Bonterra Vineyards of Mendocino, California has been making organic wine since 1987. The red wines I tried have corks and the white wines have screwcaps, which deliver a clue to the type of agriculture they're engaged in. The screwcap has a silhouette of a parasitic wasp used to fight other insect pests in the vineyard.
It's some member of the family Ichneumonidae, a group of predators that kill their prey in an elaborate, diabolical, complicated, and gruesome fashion. See a few videos like that and you start to think that a quick blast of poison would be more humane, but at the end of the day I'll take my own health over that of caterpillars and aphids and other pests, and it's also cool to know that millions of years of evolution have provided the precise biological warfare agent needed to protect your grapes. That's the kind of knowledge that will allow me to take over the world with an army of wombats and nematodes. (Strokes white cat, cackles maniacally.)
In addition to the wasps, the labels feature other helpful animals: butterflies, dragonflies, birds that eat rodents, and birds that eat insects. When I was in Sonoma visiting organic wineries, it was always fascinating to hear about how you just had to make sure that your vineyard was open to the right kind of predators--you didn't need to buy ladybugs, just create an environment in which they were welcome. At Bonterra, the founding winemaker Robert Blue is a pioneer of organic viticulture in California, and his bottles are a real delight.
2010 Bonterra Chardonnay
92% Chardonnay, 4% Muscat, 4% Viognier
$14, 13.5% abv.
Bright and well rounded with a ripe pear profile. Just enough oak to be interesting.
2010 Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc
60% Lake County, 40% Mendocino County
95% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Muscat, 1% Chardonnay
$14, 13% abv.
Crisp and tart, lemony with a clean finish. Definitely a great seafood wine.
2010 Bonterra Viognier
81% Vigonier, 10% Marsanne, 5% Muscat, 4% Roussanne
$14, 13.7% abv
Amazingly bright nose with herbal and floral undertones. Firm ripe apricot flavors with a dark aftertaste that lingers for quite some time. Definitely my favorite of the half dozen, and reminds me why I fell in love with Viognier years ago.
2009 Bonterra Merlot
78% Merlot, 13% Syrah, 4% Petite Sirah, 4% Zinfandel, 1% Carignane
$16, 13.6% abv
Black cherry and blackberry, cedar, light and mild and smooth with low tannins. A classic California Merlot with an interesting blend of supporting grapes.
2010 Bonterra Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir
$16, 14.1% abv.
Overripe strawberry, tart acidity, rich fruit flavors, strong finish. Definitely the strongest of the three reds even though it's typically such a soft grape.
2010 Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon
87% Mendocino County, 13% Lake County
81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petite Sirah, 7% Syrah, 3% Carignane
$16, 13.5% abv.
Rich plum and black pepper, very mild tannins, short finish. Excellent balance and, like the Merlot, such a wonderful blend. I love seeing the Carignane in there.
Note: These wines were received as samples.