Our passion for wine started around eleven years ago... As a young chef, I had given a small amount of consideration to the bottles that inevitably made their way to the kitchen after wine dinners or if a server dropped a half drunk bottle off "for cooking". I even had the opportunity to taste some incredible wines during that time but in my mid 20's Lonestar was my go to beverage of choice.
When Gina and I met, she brought some much needed civility into my world. It could be said, "she tamed the beast". Soon the Lonestar's were replaced by our exploration of wine. We began like a lot of people, at the grocery store...I began to take careful note of what was being tasted at the service pre shifts in my restaurant. We would search out wines that we served at the restaurant, this required going to actual wine shops instead of our local grocery, a step up...
And then, one night, it happened...I was at a dinner party and the host pulled out Scholium Projects "A Prince in his Caves". It was my first "orange wine". From that night on, Gina and I went down the rabbit hole of incredible wines...we eventually landed on "natural wines" being our go to. But beyond natural wine we found other styles of winemaking to enjoy - organic & biodynamic wine became high on our list of bottles to search out...but what does it all mean?
You ever try "two buck chuck"? I'm not naming any names but it's the nickname of the wine sold at a popular grocery store from California. This is conventional wine, maximized. There can be over 70 additives in conventional wine, stabilizers, preservatives, fining agents, etc... this is not including the pesticides and herbicides employed at these large scale wineries, which certainly are residually found in these wines. The grapes in these vineyards are mechanically harvested. Imagine a large machine working through the vineyard harvesting the grapes, the weeds, the soil, sometimes birds and rodents that live in the fields get caught up in the process. When the harvest is that massive, you can be certain that there is all sorts of foreign material along with it. The grapes are mechanically pressed and often over extracted (maximized pressure to get all the juice, not a good thing). At this point the winery will start dumping all sorts of things in to get the fermentation started. On the back end, the wines can be filtered and fined with ingredients such as Isinglass (from fish bladders) and Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP) which sounds like something made at one of the refineries in Pasadena. They will often bump up the sulphur content to help preserve the wine as well...it's just a mess. Does this happen in all conventionally made wines? Of course not, well regarded vineyards are highly particular about the process of making wine and their products show this. But stuff like two buck chuck? I'm not placing any bets on that...
Then we have organic and sustainable wines...Organic wines are certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and have stricter regulations. The grapes are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, and all ingredients going into these wines, which includes yeast, must be certified organic.
Sustainable Viticulture goes beyond the USDA Organic process in many areas because it considers the whole farm as well as the environmental impact on the local ecosystems including, but not limited to: water conservation, energy conservation, the effects of agriculture on air quality, the carbon footprint of wine packaging, recycling, sound business practices, community relations, and the health and well-being of the workers who operate in the vineyards and wineries.
Enter, Biodynamic Farming...Biodynamic wines are wines made employing the biodynamic methods both to grow the fruit and during the post-harvest processing. Biodynamic wine production uses organic farming methods (e.g. employing compost as fertilizer and avoiding most pesticides) while also employing soil supplements prepared according to Rudolf Steiner's (the OG of bio farming) formulas, following a planting calendar that depends upon astrological configurations, and treating the earth as "a living and receptive organism." Biodynamic Wine making is considerably more holistic in this respect. Think Organic and Sustainable farming with a mystic edge...
With Natural Wine you are getting pure fermented grape juice. Nothing added, nothing taken away. Natural Wine is farmed organically (biodynamically, using permaculture or the like) and made (or rather transformed) without adding or removing anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and 'intervention' in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. As such neither fining nor (tight) filtration are used. The result is a living wine – wholesome and full of naturally occurring microbiology.
When we set up Bodega Bellaire, we created a wine inventory that reflected what we love about wine. There are all sorts of wine styles on our shelf, Organic, Sustainable, Biodynamic, Natural...even some well made conventional wines found their way to our shop. We have easy drinking white wines, complex orange wines, incredible rosés, light quaffable reds and complex big reds. Our goal is to bring our guests a well rounded wine program that not only reflects what we love but is ultimately a reflection of the community and what they want to see on the shelves. We are proud to create a space where the community can come in and explore new realms of wine that are not available at the local grocery store or big box outlet. We hope to foster an unstuffy, fun and educational environment, after all, drinking wine should be fun, right?