In the era of locavore, all-organic-everything, it’s no surprise that Texans are seeking the same standards when it comes to their choice of vino.
Organic wine is made from organically grown grapes using principles of organic farming, which excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or added sulfites. Look for the words “made with organically grown grapes” and you’re off to a good start (more specifics about USDA Organic labels and sulfites below). If your body is your temple, uncork these fine global selections. (And don’t miss the pairing recipe at the end.)
Santa Julia is produced by Familia Zuccardi, the largest family-owned winery in Argentina, and half of its Mendoza estate is certified organic. The winery produces impressive varietals including sparkling (rosé pictured above) and Chardonnay Organic, a fresh, dry, medium-bodied white with a fruity bouquet. Buy it: Whole Foods Market, Spec’s, Kroger, Total Wine & More. About $10
Bending Branch Winery crafts extraordinary noble grape varietals including an invigorating Branch Texas White and Picpoul Blanc, but they are renowned for unique, award-winning reds. Its 2016 Texas Tannat is the quintessential barbecue/grilling wine. Buy it: Spec’s, bendingbranchwinery.com. $25-30
Overall, the California wine country has made great strides in organic wine production and LEED certified green wineries. Many organically produced California wines are not even labeled “organic” to avoid niche marketing.
Vinum Chenin Blanc Clarksburg 2015 is a vibrant, balanced white buzzing with lemon, lime and cucumber flavors. A must for spring—and vegan! Buy it: Spec’s. About $14
Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet 2016 is made with grapes grown in a certified organic vineyard from this well regarded family-owned winery. Expect silky texture and aromas of dark plum, cherry, warm barrel spice and dark chocolate. Good enough to eat. Buy it: Total Wine & More, Austin Wine Merchants. About $17
Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir is made with certified organic grapes. Silky and elegant with hints of bright raspberry, cooked cherry and rose petal. Buy it: Houston Wine Merchants, Spec’s. About $28
Bonterra is my go-to and so easy to find. You can’t miss with the organically grown rosé, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir—clean, quaffable and a brilliant pairing with most foods. Buy it: Kroger, HEB, Spec’s. About $15
Ehlers Estate, Napa Valley, produces 100% organic and all the proceeds from the sale of the wines are returned to the LeDucq Foundation to support international cardiovascular research. (You can’t miss the clever heart logo on the label.) Its 2017 Sauvignon Blanc is bone-dry and lively with rich floral, mouthwatering flavor and aromas of orange blossoms (about $32). Ehlers specializes in elegant reds: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Portrait Red Blend, Cabernet and more ($55-$125). Buy it: ehlersestate.com or Spec’s.
Spartico Red Blend is certified organic. The fruity, medium-body violet red wine has smoky, salty nut aromas and a brisk finish. It’s great with food and has no added sulfites! Buy it: Whole Foods Market. About $15
Famille Perrin is the leading organic wine grower in the Southern Rhone Valley. Look for Famille Perrin Nature Cotes du Rhone, a bold full-bodied red blend of Grenache and Syrah with herbal and spice notes. Spot on. Buy it: Central Market, Spec’s, Kroger. About $15
Les Dauphins produces a Cotes du Rhone Villages Organic Rouge and a beautiful, crisp rosé reserve. Both picnic-perfect and affordable. Buy it: World Market, Spec’s. $9-$15 depending on vintage
USDA ORGANIC — KNOW YOUR LABELS
100% Organic: Contains 100% organic ingredients and no added sulfites.
Organic: Contains 95% organic ingredients and no added sulfites.
Made with Organic Ingredients: At least 70% organic ingredients; may or may not contain sulfur dioxide (for preservation).
The Brilliant Pairing
Grilled Beet Vegetarian Pizza with Organic Chenin Blanc
(Yield: 1 12” pizza)
This dreamy recipe starring fresh roasted beets with lemon ricotta and pistachios is inspired by the seasonal special served at CANNON + BELLE in The Hilton, Austin. Pair it with crisp, aromatic Vinum Chenin Blanc, and the—yellow, red and golden—beet goes on and on!
1 pound total yellow, red, golden beets, roasted and peeled
¾ cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole milk
extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup fresh pistachios, roasted and chopped
1 (14 to 16-ounce) ball of homemade pizza dough or pre-made
3 ounces aged goat cheese, grated
Cut cooled beets into ¼-inch slices and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, lemon juice, milk, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of thyme until the mixture resembles a smooth sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Prepare a grill for indirect heat. Brush crust of pizza with olive oil; spread surface with ricotta cheese. Top with slices of beets, pistachios and the remaining herbs. Grill, covered over indirect medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Add grated goat cheese to cover the top. Rotate pizza halfway through cooking for even heat and a brown crust. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.
Robin Barr Sussman is a freelance culinary and travel writer who studied at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone California. As a chef for Sonoma County wineries, her specialty was food and wine pairing. Sussman’s work also appears in Houston Modern Luxury, Texas Monthly, Fodor’s, Houston House & Home, and Private Clubs Magazine.