IN MARCH, A class action lawsuit was filed in California lleging that many lower-priced California wines con- tain dangerously high levels of arsenic. Fear not: this ort of allegation is as ubiquitous as quinoa and kale in any Marin restaurant. While it is a well-known spouse
exterminator of crime headlines and lore, arsenic is a naturally occurring element and trace amounts are contained in
most agricultural products. The amounts cited in the lawsuit
are well below accepted limits for most of the world including
the U. S., the EU, Canada and Japan. Nevertheless, whether or
not the suit has any merit, it raises some interesting questions
about the wine industry.
My first harvest in California was at the Robert Mondavi
Winery in 1980, and for most of my longtime experience as a
wine and travel writer, the words sustainability, organic or
biodynamic never came up. Only in the past few years have they
become part of everyday conversation. I first heard of biodynamics seven years ago while working on a book about pinot noir.
Educating the Consumer
Here in Marin, we obsess about the source of our food and
how exactly said food is grown or cultivated. These days, few
are the farms that are not certified sustainable or organic, but
what about wine? That goes into our bodies too, in some cases
with great regularity and in significant quantities, but who
questions the source? “A very small percentage of customers
ask about how the wine is made,” says Magid Nazari, owner
of Ludwig’s Fine Wine & Spirits in San Anselmo. “People are
buying solely based on how the wine tastes.”
This lack of public knowledge hasn’t stopped the wine
industry from taking steps to improve their practices.
Sonoma County Winegrowers have a goal of 100 percent cer-
tified sustainable vineyards in the county by January 2019.
Sonoma may be the first in North America with this aim, but
Sustainable Wine New Zealand is the world leader in the wine
sustainability movement, with efforts dating back to 1994,
and claims to now have 95 percent compliance. It’s achieved