From By Nick Hines

When Americans come of a certain age, they learn about the birds and the bees. When biodynamic vineyards come of age, though, vineyard owners think back on the story of the bees and the grapes.

If you’ve ever strolled through an organic or biodynamic vineyard, you’ve likely come across a beehive on the property. Depending on your list of fears and allergies, you may have been hesitant around that beehive. But beehives are an important part of organic and biodynamic vineyards, and they always have been.

The story of the bees and the grapes goes back to the early 1900s and Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and scientist who is the father of biodynamics. People who adhere to biodynamics are people who take “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition.” For vineyard owners, that means using natural growing techniques and bringing in a variety of animals to make an entire sustainable ecosystem.

Steiner gave a series of nine lectures on the importance of bees and the beehive to the ecosystem. The lectures are about “the unconscious wisdom contained in the beehive” and how the beehive “relates to the human experiences of health, civilization, and the cosmos,” according to the Rudolf Steiner Archive.  That love of bees translates to organic and biodynamic vineyard owners today, but bees aren’t necessarily required for grape production.

Grape vines are hermaphrodites. They have both male and female reproductive organs, so they can self-fertilize. In short, they don’t need bees to make grapes. The plants around the grape vines, however, do need bees, and those other plants create a healthier environment for the vines.

“Much of an area’s agricultural health depends on nitrogen balance,” Chris Benziger, the brand manager for Benziger Family Winery, told Edible Marin & Wine Country.  “Some areas have too much and others too little. Where our concentrations are high we plant crops that deplete nitrogen, mostly grasses. Where there’s not enough we plant nitrogen fixers, often leguminous. Bees are the primary pollinators for both types of plants, all of which seem to aid in the natural replenishment of other important soil nutrients, as well.”

The flowers that need bees bring in other bugs, and the healthy ecosystem is built. When there’s greater biodiversity and balance, there’s less need for chemicals.

“We keep bees because, simply put, in the vineyard, there isn’t just vines,” Alexis Pollier, the owner of Domaine Alexis Pollier in France, tells VinePair. “There’s a whole biodiversity.”

Bees love grapes as much as biodynamic vineyard owners love bees. When the biodiversity of a vineyard gets out of whack and there are no flowers for bees to flock to, they will go after sap and fruit juice.

Bees won’t bite the grapes to get to the juice, according to UC Davis, but they will gather on grapes that have a crack or puncture wound from birds, other insects, or natural splitting. The bees will then suck the juice out of the ripe grapes.

“Honey bees will visit vineyards to forage on blooms of grapes or various flowering weeds during the spring,” UCD writes, “but they are considered to be nuisances only when they forage on ripe grapes later in the year.”

But on biodynamic and organic vineyards where there’s a healthy ecosystem, the bees have no need to go after the grapes. In short: Follow the teachings of the father of biodynamics and you will have a healthy vineyard with bees. Knock everything off balance, and you’re going to have a bad time.

If you would like to learn more about Napa’s biodynamic wines and vineyards or to schedule a personalized tour or tasting, please give us a call at 415-337-4083 or visit


Cote-Rotie meets California – 93 Pt Parker

A British couple settled in the hills of Mendocino where they found  land with schist-like Cote–Rotie soils on a windblown cool mountaintop overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which would become their “estate” vineyard.   With the assistance of Justin Smith (Saxum), Crole Meredith  & Steve Lagier (Lagier-Meredith), Mike Officer (Carlisle) and Wells Guthrie (Copain) they set out to plant what has become a much regarded Rhone-varietal vineyard.  Wells helped develop and maintain the vineyard.  Under the tutelage of the great Roar winemaker (Scott Shapley) they have put some very good quality and well-priced wines on the wine map!

Halcon 2015 Syrah “Alturas” Estate, Mendocino 
Retail 33.00 – GGWC 29.99
Use code ALTURAS during checkout

When you close your eyes while tasting this wine, you’d think you are in the Rhone Valley tasting some amazing Cornas – at a “value price” . The grapes were sourced from the Halcon estate vineyard  at high-elevation.  It is a blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier (co-fermented).  The wine is loaded with black stone fruit, a touch of bacon-fat, olives, violets and a whiff of minerality.  The wine is full in body, lush with amazing concentration and balance as well as a touch of acidty and silky grained tannins, all intertwined on a bold, but elegant palate.

Robert Parker 93 Points: “ Harvested on the same date as the 2014 (September 19th), the 2015 Syrah Alturas saw a touch of whole cluster fermentation and a tiny amount of new oak. Its deep purple color is followed by a northern Rhone-like bouquet of blackberries, crushed rocks, peppery herbs and violets. This gives way to a medium to full-bodied Syrah that has beautiful purity, good concentration and fine tannin that show on the finish. It will have 10-15 years of overall longevity.”

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Multi-Dimensional 2 BARREL Cab Franc

Marilyn Crowley Crawford  was born and raised outside Falkirk, Scotland. She established CrauforD Wine Company in 1999 with intention to honor her seven centuries of Clan Crawfords and the love for Napa Valley. Together with her son Chris, they released their first vintages a year later in 2000. Now, seven years later, Marilyn has since retired and Chris continues to make the CrauforD wines in fine Scottish tradition. Scots are known for quality and a wee nip…in Napa…premium wine

The estate properties consists of about 20 planted acres of grapes. However, only 4 rows of Cabernet Franc are planted on the Crowley’s Oak Knoll, Napa Valley vineyard, so the production will never be very high!

You will not want to miss out on this one!

CrauforD 2013 Cabernet Franc “Piper Don” Estate Oak Knoll, Napa Valley
Retail 60.00 – GGWC 56.99
Use code CRAUFORD during checkout

This is one of the most amazing Cab Francs grown in the Napa Valley.  Only 48 cases (2 barrels) of this wine were produced.  The wine offers up a dark, inky color with aromatics of bold blackstone fruits, dark chocolate, a whiff of tobacco, and a touch of volcanic dust.  The wine is lush and rich in body with great complexity.  Full flavored with more black currant, chocolate, a touch of eartiness this wine is mutli-dimensional.  The finish is long and complex with silky grained tannins.  Sadly the production is very small – too small!

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Walter Hansel has become synonymous with great quality at a great price!  Year after year these wines seem to impress me and my clientele alike.  The first vines were planted in 1978 just a up the block from Kistler!  The actual winery did not start till 1996 when they produced 3 barrels of Pinot Noir and 10 barrels of Chardonnay, and the rest as they say, is history!  Stephen Hansel (Walter’s son) had one of the best winemakers as his tutor (Tom Rochiolli) so it is no surprise that they are still putting out great wines decades later.  Year after this winery has produced amazing “Dollar Cost Average” under priced wines!

Walter Hansel 2014 Chardonnay “Cuvee Alyce” Estate Russian River Valley 
Retail 44.00 – GGWC 41.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code ALYCE during checkout

Robert Parker 95 Points: “The top Chardonnay every year is named after Stephen Hansel’s mother. The 2014 Chardonnay Cuvée Alyce is a field blend of a Hyde and Hudson Old Wente clone. This vineyard always produces the smallest clusters and tiniest berries and, hence, the richest offering. It’s a stunner in 2014, with a light straw/gold color and terrific notes of pineapple, white peach, honeysuckle and citrus oil. Full-bodied and rich with great acidity, beautiful purity and subtle oak, this is a stunner to drink over the next 7-10 years.”

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The Pisoni and Franscioni families, now third generation farmers, harness the wildness of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Their farming of the Chardonnay is pinpointed – each grape cluster and leaf positioned just right to be kissed gently by the morning sunshine and shaded from the afternoon sun and brisk Monterey Bay wind. The granitic soil provides a fine structure to grow on. The growing conditions naturally provide concentration and structure in the vines and resulting wine.

Camino 2014 Chardonnay “Soberanes’ Santa Lucia Highlands 
Retail 50.00 – GGWC 46.99
Use code CAM14CHD during checkout

The Old Wente selections of Chardonnay provide great texture and perfume. aromas of yellow plums, honeysuckle blossoms, hazelnuts, and Meyer lemon jump out of the glass. Quite dynamic on the palate, the wine shows a breadth of flavor with mineral, tangerine, white peach, and torched meringue. The finish is long and juicy leaving staying hints of incense.

Robert Parker 93 Points: “Displays delicate white peach, orange marmalade and white currants and virtually no wood in a medium to full-bodied, wonderfully crisp, fleshy, succulent style.” 

Also, be certain to check out their amazing 95 point rated Cabernet!

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A 97 Point, Robert Parker Favorite Cabernet

This venture is still somewhat below the radar, although I’ve been working with them for about 5 years now.  Tiny production, but amazing quality Cabernet sourced from one of Napa’s premium vinyeards (Dr. Crane/Beckstoffer), which would be classified as  a “First Growth Vineyard” in France – So let’s call it “Top-of-the-line” here!

Memento Mori is translated from Latin as “Remember That You Will Die”.  However, the Winery owners (Hayes Drumwright, Adriel Lares & Adam Craun) prefer to translate it as “Remember To Live”.

Memento Mori 2014 “Dr Crane/Beckstoffer” Cabernet Sauvignon 
GGWC Price $225.00 per bottle
Use code MORI14 during checkout

Robert Parker 97 Points: “My favorite wine is, not surprisingly, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard. This is a relatively small cuvée of only 100 cases as well. The wine has loads of smokey barbecue notes, scorched earth, charcoal embers, blueberry and blackberry notes – a wine that clearly comes from a first-growth quality vineyard. It is an old riverbed and quarry, which explains not only the minerality, but the sublime earthiness that intersects with extravagant levels of blue and black fruits in a full-bodied, multidimensional, layered mouthfeel. There is no reason to defer gratification, as this wine should drink well for the next 15-20 years.”

Winemaker Sam Kaplan says: “The quality vintages continue following 2012 and 2013. The powerful 2014 welcomes you with voracious aromas of spice bread and meat followed by viscous drops of bright cherry compote. Fleshy tannins pierce through the gravity of the middle palate and the finish reveals the subtleties of sage and thyme that render this wine timeless. Drink now with proper decanting or cellar for 20 years+.”

Click here or on the links above to order!


Mid-Spring observations from California vineyards

Mid-Spring observations from California vineyards


Now that we have hit bud break, the Fruition Sciences field team is noticing differences in shoot length. For most of the valley, we are seeing about 3-4 inches of shoot growth. Of course, the differences in shoot growth are influenced by many factors such as meso-climates, varietals, vineyard practices, etc.

One of the most obvious factors that makes a difference in shoot growth is thus vineyard location. As we drove across the entire state of California, we were able to see pretty obvious visual differences. For the Napa area, the hills are farther along than the valley floor; Carneros is farther along than Napa; Coombsville is slower than the rest of the valley; and Paso Robles is only a little bit farther along than Napa.

One of the major differences we have seen is between Temecula (Southern California) and Napa. Temecula has over 2 feet of shoot growth. This level of growth like is expected in Temecula, which is about 100 growing degree days ahead of Napa and had less cool rainy days than Napa, which means budbreak occurred earlier according to the civil calendar.

Despite all the cool rainy days that we had this winter, it looks like most of our vineyards have dried out. However, we are still seeing a few puddles here and there, especially after another spring shower. The ground seems to be soft, but we are not sinking in like we were this winter. For Napa at this same civil calendar time we are about 50 growing degrees behind last year, but it is hard to tell if it will stay that way.

We are expecting faster and higher shoot elongation rates this year due to the higher rainfall and nitrogen levels. 

Photo taken on 4/14 in a Paso Robles vineyard

Photo taken on 4/17 in a Napa vineyard

Photo taken on 4/18 in a St. Helena Vineyard

Bud break across California vineyards  

Credits: Stephanie Zamorski & Fruition Sciences

MOST AMAZING 94+ Point, 5 Barrel Napa Cab Franc

Not sure where to start, but the shortest way is to say that both Matt Taylor (former winemaker at Araujo) and Francois Morisette were cut from a similar cloth – both loved the gipsy way of live and travel.  Both lived around the world and were exposed to … wine!  Matt has some “movie fame” in his family.  His grandfather Mitch, a larger-than-life figure whom he greatly admired, owned “The Tides Wharf” in the town of Bodega Bay proper, and it was Mitch who gave Alfred Hitchcock permission to film “The Birds” in and around his hotel and restaurant. In return, Mitch got a speaking part in “The Birds”. Plug it all together and you have two crazy guys with a passion – W.I.N.E.!

Chamboule 2014 “N.A.C.R.E.” Cabernet Franc Napa Valley 
Retail 85.00 – GGWC 81.99
Use code NACRE during checkout

Robert Parker 94+: ”Coming from 37-year-old vines in the Coombsville area of Napa Valley and with a deep garnet-purple colored, the 2014 Cabernet Franc N.A.C.R.E. offers a pretty fragrance of kirsch, roses and raspberry leaves plus an earthy undercurrent of tree bark, moss and underbrush. Medium-bodied, the palate explodes with perfumed red berry flavors, supported by grainy tannins and a lively backbone, finishing long and earthy. 100 cases were made.”

Winemaker Notes: “The fruit for the 2014 Cabernet Franc N.A.C.R.E is sourced from Caldwell Vineyard and was harvested by hand based on skin maturity. The final harvest was sorted and transferred into open top oak fermentation vats and done 70% whole cluster. The wine was aged 18 months on primary lees in neutral Demi-Muids. The 2014 Cabernet Franc was bottled unfiltered and un-fined in March 2016.”

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“Eloquent” 95 Point Rated Wine of the Week

In 2001, two generations of the Cobb family came together to explore a shared passion for Pinot Noir with the founding of Cobb Wines. Focused exclusively on crafting single-vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs, Cobb Wines combines the winegrowing expertise of David Cobb—one of the pioneers of Pinot Noir  viticulture on the far Sonoma Coast—with the winemaking talents of his son, noted pinot noir specialist Ross Cobb. The original seeds for Cobb Wines were planted in 1989, when David began cultivating pinot noir vines at his sustainably farmed Coastlands Vineyard. A marine ecologist by trade, David spent years studying soils and climatological charts in his search for the ideal place to found his vineyard. His search led him to the ridgetops of the Sonoma Coast, where he believed he would be able to grow grapes perfectly suited to a more complex and graceful style of California pinot noir. On weekend and summer breaks from college, David would be joined in the vineyard by his son Ross, who quickly grew to love the hands-on work of growing winegrapes. And the rest, as they say… is history!

Cobb 2014 Pinot Noir “Jack Hill” Sonoma Coast
Retail 75.00 – GGWC 69.99
Use code COBB14 during checkout

Anthony Galloni 95 Points: “The highlight in this set of wines, Cobb’s 2014 Pinot Noir Jack Hill is vivid, nuanced and finely sketched, with all the elements in the right place. Nothing in particular stands out, instead, it is the wine’s balance that speaks with great eloquence. Lifted, precise and focused, the 2014 offers striking interplay of fruit, acid and structure. The reductive character that is often present in these wines is nowhere to be found in the Jack Hill. In my view, that is a good thing. This is a gorgeous wine from Ross Cobb. The 2014 was done with 40% whole clusters.”

Winemaker Notes: “This vineyard always yields more red fruit and cherry-cola and spice notes, reminding me of the more overt Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs. But the rugged coastal pine and fir forests impact the bright fruit with lovely coniferous aromas and a richness typical of this west Sonoma Coast vineyard site.”

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A Black Chicken is not a Black Sheep… especially when you get FREE SHIPPING.


Hey Aldo, when you come by on Friday, bring me a couple pounds of walnuts, some fruit and vegetables, two dozen eggs and a “black chicken”. And thus went one of the hundreds of inquiries during prohibition when selling wine was not legal. Aldo Biale called his jugs of Zin a “Black Chicken” to avoid any unwanted attention from regulators. Today Black Chicken is 100% Legal, so you can get this legendary creation by name.


FYI – Aldo died in 2009, but in his memory the Black Chicken lives on!  If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History you can even see a image of Aldo with his old punch down stick and a picker’s box!

Biale 2015 Zinfandel “Black Chicken” Napa Valley 
Retail 50.00 – GGWC 47.99
Use code BIALE during checkout

Full of Blackberries, vibrant black cherry, dried berries, maple, brown and black spices, cinnamon and ginger bread. The entry is soft and gives way to supple round tannins with a delectable center and persistence of fruit. The lovely finish is the signature of this elegant, surprisingly feminine, and remarkably balanced Zinfandel that is immediately drinkable and worthy of 5 to 7 more years of cellar time.

Click here or on the links above to order!