Organic Wine Podcast
Zaitouna Kusto - Managing Sommelier, Esters Wine Shop

Zaitouna Kusto - Managing Sommelier, Esters Wine Shop

June 16, 2021

Zaitouna Kusto is the Managing Sommelier at Esters wine shop in Santa Monica, CA.

Zaitouna exemplifies what I think are some of the best qualities in wine sales – someone who listens carefully and doesn’t impose their own preferences and judgements on what others want.

This has led Zaitouna to have some unique and interesting perspectives and observations on wine, and I think this conversation will give everyone something to think about, react against, and be both challenged and entertained by.

I always enjoy talking with Zaitouna, which should also be apparent from this interview, and I hope you’ll be as charmed and delighted as I clearly was.


Gina & Mikey Giugni - Lady of the Sunshine, Scar of the Sea & Making California Natural Wine

Gina & Mikey Giugni - Lady of the Sunshine, Scar of the Sea & Making California Natural Wine

June 2, 2021

I'm delighted to share this conversation with two of the most lovely winemakers and winery owners in California. Based in the Central Coast, Gina & Mikey Giugni are the owners of Lady of the Sunshine and Scar of the Sea - two wineries that share the same winegrowing philosophies and the same space, but which reflect their two different personalities and winemaking choices. 

The Giugnis are committed to growing grapes organically or better, and have certified the Chene Vineyard, which they lease and farm for Lady of the Sunshine, as biodynamic. They see the best viticulture as integrating vineyards into the natural landscape, and they approach wine from a minimal intervention, natural style, that sees wine as a living thing with annual variations that reflect the land it came from. 

This interview covers a lot of ground, including:

- The challenges of farming a small vineyard

- Mikey's homestead cider making in the central coast including cider co-ferments with mondeuse, and another with gruner veltliner & lime leaves

- Why lees are your friend in natural winemaking

- Why new oak can sometimes be necessary in natural winemaking

- Why farming your own grapes changes the way you think about winemaking

- What a healthy vineyard should look like

- The importance of biodynamic and organic certification

- Wine packaging & ingredients labeling

- How to handle problem wines using the limited tools of natural winemaking

...and so much more. Enjoy!


Tom Jackson - Supergay Spirits

Tom Jackson - Supergay Spirits

May 19, 2021

Allow me to introduce you to Supergay Spirits!

This episode features Tom Jackson, one of the co-founders of Supergay. We have a fun conversation about the premium vodka made from organic corn that is Supergay’s first spirit, and the dedication to excellence that is masked by their playful branding. 

Supergay is a great example that we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously to cause seriously good changes in the world. It’s a pleasure to highlight people that are having fun doing something they enjoy that is also positive and uplifting.

Tom lifted my spirits, and I wasn’t even drinking his vodka. His brand seems like just the thing we need as we head into this post-pandemic summer of 2021. We’ve grown, we’ve changed, we’re maybe a little wiser, maybe a little more awake. But there is hope. We need to smile. We need to spread some joy. We need a little Supergay!


Elizabeth Whitlow - Regenerative Organic Certification, Vineyard & Farm Worker Treatment

Elizabeth Whitlow - Regenerative Organic Certification, Vineyard & Farm Worker Treatment

May 7, 2021

Our guest for this episode is Elizabeth Whitlow – Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance. The Regenerative Organic Alliance is the non-profit that administers Regenerative Organic Certification. And if you haven’t heard of Regenerative Organic Certification, then it’s my great pleasure to introduce you to what I hope will become the new global standard for viticulture and agriculture.

Elizabeth walks us through how ROC – Regenerative Organic Certification – was created to address some of the lacks for the current national Organic certification, by creating standards for soil health, animal welfare, and social equity.

It’s that last part that we focus on in this interview. Labor and worker treatment specifically. ROC combines standards from Fair Trade certifications and other respectful labor practices, to build one of its three pillars on one of the most overlooked aspects of wine – the people who grow it.

It goes without saying that the first step in treating vineyard workers well is to not have them work in an environment polluted with poisonous pesticides and herbicides, but the need for honoring these workers goes far beyond this. And the issues around agricultural labor are extremely complicated and global. Elizabeth digs into some of these and presents the solutions that the Regenerative Organic Certification is aiming to achieve.

But at the end of the day, our attitudes and choices as consumers may have the most power of all. Each one of us has incredible power to change the way our food and wine is grown. We vote for the way we want our fellow humans – the farm workers - to be treated multiple times per day – with every bite of food or sip of wine we take. If we feel entitled to cheap wine and food, well… we may get it. But someone is paying for it.

Farming is hard and risky work. With climate change it’s getting harder and riskier. And it creates not only our personal health and well being, but the health and well being of the entire global ecosystem. Maybe it’s time we start considering what that is actually worth.



Andrew Beckham - Novum Amphora & Beckham Estate Vineyard

Andrew Beckham - Novum Amphora & Beckham Estate Vineyard

April 28, 2021

Every once in a while, if we’re paying attention, the stars align and we find ourselves presented with an opportunity to use all of our being – our passions and skills and entire life experience – to build something beautiful that transcends the limitations of our finite personality.

My guest for this episode is Andrew Beckham of Beckham Estate Vineyard in Oregon. Andrew makes his wine in amphora. That in itself isn’t unique these days, but what is unique is that Andrew makes the amphorae  – which he calls Novum – and he is the only commercial amphora maker in North America. Chances are, if you’re making wine in amphorae in the US, Andrew made them.

Yes, this episode is deeply helpful for anyone considering making any alcoholic beverage in amphora, or just wondering why anyone would use amphorae. But it’s also the story of a guy who found himself using all of his being to create a piece of culture that will live for generations.


Bill Shinkle - Tranquil Heart Vineyard & Winery in Hemet, California

Bill Shinkle - Tranquil Heart Vineyard & Winery in Hemet, California

March 30, 2021

Wendy and I recently took a trip to look at a vineyard in the town of Hemet, California, and the phone call that you’re about to hear is the result of that adventure.

What we discovered on this trip was a biodynamic oasis with as much history and lore as you could hope to find anywhere. The historic property had been known for years as the Haunted Hilltop Manor and was one of the most famously supposedly haunted mansions in southern California. But when I stepped out of the car after the 2 hour drive from LA, what we found was anything but scary.

A pair of hawks cried out overhead, playing in the breeze. The snow capped San Jacinto mountains loomed large to the east, and a terraced landscape of organically and biodynamically farmed vines followed the contours of the earth away to the west.  

And then we met Bill Shinkle. Bill might be on the short list of candidates for the Most Interesting Man In the World. He’s also a born storyteller, and he has some entertaining stories to tell.

When he led us into his house, it was like stepping back in time. I don’t want to spoil the conversation, so I won’t say any more. But I think you too will soon want to visit Bill and try his wines, if you live anywhere nearby.

So grab a glass and let me introduce you to Bill Shinkle of Tranquil Heart Vineyards & Winery.


Natural Wine is Bulls%$t

Natural Wine is Bulls%$t

March 24, 2021

I’ve had some really interesting conversations with wine shop managers and owners who interface with the natural wine drinking public. And some common and troubling themes have emerged. So this episode is an attempt to address the alarming trends I’ve become aware of in natural wine… and if you hang in there you’ll hopefully see that it actually fits with the overall theme of the Organic Wine Podcast.

The fad of natural wine has some serious problems. Here are the top 4. 

Solminer - Anna & David Delaski, Growing Austrian Grapes Regeneratively in Santa Barbara County

Solminer - Anna & David Delaski, Growing Austrian Grapes Regeneratively in Santa Barbara County

March 18, 2021

Anna and David Delaski are my guests for this episode, and they are the owners of Solminer in Los Olivos, California.

These guys are doing SO MUCH COOL STUFF, we barely covered half of it in this interview. Anna and David are making natural wines with Austrian grapes in Santa Barbara county, and they’re doing it with amazing farming that is certified biodynamic and organic and will soon be Regenerative Organic Certified. They are growing the first biodynamic & organic certified Sankt Laurent in the US.

I love Anna’s insight into terroir and growing Austrian grapes in California that comes from being a person who was also originally from Austria and is now a Californian. And I love that these guys are very conscious about giving back and using their business to promote diversity and equity in the wine industry by partnering with and supporting great organizations like Natural Action and 1% for the planet.


Michael Phillips - Mycorrhizal Planet, The Apple Grower, and Vineyards & Orchards as Fungal Ecosystems

Michael Phillips - Mycorrhizal Planet, The Apple Grower, and Vineyards & Orchards as Fungal Ecosystems

March 12, 2021

On this episode of the Organic Wine Podcast we take a journey to far north New Hampshire to talk to Michael Phillips.

Michael Phillips is a farmer – or a cultivator of fungal ecosystems, as he might put it - and he’s the author of the books The Apple Grower, The Holistic Orchard, and most recently, Mycorrhizal Planet. If you’re an orchardist or vineyardist all three books are must reads. But Mycorrhizal Planet is a must read even if you’re just a human with no interest in growing apples or grapes.

On the surface, Mycorrhizal Planet is about Regenerative practices for the farm, garden, orchard, forest, and landscape, but as you listen to Michael describe the principles it covers you begin to see that it is a cornerstone in the literal foundation of our future.

Michael is laying out some of the groundwork – pun intended – of that regenerative renaissance. He promotes “outrageous diversity” and “collaboration” as some of the ways that we can “do fungal things.” When we begin to apply the principles he promotes to the world, we stop planting vineyards and orchards and we start launching deeply interconnected ecosystems.

This really is a magical journey. You can’t take a fungal trip without a little magic. But it’s also extremely practical. Michael describes his vision for a connected landscape by explaining the science and the steps we can take to help cultivate it.

The end result is, of course, a healthier orchard or vineyard and more delicious bottle of cider or wine. But is that really the end of the process, or the tantalizing lure that the earth uses to draw us into the fruit and then the trees and vines and then down into the soil from where we all awaken?


Leigh Bartholomew - The Problems With Organic

Leigh Bartholomew - The Problems With Organic

March 3, 2021

On this episode we’re going to talk about some of the problems with organic viticulture. And I know this may be shocking coming from me, but yes, organic has issues.

That doesn’t mean organic viticulture is bad, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, and that doesn’t mean it’s pointless. On the contrary, I’ve never been more committed to organic viticulture as the best form of viticulture, and I believe literally every vineyard should be farmed organically.

But there will be no green-washing in this episode.

To make the organic future of wine a reality we have some problems to solve. And we’ll never solve them by pretending they don’t exist. We need to honestly and openly discuss our own failings so that we can learn how to improve and find solutions.

So I’m incredibly grateful to my guest for this episode, Leigh Bartholomew, for being willing to openly discuss some of these issues with me.

Leigh has an incredible resume that includes work at some of the most revered and renowned wineries around the world. She’s a leader in the Oregon wine industry, and She’s been a viticulturalist for decades, with an enormous amount of experience working in vines around the world.

Leigh openly and intelligently articulates many of the less than perfect realities and compromises of organic and biodynamic viticulture, while at the same time aspiring to continue to farm organically. She simultaneously acknowledges the challenges and points the way toward solving many of the problems she brings up.

Leigh is my hero. It takes courage to come on the Organic Wine Podcast and talk about the problems with organic. So many great questions still remain for us to answer, and this conversation with Leigh Bartholomew provides the foundation for beginning to answer them.


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