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5 Dry-Farmed California Wines for Earth Day

This Earth Day, go dry. …Dry farmed wines, that is.

In an era where the label “sustainable” is broadly applied with no consistency, we’re narrowing our Earth Day focus to one specific practice where going with nature is mandatory. Dry farming means the only water your grapes will ever get is from real, straight-from-the-sky rain.

Many regions in Spain, Italy, and France (including Burgundy and Bordeaux) have practiced dry farming for centuries. For them, doing anything otherwise would almost be considered detrimental to the quality of the grapes. But in drought-ridden California, irrigation is commonplace amongst many vineyards. In fact, if non-drought tolerant varietals are planted, irrigation is required. 

One way to celebrate Earth Day is by honoring vineyards that have labored to bring grapes to fruition in one of the most difficult ways possible in California. Here’s a list of our favorite dry-farmed California wines:

Famed for its old-vine Zinfandel, Bucklin is also a vocal champion of dry farming in Sonoma. Try the Bucklin Bambino, a red blend brimming with bright wild berry and spice, retailing at just $24. The 2014 is a blend of 81% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah, 4% Alicante Bouchet, 6% Syrah, Grenache and Carignane.

Frog’s Leap
Sustainability is key at this Rutherford, Napa Valley winery. Not only does Frog’s Leap engage in dry farming; it also has a 100% solar powered winery and certified organic vineyards. Try their award-winning estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon ($55), which exudes rich, dark fruit while retaining a cool-climate vibrancy.

For such award-winning Pinot Noir, it may come as a surprise that Failla also makes sustainability a huge priority. In addition to being dry-farmed, their vineyard is also organic. Weeds are hoed by hand, and nitrogen-fixing cover crops replace fertilizer. While you can’t go wrong with any of their wines, start out with the flagship Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($36.99), which expresses pure, clean red fruit along with a streak of warm spice.

Stolpman Vineyards
OK, so technically this isn’t complete dry farming. Stolpman irrigates vines for the first few years of their youth, and then gradually lowers irrigation until the vines are free of “artificial” water. However, Stolpman makes a brilliant Sauvignon Blanc at just $22, so it’s worth including on this list. It has refreshingly crisp citrus and lemon curd aromas, while still retaining a lovely weightiness on the palate.

Gary Farrell McDonald Mountain Pinot Noir
We are huge Gary Farrell fans, so finding out that at least one of their Pinot Noirs is dry-farmed was quite exciting. The McDonald Mountain Vineyard is nestled into an area with cooling fog, higher altitude, and dry farming practices lead to smaller, flavor-packed grapes. On the palate, a lovely balance of ripe fruit (cherry cola, berry jam) and earth (herbs, mushroom) make this a wonderfully rich wine. The 2015 vintage will release in May 2017.

Love a dry-farmed wine you think should be added to this list? Send us a note!


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