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Jun 29, 2007 03:40 PM

Organic/biodynamic wineries worth visiting in Napa and Sonoma?

A friend who is about to spend a week in the Napa and Sonoma valleys would like to visit a few organic or biodynamic wineries while there. Any recommendations, especially for establishments with character and/or excellent wines, would be welcome. Thanks!

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  1. Oh YUM. Robert Sinskey grows their grapes organically and biodynamically. They have some really great, vibrant wines:

    8 Replies
    1. re: slobhan

      Recent short report on Sinskey and biodynamics by Carb Lover here:

      1. re: maria lorraine

        A quick update on Sinskey: I was there last weekend on a recommendation from this forum, and really loved their wines. They are not typical for California, trying for an old world northern Rhone style, with little or no oak, higher acidity, and lots of beautiful terroir.

        They no longer maintain the biodynamic certification, but say they still follow the practices.

        1. re: ryanmerkley

          If they're going for a Rhône style, they're using the wrong grapes.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Well I suppose that depends on what "style" means to them. And of course they didn't say "duplicate". You can taste what they're trying for. It's not a copy, it's an interesting approach.

            1. re: ryanmerkley

              On their web site, they reference Bordeaux 79 times, Burgundy 56 times, and the Rhone seven times.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Thanks for counting. At the winery, the staff referenced Rhone 3 times and Bordeaux and Burgundy zero times. At least we agree they're pretty into French wine.

                1. re: ryanmerkley

                  Also it's strange that they'd describe Northern Rhone as using little to no oak (wasn't my association w/ Northern Rhone reds) were they referring to their white wines maybe when they gave you the talk?

                  1. re: goldangl95

                    Yes re: the oak for whites. The rest was in reference to reds. Apologies for my lack of precision.

    2. "would like to visit a few organic or biodynamic wineries"

      Something bothers me in the "or" above.
      Organic is a much abused word nowadays. Hey, even Wallmart goes organic.
      Biodynamic goes much deeper.
      Some homework from your friend prior to the trip might pay off.

      1. Frog's Leap is biodynamic and is a lot of fun. Robert Mondavi's vineyards are about 80% organic.

        Most wineries in Napa and Sonoma practice "sustainable" practices. Some think that is even more important than biodynamic or organic.

        10 Replies
        1. re: chickstein

          Agree heartily with chickstein. Frog's Leap is a wonderful example. I'd go further and say most wineries farm organically but don't go through the certification process. Benziger is a biodynamic winery but the wines aren't that great, unfortunately.

          1. re: maria lorraine

            The wines aren't great at Benziger but the visit is -- they have an insectory and do a tour of the vineyards with a good introduction to biodynamic agriculture. I think Benziger is worth a visit.

            1. re: Amuse Bouches

              Unfortunately -- and this is huge -- whatever Benziger is doing organically or biodynamically isn't translating into good flavor in the wines. The wines are *very* disappointing. What's the use of visiting an organic apple farm if the apples don't taste good?

              Instead, I'd recommend Quintessa, in Napa Valley. Valeria Hunneus is quite gifted and informed on biodynamic farming, and it was my pleasure to hear her speak. The wines are quite good.

              Or, Araujo. Now there are two wineries that produce outstanding wine but farm biodynamically.

              And BTW, lots of wineries practice biodynamic farming but do not go for certification. Just as most wineries in nothern California practice organic farming, but not all become certified.

              Other wineries that employ biodynamic practices AND that produce good wine: Joseph Phelps, Sinskey, Littorai, Preston and Freestone. Are they certified biodynamic? No.

              Probably the champion philosopher of biodynamic farming in the US -- and oh, he is something -- is Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon. Take a look at his website and his writing.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Phelps estate wine and Sinskey are both certified bd

                1. re: wineinmyglass

                  Sinskey, yes, is certified. No mention of certification anywhere on Phelps website, though biodynamic farming practices are discussed. Did I miss it?

          2. re: chickstein

            Frogs leap is sustainable, they are not biodynamic.

            1. re: upincumer

              Frog's Leap certainly is bio dynamic. Close friends are long time employees there and bio dynamic farming is one of the main features on the tour!

              1. re: sfeater

                Frog's Leap garden is bd, their grapes are organic.

              2. re: upincumer

                I like their wines but Frog's Leap is not certified Biodynamic. Even their website only talks about organic farming 101. Lots of people toss around the Biodynamic term but it has pretty rugorous requirements to be certified.

                1. re: kenrmorris

                  Frog's Leap is certified organic, and does employ many of Steiner's biodynamic farming practices. They are not certified biodynamic (as are many wineries that practice biodynamic farming) but you would be hard-pressed to find a more informed, eloquent, joyous and spiritually-attuned viticulturalist than its owner John Williams.

            2. Preston Vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley makes fabulous wines and is a beautiful place to have a picnic. They also have an organic olive grove, from which they make their own (gorgeous, bright-green, fruity) olive oil and a commercial bakery on-site that turns out lovely artisan breads. In addition, they sell fresh produce from their garden. I loved Preston the most of all the wineries I visited in '05.


              1 Reply
              1. re: mcgeary

                2nd Preston.

                A skillful Google search will yield more results.

              2. I second the recco fro Dry Creek Valley. A lot of great small growers doing some wonderful things in the way of organic and sustainable. Plus Healdsburg is such a great town to visit. Try Michel-Schlumberger, Preston and Quivara. Schlumberger has an amazing property and a cool "green" tour.