Editor’s note: This article first ran in July 2017. Sommelier Sara Cyr and her husband, Chef Craig Cyr, owned former Columbia eatery The Cherry Street Wine Cellar & Bistro.
When you hear words like “organic” or “biodynamic,” you might jump to conclusions about cost or quality. Trust me, I have had the same reservations. It’s been nine years since I ran the first all organic/biodynamic wine by-the-glass program at my restaurant here in Columbia. I remember asking all of my wine distributors about organic wines and I heard similar responses… their comments were generally “the quality isn’t there,” or “organic wines taste mediocre and have a bad shelf life.”
And honestly, yes, 10 years ago some organic/biodynamic wines did have a quality issue that either affected the taste or the wine’s ability to age well.
Nevertheless, I have also tasted great organic wines. And many of them were actually the brightest most beautiful wines I had ever tasted. These wines, and the farmers that made them, convinced me years ago that organic and biodynamic practices were the best way to grow grapes and make fantastic wine.
Robert Sinskey is unapologetically a leader in organic/biodynamic wine practices in California and has been so for more than 25 years. He grows his grapes organically (without chemicals) and uses biodynamic practices, which is a philosophy based on Rudolph Steiner’s 1928 lecture “Agriculture.”
These practices embrace a “whole farm” approach, which taps into the rhythms of nature, heals the land and creates balanced, expressive and vibrant living wines. Craig and I use this same philosophy of integrated farming for the fruit, vegetables and animals we raise at our farm. We have seen first-hand how diversity creates a bounty of healthy food in a sustainable system.
So being a fan of these growing practices and of Sinskey wines, I was excited to have the opportunity to meet Mr. Sinskey last month. After talking with him and tasting his entire line-up of fantastic wines, I was most impressed with how down-to-earth he was. He isn’t trying to win awards or score points with wine critics, he is trying to make elegant, clean wine… and he is succeeding.
One thing that Mr. Sinskey can be proud of is that his wines are great with food. For each of his varietals, he recommends recipes to pair and complement the wine for each of his varietals. I thought that was a great idea for a wine producer (after all he knows his wine best!), so I decided to try one of his suggested recipes.
To marry with his wonderful Pinot Noir, he enjoys a roasted chicken with a mushroom and herb stuffing. I have to say the pairing was good, but I didn’t think the match was amazing. I tasted it several times and the wine was left a little sour and reserved. I like the fruit flavors to shine in my Pinot so I decided to add a sauce.
After years of pairing wine and food at our restaurant, I knew that Craig’s tomato sauces always bring out the best in Pinot Noir. So I made a quick tomato-mushroom sauce, added no sweetness, and it was perfect. The earthy notes of the mushrooms and herbs were wonderful with his terrior-driven light red, and the acid from the tomato sauce allowed the fruity notes to stay front and center throughout the entire meal.
As you celebrate this month with friends and family, if you are looking for a light red to sip on with burgers stacked with fresh tomatoes or with mushroom and chicken skewers off the grill, I think Sinskey Pinot Noir is a perfect choice. And if you happen to be watching fireworks and humming “This land is your land,” I can’t think of a more appropriate wine than this one from the talented Robert Sinskey who takes tremendous care of his diverse and healthy land. Enjoy!