Terra Sávia – An Organic Tradition in Action

Pecos Davis and Jim Milone of Terra Sávia

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.

Green Fin White Wine

Bronco Wines – the marketing geniuses that brought us Two Buck Chuck (better known as Charles Shaw Wines) – have struck again with another Trader Joe’s exclusive, coming in at $3.99 in California. (We are aware that Two Buck Chuck is actually Three Buck Chuck in other states.)

The result is a blend of sultana, colombard and muscat grapes and possibly something else. Organically grown in the Central Valley of California where many table grapes and wine grapes of some lesser quality are located, the resulting blend was intriguing.

Sultana is not generally used as a wine grape – it’s best known as a raisin used in baking. Muscat’s flavor can take over a blend with as little as a two percent addition. Colombard is a survivor of the notorious jug wines of California’s past. Okay, present, too, but we don’t buy those.

The question is how good is the wine? The color is a nice yummy-looking gold. Take a sniff and you get a green apple tartness with honey to balance. The first taste had some residual sweetness but also acids on the back of the palate and a medium weight mouthfeel. Finish was only okay.

So could this be a food wine or is it destined to be a cheap gulper? It may be a decent player with spicy Indian or Asian foods. An experiment with a pickled carrot infused with red pepper flakes in a sweet brine was reasonably successful. Anne – the resident weenie when it comes to spicy stuff – got her taste buds back within an hour of the test. Michael was impressed. All in all, it ain’t transcendent, but it ain’t totally bad, depending on how sweet you like your wines and how often spicy food is on the menu at your personal homestead.

In short, we’re talking table wine here, decent, reasonably drinkable, every-day stuff that won’t trash the budget. And most nights, you don’t need more than that.