The Organics are Coming!

/ Updated on December 5, 2014

Though we already have a nice portfolio of organic wines from around the globe, our customers are always asking for more wines that are produced sustainably or that are certified Organic. We listened to you! The Terra Sàvia (“wise earth”) line has arrived at Teller Wines in Lewes.

Jim Milone is a fourth generation vintner from Hopland, California, following in the footsteps of his great grandfather who emigrated from Italy as a young man and operated Hopland's first winery until Prohibition. Sanel Valley Vineyards lies at the base of Duncan Peak just south of the town of Hopland in Mendocino's Northern Russian River Valley. The soils are well drained combinations of gravel and loam.

Jim has been making wine from Sanel Valley Vineyards for over 30 years. His philosophy is simple: Nurture the grapes organically and do as little as possible to the wine. His mantra is, “put more effort in the vineyard and minimize treatment in the cellar; winemaking starts when you lay down the first compost in the fall and prune in winter.”

Sanel Valley is home to over 1,000 species of plants and animals otherwise endangered by development. The nearby Russian River is home to the endangered steelhead trout, Chinook, and Coho salmon in addition to many other aquatic species of plants and animals. The vineyard is about a quarter mile from the river, so given its close proximity, Jim feels that organic farming is their moral obligation.

To prevent excessive growth of unwanted weeds, fresh earth is plowed up in furrows on the vine rows. The earth is pulled away in a few weeks leaving clean ground beneath the vines without the use of herbicides. Large populations of earth worms and birds are a great indication that the earth is in balance with the habitat around them. Pest control without the use of pesticides requires patience and some loss of fruit but allows nature to take its course by letting predatory birds and insects keep unwanted pests in check. The compost they use is certified organic and locally sourced from Mendocino County. Sanel Valley Vineyards currently tends 37 acres of grapes with room for another five acres. This puts their total peak production to about 6,000 cases, which is very small by industry standards. As the saying goes, “quality not quantity.”

At Teller, we also believe it is our collective responsibility to leave our earth in a healthier state than when we found it. We are happy to bring you the 2010 Reserve Merlot; the 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; and the 2011 Chardonnay.

The 2010 Reserve Merlot is bold and rich with black cherry and bittersweet cocoa influence, but soft tannins from two years in new and neutral French oak make it food-friendly with a slight acidity. I make a fabulous lobster mac ‘n cheese that pairs very nicely. Only 800 cases were produced. Find it at Teller under “Smooth & Structured”.

The 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is classically elegant and well-balanced. This Cab’s nuanced dimension comes from hand harvesting at a level of ripeness that retains the classic fruit character plus aging in small French oak casks with varying toast levels. Only 1,200 cases were produced. At Teller under “Big & Concentrated. We enjoy it with my grilled spicy and sweet squid.

The 2011 Chardonnay has clean tropical fruit flavors. Aged in stainless steel, sur lie, and no malolactic fermentation, it goes exceptionally well with farm-fresh produce. Under “Fresh & Clean. Only 2,500 cases produced.

Jim donates a portion of the proceeds from sales to wildlife rescue in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties.

Catherine Hester

About the Author

co-owner of Teller Wines in Lewes, DE with her husband Kevin, is a world traveler and shares their adventures at various wineries while offering thoughts on why she and Kevin order particular wines for their customers. Learn more about the Hesters by clicking here. View all articles written by Catherine Hester

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