The Grocery Outlet spring 2021 wine sale starts on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 and runs for a week – all wines will be discounted by 20%. The Grocery Outlet was listed in 2020 by Wine Enthusiast as one of the top value-driven places to shop for wine in the US. Check out the longstanding GrossOutWine blog for current tips on top wines at the Grocery Outlet.
I’ve been thinking of how to handle wines here on Ethical Bargains, and have decided that one approach might be to look at various topics on sustainability in the wine industry. So what I might do is to feature a wine and then discuss one aspect of sustainability related to that wine (and perhaps Q&A with a winemaker) – it’ll be educational for me too! So, kind of along those lines, here are my two favorite Grocery Outlet wines right now:
Best wines of lockdown: Cardella Ruby Cabernet and Sangiovese
In second place…
Cardella Sangiovese 2014 (Fattoria Cardella – Vineyard 22).
$6.99 at the Grocery Outlet ($5.59 during the 20% off sale)
And the winner is…
Cardella Ruby Cabernet 2014 (Fattoria Cardella – Vineyard 22).
$22, directly from Cardella (sold out)
$6.99 at the Grocery Outlet ($5.59 during the 20% off sale)
These wines won silver and gold, respectively, at the San Joaquin Valley California wine competition in 2017. OK – I know that’s a small competition that focuses on wines from the San Joaquin Valley – a region not really known for amazing wine. However, Cardella wines have regularly won awards at major events such as the Finger Lakes and Sunset International Wine Competitions.
I had the Sangiovese first and was really happy with it – it’s one of my favorite grapes but it’s not that common in California. The wine is unusual, not just for being a Californian Sangiovese, but also in that the Cardella vines are located in the San Joaquin Valley, near Mendota, CA. If you want to hear more about Cardella, check out David Wilson’s podcast over on Grape Encounters – David was very excited to discover Cardella winery! And for a region known mostly for its massive agricultural output, it’s nice to see a San Joaquin Valley winemaker creating some excellent wines.
The Sangiovese is still on the shelves (in some stores – this is the Grocery Outlet so there are no guarantees!) and then last week I spotted another Cardella wine – Ruby Cabernet, also from 2014. Ruby Cabernet is also an unusual grape to come across, so I picked up a bottle to try it out. The top three-quarters of the cork was falling apart, so be careful when opening (perhaps this is why the wines are on sale at the Grocery Outlet). But the bottom quarter of the cork was still in good shape and the wine itself was fabulous!
The Ruby Cabernet definitely wins my Best Wine of Lockdown award, with the Sangiovese probably ranking second or third out of all the wines I’ve had over the last 12 months (and it has been quite a few). The Ruby Cabernet seemed really consistent to me in that it tasted great straight after opening as well as 2 days later, and was almost as good on its own as with food. Maybe somebody can translate that into better-sounding wine terminology, for me?
I’ve been having the wines with things like the Fry’s Woodfired BBQ pizza that I just reviewed, Greek salad (made with vegan feta that I’ll be reviewing soon) and vegan bacon (also to be reviewed soon!) on sourdough.
“The Napa area says it makes the best Cabernet Sauvignon, in the Paso Robles area it’s the best Syrah, and the Lodi area claims to make the best Zinfandel. The San Joaquin Valley makes the best Ruby Cabernet.”– Nathan Cardella, on Farm Progress
Wine sustainability topic: Water
The Cardella family, at least back in 2012, had a 3000-acre farm that included 1,000 acres of tomatoes, 500 acres of almonds, 300 acres of fresh-market onions, 150 acres of Pima cotton, and 500 acres of wine grapes. The vast majority of the grapes were sold to big wineries and only about 2% of them were used to make Cardella’s own estate wines.
In the vineyards, Cardella wine grapes grown for the large wineries receive 2.5 to 2.75 acre feet of water annually. The grapes for estate wines, which are grown differently, can get by with 1 to 1.5 acre feet of water.
This difference in the level of irrigation between the grapes grown for the large wineries and the grapes used for estate wines is interesting. Many crops like tomatoes, nuts, olives, and grapes are often more flavorful when provided with just about enough water to meet their needs. Try out some dry-farmed tomatoes if you don’t believe me.
A correlation between the quality of a wine and the level of water conservation is of course a good thing. It fits with a general rule of ethical consumerism to buy smaller amounts of higher quality things. In other words, don’t buy bad wine – If you’re on a budget then seek out good wine that’s on sale : )
Anyone who knows about farming in California’s San Joaquin Valley knows how scarce (and expensive) water is becoming. Cardella had to be as frugal as possible out of necessity by employing drip irrigation, and only as needed.
“Nathan Cardella credits the farm’s miserly use of water on several other factors. The farm’s 100 percent use of surface and subsurface irrigation saves large amounts of water annually.”– Farm Progress
I learned something interesting when researching water for winegrowing – several regions (in Europe) are required to rely on rainfall for irrigation.
To protect wine quality, irrigation is illegal in some of the world’s best wine regions, particularly in Europe. That includes the five B’s: Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello. A look at the average rainfall for many of those regions, however, shows that they typically get plenty of rain.– SevenFiftyDaily
So you could see this as a sustainability plus for wines from these regions.
Here’s another interesting article from SevenFiftyDaily on The Next Wave of Sustainability in Wine. A few quotes from it:
In Oregon, an organization called the Deep Roots Coalition has been spreading the gospel of dry farming since 2004.
Irrigation makes vines lazy, keeping them close to the surface of the soil. When they don’t get water from above, the vines seek moisture deep below the topsoil, which is healthier for the vines (even in drought conditions, the vines can still find moisture from deep below the top layers of soil).
Grapevines are able to adapt to dry conditions—on the Greek island of Santorini, for example, vines subsist on just a few inches of water a year.
Not saying that you want to seek out Santorini wine, but to be aware that some wines come with a much larger water footprint, depending on how and where the grapes were grown.