Wine column no. 25: Celebrating sustainability

Musicians probably get this. They hear the bass in something as basic as a heartbeat, the melody in something as natural as a gust of wind.
But we're not musicians. I'm a runner; Greg's a gamer. Rhythm isn't something we create. For us, it just comes, and wine helps.
Enter Dave Matthews and Steve Reeder, two men with disparate talents but the same vision: To create genuine, honest wines with a sustainable purpose.
"Making wine is like making music," the Dreaming Tree website says. "You get out what you put in."
And what we put in our glasses recently was the 2010 Dreaming Tree chardonnay from the central coast of California. Greg thought this bottle from Schnucks on North Green River Road was young. But I liked how it gave off flavors of passion fruit and other tropical fruits. What's more, it wasn't overwhelming, meaning: It didn't overtake our meal, which was chicken, by the way. For under $20, we got a crisp, light, 13.5 percent alcohol wine that did its best to be accessible. That, coincidentally, is another quality the Matthews-Reeder team is aiming for.
Matthews is a South-African born rock-and-roller who's best known as the front man for the Dave Matthews Band. Since they got their start in the early 1990s, DMB has produced seven studio albums and even more live albums. As for Reeder, those familiar with Simi Winery may know his work. He's been the vice-president of winemaking at Simi since August 2003, and two of his wines earned number one and number two spots, respectively, on Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of the Year lists in 1999 and 2002.
But success for these men hasn't impacted their ability to work together. And while the wine may speak for itself, what's particularly unique about the Matthews-Reeder team is that much of what it produces is environmentally sustainable.
Here are some examples. One, the winery uses clean-burning natural gas "to ensure blue skies over our grapevines." Two, labels are made with 100 percent recycled paper. Three, the bottles are a quarter-pound lighter than normal, which means it takes less fuel to get them to your table. And four, the corks are sustainably grown.
Meanwhile, the Dreaming Tree isn't the only winery out there that's doing its best to do the least harm to the environment. Ceago Vinegarden, owned by Jim Fetzer, the former president of Fetzer Vineyards, uses biodynamic farming techniques on its vineyards in Lake and Mendocino counties in California. This means it doesn't use pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or genetically modified organisms, according to Ceago's website.
What's more, Ceago integrates agricultural, biological and ecological scientific knowledge into crop rotation, compost production, and soil and animal practices.
"These practices go beyond organic standards to heal the earth for future generations, " the company's website says.
We've reviewed one of their wines before, the 2002 Merlot, which Greg and I both found to be exceptionally flavorful. That wine filled with inklings of cinnamon, clove and blackberry was at Varsity Liquors for about $21 and contained 14.5 percent alcohol.
But if you're not into a wine just because its winemakers are environmentally conscious, that's fine with us. We drive cars like most everyone else; we're far from experts in the ways of environmental sustainability.
That said, Dreaming Tree and Ceago stand out because they seem to do more than just pluck grapes from the vine. Instead, they're doing their best to give back. And in that way, they've developed a certain rhythm to that exchange that we hope only continues. Call it good stewardship; call it smart economics. But in the end, these companies are acknowledging that we're part of an even bigger whole.
"This is a treat," Matthews told Reeder on a video on the Dreaming Tree website. "I'm really excited about this, and thank you again for the partnership."
Thanks to their success, we all get to benefit, too.

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