Organic Wine is the gateway to explore the entire wine industry - from soil to sommeliers - from a revolutionary perspective. Deep interviews discussing big ideas with some of the most important people on the cutting edge of the regenerative renaissance, about where wine comes from and where it is going.
Elizabeth Whitlow - Regenerative Organic Certification, Vineyard & Farm Worker Treatment
Our guest for this episode is Elizabeth Whitlow – Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance. The Regenerative Organic Alliance is the non-profit that administers Regenerative Organic Certification. And if you haven’t heard of Regenerative Organic Certification, then it’s my great pleasure to introduce you to what I hope will become the new global standard for viticulture and agriculture.
Elizabeth walks us through how ROC – Regenerative Organic Certification – was created to address some of the lacks for the current national Organic certification, by creating standards for soil health, animal welfare, and social equity.
It’s that last part that we focus on in this interview. Labor and worker treatment specifically. ROC combines standards from Fair Trade certifications and other respectful labor practices, to build one of its three pillars on one of the most overlooked aspects of wine – the people who grow it.
It goes without saying that the first step in treating vineyard workers well is to not have them work in an environment polluted with poisonous pesticides and herbicides, but the need for honoring these workers goes far beyond this. And the issues around agricultural labor are extremely complicated and global. Elizabeth digs into some of these and presents the solutions that the Regenerative Organic Certification is aiming to achieve.
But at the end of the day, our attitudes and choices as consumers may have the most power of all. Each one of us has incredible power to change the way our food and wine is grown. We vote for the way we want our fellow humans – the farm workers - to be treated multiple times per day – with every bite of food or sip of wine we take. If we feel entitled to cheap wine and food, well… we may get it. But someone is paying for it.
Farming is hard and risky work. With climate change it’s getting harder and riskier. And it creates not only our personal health and well being, but the health and well being of the entire global ecosystem. Maybe it’s time we start considering what that is actually worth.
Andrew Beckham - Novum Amphora & Beckham Estate Vineyard
Every once in a while, if we’re paying attention, the stars align and we find ourselves presented with an opportunity to use all of our being – our passions and skills and entire life experience – to build something beautiful that transcends the limitations of our finite personality.
My guest for this episode is Andrew Beckham of Beckham Estate Vineyard in Oregon. Andrew makes his wine in amphora. That in itself isn’t unique these days, but what is unique is that Andrew makes the amphorae – which he calls Novum – and he is the only commercial amphora maker in North America. Chances are, if you’re making wine in amphorae in the US, Andrew made them.
Yes, this episode is deeply helpful for anyone considering making any alcoholic beverage in amphora, or just wondering why anyone would use amphorae. But it’s also the story of a guy who found himself using all of his being to create a piece of culture that will live for generations.
Bill Shinkle - Tranquil Heart Vineyard & Winery in Hemet, California
Wendy and I recently took a trip to look at a vineyard in the town of Hemet, California, and the phone call that you’re about to hear is the result of that adventure.
What we discovered on this trip was a biodynamic oasis with as much history and lore as you could hope to find anywhere. The historic property had been known for years as the Haunted Hilltop Manor and was one of the most famously supposedly haunted mansions in southern California. But when I stepped out of the car after the 2 hour drive from LA, what we found was anything but scary.
A pair of hawks cried out overhead, playing in the breeze. The snow capped San Jacinto mountains loomed large to the east, and a terraced landscape of organically and biodynamically farmed vines followed the contours of the earth away to the west.
And then we met Bill Shinkle. Bill might be on the short list of candidates for the Most Interesting Man In the World. He’s also a born storyteller, and he has some entertaining stories to tell.
When he led us into his house, it was like stepping back in time. I don’t want to spoil the conversation, so I won’t say any more. But I think you too will soon want to visit Bill and try his wines, if you live anywhere nearby.
So grab a glass and let me introduce you to Bill Shinkle of Tranquil Heart Vineyards & Winery.
Natural Wine is Bulls%$t
I’ve had some really interesting conversations with wine shop managers and owners who interface with the natural wine drinking public. And some common and troubling themes have emerged. So this episode is an attempt to address the alarming trends I’ve become aware of in natural wine… and if you hang in there you’ll hopefully see that it actually fits with the overall theme of the Organic Wine Podcast.
The fad of natural wine has some serious problems. Here are the top 4.
Solminer - Anna & David Delaski, Growing Austrian Grapes Regeneratively in Santa Barbara County
Anna and David Delaski are my guests for this episode, and they are the owners of Solminer in Los Olivos, California.
These guys are doing SO MUCH COOL STUFF, we barely covered half of it in this interview. Anna and David are making natural wines with Austrian grapes in Santa Barbara county, and they’re doing it with amazing farming that is certified biodynamic and organic and will soon be Regenerative Organic Certified. They are growing the first biodynamic & organic certified Sankt Laurent in the US.
I love Anna’s insight into terroir and growing Austrian grapes in California that comes from being a person who was also originally from Austria and is now a Californian. And I love that these guys are very conscious about giving back and using their business to promote diversity and equity in the wine industry by partnering with and supporting great organizations like Natural Action and 1% for the planet.
Michael Phillips - Mycorrhizal Planet, The Apple Grower, and Vineyards & Orchards as Fungal Ecosystems
On this episode of the Organic Wine Podcast we take a journey to far north New Hampshire to talk to Michael Phillips.
Michael Phillips is a farmer – or a cultivator of fungal ecosystems, as he might put it - and he’s the author of the books The Apple Grower, The Holistic Orchard, and most recently, Mycorrhizal Planet. If you’re an orchardist or vineyardist all three books are must reads. But Mycorrhizal Planet is a must read even if you’re just a human with no interest in growing apples or grapes.
On the surface, Mycorrhizal Planet is about Regenerative practices for the farm, garden, orchard, forest, and landscape, but as you listen to Michael describe the principles it covers you begin to see that it is a cornerstone in the literal foundation of our future.
Michael is laying out some of the groundwork – pun intended – of that regenerative renaissance. He promotes “outrageous diversity” and “collaboration” as some of the ways that we can “do fungal things.” When we begin to apply the principles he promotes to the world, we stop planting vineyards and orchards and we start launching deeply interconnected ecosystems.
This really is a magical journey. You can’t take a fungal trip without a little magic. But it’s also extremely practical. Michael describes his vision for a connected landscape by explaining the science and the steps we can take to help cultivate it.
The end result is, of course, a healthier orchard or vineyard and more delicious bottle of cider or wine. But is that really the end of the process, or the tantalizing lure that the earth uses to draw us into the fruit and then the trees and vines and then down into the soil from where we all awaken?