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Kara Walker + Obsidian @ SFMOMA exhibit

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In a perfect world, one word such as "sustainable" would encompass the agricultural and forestry practices that we follow. But the real world is more complex, and here's your chance to make sense of the world we share with nature.

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Andrea, Avon-by-the-Sea

“I am not a Chardonnay drinker but decided to try the 2012 estate grown Chardonnay. It was absolutely wonderful. I was under the impression that the optimal time to drink white wines was a few years after they are bottled. Is that not the case?”

Dear Andrea, boy do we love these sorts of questions, thank you for posting it. In short, it’s the natural acidity in our wines that “preserve” our whites (and reds) for an inordinate amount of time, long after many whites will have “fallen apart”. Cool, fog-filled nights at our seaside Poseidon Vineyard preserve natural acidity in the grape from breaking down at night, an unfortunate consequence in regions that have warmer evenings. Your question strikes at the heart of what we call “balance”—that elusive but critical contrast between acidity and ripeness. Chardonnay—and particularly California Chardonnay—can suffer too much ripeness and not enough acidity, putting it out of balance, and making it taste “flabby”. As you correctly point out, those wines don’t last and it’s also likely why you’re not a fan of the varietal. You’ve really discovered something about Chardonnay, and yourself—keep looking for cool climates…and you’ll be a convert. A friend of mine recently raved about a 2008 Boon Fly’s Hill wine that he recently opened—14 years after bottling! May we also suggest trying a wine from Chablis…

Austin, Brooklyn

“Love your wines though I am curious about the specific sustainability practices you utilize in the vineyard. Are herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides used in the vineyard?”

Thank you for the question. We do not use glyphosate and other harmful herbicides. We believe that wine must come from and promote healthy ecosystems, and we strive to be good neighbors and responsible stewards of the resources we manage. As we own all of our sources – vineyards, cooperage, and winemaking – we have full transparency into all of our raw ingredients. Since our Obsidian Ridge Vineyard is located at over 2,640’ in elevation in the Mayacamas Mountains, the site is higher, drier and colder than any winegrowing region in California with lower pest, mildew and other pressure. Our Napa vineyard is certified Napa Green and Fish Friendly Farming. We plant cover crops to renew soils and attract beneficial insects, and we use technology that allows us to severely limit the use of fertilizers and sulfur, and irrigate with precision. In Napa, we have made significant efforts to prevent erosion and runoff given the site’s sensitive location between Carneros Creek and San Pablo Bay, including participating in the restoration of salmon habitat. Our winery facility is 100% solar powered, and we’ve taken steps to reduce carbon emissions in our farming and winemaking practices. As part of our commitment to clean water, 100% of the proceeds of our Rosé for the Bay are donated to San Francisco Baykeeper for their efforts to protect our neighboring waters.

Constantine, Washington

“Are your wines vegan?”

We do not use any animal-derived additives or fining agents in our wines, therefore our wines are considered vegan. In the past, it was not uncommon for winemakers to clarify their wines by adding egg whites or isinglass (fish gelatin). These proteins would absorb the pectins and proteins that make a wine cloudy, forming solids that are easily and subsequently removed from the wine. Even though these products would not be present in the finished wine, the use of these animal derived products means those wines are not considered vegan. Today we use plant and mineral derived alternatives, or nothing at all.

Jim, Canastota

“I'm curious on type of cork you use for the Half Mile. I used my Coravin and it did not seal the needle hole well.”

We use a high-grade one piece natural cork for all of our wines, and avoid multipiece, colmated (glued together), and synthetic corks. We believe that a natural closure like cork is better for the environment than synthetic closures, and also is superior for aging purposes as it provides the right level of oxygen into the wine over time. For our reserve wines like Half Mile we use a very select, higher grade natural cork for the closure which also tends to be longer. While this is useful information, the answer to your question may be rooted in the fact that cork, being natural, expands and contracts differently under various environments and conditions and may not always play well with a Coravin. Our best advice would be to gather some friends and drink the whole bottle immediately!

Peter, New York

“I understand that 80 to 100-year old barrels are used to make your oak barrels. How do you ensure the sustainability of your barrels and the health of your source forests?”

Central Europe is home to some of the longest managed forests in Europe as well as the longest traditions of sustainability traceable to at least to Empress Maria Theresa’s 1769 Forestry Code (Sylvarum Conservadarum et Lignicidii Ordo.) The original forest code issued by Emperor Maximilian II as a “forest policy” (Constitutio Maximilian) in 1565 was a landmark in the history of regulating woodcutting and other forest activities. Its adoption marked the beginning of forestry as a controlled activity and helped to stabilize forests and forestry practices. The Code comprised 30 articles regulating various forestry activities, including cutting under supervision of experienced masters, felling practices, the storage of wood during the winter season, leaving seed trees, etc. Our cooperage pays the highest prices for older tight-grained oak, supporting a critical local economy and therefore creating the incentive for forest management over the very long term.

Jason, Berkeley

“I have a bottle of your 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, but am confused by the label - "Cellared and Bottled by Obsidian Ridge, Napa CA." Nowhere on your website does it mention Napa. Your tasting room is in Sonoma County. The vineyard is in Lake County?”

We love this question. Yes it’s confusing, even for us. The answer can be found in a confounding corner of the regulatory agency known as the TTB (aka Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), in an attempt to provide consumer clarity in wine labeling (haha!). If you are familiar with our wines, you know that we make our own barrels, grow all of our own grapes, and make all of our own wines within the four walls of our own winery (since 2011). However, over the years, the TTB has required us to say “Produced & Bottled, Sonoma, CA” and “Cellared & Bottled, Napa, CA”, and everything in between. The distinction is due to where we bottled the wine. It used to be that you had to own a bottling line, but today only the largest wineries do. For us smaller folk, we have two primary options: 1) a mobile bottling truck bottles the vintage at our winery in Sonoma, or 2) we transport the wine to a bottling facility for final bottling. For the last few years (including the 2017 vintage), we picked option #2 and it just so happens that the bottling facility is in Napa, CA. The provenance of the wine (where it was grown) is related to its appellation such as Carneros Napa Valley or Red Hills Lake County, not the “Cellared & Bottled” designation. This is – not surprisingly – confusing for consumers, and even taken advantage of by unscrupulous producers who ship wine into Napa just to have it bottled there. So it’s an example of regulations not quite keeping us with changes in the craft. As it is, between the wines we grow in Napa such as Poseidon Estate, Obsidian Ridge in Red Hills Lake County, and the winery and tasting room in Sonoma, we are spread across three counties. And within this, lays the real answer: it’s not the political boundaries that makes the difference, but rather the climate, soil, and elevation. That’s how we choose to see the world…

Melissa, Oregon

“How does elevation affect the use of pesticides and herbicides?”

Obsidian Ridge rests sits between 2,350’ – 2,875’ making it the highest vineyard in the Mayacamas Range and the North Coast of California. In short, the winter is colder and the growing season is drier and shorter than vineyards located on the valley floors (about 90% of all vineyards in the North Coast). As a result our appellation boasts the lowest pesticide and herbicide use of any region of California. For more information, you can dig into the data in this article from Practical Winery & Vineyard Management.

Kailash, Sebastopol

“I have heard that California doesn’t have enough water and therefore vineyards should be dry-farmed, rather than irrigated?”

The main issue with water in California is not how much of it is available, but rather where it is located. On average, our vineyards receive about 36 inches of rainwater per year. At Obsidian Ridge, this translates to approximately 235 million gallons of water that falls onto the vineyard and drains into the volcanic fissured aquifers below, each and every year. Our drip irrigation system extracts about one quarter of this water and drips it directly back into the earth, creating a sustainable loop of water use.

Thomas, Ann Arbor

“I'm a wine club member and really enjoyed the Pezsgő in the latest shipment. I'm considering buying a case to save for a celebratory event that won't happen until early 2022. How long will this wine keep and how should I store it?”

Thank you for the support! Honestly, ageabilty of Pét-Nats is yet to be determined. Can they age like a vintage champagne? Probably not. But in some extended aging trials that we’ve done, the outlook is good for aging several years or more. Some 2018s we made (but didn’t release) are still bright and fresh. Some wine producers bottle age before release (i.e. they release their Pét-Nats a year after the harvest date), further suggesting that aging Pét-Nats is quite safe. As you would any wine you’re cellaring, store in a cool dark place without temperature fluctuations. That being said, the beauty of a Pét-Nat is that it is young and fresh and the next vintage is just around the corner…

Philip, Plymouth

“Do you have a tasting room in CA? Where? ”

Yes Philip, we do, it’s in Sonoma and you can find the address here.

Rick, Danbury

“I just tried your Cab in Hawaii last week and am looking to buy some in CT. Do you sell it here? Who is your distributor?"

Dear Rick, thanks for your note and welcome back from Hawaii –  with all the volcanos, a favorite place of ours to adventure to. You can order directly from us at the winery here, or from your favorite local wine store. Our distributor in CT there is called Winebow, and most shops should be able to place an order for you. We’re glad you found us!

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