Sonoma County wineries are among the leaders in the organic and Biodynamic wine movements, which can be very generally summed up as systematic, forward-looking returns to the “roots” of agriculture.
While the percentage of vineyard land that’s certified organic or Biodynamic is still small, learning about these alternative approaches is half the fun of visiting Sonoma County wineries that practice organic and Biodynamic growing and winemaking.
Find out more about Biodynamic and organic grapes and wine at these Sonoma County wineries:
Sonoma Valley and Glen Ellen
Sonoma County’s granddaddy of Biodynamic wine only received its certified status from Demeter (the leading Biodynamic certifying organization) in 2000. Since then, the estate has become a showpiece for Biodynamic winegrowing. Tractor-pulled tram tours offer visitors views of the garden-like property and Sonoma Valley below, and there’s a tour option for those who want a deeper dig into the details of Biodynamic viticulture. 1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, 707-935-3000, open daily, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Sonoma County wine legend Richard Arrowood, who gained a fan base as winemaker at Chateau St. Jean in the 1970s, can be found at his own little winery a little further up the road and high above Sonoma Valley. He’s chosen to get his own estate vineyards certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Note that there’s a difference between certified organic grapes and wine: Arrowood’s wines contain judicious additions of sulfites to preserve their mountain-grown flavors, so these wine labels cannot bear the USDA organic logo. 392 London Way, Sonoma, 707-938-3783, by appointment only.
This small winery recently made the commitment to Biodynamic farming at their estate Annadel Gap vineyard, which occupies a unique “wind gap” location at the northern end of the Sonoma Valley appellation. Pinot Noir and Syrah star at their tasting salon, which is located in “Vine Alley” in the historic town of Sonoma. 11 E. Napa St., Suite 3, Sonoma, 707-933-7837, open Friday-Saturday, 12-5 p.m.
Hamel Family Wines produces highest quality wines in limited quantities from grapes grown on their Sonoma Valley and Moon Mountain District estate vineyards. They farm their vineyards with organic and biodynamic practices, making them always mindful of their role as responsible stewards of the land. 15401 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, 707-996-5800, tastings by appointment, Thursday through Monday at 10am, 1pm and 3pm.
Healdsburg and Dry Creek Valley
You know you’ve found Quivira when, after rounding a bend on winding West Dry Creek Road, you see their Biodynamic preparations tower jutting above a colorful garden of flowers, herbs, and veggies. Quivira now calls their approach to viticulture “holistic farming,” meaning that they adhere to the principles established by Rudolph Steiner, who inspired the Biodynamic movement. Pigs, chickens, and compost heaps abound — but estate Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache are remarkably clean, floral, and fruity. 4900 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-8333, open daily 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Fruit trees, olive trees, lambs, chickens, fresh kale, and a herd of cats — where are the vineyards? Putting the farmyard back in the vineyard, Preston has become among Sonoma County’s most dedicated advocates of the whole-farm approach to growing wines in balance with livestock, mixed agriculture, and natural systems. Preston buzzes with activity at its tasting room, bakery, and produce stand, but is also a laid-back place to have a picnic. 9282 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-3372, open daily 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Frisky goats and sheep adjacent a weedy vineyard are telltale signs that the Truett-Hurst estate on Dry Creek Road may be a little different from its neighbors. It’s certified Biodynamic, in fact — although the wines may not be labeled as such. “When I see ‘organic’ on a wine label, I head for the hills!” jokes Truett-Hurst winemaker Virginia Lambrix. Take a glass of Zin and meander through the garden on the way to a colorful set of chairs down by Dry Creek, where the winery is participating in salmon habitat restoration efforts. 5610 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-9545, open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sample estate olive oil and rare Italian varietal wines and stroll through certified Biodynamic gardens, with stops to visit friendly pigs and a living dome formed of willow trees. 766 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-8000, open daily 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (winter hours and days may vary).
Russian River Valley and West County
When this Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Zinfandel great was purchased by the scion of a big French wine company, the focus of the operation became less “mainstream,” not more. Like Benziger, Deloach celebrates its organic and Biodynamic certified status and encourages visitors to learn more in its garden experience and tasting flights. 1791 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, 707-755-3300, open Friday-Sunday, 10a.m.-5 p.m., and by appointment Monday-Thursday.
Owners Suzanne Hagins and Chris Condos are so committed to making wine only from certified organic grapes, they say so right on the label! It’s not as common as you might think. This husband and wife team, both career winemakers, have managed to put together a little garden oasis amid the apple trees of Sebastopol, and they pour organic cider, too, with wine fresh from the tap at their stylish tasting room. Look for their new certified organic wine, too — which means no sulfites added — when it’s available, as well as a Biodynamic wine or two. 1272 Gravenstein Highway N., Sebastopol, 707-827-3486, by appointment only.
Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight.