When I look for sustainable wines to drink, I don’t just look for wines that are certified organic. I’ll chose wines that are made from organic grapes but aren’t certified organic. I’ll choose wines from wineries that are running their operations sustainably. I’ll also chose wines from small wineries that are close to me like many of the ones that were at The East Coast Food & Wine Festival.

I’ve recently learned about Persimmon Creek Vineyards in Clayton, Ga., that I wish was local to me. It’s a boutique, family owned winery that strives for sustainability throughout the entire winemaking process.

Here are some of the things that owners William “Sonny” and Mary Ann Hardman do at Persimmon Creek.

  • Virtually all of the processes are done by hand: planting, picking, crushing, bottling, corking and labeling. All grapes are grown on their 110-acre farm.
  • Over a year ago, they switched to biodiesel fuel for mechanized processes to lighten their environmental impact.
  • They recycle the (considerable) byproducts of winemaking. The pomace from the wines is returned to their gardens as a natural fertilizer (for pumpkins, tomatoes, corn, wildflowers). Prunings go directly into the gardens and are tilled into the soil.
  • For pest control, they intervene as little as possible but Japanese beetles are problematic in June and July. Sulfur from the earth is the backbone of their efforts, used minimally as a fungicide.
  • They do not irrigate.
  • They use soy-based ink on their wine labels and post-consumer products in their bottles.
The couple is joined in their sustainability efforts by their son, Mitchell. At 15 years old he has already installed solar panels and a wind turbine to power his room. He’s also been honored by the Captain Planet Foundation as one of the Foundation's "Eco Super Heroes.” I’d love to pick the Hardman’s brains one day not just on wine, but how to raise a kid who turns out like that!

This past spring, William and Mary Ann opened three luxury guest cottages at Persimmon Creek. These B&B style cottages are built from natural and regional materials, and a stay includes private tours and wine tastings.

I’m sure you’re thinking “This all sounds fabulous, but how are the wines?” I’ve got a bottle each of their Seyval Blanc and their Cabernet Franc. I’ll be opening them this weekend. You’ll have my thoughts on them next week.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

A sustainable winery
One couple (and their impressive 15 year old) does it right from start to finish at their Georgia winery.