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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Bonterra Vineyards The McNab

United States (California)

merlot (70%), cabernet sauvignon, old vine petit syrah

Whether for drinking now, or for laying down…

Bonterra sets you on solid ground. In this case on the shoreline of Champney’s West, NL.

I have to admit I’m generally not a fan of Californian wines. Whether it is a prejudice against the overuse of oak, or an inclination toward old world wines, or surprise at the lack of a strong organic/biodynamic movement (organic wine makes up only 1% of American wine sales), but I rarely seek them out.

Bonterra, I’m pleased to say, is an exception. Its location, Mendocino County, is an exception. The county has 15 certified organic wineries, more  than any other county in the U.S. That represents 18% of the county’s vineyards, as compared to a meager 1% in Sonoma and 5% in Napa.

Its climate – colder winters, hotter summers – has a lot to do with it, in that many of the diseases and pests common in other regions are not to be found here. But Mendocino also has strong advocates of organic practice, such as Bonterra’s winemaker BOB BLUE.

He has become one of the leading spokespersons in the country for the organic approach to winemaking, despite the fact that Bonterra is owned by the multinational drinks conglomerate Brown-Forman. And his speaking engagements take him to countries well beyond his own – to the U.K. for example, which buys over 50% of Bonterra’s production.

Blue’s leading argument is in favour of biodiversity. It stabilizes the viticulture environment, he argues. Pests that might otherwise be a problem are controlled by their natural predators. Wasps eat leafhoppers for example; roaming sheep eat weeds. (As in fact do wild pigs, which have also been known to roam Bonterra’s vineyards.)

Since 2001 Bonterra has included an area in north-eastern Mendocino known as McNab Ranch, once a sheep farm, but now the site of biodynamic vineyards. It is home to what has become the estate’s flagship wine, The McNab, a Bordeaux-like blend, predominately merlot.

Bonterra The McNab 2003

Dark garnet in the glass. I’m attracted by the nose, its ripe friendliness, with a bit of smoke, a bit of chocolate. Earthy, but at the same time new world. A palate of rich plummy fruit, without sacrificing its classiness. Tasty, nicely crafted, the oak having worked through the fruit. An inclination towards sweetness offset by its spice and tannins. A welcoming wine, one I very willingly embrace.  $$

As someone has likely said before: biodynamic bon terra begats très bon vin. (I’m feeling the wine, obviously.)













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