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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

07/14 - Biodynamically Bonterra

About Bonterra Vineyards

The leading organically farmed wine brand and a green pioneer since 1993, Bonterra offers pure, flavorful wines that are perfectly in tune with nature. Bonterra wines are a celebration of nature’s farm-fresh flavors, coaxed from the earth by integrated, organic farming practices and meticulous winemaking. 

The Early Days
Bonterra's Groundkeepers

Long before organic produce filled the shelves of neighborhood groceries, the dedicated team at Bonterra was committed to Biodynamic® and organic farming because they passionately believed that organic grapes make the best wines. Starting back in 1987, they began to work organically with their vineyards to understand the soil, the vines, the insects and wildlife in order to create integrated farms that thrive with biodiversity. By 1993, the first 100% organically farmed Bonterra wines were gracing tables across America and enchanting wine drinkers with their fresh appeal. 

From the beginning, Winemaker Robert Blue and his team firmly—and rightly—believed that meticulously farmed organic grapes should not face what he calls "clunky" winemaking. “I wanted to make wines that make you think of fresh fruit from the farm stands,” he says, “and the ‘organic’ wines of the day weren’t doing that.”  Robert preserves the organically farmed qualities of this extraordinary fruit by applying both his traditional winemaking expertise and organic best practices.  The result? Wines that express delicious purity and harmony.

A Unique Mendocino Home

In the stunning natural paradise of Mendocino, California, Bonterra enjoys access to an array of perfectly situated sites unlike any other in the world. It’s hard to believe, but the open, mountainous region of Mendocino is the size of Connecticut, but home to only 90,000 people and some 96% of the land is wild and undeveloped. It takes about 3.5 hours to traverse the entire county by car, and in that time you'll experience a diverse, rich landscape of mountaintops, meadows, temperate rainforests, crystal clear streams and blustery beaches.

Bonterra’s vineyards—most notably the three Demeter-certified Biodynamic® vineyards, The McNab,  The Butler and The Blue Heron—thrive in a geographic “cradle” bordered by an unusual combination of mountain, rainforest and marine influences.  “This valley is Mendocino’s ‘sweet spot’,” explains Vineyard Director David Koball.  “We have enough moisture to allow for insects and flowers, but having no summer rain makes it easier to be organic; we stay dry when it counts.”

Bonterra's McNabb Ranch Vineyards
from the UK Telegraph

Bonterra’s emphasis on organic and Biodynamic® farming has resulted in a closed, integrated system that relies only on what is currently available at the site. This means that keeping the vines healthy requires constant assessments of the soil, the location, surrounding plants and a host of other important factors. This attentive farming method requires patience— there are no quick fixes or overnight answers —but the Bonterra team embraces a long-term vision.

Fouding Winemaker. Robert Blue
How Robert Blue Keeps it Green

Winemaker Robert Blue has been at the helm of Bonterra for over 20 years, applying his expertise to every step of the winemaking process. Blue’s belief that Bonterra wines shouldn’t “follow the fashion” has resulted in a lineup of farm-fresh white wines and classically balanced reds that are expressive and vibrant, and that showcase the intensity of each variety’s unique character.

Bonterra's commitment to organic processes is evident in its beautifully integrated farms, and the process continues when the fruit arrives at the winery.  He compares his process to organic bread making. The grains are grown organically, and when the raw materials reach the processing stage, bakers are required to manage the flow in order to prevent any inputs of non-organic ingredients. He applies the same thinking in the winery, only using organic-approved yeasts, cultured bacteria and acids, and ensuring that his wines don't come in contact with anything that could be considered non-organic.

It's traditional European winemaking with an added dose of modern technology and organic best practices. Blue doesn't hesitate to use the latest in filtering and fining innovations to ensure the wines are clear and clean, but he picks and chooses very judiciously to ensure that each wine could exist naturally without manipulation.

Natural yeasts kick off the fermentation for all of the wines, and then the team adds approved yeasts in order to continue the process. Robert insists on restraint here, refusing to impact the wines in any way that couldn't be considered natural.

Blending also plays a significant role in the winery. The team uses locations, regions and varietals much as an artist uses a palette of colors to create vibrant, sophisticated wines with balanced appeal.

David Koball, Vineyard Director

David Koball prepares to fill a cow horn with
cow dung.  Photo from

When you walk the vineyards with David Koball, you’ll see firsthand how intuitive farming results in healthy, flourishing vineyards. Since 1995, he has been growing winegrapes in Mendocino County, all in certified Organic and Demeter-Certified Biodynamic® vineyards, making him one of the industry leaders in organic vineyard farming. Growing up, he worked with his family farming olives, prunes, and walnuts, which inspired his ongoing desire to understand the natural life cycle of plants, the interplay of environmental and human factors in farming and how to best work with nature, rather than against it, to achieve optimal results. At Bonterra since 2001, David currently oversees production on 915 acres of certified organic land in Mendocino County, 284 acres of which is also certified Biodynamic.


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