DrinkTheEarth.com is relocating to Atlanta! We’ll be passing through Cincinnati, Louisville, and Nashville this week on our way to the beautiful state of Georgia. More updates to come.
Many experts had cautioned that the struggling economy might slow down the burgeoning organic food movement, as consumers were expected to return to basics to save money and pinch pennies. At least according to a study released by the Organic Trade Association last month, that does not seem to be the case. According to the study, 73% of U.S. families buy organic at least occasionally, and three in ten U.S. families said they were spending more on organic products versus a year ago. It would seem the cost-cutting that is plaguing much of the retail sector is happening in other categories.
Closer to home, we are seeing more and more organic products appear on our own area grocery store’s shelves. During a visit today, my wife and I were disappointed to see that many organic items on our list were out of stock, apparent proof that others must be buying them up. It will be interesting to watch consumer trends as the economy continues to improve, as there are positive signs that organics have weathered the worst of the financial storm.
When the average consumer thinks of ways to live a more sustainable and energy-efficient lifestyle, it’s doubtful that goats or sheep come to mind first. However, for many vineyard owners, there’s a clear new trend towards using the prolific grass and weed-eating animals to more effectively and responsibly keep their acreage properly trimmed.
Philo, California’s Navarro Vineyards began using goats and sheep in June, with the primary purpose of reducing the use of tractors as well as manual labor. Santa Cruz’s Bonny Doon Vineyard, a producer of biodynamic wines, recently introduced 800 goats to their new vineyard, an event chronicled in a very entertaining YouTube video. They both join a bevy of producers, many of whom are organic or biodynamic, that have already been following the practice to avoid not only the use of gas-powered machines, but the use of herbicides that can easily enter the water table.
Time will tell if this trend, currently more popular on the west coast than east, will expand to vineyards on a wider scale. In addition to being more ecologically prudent, goat and sheep farming sure sounds more rewarding to us than riding your average John Deere tractor.
Sorry for the lag in adding any new blog content recently. We’ve been busy with a site redesign project (coming soon), making Twitter a faster and more attractive option for getting out quick news bursts. We’ll be conducting some new tastings and publishing fresh blog content soon.
In the meantime, we are in the process of building out our Facebook Fan Page. If you haven’t already, become a ‘fan’ of DrinkTheEarth.com and join our growing community! If you are an organic winery, brewer, distiller, or just an organic beverage aficionado, do you have photos that you’d like to share? We’re especially looking for pictures that can help educate consumers on what organic beverages are all about (e.g. farming, production process). If you have any and are interested in making them available via our Facebook page, please contact us through the site. We respect intellectual property, so all photos will be credited to the rightful owner.
As many wine consumers know, there is a distinction between certified organic wines, and those made following sustainable practices. While there’s no need to throw stones at producers who are merely green-friendly without pursuing certification, eco-conscious wine drinkers rely on certifications to ensure that the wines they drink are truly organic.
One of the misconceptions in the marketplace is that any wine produced by a winery with organically-certified vineyards is organic. While this is sometimes true, especially for smaller, estate-only producers, this is not always the case. Many wineries often source grapes from outside of their estate for select wines, or use a blend from several vineyards. For example, the estate vineyards of St Helena, California’s Spottswoode Winery are certified organic by the CCOF. Therefore, all wines produced on their estate can officially make the claim of being made from organically-grown grapes. However, select wines, such as their Sauvignon Blanc, are sourced from grapes outside the winery and are not necessarily certified (although Spottswoode has indicated to us before that they purchase grapes that are sensitively farmed from partners).
The best rule of thumb to determine whether a wine is organic is to check the label. While certified organic wines are not required to promote their certifications on the bottle itself (for whatever reason, some consumers still feel organic wines are inferior), many of them frequently do. A winery’s web site is another great source, as you can often download ’sell sheets’ that are meant for retailers, and contain more in-depth information about a wine or how it was made. As a last resort, contact the winery directly. Never assume that just because you’ve seen an organic wine from a particular winery, all of their wines are certified.
We just finished publishing our review of DrinkTheEarth.com’s Wine of the Week, the Snoqualmie Winery 2007 Naked Riesling. Like many of its organic counterparts, this Prosser, Washington winery makes wines from organically grown grapes, and extends their sustainability efforts to the production process as well.
However, we were impressed that they have seemingly taken this effort a step further, publishing an annual Sustainable & Organic Report. First published in 2007, and again in 2008, this five-page report provides specific details on how the winery did against their previous sustainability and organic goals, as well as what it hopes to accomplish in the coming year ahead. While other wineries are talking about their green efforts, how many are putting it in writing, and making available to the public in this manner? If you know of other wineries, or even brewers or distillers who are doing this (whether certified organic or not), we’d love to hear about them. In the meantime, we challenge other producers to achieve this level of transparency.
We are currently planning a tasting trip to the PDX/Northern Oregon/Willamette Valley region in early July, most likely arriving on July 4th. Are you a producer of organic/biodynamic wines, beers, or spirits? We’d love to visit you. Not a producer, but have some great suggestions on places we need to go? We’d love to hear from you too. Drop us a note with your thoughts or ideas today.
With organic wines and beers getting much of the eco-friendly headlines these days, we were anxious to see how their counterparts in the spirits world were measuring up. With that backdrop, as the first Earth Day in DrinkTheEarth.com’s existence rapidly approached, we could think of no better way to celebrate our appreciation for the planet than to sample a few of the best organic vodkas on the market.
We could have gone in numerous directions, as organic vodka is one of the few spirits that can be easily sourced in the U.S. Not surprisingly, it is also the category that has garnered the most recent media attention. After much contemplation, we settled on three; TRU, Crop Harvest Earth, and Rain Organics. To eliminate any bias, we conducted the test as a blind, side-by-side tasting, and even included a sampling of a traditional vodka, Absolut, in the process.
Our first selection, which we later learned to be Crop Harvest Earth, carried a strong smell of alcohol on the nose. Made from certified organic grain and bottled in Minnesota, each batch of Crop is distilled only as many times as required to remove any impurities. Billing itself as the ‘cleanest’ vodka, Crop is distilled so efficiently that no carbon treatment or charcoal filtering is necessary. With a silky feel in the mouth, we found it to be crisp, and smoother than we had expected.
Moving on, our second taste was that of TRU Organic Vodka, made in Los Angeles, California. TRU’s motto is “Drink It. Plant It.” Not just a slogan, the company actually plants a tree for every bottle sold (over 50,000 planted as of March, 2009). In addition to sourcing American organic wheat, the company emphasizes a carbon-negative existence, including the use of lightweight bottles, and shipping boxes that double as shelf displays. During our tasting, we found a very well-rounded vodka. Our ultimate consensus was this might have been the most versatile of the three organic options.
Last but not least, Rain Organics was probably the most unique of the three vodkas we tasted. With a slight sweetness in the nose, the flavor included hints of butterscotch and caramel. Rain is made from white organic corn sourced from a single farm in Yale, Illinois. With seven layers of distillation, this vodka follows a rigorous process through production, and is made in the famed Buffalo Trace Distillery of Frankfort, Kentucky, the oldest distillery site in the U.S. With the slight sweetness in the taste, we thought Rain would make a devastating dessert martini, but could also easily be had straight.
So which was our favorite? That would be like asking Mother Earth to choose her favorite child. In the end, we struggled to select a winner, but felt a little more educated for the next time we open up the bar for a vodka cocktail. Regardless, not a bad way to wind down DTE’s first Earth Day.
For those of you who didn’t catch up to our Twitter posts, below are the six organic beverage facts we sent out earlier in celebration of Earth Day. We hope you took a chance to reflect on our planet’s future on this important day of awareness and appreciation.
Earth Day Fact #1: Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery lays claim to the first U.S. certified organic beer, an E.S.B. made in 1996.
Earth Day Fact #2: Nearly all wines contain some sulfites naturally, including those made following organic or biodynamic practices.
Earth Day Fact #3: The USDA National Organic Program was implemented in ‘02, although other certifications have been around much longer.
Earth Day Fact #4: Approx. 70% of all Demeter-USA certified biodynamic wineries are in CA. Nearly 20% are in Ore., with the rest elsewhere.
Earth Day Fact #5: N. Dakota has been called the ‘Napa Valley of Rye’, and is where several organic distillers source rye for their vodkas.
Earth Day Fact #6 (and last): NYC’s GustOrganics is the only organic bar certified by the USDA.
Next up: Look for a write-up from our Earth Day Organic Vodka tasting coming soon. We tasted three organic selections, Crop, TRU, and Rain, against a well-known non-organic offering. How did the ‘green’ options fare? Find out shortly.
Need a fresh suggestion for an organic wine to pair with your next dinner? Want to impress your friends with knowledge of the latest eco-friendly cocktail on the market? We’ve recently added some new editorial features to DrinkTheEarth.com, including a weekly organic/biodynamic wine selection of the week, as well as organic beers & spirits of the week. Wine selections will be updated every Monday on a weekly basis, while we will be featuring new beers and spirits each month. These will include new-to-market beverages, as well as those that might not be easy to find at your local corner wine and beverage provider. Oh, and we’re also open to recommendations. As much as we’d like to, we can’t possibly spend all of our time searching the web for the latest in organic drinks.
Still confused about what makes a beverage organic, or what those certifications really mean? We’ve also made enhancements to our online Resources, including several new organic beverage FAQ’s. There’s a lot of confusion still out there, so we’ll be adding to our list of questions in the coming weeks or months. Have a suggestion for what else we should include? Feel free to let us know.