Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Organics light on sulfites

I’d like to say that I get tons of mail, so much that I can’t answer it all. But I don’t. I do try to respond to the few letters I do get. Here are responses to a couple that I haven’t answered yet.

Organic wines

One reader asked if I knew anything about organic wines and could I recommend some. The answer was no and no, which is probably why I didn’t send a response. All I knew was that Frey Winery in Mendocino County has been making organic wines for years and that Bonterra uses organically grown grapes. That was it.

Feeling organically wine stupid, I visited the Organic Wine Works in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I tasted some excellent award-winning organic wines made by owner-winemaker John Schumaker. Organic wines have nothing artificial added to them. To be called organic, the wine must have less than 10 parts per million in sulfites (sulfites occur naturally). If it is labeled a biodynamic wine it must be less than 100 ppm with added sulfites, and if it says “made with organic grapes” less than 150 ppm with added sulfites. If you think you are allergic to sulfites, organic wine may be the solution.

Yosemite Vintners’ Holidays

A reader asked if I had ever been to the Yosemite Vintners’ Holidays Event (yes) and was it worth the cost (yes). I’m not sure why I didn’t reply but here are the reasons I love this event. The first is obvious. It’s in Yosemite at the Ahwahnee Hotel in the fall with very few tourists. Each of four premier wineries presents a tasting seminar in the Grand Hall, they host a Meet The Winemakers Reception with passed hors d’oeuvres (very cool) and provide the wine for a five-course gala dinner in the beautiful Ahwahnee Dining Room. There are six sessions starting Nov. 8. The session I would choose features Navarro, Hanzell, Wild Horse and Silver Oak. Check it out at

Halloween wine

Costume party invitation and don’t know what to wear? Wear some nice clothes, dorky glasses and take some good wine. Yes, you are a note-taking wine-speak sommelier. Two red blends I suggest you take are the Gnarly Head Authentic Black (syrah-based) and the Gnarly Head 1924 Double Black (zinfandel-based), both under $12.

What’s happening

The Madera Wine Trail Weekend is Nov. 7-8 with nine wineries pouring for just $25; vsit The big fall wine sale at Grocery Outlet starts Nov. 4. Cheers!