Nearly every winery talks about its eco-friendly wine-making and grape-growing practices these days, so it's hard to know which brands are truly green and which are simply co-opting the green message because it sells.
Case in point: The chartreuse label of the 2008 Bogle California Sauvignon Blanc ($8.99) boasts that the winery has "a high regard for the mindful tending of the soil." Now, this morning I mindfully tended to cleaning my kitchen, but does that necessarily translate to green practices? It does with this producer, at least: A member of the California Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance, Bogle has long used cover crops and drip-system irrigation in its vineyards. The end result is what I found to be a "just-fine" wine: lots of citrus and vanilla on the nose, light and off-dry on the palate, with low acid, nice balance, and a papery finish. Token Winemaker heaped on the praise, calling it clean, bright, and a "good sipper."
It sure beat the 2004 Bridge/Eco California Chardonnay ($2.99), which smelled like rancid oil, dust, and burnt toast and was watery on the palate. This wine was well-stocked and prominently displayed at the Grocery Outlet I visited — a little curious given its past-its-prime vintage. This is a disappointment from a store whose friendly and knowledgeable wine guys are usually a thirsty Wineau's best friend. Of the three green wines we tried this week, only the Bridge/Eco is made with certified organically grown grapes.
My clear favorite in this tasting was the 2008 Fetzer Valley Oaks California Riesling ($7.99). But just what does that "earth-friendly" descriptor on the label mean? In Fetzer's case, it's definitely not just marketing-speak: A longtime organic grower, the winery has racked up environmental accolades and recently sent representatives on a nationwide "eco-tour" of wine festivals to spread the gospel of green winemaking and grape growing. All of this makes it even more pleasurable to sip this Meyer-lemony, light, and slightly effervescent wine that reminded me of an alcoholic Izze. (That's a compliment.) Token Winemaker praised its "pretty" aroma, but felt that more acid was needed to balance the wine's residual sugar.
Turning to our local oenosphere, there's good news and bad news. First, the bad news: Franklin Square Wine Bar of Oakland has closed its doors — although owner Rick Mitchell notes that Franklin Square's inventory will move across the street to Luka's Tap Room, where Mitchell will continue to offer half-price bottles every Sunday. That's good news, but even better news is that the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards in Livermore is offering all of its wines sold by the bottle for 50 percent off every day for the rest of the month. Visit WenteVineyards.com for details.