100-Mile Diet: Liquid Dinner

[Missed out on previous 100-mile adventure posts? Here are part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4]

100-mile dieters in Californians are lucky, because if a locally-grown meal somehow goes wrong, they can always buy a nice bottle of Californian wine to get their dinner guests tipsy pre-meal -- so the limitations of the meal go unnoticed. Of course, if the cooking still gets panned, then cooks have a nice local wine with which to drown their eco-sorrows --

This Californian privilege is something I've been excited about for a long, long time -- excited enough to put together a somewhat comprehensive list of yummy, organic wines made from California-grown grapes. After all, if we can pick and choose, why go with conventional, pesticide-sprayed grapes? 100-mile dieting wine aficionados can pick from organic, sulfite-free, and biodynamic wines!

Of course, price plays a big role too, for a graduate student like me -- though perhaps that'll become less of an issue, as Californian wines are expected to become cheaper. But for now, Five Hills Blue tops my wines-to-buy list. These organic wines are an amazing bargain at just $5.99 a bottle.Made by Fetzer -- an environmentally-focused company itself -- Five Hills Blue wines are made from organic grapes and available exclusively at Trader Joe's. You can pick from chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet.


Until very recently -- and by recently I mean until this afternoon when I bought a bottle, which I'm drinking as I write this -- I was a huge fan of Big House Red, previously owned by Bonny Doon, which has been making great strides in organic / biodynamic viticultural practices. However, I just found out that Big House Red has been sold to The Wine Group (PDF) -- which makes me think that this wine's unlikely to seek organic certification anytime soon.

Given the wealth of choices we have, I hope Californians will opt for organic wines. Label-readers will see two types of organic wines -- those made with organically-grown grapes and DON'T have the USDA organic seal, and those that are labeled "no added sulfites" and have the organic seal. Basically, sulfites -- which occur naturally in wines in small doses -- act as a preservative for wines, keeping them from turning into vinegar while they age and, for the most part, get tastier. The general consensus is that added sulfites are not harmful UNLESS you have an allergy to sulfites.

However, adding sulfites immediately excludes the wine from getting a USDA organic seal, even if all the grapes used were certified organic. This causes a bit of confusion for organic activists who always look for the seal. I look for the seal -- but I make an exception for wine. Just make sure that the label states clearly where the grapes for the wine got its organic certification from, and if you want more proof, call up the certification agency and verify the label. Then you can rest assured that your wine habit is not adding pesticides to the Californian landscape.

I personally prefer the sulfites-added organic wines, because I've had too many bad experiences with the no-sulfites wines. The problem is that these no-sulfite wines tend to be extremely inconsistent -- and I say that as someone who's tried Frey, Well Re(a)d, and many other sulfite-free wines. Sometimes, they taste just fine, but at other times, they taste like vinegar. Once, my friend Summer opened a bottle of Frey wine, which we all tried and said tasted weirdly carbonated. She put the cork back onto the bottle -- and about 10 minutes later, the cork popped off. Good wines should not pop their own corks off, unless explicitly named as a sparkling wine.

But back to the yummy wines! If you're a regular wine consumer, consider getting nice wine bag. From personal experience, pretty wine bags will garner compliments, and hopefully convince others to bring their own bags.

I know most of you aren't so lucky as to live in California. And while I understand that many regions do have a winery or two relatively close by, those wines aren't always tasty. I came to this realization at my sister's wedding in Cooperstown, New York (no, she's not a baseball fan), during which she tried her best to stay local. I applaud her efforts, but the local wine was not very yummy -- so I stuck to champagne.

Which brings me to my next post, in which I'll explore what to do about the yummies we can't obtain locally, and the difficulties of balancing ethical consciousness, caffeine addictions, and gustatory desire.

For more of Siel's adventures, check out greenLAgirl.com!

Tags: 100 Mile Diet | California | Wine