The idea of making a natural wine in the cellar, without natural practices in the vineyard seems a bit out of step. When I became interested in making natural wines without additives I knew that I had to begin at the vineyard level, using only organically farmed grapes. I began searching for certified organic sites throughout the state of Washington and quickly learned just how rare they are. There is not a deep focus on organic farming practices in Washington State vineyards like there is with ingredients in other agricultural industries like dairy or fresh fruit industry. Only about 5% of vineyards around the world are farmed to certified organic standards and most of these vineyards are in France and Italy. Less than 2% of wines produced in the US are made using organic grapes and even less are made with native yeast and minimal intervention in the cellar. You’d think that conventional farmers using synthetic sprays and chemicals would be the ones held to rigorous standards, not the organic farmers. In the time we’re in right now, it’s still kind of backwards.
In 2018 as I intensified my hunt for organic grapes, I came across a single vineyard in the Columbia Gorge AVA, Conley Vineyard selling organic Roussanne. I purchased the entire lot, which became our very first organic pet-nat, the 2018 Roussanne. The following year, recognizing that I was committed to sourcing organic grapes, the vineyard manager contacted me to see if I wanted to purchase additional grapes. Slowly but surely, I was introduced to the small but eternally determined group of organic vintners in Washington State.
US Organic Wine
- Certified Organic Fruit
NOP (National Organic Program) processing standards (must use only approved
organic additives and processes)
- Zero So2 added
US Wine “Made with Organic Grapes”
-Certified Organic Fruit
-NOP (National Organic Program) Processing Standards (use only approved organic additives and processes)
-Max 100ppm of So2 for Reds and Whites
EU Organic Wine
- Certified Organic Fruit
- EU Approved additives and processes
- Max 100ppm So2 for Reds
- Max 150 ppm So2 for Whites
Conventional Wine (USA)
- Hundreds of different synthetic and systemic sprays are permitted for use in the vineyard including Glyphosate
There are hundreds of additives not derived from organic sources
that are available to conventional winemakers including GMO yeast strains
- Max 350ppm So2 added
I choose to undergo USDA organic certification at our production facility and estate vineyard because it let’s you, the consumer, know that at a minimum we adhere to these baseline rules. Certification is an intense, borderline excessive process, but I took it on because I feel it is worthwhile to participate in a standard of best practices that promote environmental, consumer, and producer health. As the pét project portfolio has grown, I’ve solidified my primary criteria for selecting vineyards. First priority is working with organically farmed fruit. The second most important thing is if the grape varieties that are being grown on that site are well suited to the climate, soils, and precipitation/irrigation. The final criteria is the fruit itself- if the variety is right for the wine I am interested in making.