon Blanc from Vigilance in Lake County -- an appellation my sister thinks will be California's Next Big Thing.
Although it was good, it did not taste as bright or light as the Frog's Leap. However, it cost $5 less -- which puts it back on my list of drinkable wine to enjoy any day of the week.
He followed it with another offering from Vigilance.
The Cimarron had smelled of blackberry and had a nice amount of tannin, but not as much as you'd expect from a blend that's 44% Zinfandel (the other grapes are Petit Sirah, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon).
It was definitely not a heavy red wine -- something I would happily drink with something like barbecue. I liked it. (And at $14.99, I could afford to buy a few bottles.)
Vigilance's vineyards are sustainably farmed, but not certified organic.
If you've ever shopped at BevMo!, you know they carry hundreds of different wines and spirits - which include about 70 vintages that are organic or in some other way eco-friendly.
We finished the tasting with a Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma Valley's Benziger. By this time, I must have been feeling a little bit buzzed, because I stopped taking notes (!). So I cannot tell you MY impressions, other than the fact that I liked it (I'm a fan of nice Cabs). According to the tasting notes the store provided, it's a "soft-spoken red, with bright fruit flavors with notes of dried herbs; sweet tannins and good structure on the palate; perfect to serve with short ribs."
The tasting notes also indicate that the Benziger Cab is "biodynamic," a term I came across at a Mother's Day tasting I did a couple of years ago at Montage Laguna. It represents the next level in organic farming and is the latest trend in viticulture, where they take the whole eco-system into account.
This is a nice cab at the nice price of $17.99 (about $30 less than the last nice cab I purchased).
Also present at the tasting was a representative from ReCork.org, whose mission is to promote the use and recycling of natural cork. I remembered learning that cork is a renewable, biodegradable material at last year's Dwell on Design show, which had a remarkable variety of gorgeous cork flooring on display.
Cork is actually bark harvested from cork oaks that grow mainly around the Mediterranean. I did not realize that harvesting the cork actually prolongs the life of the trees: to 150 or 200 years (as opposed to 75 years for trees that are not harvested).
ReCork collects corks that have been used as wine stoppers and turns them into stylish flip-flops. BevMo! stores are now serving as collection stations for your used corks -- and to encourage you to participate in the program, they will be holding drawings to give away a free pair of flip-flops to a customer in each of their stores.
Now that's an Earth Day promotion I can get excited about.
DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation for this post. I just like discovering new wine. And shoes.