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Oct 2, 2008 06:56 AM

Organic wines for Thanksgiving

I have never bought organic wines before. Can anyone recommend some good sources that won't cost an arm and a leg?

I would like to buy a red (Pinot Noir probably), white (perhaps a Riesling), and a sparkling.

They need to pair with an organic Turkey dinner. I live in Connecticut, but also willing to order online.

Thanks for any rec's.

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  1. Riesling... Josmeyer (from Alsace)
    Pinot Noir... King Estate (Oregon), Guy Chaumont (Burgundy)

    I'm sure there are plenty more. Those are off the top of my head.

    1. For thanksgiving I like to stay domestic. What's your price range? Oregon is a good bet to have what you are looking for as they produce red's, whites, and sparklers that work well. I don't know all the organic producers, but here are a list of really good biodynamic producers:

      Cooper Mountain
      Beaux Frères
      Brick House Wines
      Belle Pente
      Bergstrom Wines
      Evesham Wood Vineyard

      Most Washington reds are too heavy, but check out Pacific Rim ( single vineyard wines. I think they all are moving to organic and biodynamic practices.

      And I can't speak for the quality here, but Silver Thread Vineyard in the Finger Lakes is biodynamic and closer to where you live. I always try to eat as local as possible on Thanksgiving, but I don't know if that's important to you.

      1. Here are some of my favorite US wineries that use organic methods or are certified organic:

        Adastra -- Pinot Noir
        Robert Sinskey -- Pinot Noir
        Frog's Leap -- good whites and reds
        Bonny Doon -- same
        King Estate -- Pinot Gris, great with Turkey, and Pinot Noir
        Frey -- good whites and reds
        Sokol Blosser -- Oregon

        BTW, if you've ever bought wine, you've bought organic wine.
        "Organic" nomenclature gets a little confusing.

        There is a difference between organically grown grapes and organic wine. What I've found often is that many (maybe most) wine grapes are farmed organically, but the wine is not fermented organically. A small amount of sulfur is added to prevent oxidation and to kill tiny beasties that would spoil the wine. Even though sulfur is natural, even though it's a natural by-product of fermentation, even though your own body produces it, if you add even a tiny amount of it to wine, the wine cannot be called organic.

        Many wineries are organic all the way, but not certified organic, so they cannot say organic on the label.

        There are other differentiations. Biodynamic farming (which more and more wineries use) vs. certified biodynamic. Sustainable farming vs. certified sustainable. A winery may use all three farming practices: organic, biodynamic and sustainable, but you would *never* see that on the label.

        Just as an example, many, many of the famous chateaux and domaine wines of France are not only organic, but also biodynamic. You won't find that on the label, and can probably only find that info by going to the winery website. My experience is that the same is true of many Oregon, Washington and northern California wineries.

        List of California organic wineries (CCOF) and some French producers:
        List of Oregon organic wineries from the Oregon Wine Board:
        List of organic New York wineries:

        Some info about organic wines:

        1 Reply
        1. re: maria lorraine

          I am not sure how wrapped up I'd get in "Organic" as organic refers to the produce, be it grapes, melons, asparagus etc. The end product is organic yet the overall practices of the winery may be very much "Non Organic" so to speak. A sustainable winery will intergrate things like having vendors that also practice "clean green living" they will look at the larger picture. Recycled glass and paper, solar or windpower, composting, etc etc.
          I applaude organic producers but lets look at the big picture when making a purchase.

        2. The only truly organic US winery I know of that makes wines that are really enjoyable to drink is Coturri, in Sonoma []. They make wine 'by hand', from organic fruit, using no added suflites or other chemicals. Interestingly, they don't make a big deal about it at all.

          I've spoken with several European producers who claim their wine is virtually 100% organic as well, but I don't know that I've ever seen a bottle that didn't have the "contains sulfites" warning on the label. Coturri does not and has lab tests to show that his wine has only residual natural sulfites below the mandated label requirement.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Midlife

            There are many US wineries --168 -- that are truly organic just like Coturri. See the CCOF site, and do a search for the entire US.

            Coturri is certified organic, but the label does not mention organic at all.

            Sulfites labeling can get a little weird too. I don't know the guidelines for European wines exported to the US. Suffice it to say that all wines contain sulfites, and some contain added sulfites.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              maria lorraine,

              I'm sure you know your facts but a year or so ago, when I was searching for 100% organic wines, I could buy in California, I found a total of six wineries. In searching the CCOF site I couldn't find a listing of 100% organic wineries (Highlighted every state using search criteria "100% organic wine", "organic wine".. even just the word "wine". Other searching on Google seems to mix organically grown with no sulfite wines and almost all are organically grown only. Can you help me with finding the CCOF listings?

              Re Coturri.... My comment that they don't make a big deal about it was referring to just what you said. The only indication is that their labels do not say 'contains sulfites'. Tony Coturri says he plays it down because of negative consumer linkage to the quality of those wines that are 100% organic but just don't taste good (most are highly oxidized). He'd rather just go with the quality of his methodology and what it produces. I guess that also suggests he doesn't think the specific % of sulfites is an issue worth making noise about, even though his lab tests show he's below 10ppm (??) and knows he doesn't add any.

              I'm growing less sure that the issue of added sulfites is very meaningful to organic consumers but one would think that they would perceive a difference between minute levels of natural sulfites and higher levels of added sulfur compounds from the simple perspective of added man-made chemicals..

              1. re: Midlife

                OH MY.
                Finding the 100% Organic Wineries will be tougher
                than finding the wineries who grow grapes organically.

                FYI, here’s where I’d search:
                NOP, the National Organic Program, part of the USDA. The NOP works with the
                TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), now a separate division of the ATF, BTW.
                The TTB approves the wine label statements for these approved categories:
                100% Organic, Organic, Made With Organic Ingredients, and Some Organic Ingredients. Since the 100% Organic statement on the label has to be approved by the TTB, there’s got to be a list somewhere, TTBOMK.
                The TTB is part of the DOT, Department of the Treasury, and you can write the TTB at

                CCOF, based in Santa Cruz
                If you want to search for wineries that grow grapes organically, go to
                the menu on left to Organic Directories. Search screen appears. Type in "wine" in Products/Services, select state -- CA -- and hit search at bottom. Leave the other search windows blank.

                OGW, the Organic Wine Journal

                OK? Let us know what you unearth.

              2. re: maria lorraine

                Off the top of my head, I'm not sure what the EU regulations are, but -- as you know -- any wine coming into the US must comply with US labeling regs . . .

              3. re: Midlife

                >>> I've spoken with several European producers who claim their wine is virtually 100% organic as well, but I don't know that I've ever seen a bottle that didn't have the "contains sulfites" warning on the label. Coturri does not and has lab tests to show that his wine has only residual natural sulfites below the mandated label requirement. <<<

                No offense, but . . . .

                The Federally mandated "Contains Sulfites" warning label is required for any and all wines which contain TEN parts per million (ppm) of sulfites. A maximum of 300 ppm is permitted under ATF/TTTB regulations.

                In an interview I did with the former head of the government lab in charge of testing for this sort of thing, they have NEVER tested a sample below 30 ppm. When I asked him about "organic" wines, he replied, "We've never tested a sample that was below 30." When I persisted, and asked him about the wines which claimed to be below 10 ppm and therefore did not place the warning label on their bottles, he replied, "Oh, we just take their word for that. We've never tested a sample before 30."

                * * * * *

                Once upon a time, I wrote an article on "organic" wines. Jonathan Frey proudly told me that their vineyard was the first to be certified organic by the CCOF. What about in the winery, I asked; do you use indigenous yeast or do you add cultured strains? "Oh, we add yeasts."

                When I interviewed Tony Coturri, he proudly told me that everything in the wiery was 100% organic -- they did not use chemicals, that they only used indigenous yeasts, and so on. I asked him about the grapes. "Oh, I don't know. We buy those."

                * * * * *

                If you spray with elemental sulfur -- no added or refined chemicals, just the naturally occurring element Sulfur (symbol "S" on the Periodic Table; atomic number 16) -- is your wine organic? What is there about "Contains Sulfites" that is NOT organic? And is there a difference between "Contains Sulfites" and "Contains Added Sulfites"? There is to me, but I'm curious to know what others think.

                And what is it about "sulfites" that are inorganic? Why do people focus (or seem to focus) SOLELY on sulfites when it comes to "organic," and not other possible components?


                1. re: zin1953

                  Thought provoking as usual! Another thing to consider - certified biodynamic wineries - generally considered to be even more organic than 'certified organic' - are still allowed to use copper sulfate - right?

                  1. re: zin1953

                    When did you interview Tony? That's an interesting response, and I can't say for certain if I've ever asked him that same question, but I do know, however, that his brother, Phil, is their vineyard manager and they grow organic produce as well as grapes. I'm not sure about the fruit they buy from other vineyards, but as to their own, a quote from their website: "Like all of the vineyards grown and maintained by the Coturri's, no pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides are ever used on the Estate vineyard, and it is certified by the CCOF. In 1996, Tony and Phil Coturri earned top honors from the Sonoma Valley Ecology Center for Environmentally Friendly Business Practices with their viticultural farming and winemaking practices."

                    1. re: Midlife

                      This was in the late 1980s, and -- YES -- things have changed since then. But the quotes are accurate, and I've always found the attitude behind them, along with the phrase "organic wine" to be fascinating . . . and more than just a little odd.

                      Yes, chemicals can be used in the vineyards, as with any agricultural crop, but -- as an "industry" -- far fewer chemicals are used on wine grapes than are used on most "human" crops. Many vineyards are "organic" in everything but certification, and I (for one) would not want to be certified. If (hypothetically speaking, and it's a big IF) some devastating pest (e.g.: GWSS) threatens my vineyard, I'm going to spray if I have to in order to save my vineyard; if there is no need to spray, of if I can take care of harmful insects via IPM, then clearly 'm going to do that.

                      But -- quite frankly -- given the average quality of the "certified organic" wines I've had over the years . . . well, let's just say that seeking out a CCOF seal of approval on the label has not,and is not, one of the things I look for when purchasing a domestic bottle of wine . . . .


                      1. re: zin1953

                        I do know that the quality issue is exactly why the reason why Coturri does not push his organic-ness very much. The only indication on the bottle is the lack of the "contains sulfites" warning. He feels he can ( and must) sell his wine on its own merit; wine that he happens to make the 'traditional, old-fashioned' way.

                        1. re: zin1953

                          I've had some very good Ökoweins in Germany, prominently advertised as such. I ate at an all-organic restaurant by the Black Forest (in Freiburg, I think) where I had a lovely Riesling and a local red wine which I can't remember the details of, but remember thinking "hey, this goes great with this roasted pork!" The Käsespätzle and the Riesling were an all-organic match made in heaven! If I remember correctly, both wines were labelled as both Organic and Biodynamic.

                          Of course, this is right up Southern Germany's alley. Certified organic wines from the US are, as you say, not terribly inspiring.

                  2. There's a lot of information here. You've given me much food for thought.

                    Thank you.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: TrishUntrapped

                      More food for thought:

                      If your goal is to be 'green,' why not buy a wine from your region, i.e. a riesling from the Finger Lakes area of NY? I understand NY is making some decent wine these days.

                      1. re: anewton

                        KInd of a nice idea. Make it a locavore Thanksgiving.