Organic Wines: Lose the Headache

Living and working in New York City in the 1980s, my
girlfriends and I often took weekends “upstate” to escape the hustle and bustle
of big city life. On one such weekend, we decided to explore the Finger Lakes
Wine District. Not really known as a major wine region, New York State nonetheless
offered some spectacular vineyard scenery, and we were intrigued. What we
discovered on this memorable trip was something quite wonderful.
You see, we “discovered” organic wines, at a vineyard
called Four Chimneys. Yes, we
thought we were the first ever to taste and get somewhat drunk on organically
grown wine. And, to our great amazement, we did not experience the day-after
hangover that normally accompanies the consumption of several bottles of wine.
We, of course, attributed it to the wine’s “organic” state, with its lack of
pesticides and other horrible additives. Were we on to something?
Four Chimneys
is still in existence and per its Web site claims to be the first organic winery in North America, having produced their premiere vintage in 1980. They further state that nothing
toxic or synthetic goes into the growing of our grapes or the making of our
wines.” They also use lower levels of natural sulfites than many conventional
wines, and
do not use sorbate compounds or other preservatives, all of which they
state can cause headaches. 
Is this why my friends and I didn’t get hangovers after our visit there
in the 80s? 
Chacewater Rose label
2011 Chacewater Rose

I had this in mind last week as I began my semi-annual
30-day vegan cleanse, where I attempt to rid my body of the toxins built up
from food and the environment. The one difference between this and my
previous cleanses, however, is that this time I refused to cut wine out of my diet.
So, off I went to my local health food store to stock up on organic delicacies,
including a bottle of organic rosé from Chacewater winery (,
which I’ve had before and liked very much (priced around $15).

The front label states, “Made With Organically Grown Grapes.” Is this the
same as “Organic” wine? No, says Paul Manuel, owner and general manager of Chacewater.
“The difference between the two
is the level of sulfites,”
he says. While “organic” wine can have no sulfites, the label “made with
organically grown grapes” (see label to right) allows for less than 100 parts per million, and, adds
Manuel, “We’re comfortable making wine this way.” Because Chacewater sources
some grapes from outside their own vineyards, their wines are technically not organic,
but their facilities are certified
organic and audited once a year by the California Certified Organic Farmers
(CCOF). Manuel says that about 90% of his grapes are organically grown, and
he’s urging his one non-organic (but sustainable) producer to go this
Sulfites, which Manuel agrees can be the cause of
headaches in people, also help retard spoilage in the bottled wines. He says
that no-sulfite organic wines can spoil, which in some circles has given
organic wines a bad reputation. But he’s seeing more consumers seeking out
organic wines, and believes the quality of these is going to grow
exponentially. “It’s a good market, an exploding market. It’s how people want
their community to be – they want to see [organic] processing and farming.”
Located in the Sierra foothills in northern California, Chacewater started
operation in 1990, growing grapes organically because “it’s the only way I know
how to farm,” says Manuel. While proud of the organic grape label, his No. 1
concerns are his
reputation and the quality of his wines.
He must be doing something right, as Chacewater was named “Golden State Winery
of the Year” at the 2012 California State Fair commercial wine competition.
The governing and granting of “organic” status
varies from state to state and the European Union rules are separate from those
in the US, but there seems to be movement toward more organic wine production,
at least in the US. Per the USDA Web site blog (,
which cites
a 2011 survey
by the Organic Trade Association, “organic beverages made up about 12% of total
organic food sales growth. Organic wine contributed to that growth, matching
pace with conventional wine purchases.”
organic, made with organically grown grapes, or grown and processed
conventionally, I agree with Chasewater’s Manuel that quality and reputation
should be a winery’s the No. 1 concerns. But if organic viticulture and
vinification become the norm, I’m all for it. No more headaches.
for organic wines? Check out your local health food store or go online to such
sites as
Learn more
about the Full Body Vegan Cleanse at 
Until next time, cheers!