Bonterra Bets Big on Regenerative Farming with New Line of Eco-friendly Wines

Giving a big boost to the eco-friendly and socially conscious farming approach known as regenerative agriculture, Mendocino County-based Bonterra Organic Estates is releasing a new tier of wines, its first bearing the Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) logo. The company, which changed its name from Fetzer last year, is the largest vineyard holder to date to earn the ROC designation, and these wines will be available nationally and in some international markets.

“We can talk about farming all day, but now we actually have a product behind it that can speak to it,” said Joseph Brinkley, director of regenerative farming for Bonterra Organic Estates.

The new Bonterra Estate Collection’s first wines include a 2021 Chardonnay from Ledford Ranch Vineyard and a 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon from Bonterra’s Butler Ranch; both are priced at $22. The company has produced 7,000 cases of the Chardonnay and 4,100 of the Cabernet, which could provide a chance for the ROC logo to gain recognition among a wider set of wine consumers.

And since these are the first wines from Mendocino County to carry the ROC label, Brinkley also hopes it will earn the region more recognition. “Mendocino has amazing fruit and great wines but it hasn’t gotten the same traction as some neighboring counties,” he said. “This is a great way to demonstrate to the consumer what Mendocino can do, but at a reasonable price point.”

While many regenerative farming methods are old, such as grazing animals on the property and planting cover crops between vine rows for better soil health, the certification itself is fairly new. The project kicked off in 2017 when the Rodale Institute and companies such as Patagonia and Dr. Bronner’s co-founded the Regenerative Organic Alliance, with the aim of creating a higher level of organic certification—one that is more comprehensive and stringent than the USDA Organic label—that covers a wide range of agricultural-based products.

The ROC program starts with organic certification as its baseline, with no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides permitted—and then layers on additional requirements around three pillars: soil health and land management, animal welfare and farmer and worker fairness. There are three tiers—Bronze, Silver and Gold—based on the number of practices met and at what scope. Bonterra earned the Silver level for its winery and all of its vineyard holdings, which include 850 acres of vines in production, in late 2021.

[article-img-container][src=2023-01/ns_boerocbacklabel012523_1600.jpg] [credit= (Courtesy of Bonterra Organic Estates)] [alt= Back label of one of the new Bonterra Estate Collection wines with the Regenerative Organic Certified–Silver Level logo][end: article-img-container]

“To me, one of the pieces that gets overlooked is the social pillar,” said Brinkley. We’ve been focused for a while on how we are treating our soils, but it’s critical that we are treating our people well too. You can’t be regenerative without making sure your workers are paid a living wage, that they have a grievance process.”

But the reason regenerative agriculture has recently captured the attention of so many is its ability to capture carbon in the soil. “Agriculture is one of the only industries that has the capacity to help mitigate the climate crisis,” said Brinkley. “In my mind, it’s magic that photosynthesis takes air and light from the sun and creates food for all things and, in so doing, it’s taking excess carbon in the atmosphere that’s causing an issue for us and turning it into fertile soil, feeding the microlife in soil and creating a resilient farm system. That blows me away everytime I think of it. We didn’t need some super-smart person to figure out technology to do this. This is…

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Bonterra Bets Big on Regenerative Farming with New Line of Eco-friendly Wines  
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