Not too long ago, I was at a wine tasting here in Houston led by my pal Jeremy Parzen. Shortly after his presentation began, he asked a simple question:
“Who here believes in Climate Change? And who believes it was caused by humans?”
As I thrust my right palm toward the ceiling, I scanned the room. I did not see anyone else even flinch. Well, that is not true–it seemed as though several turned to their neighbor and either laughed, rolled their eyes, or looked as though they wanted to cause Jeremy some bodily harm (I had Jeremy’s back for sure, I think–there are a ton of guns in Texas).
As Jeremy continued with his talk, I sat there a bit stunned. While it is certainly possible that many people in that room were loath to raise their hand as if they were back in grade school, but there were at least fifty people in that room and not one other person that I saw raised their hand.
What amazes me far more, though is that for some reason Climate Change has become a partisan issue. How some people put their heads in the sand despite the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary is astounding.
I get it. When writing this article, I have been thinking (as I often do), what I could do to address the alarming situation and it’s daunting.
Well, for one, I can start buying products that are friendly to the environment. One way to ensure that, at least with wine, is to look for the SIP Certified seal on the bottle. There are many certifications (organic, biodynamic, etc.) but most of those are concerned with inputs–what products are applied to crops.
According to Beth Vukmanic Lopez, the Program Manager at SIP Certified, the SIP program is focused on outputs–how the planet and the people are protected and supported.
So while you contemplate whether to raise your hand or not, here are a few SIP Certified wines to seek out:
2016 Center of Effort Pinot Noir Effort: Retail $50. While this is not my first foray into Pinot Noir from Edna Valley, it is my introduction into Center of Effort Wine. Classic California Pinot Noir nose of black cherry and eucalyptus, with a hint of earth. The palate is quite juicy, even after some time open, with fantastic acidity, some spice just after the mid palate, and an above average finish. As an introduction? I need to get to know this winery better. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Halter Ranch Picpoul Blanc, Paso Robles: Retail $30. You do not see a whole bunch of Picpoul outside of France, but California is trying to catch up: there are pockets of the variety in Lodi, the Central Coast, and Paso Robles, like this fine example. Bright and fruity with wet rock and white flowers. Tasty on the palate with lip-smacking acidity and plenty of fruit. Picpoul is not known for producing incredibly complex wines, but rather crisp sippers. You don’t always want to be moved to tears by a wine. Sometimes you just want a solid quaff that does not require a ton of attention. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Lafond Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $28. I’m not entirely decided, but the Santa Rita Hills along the Californian Central Coast, might be my favorite region for Pinot in this country. Fairly dark in the glass, a rich, and slightly translucent violet with black cherry and blackberry dominate. Good fruit, but in check, with a nice tartness, a bit of earth, and a spicy finish. This is surprisingly austere, much more old world than some over-the-top domestic Pinots. Very nice. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2016 Opolo Malbec, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $36. With every bottle of Opolo I open, I become more attracted to the operation. My first exposure was last year on a trip to Paso and even though I really liked the wines, it is a pretty big operation, which caused some consternation. But. Everyone there was extremely nice, the clientele seemed to be having a blast, and they are committed to producing sustainable wines. Giddy-the-heck-up! As one might expect, this is pretty dark in the glass both in color and aromas, and the palate is rather big, but hey, it’s a New World Malbec. Not my go-to variety by any means but this is particularly tasty, even down-right yummy. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2016 Opolo Zinfandel Mountain Zinfandel, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $29. I visited Opolo last year around this time and I was ready to dismiss it before I stepped foot on the property. Why? It’s big (at least for Paso). And while that is not a guaranteed negative, it certainly is not a sure sign of quality either. Once I did step foot, though, I was impressed. It genuinely seemed that the people there were, well, happy. Employees and customers alike were smiling, laughing, cavorting (Well, two outta three). And then there was the wine—it was really good and sustainably farmed. This is no exception. Fruity without being big, spicy with some depth, a solid wine from beginning to end. Excellent. 87-89 Points.
2016 J. Wilkes Lagrein, Paso Robles, CA: Retail: $32. Lagrein is a difficult find outside of Northern Italy, I am not sure that it is grown in any significant proportions since it is known for a rather high acidity and harsh tannins. But here it is, in Paso Robles. Really dark. Even inky dark. Cassis and blackberry on the nose, but it seems lighter than those fruits would suggest. The palate bears this out, to an extent. It’s not the tannic monster that young wines from Trentino tend to be. While the palate certainly is big and rich, it stops well short of huge. Really nice flavors and balance. Really a well-made wine and a great new world expression of this old world beast. Wes Hagen is the winemaker, I should have known it would be this good. Excellent. 90-92 Points.