Long before organic products lined the shelves of neighborhood grocery stores, Bonterra Organic Vineyards embraced organic farming practices to create California-grown wines. The team behind the Mendocino County winery was inspired by the bold flavors of organically-grown vegetables and decided to apply the same philosophy to their grapevines. Celebrating 30 years of organic farming and being named the American Winery of the Year in 2017, it’s clear Bonterra is doing something right.
“There’s a saying that winemaking begins in the vineyard,” notes Bonterra Winemaker Jeff Cichocki. “The magic is that when we have these outstanding organic grapes, it’s our job to enhance what nature intended rather than having to manipulate the wines into something else.”
Set amid the rolling hills of Northern California, the winery utilizes the fertile soil through biodynamic farming practices and holds numerous environmental certifications and milestones, including operating entirely on green power since 1999 and being a carbon neutral site.
Bonterra is proud of its earth-first farming approach, which includes working with farm partners to introduce cover crops, reduce tillage, integrate wildlife, and compost soil. All of this leads to a flourishing natural ecosystem, stronger plants, and as a result, more flavorful grapes for its wine.
“Witnessing the benefits of organic and biodynamic farming is a reward in itself. From inviting sheep to graze the vineyards rather than mowing between vines to providing a safe, synthetic pesticide-free sanctuary for bees, it is clear to us on a daily basis that increased biodiversity is essential to a thriving, healthy farm,” says Cichocki.
As pioneers of the organic movement, the Bonterra team has been able to lead research and set standards on farming practices. Looking ahead at the next 30 years, the winery hopes to continue advancing organic farming and inspire others to join the community.
“We really want to maintain the pioneering spirit we started with in 1987 by constantly challenging ourselves to improve the ways we farm and make our wines,” says Cichocki. “It has been energizing to be part of a growing community with other organic farmers. Our shared knowledge ensures constant improvements in the vineyards and in the wines as a result.”
Bonterra’s wines compete on a global scale for quality and have received numerous accolades in both the organic and conventional wine categories. In Minnesota, Bonterra wine can be found at large retailers including Trader Joes, Sam’s Club, and Costco, as well as a variety of supermarkets, liquor stores, and restaurants. Wine enthusiasts can also sample Bonterra’s wide range of wines at Minnesota Monthly’s upcoming Food & Wine Experience on March 3-4 at Target Field in Minneapolis. Many of the winery’s most popular varietals will be poured at the event, including Bonterra Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tickets available at foodwineshow.com