5 ways to choose local wine

August 20th, 2009

Sterling Vineyards, Napa Valley, CA; Photo via Flickr: Jimg944

Sterling Vineyards, Napa Valley, CA; Photo via Flickr: Jimg944

As much as I love Italian wine (especially when I’m in Italy), I try to buy local bottles as often as possible; all of those heavy glass bottles shipped from overseas carry a pretty sizable carbon footprint. (Interestingly, how wine is transported is a more important environmental consideration than whether or not it’s grown organically, according to the American Association of Wine Economists.) Of course, it’s fairly easy to imbibe the local offerings when you live in Southern California, but what if you live in South Dakota? Here, five easy (and fun) ways to choose the local nectar.

1. Find a vineyard near you. Believe it or not, there are vineyards in nearly every corner of the US — even South Dakota (I found 17!). Two great resources: Wine-Searcher.com’s winery database and the WineWeb North America wine regions map. Hop in the car with your honey and go on a wine-tasting date (and pick up a couple cases while you’re there). Many will also ship directly to you.

2. Remember the green line for wine. If you can’t visit a local winery, you can still choose a wine with a lighter carbon footprint. According to Dr. Vino (wine expert Tyler Colman), there’s a “green line” that runs down the middle of Ohio. For points west of that line, it’s more carbon efficient to consume wine trucked from California, Oregon, and Washington; for points east, it’s more eco-friendly to purchase wine from Europe, since it was most likely container shipped and then trucked a short distance. 

3. Peruse a restaurant wine list with ease. Unless you’re a oenophile (and if you don’t know what that means, then you’re probably not one), it can be difficult to navigate your way through a restaurant wine list. But by opting for local vino, it makes your choice that much easier — less options to sift through! The new culinary trend is for locally grown, seasonal foods (and wine lists to match), so if you’re lucky enough to be dining out at one of these hot spots, just ask the bartender (or sommelier) for a recommendation.

4. Attend a local wine tasting or festival. This gives you the chance to discover new favorites and support local businesses (not to mention the excuse to get a bit tipsy on a Saturday afternoon). Check out LocalWineEvents.com to find one in your area. 

5. Make your own. For the ultimate close-to-home wine experience, why not try…your home? It has a bit more of a learning curve than, say, baking bread, but what could be more satisfying than toasting to your own handiwork? You can even use it as an opportunity to teach your kids about anaerobic respiration and fermentation (just make sure you’re there to supervise). GreenYour.com has a great list of resources for first-time winemakers.

I’m off to Napa (my first trip there — hooray!) for my cousin’s wedding, so check back for photos from my visits to organic vineyards.

–Jennifer Grayson

Related post:
Green wedding: Give up the gift wrap

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