IN THE WORLD of wine, organic has never been an easy sell.
An impression — earned or not — that organic wines don’t age well permeates the wine industry.
But Washington’s original organic vineyard and winery has no trouble selling its products. In fact, Badger Mountain Vineyard can’t stock the shelves across the nation quickly enough. The Kennewick winery already was shipping its 2013 reds and whites before the calendar flipped over to 2014.
To fans of Badger Mountain Vineyard, this comes as little surprise, as it has been crafting superb organic wines for more than two decades and has become one of the most environmentally conscious producers in the Northwest.
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Bill Powers planted his vineyard in 1982. By the mid-1980s, he began to think about moving toward organic practices, primarily because farming friends started having health issues, and he decided that reducing the use of chemicals would be helpful.
Badger Mountain Vineyard became the state’s first certified organic vineyard in 1990, three years after Powers launched his winery. Today, his son, Greg, makes 45,000 cases for Badger Mountain and another 25,000 cases of nonorganic wines under the Powers Winery label.
Not satisfied with just being organic, Powers pushes ahead. Seven years ago, the winery installed a solar array on its administrative building, which provides about a quarter of its energy needs. Two years ago, it added a larger array on its production building in sunny Washington wine country, supplying 17 percent of its electricity.
Powers also picks up used cooking oil from restaurants throughout the Tri-Cities and converts it to 1,000 gallons of biodiesel, which he uses to run farm equipment and trucks that haul grapes from other vineyards.
Six years ago, the winery began using bag-in-a-box packaging, which is more environmentally friendly than bottles — and lowers the price of its wine. Today, it sells its Pure Red and Pure White brands nationwide to retailers and restaurants. It is now experimenting with foil pouches, which are even greener because they use less cardboard and are recyclable.
Three years ago, the winery switched to eco-bottles, which use less glass and greatly reduce shipping costs and, thus, carbon footprint.
Being good to the environment is just good business, says Mickey Dunne, co-owner and director of sales for Badger Mountain, as shown by the high demand for the wines.
In fact, he says, “We would make more if we could.”
Andy Perdue is a wine journalist, author and judge. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.