10/08/2008

eco Vino!

by Bonnie Trust Dahan
VivaTerra Founding Partner

At this time of year, our thoughts turn to the harvest and the extraordinary bounty of colorful vegetables appearing in farmer’s markets everywhere. In our part of the world, northern California, another harvest is taking place in the vineyards. Whether it’s sauvignon blanc in early September or cabernet sauvignon at the end of October, the roads of Napa and Sonoma counties are humming with gondolas carrying grapes from vineyard to winery. The good news for all of us is that the wine industry has moved to the forefront of sustainable agriculture. There are now more than 100 wineries using grapes that are grown without pesticides or herbicides. Green wine is finally coming of age.

Wine Barrel Lazy SusanInside and out. The good news is not only about the wine, but also about the vessels that age it. In the past, thousands of barrels became waste every year. Why? After two years, the tight grained white oak no longer contributes its distinctive character to the lushness and depth that we appreciate in fine wine.

In fact, a staggering amount of wine barrels are thrown away every year. In California alone, 200,000 oak wine barrels made from 200- to 300-year-old trees are discarded annually. That’s where we come in. While the barrel might lose its primary value to the winemaker, we discovered that the wine saturated fine oak staves become very desirable as a woodworking resource. I can think of no other reclaimed material that is more attractive in its reinvented guise than these barrels. Whether it is transformed into functional furniture or a table top serving piece, I’ve never come across stained wood that combines the richness of color and the patina imbued by burgundy saturated fine oak staves.

Wine Barrel Stave Bread BowlWhat has attracted me all along to barrel stave products is the durable, elegant grain of the oak married to the evocative, faint aroma that lingers from the wine. I’m constantly amazed at the versatility and diversity of products that emerge from the imagination, design and skilled hands of our artisans. It’s almost as if the spirit of the wine itself brings out their ultimate creativity.

Where the barrel meets the glass. Serving organic wine in beautifully designed recycled glasses completes the eco vino cycle. Like the Mediterraneans, who've been enjoying wine for about 5,000 years, you may prefer your wine in casual tumblers that dispense with formality and provide carefree quaffing. Or, for a more classic serving option, you can serve your finest vintages in a graceful, elegant stem.

With the holiday season approaching, we urge you to choose wine that is sustainably produced. Simply check the label information to see if the wine is pesticide free. Pour your beverage into a recycled glass and toast the greening of the vine.

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