Good Fruit Grower

May 1

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Grapes Going WITHOUT SULFITES Organic wines must compete with wines made conventionally and those from sustainable practices. by Melissa Hansen G reg Powers, winemaker for Washington State's largest organic winery, didn't initially make organic wines for Badger Mountain Vineyard winery, even though the grapes were from his family's certified organic estate vineyard. Taking the plunge to make sulfite-free wines in the early 1990s was a scary business venture, no matter how dedicated one might be to the organic cause. "We were scared to Greg Powers knows viticulture and enology from the ground up and was manager for the family estate vineyard before taking on winemaker duties. Powers, the winemaker at Badger Mountain Vineyard "Our distributors were clamoring for sulfite-free death to do organic, sul- fite-free wines," he said. "When we first started the win- ery, the wines weren't sulfite free, though they were from our certified organic grapes. But our distributors were clamoring for sulfite-free wines, so we tried it." and Powers Winery for more than 20 years, previously spent nearly a decade as vineyard manager, helping his father, Bill Powers, develop their 80-acre family estate on Badger Mountain near Kennewick, Washington, and transition the vineyard to organic production. Before assuming full- wines, so we tried it." —Greg Powers time winemaking duties in 1990, Greg worked beside Rob Griffin of Barnard Griffin Winery, who served as their winemaker for the first couple vintages. "Rob was my wine mentor," Greg said, crediting most of his wine education to Griffin. During his winemaking tenure, Greg has guided their winery expansion from 100,000-gallon capacity to TREE SPREADERS Lowest possible prices on 4" to 48" nailed or notched spreaders Additional services: We assemble and repair new and old pallets for re-sale NATIONWIDE SHIPPING AVAILABLE! 575,000 gallons and increased wine production from 1,500 cases the winery's first year in 1988 to its current level of 70,000 cases. About two-thirds of production— 50,000 cases—are organic wines, the rest conventional. Organic wines Initially, the family estate vineyard grew and produced wines from only white grape varieties. Wines were bottled under the Badger Mountain Vineyard label and came from their certified organic vineyard. However, the wines could not be organic because they contained sulfites. Greg knew that their organic Badger Mountain NSA (no sulfites added) wines needed to stand out from from conventional wines on the shelf, so he proposed bottling the special wines in cobalt blue bottles. "Dad was against the idea because he thought the blue bottles would be associated with milk of magnesia. But once he saw the sales report, he changed his mind." They started out small with the organic, sulfite-free wines, learning year by year how to improve wine longevity and freshness in the bottle. One of the difficul- ties in making sulfite-free wines is maintaining freshness. "Because there is always some oxidation after bottling, the sulfite-free wines can get tired in the bottle," he explained. When wine is still in the tank, additives like citric acid can be added, but nothing can help preserve freshness once bottled. "Instead of bottling on a six-month run, we learned to make shorter and smaller bottling runs to maintain the integrity in the bottle," Greg said, adding that they bottle every two months. "We had to learn everything about organic wines on our own," Bill said. "There were no organic wine books for us to read up on. All the books told us not to do it." Their Badger Mountain Vineyard label evolved into two segments: USDA certified organic NSA wines and V.E.S. (Vineyard Estate Series) wines produced from their certified organic estate vineyard that may contain mini- mal sulfites from the winemaking process. However, Greg noted that they are in the process of streamlining their Badger Mountain labels. To comply with national organic standards, both the vineyard and winery must undergo organic certification audits, Greg said. In Washington, audits are conducted by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Powers Winery With the growing demand for red wines in the late Yakima Specialties, Inc. P: 509.453.0386 32 MAY 1, 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER F: 509.453.1279 Yakima Specialties Inc. I Non-Profit Agency Hiring Disabled Adults Visa and MasterCard Accepted I 1819 West "J" Street, Yakima, WA 1980s, the Powers added red grape varieties to the vine- yard. Greg wanted to craft traditional red wines stored in oak barrels that would have depth and complexity. But they soon learned a second label was needed—con- sumers familiar with the estate organic grapes and sul- fite-free wines of the Badger Mountain label were confused with their offering of traditional red wines. Powers Winery was added as a second winery label in 1992 to give more flexibility in their winemaking process. The Powers label has two price segments, a reserve label in the $20 to $40 a bottle range and a Columbia Valley line that ranges from $10 to $15 per bottle. Red wines pro- duced under the Powers Winery label are aged in oak Photo by melissa hansen 48 years in business

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