Fetzer-Bonterra Gets an A for Being a B Corp

The end stacks at the grocery store don’t usually appeal to me, whether they be stocked with cookies, canned vegetables, or alcoholic beverages. I snub my nose at such mass-produced and overly processed food items, assuming they are chock full of “fake” ingredients that are not good for the human body and too much packaging to be good for the environment.

Fetzer-Bonterra’s organic/biodynamic vines, in the rain.

But it pays sometimes to know more about the products on these displays, as I learned at the 2017 Wine Blogger’s Conference last November. I participated in a discovery session at Fetzer-Bonterra winery at their two locations in Mendocino County, California, and learned that it is possible to produce 2.6 million bottles of wine per year and have it be completely based on a sustainable, biodynamic, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible model.

I also learned that Fetzer-Bonterra is a B Corp, something I had never heard of. B Corp is a certification (run by the non-profit B Corp) and is a global movement among for-profit companies that are using their business as a ‘force for good’ by embracing rigorous standards of social and environment performance, accountability, and transparency. A way to think of it is B Corp is to business as Fair Trade certification is to coffee production.

The B Corp movement is growing. There are currently 2,334 companies that have the status of Certified B Corporations in 50+ countries scattered among 130 different industries, per the B Corporation Web site.

b Corp logo

Look for this logo on products

The process to become a B Corp requires a company to complete a rigorous questionnaire regarding the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility, and they must re-certify every two years. Products certified as B Corp bear the non-profit’s logo (see left).

Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard

Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay is one of the products often seen in grocery stores across America. Priced under $10, this iconic wine has been on the market for 25 years. While not my choice in style or taste profile, there’s no denying that the wine has mass appeal, and knowing what I know now of Fetzer’s commitment to B Corp practices, I have a new-found respect for the wine and winemaker Bob Blue, who has been with Fetzer for 30 years. Blue and his team produce a range of wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir for reds, and Gewurtztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Moscato for whites, and the uniquely Californian blush wine called “White Zinfandel,” which took the market by storm 30 years ago.

Bonterra, Fetzer’s other brand, is where it gets interesting for me. Named “American Winery of the Year” in 2016 by Wine Enthusiast magazine (read the story), Bonterra crafts varietal wines from 100% certified organic vineyards in Mendocino, California.

On the rainy day of WBC’s visit to Bonterra (and the rain was very welcome just a couple weeks after the Sonoma fires) we were treated to a glass of Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc while strolling through the wet vineyards where it is grown. The aromatic wine, priced around $13 and also available in many grocery stores, offers notes of citrus, minerals, and fresh-cut grass, with bracing, crisp acidity. I could easily make this my house white.

Bonterra vineyard manager Joe Brinkley

The rolling acres of Fetzer-Bonterra are nestled in the hillsides west of the 101 Freeway in Mendocino. The facility is generally not open to the public, but groups such as the Wine Bloggers Conference are accommodated in the winery’s original rustic barn and rambling gardens. The property is stunningly beautiful, but not in a manicured Wine Trail way. It’s raw and wild, tenderly cared for by a environmentally conscious crew, led by vineyard manager Joseph Brinkley (pictured left). Through the use of cover crops (4-6 plant species) and farm animals (sheep are kept among the vines until bud break), he believes that the fertility of the land is attainable from within the farm, not from outside the farm.

Brinkley treated our group to an interactive demonstration in biodynamic farming. With gloved hands, we scooped cow manure into cow horns, which were to be buried in a shallow ditch later by the Bonterra team. These horns ferment the cow dung under ground in the cold months of November through February, and are then used to create a solution that is spread over the vineyard acreage several times throughout the year.

This mixture is the basis for soil fertility in biodymic farming, and helps renew degraded soil by bringing all aspects of the vineyard into balance — the animals, the plants, and the farmers work together holistically to grow the vines without pesticides and GMOs, and artificial chemicals.

Cow horns are filled with manure and buried 

This biodynamic approach to agriculture is based on the original spiritual insights and practical suggestions of Dr. Rudolf Steiner of Austria. Since the 1920s, farmers and researchers have collaborated to develop the methods in a variety of climates, and ecological economic environments.

Fetzer-Bonterra — organic, biodynamic, socially responsible, and a Certified B Corp. Good to know.

Learn more at the following Web sites:

B Corp — https://www.bcorporation.net/

Biodynamics —https://www.biodynamics.com/

Fetzer — http://www.fetzer.com/

Bonterra — http://www.bonterra.com/

Until Next time, Cheers!