It almost seems as though Jim Milone, winemaker at Terra Sávia, makes organic wines because it’s never occurred to him to do otherwise.
“We hate to shower,” he joked when asked why organic. But then he got down to business.
“Really, it’s just the way that I’ve been making wine for the past 34 years,” he said.
Terra Sávia winery, where Milone makes his wines, is a small outfit out of Hopland, California, in Mendocino County. The winery not only offers a full range of wines, it sells olive oil and honey, as well.
Milone is a firm believer in growing the best grapes and intervening as little as possible in the winemaking process. Now, he will add tiny bits of sulphur to help keep his wines stable (organic wines can go bad more easily than traditionally made wines) and he does use very specific yeast strains because he wants to know what’s going on with his wines.
“So, I’m not renegade organic,” he said. “I believe in making wine. But I believe in doing as little as possible.”
Milone has been making wine since he was 18 years old. He went to California State University, Humboldt, where he studied eco-systems and natural resources.
“When I came back from school, I just wanted to live off the land, as a naturalist and that just kind of fit my style of making wine,” he said.
But making organic wine from organic grapes poses several challenges. His crops are smaller because they can fall prey to pests and other issues that most commercial growers treat with chemicals, which means he has less wine to sell. Also, marketing organic wines isn’t as easy as you might think in these green days.
“Sometimes it’s been a hindrance,” he said about being organic in terms of the market. “Sometimes we’re penalized by the fact that we’re organic. Our wines, even though they should be more expensive because we get lower yields, and they’re not, really. And the consumer still has not quite embraced the true value of organic products.”
But interest in organic wine production has been growing of late, and Mendocino County is a major center for sustainable and organic growing and wine making. Next up – do Milone’s wines pass the taste test? Check out OddBallGrape.com later this week to see.