By now, most Americans are aware of the organic movement. No longer a niche for the environmentally-conscious, mainstream organics is often synonymous with quality and health. Take a look at restaurant menus these days; many include the name of the ranch, farm and locale of major ingredients incorporated into each dish. From Chipotle's Niman Ranch pork to The Ritz-Carlton's Chef's Garden micro greens, menus of all price points use origin to indicate quality and shades of green.
Yet, flip to the wine list and, despite the global pressures to buy green, the only colors you'll see are red, white and rose.
John Williams, owner of Frog's Leap Winery in Napa Valley, says that selling wine has more to do with quality than trendy green marketing. He has been farming organically since 1988. “We believe in growing grapes, making wine and running our business in a manner that affords us better tasting wines, greater business success and greater pleasure in life,” he says.
In other words, quality sells. Think home-grown versus hot-house tomatoes and you'll get the picture. Yet even with tomatoes, consumers need direction. If it works for food, why not wine? Probably for the same reason that adding the 100-point critic ratings never took off — it makes the rest of the wines on the list seem lower in quality. Yet when done properly, selling green wines tableside gives servers a beautiful story to tell and, better yet, quality in the glass.
While some restaurants simply incorporate organic wines into their list, others have created dedicated organic sections. At Millennium in San Francisco, wine director David Corley takes green one step further by crafting a hefty list of wines ranging from organically grown to biodynamic. The green-only list is divided into glass pours and bottles. Each category is again divided by style — sparkling, white and red. Corley offers a creative key at the top of his list indicating the shade of green in the bottle. Keys include:
Organically grown grapes — produced without using most conventional pesticides or synthetic fertilizers including added sulfites.
Biodynamic production — Ultra-organic agriculture that works to bring about balance and healing of the planet.
Sustainable farming — using natural techniques when possible.