In keeping with his approach to eating—simple, fresh, and flavorful—John Ash's attitude toward wine is anything but snooty. "Wine is just food," he says. "There's a tendency to elevate wine, to exalt it. Sure, there are a few amazing wines with a great history and all, but 99 percent of wine is simply another food to be shared with the foods on the plate. Wine's virtue is that it can help amplify flavors, but it's no more important than beautiful apples or wonderful zucchini."
After years of growing wine grapes with conventional techniques, many viticulturists are turning to organically grown grapes in their search for superior wine flavor and nuance. The Bonterra label is one such example. Originally an offshoot of the Fetzer Vineyard label, all Bonterra Vineyard wines are made using only certified organic grapes, most of which are cultivated using the principles of biodynamics, a farming system that treats the vineyard as a diverse, self-sustaining organism. In Bonterra's earth-friendly environment, every living thing has its place and purpose: Wild chickens scratch and peck for harmful bugs; sheep provide weed control; cover crops planted between grapevines provide soil nutrients and a natural habitat for insects; and even vine ties are made of willow threads instead of plastic.
"We want Bonterra to be a place to celebrate agriculture, to get close to it," says Bob Blue, Bonterra's winemaker. "I believe that quality wine grapes depend on healthy soil and a healthy life on the vine, and need very little interference in the winemaking process to give excellence to the glass." For more information, log on to www.bonterra.com.