Monday, January 30, 2006

La Togata: Beware!'s a candidate for worst Brett fouling ever.

Another entry from Italy, La Togata, Rosso di Montalcino 2001.
Crafted from 'select Sangiovese grapes' and allowed to ferment for 25 days (extended maceration is what I think they're implying), then the finished wine is matured in French & Slovenian oak barrels.

Too bad all you get from the glass is white paste, and some funky medicinal phenolic notes...seems like they wasted all that effort to make a wine that nobody but someone truly Brett-dumb could possibly enjoy (though it might appeal to those kids who used to eat paste in the 1st thru 3rd grades...).

No carbonation in the bottle, so my guess would be that the entire blend is faulty as it doesn't appear that there was a spurious secondary fermentaion in the bottle (so just bottle to bottle variation most likely isn't the case - though it has been in the bottle now for 3 years, and it might have slowly released any CO2 that was generated by the Brett).

Buyer beware...

Friday, January 27, 2006

More Distributor Spin

Fired up after losing a battle in Michigan, wine distributors in Virgina are trying to prevent VA wineries from self-distributing directly to wine shops and restaurants according to this Times Dispatch article.

To claim that the bill would put wine wholesalers out of business (they would only lose some of their Virgina wines, not their California, Chiliean, French, German, South African, Italian, Australian, Kiwi, etc. wines) is ludicrous. I also doubt their claim of 3,400 employees in the Virgina distribution business and I certainly doubt that any of them would lose their jobs over it.

Hopefully, the Virginia legislature reads up on some of the distributors spin tactics in Michigan, ignore the doom-filled rhetoric and act to help Virginia's small but historic industry.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


At the Unified Wine Symposium (Sacramento, Ca) yesterday, we heard a call to action by Nick Dokoozlian of Gallo Winery.

Essentially it boils down to this: Australia, which has made significant growth in the US import market, spends about three times the amount of money on wine research as the US does. That’s not too shabby either, especially if you keep in mind that it’s only one-third of the US industry’s size…

Research is largely responsible for that growth - or so the argument goes...

Now Gallo is one of those companies which has plenty of research constantly going on – and it’s focused on all aspects of the industry – so it’s not really a surprise to hear one of its employees expounding the virtues of research. It’s also not a surprise that almost everything Gallo “discovers” stays within it’s own company.

But what’s interesting is that the Aussies fund half the total research monies via a mandatory $8/ton assessment fee. All producers apparently pay this fee, regardless of size of the operation. The balance of the funds are from government matching of those assessed fees. Nicely done!

In addition to that, the Aussie program supports all their wineries as far as I can tell, regardless of size with that same research…

And that means the small mom-and-pop wineries which wouldn’t ever have the funds needed to spend on research of their own, greatly benefit from the pooled fees by gaining access to information they’d never see otherwise.
Quite a nice return for what amounts to 1¢ per bottle

Obviously, larger wineries are going to be paying more with this plan (Constellation’s 75mil cases/year would be ~$9M annually alone! Gallo would add another ~$7.2M to the yearly kitty…), which seems equitable in that those larger companies would see more returns on that information by their greater number of products sold by using it to increase quality.

Who really benefits?
Consumers! - who get a better product, and possibly even at lower costs in the future as well, due to better research, information gathering and sharing. The American consumer and wine industry as a whole would/could move forward at the same time…

The quote from Australian Robin Day (
AWRI chairman), has me reaching for my wallet already: "Improved awareness of scientific detail reduces the chances of preventably poor wine being made."

I’m all for that…where do I sign up?

Wine executive urges mandatory R&D payments [Sacramento Bee article 1/25/06, registration may be required]

Monday, January 23, 2006

Comedy at Unified Symposium

Stand up comedy @ the Unified Grape & Wine Symposium in Sacramento, Ca?

Sounds like it might just be that...

What am I going on about? Just this - one of the lectures is the following:
Biodynamic Farming – Where Does It Fit in the American Wine Community?
Of course they’re going to want to soak you for a couple of hundred $’s to go hear them (2 to 4 PM, Wednesday 1/25/06). But I'm sure there'll be plenty of laughs, gaffs and guffaws as the consultants try to convince even more people to put some of their hard earned cash into a system that just doesn't work.

From their website, here are the details:
Speakers will present their perspectives on the practical and economic differences of organic, sustainable and biodynamic practices, as well as the philosophy and motivation for biodynamic grapegrowing.

Moderator:Ed Weber, University of California Cooperative Extension, Napa County

Philippe Armenier, Biodynamic Consultant, California
Jim Fulmer, Consultant, Oregon
David Koball, Fetzer Vineyards, California
Javier Meza, Ceago del Lago, California

Anyway, I'd love to have this scenario played out:
Mod: And now for questions from the floor...[pointing to me] yes, go ahead sir...

Vini [deadpan]: Yes this is for the consultants...when you reduce BioD to it's essential points that make it effective, there's nothing really left but organic viticulture, right?

1st Consultant: No that's not true...these preparations are what set BioD apart from-

Vini [cutting him off]: John Reaganold in Washington has been studying BioD for what ~15 years~ and has conducted a 6-year experiment comparing BioD and Organic viticulture, which showed that there was no difference in the soils afterward-

2nd Con [cutting me off]: But BioD is about those aspects that you can't quantify - the spiritual aspect of the land and maintaining harmony. That's what makes BioD so essential to today's agriculture, and why you can't really 'study' it in a laboratory or in an experiment. Then there's also the prohibition of all pesticides and chemicals. Do you understand?

Vini: What I understand is that you clowns want me to pay quanitifiable amounts of cash to you to sell me a system which has no checks and no guarantees of success, as well as charge me for initial and continuing certification plans, in addition to BioD preparations, none of which has any quantifiable returns - all of which in the end boils down to 3 simple statements: a) use the least invasive techniques available in winemaking, b) only ferment with 'wild' yeast, and c) use no pesticides or chemicals what-so-ever. There, I've gone and given away the trade secrets of yours, haven't I?
By the way, you have yet to provide any sort of evidence that the land was ever out of harmony to start with...not to mention the fact that I can go "zero chemicals" without having to give you dime for anything at all, right?


Well that would be fun, though it'd probably get my sorry butt kicked out of the lecture...though it might still be worth the money just to do it.

See this article by Erin Allday (Wine industry place to be) from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat for more information, as well as some reasons you might want to go. Tuesday thru Thursday, 1/24/06 ~1/26/06...


Friday, January 20, 2006

Is oak aged Pinot the healthiest wine?

Thanks to the fine people at Mars chocolate for funding the research over the past decade-and-a-half into possible health benefits of cocoa. But why bother with that on this blog - and what's it got to do with Pinot Noir?

Simple...okay, not really, but here it goes anyway...
The study which produced the results also found a positive response to a single class of compounds – the ellagitannins (specifically (-)epicatechin) – which are also found in wine. This one class of compounds seems to be responsible for the relaxing of the blood vessels, and increases the rate of blood flow (ergo oxygenation) to the body, and this effect may be one of the most important in recognizing by what method wine provides health benefits as well.

Ellagitannins and catechins are found in the seeds and skins of red wine grapes, as well as in the final wine. Levels are related to the variety of grape, and winemaking techniques applied. The ellagitannins are part of the larger classification of polyphenols (of which much noise has been generated recently) that also include the color compounds (proanthocyanidins & prodelphinidins) which give red wine its red color. Add to this the fact that there are also ellagitannins extracted from the oak wood used in barrels, which is a known factor in the final amounts available, as well as the color stabilization of the wine.

So which wine should have the highest concentrations of these compounds? Certainly an inky tannic Cab, or maybe an opaque thick Syrah, but certainly something with a lot of color intensity to it right? Wrong.

Pinot Noir has the highest levels, which are somewhere around 2x the levels found in Cab or Merlot. But that can’t be right – Pinot doesn’t have the intense color these other varietals have…what’s going on?

Well Pinot may not have as much color, but the ellagitannins are utilized in the fruit to form some of those very same color compounds by reacting with the proanthocyanidins & prodelphinidins to make even larger compounds. Maybe the reason is because Pinot doesn’t develop as much color, so that it then has more ellagitannins available to start with, which carries over to the finished wine. Pinot is also different in that the sources of ellagitannins in most varietals are from both the skins and the seeds, whereas in Pinot there’s very little contribution from the skins, and the vast majority is from the seeds.

The winemaking inputs which are most important to this equation are (a) fermentation temperature (higher temps extract more ellagitannins – which may be lowered by the practice of “cold soaking” the must in a refrigerated tank to extract water soluble aromas before the start of alcoholic fermentation), (b) the practice some winemakers have of trying to “burp out” the seeds from the bottom valves of red fermentation tanks to reduce the seed tannins in the finished wine (this would reduce the contact with the seeds and thereby reduce the levels of ellagitannins), and (c) the reduction of skin contact time when fermenting as the market moves away from practices such as extended maceration – or in big harvests when fermentation tanks need to be emptied and used on a faster rotation than they would during a relatively slow or lighter harvest.
Another possible lessening of the amounts available might be in the drive towards “super-ripeness”, which I’m not sure if that would have any effect or not on the availability, though I’m going to speculate that it might reduce it slightly.

Now most of this hinges on the data produced in the cocoa study, and some may dismiss the findings of the study because Mars has an obvious financial gain from positive news regarding cocoa (if it increases their sales).

But I believe it…partly because I want to justify my occasional chocolate bar or tollhouse cookie, but also because I feel better after I eat some chocolate (I know, I know…hardly anything scientific in that – especially with it masked by the sugar that’s usually involved, which is undoubtedly part of that rush).

In light of all this info, and a positive correlation to ellagitannins and the health benefits, I think this is the question that begs to be asked with respect to ellagitannins: “Is oak aged Pinot Noir the healthiest wine ?”

[‘Direct evidence’ that cocoa benefits heart health]
[Anticancer compounds in wine]
[Anti-tumor compounds from oak-ageing wine]

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wine Blogging for fun

So, Tom over at Fermentation and other bloggers are having a dialog because they're concerned about being ripped off by websites which publish their posts verbatim without giving them credit.

I’ve gotta say that I feel a little ambivalent about the issue, and as long as the publishing website provides a link back, doesn’t claim the material as their own or twist it out of it’s original form, then I’m happy to apply the “no harm, no foul” principle…but they should have a link back to the original posting site.

Public domain? I mean that’s one of the reasons we bloggers blog in the first place, right? Because we feel the need to get our views out in the public domain (either to stimulate conversation, or in some cases just rant), and if we further publish those thoughts thru RSS feeds and the like, then the only right we really keep in our pocket is to complain about plagiarism…
"Collection" or index sites which provide links back are exactly what bloggers are looking for - yet another avenue for readers to find them.

Here's an intersting case in point, although it's NOT an entirely internet based one: Jennifer Rosen’s book Waiter, there’s a Horse in my wine
Sounds pretty close to the title of my post of August 3rd, 2004 Waiter! There’s a horse in my glass… (published under my HJ moniker), in which I give a short discourse on my view of the evils of Brett. (BTW, Rosen’s book was published in June 2005…and covers multiple subjects, not just Brett)

Is it one of my all time favorite phrases I’ve coined?
Did I have fun with my post?
Did my post generate some discussion and possibly educate someone? Yup…quite a bit of traffic also...
Did her title come from my post?
I dunno...maybe...
Am I pissed off about this if it did?
No…though I would be if I found Jennifer had lifted my article or pulled most of it’s substance out and then claimed it as her own - without ever asking my permission. But if that isn't the case, actually in a way I'd be kind of flattered.

Now I haven’t read Rosen’s book yet (it’s on my list, especially because her mission is “…to snuff out wine snobbery and make understanding vino easy, even for the neophyte imbiber”) and I’d more than likely be sending a certified letter to her publisher if it was plagiaristic at some point - if indeed that were the case - because she’s obviously using the book to generate some income. I'd probably ask for credit if credit were due for any material that was mine. (And "Yes", Rosen does read wine blogs...)

Otherwise, that phrase did exactly what I wanted it do to – act as a hook to get people into a conversation about wine faults – specifically Brett related faults.
I put it out there for public shall I then be offended if that's what actually has happened to it?

/St. "Turn the other cheek" Vini

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

More Cheap Aussie Wine...

Despite my defense of California's domestic market share, there is mounting evidence that Australian wines will continue to drop in price in 2006 as their supply glut continues. As [yellow tail] drops to $3.99 and Hills of Gold Shiraz hits $9.99, Australia will inevitably pick up some volume for a short period, but at what cost? Are they doomed to stay on the lower shelves of supermarkets next to Foxhorn and Forestville? Can they recover from this in a year or two as California is starting to do?

My sense is that they will, but that it will come at a cost and that cost will be their reputation. Once, I could find a multitude of small Aussie products on the shelves, now they seem dominated by Southcorp/Beringer's ever-growing portfolio of under $10 wines (Lindeman's, Rosemount, Wynn's, Penfold's, etc). This is a shame, as Australia makes some fine wines at $12 and up, they just seem harder to find.

As for California's market share, it will recover. Imports have been as high as 28% of cases sold (1985 & 2004) and as low as 15% (1995). Its all part of the ebb and flow of the growing wine market....

Thursday, January 12, 2006

California Losing? Bah....

Wine writers need stuff to write about just like all journalists, but c'mon Jerry - you can do better than this. As I mentioned in a post below, I'm highly suspicious of of wine consumer surveys and I'm doubly dubious of this one because it comes from the Wine Market Council, an entity I've been highly critical of in the past for doing little to spur consumption in the US.

Regarding the article:

First, California is not slowly losing market share to imports. In 2004 Gomberg-Fredrikson (purveys of wine statistical gospel) reported that California's domestic shipments rose by 4.4 million cases while imports rose by just 2.7 million. G-F hasn't published its 2005 data yet, but even if it does show a decline, one year does not a trend make.

Next, if you actually read the results at the bottom you see that some of them are pretty close between the geographic categories. I don't know what the sampling margin of error was nor the statistical significance of the results, but they don't look very conclusive to me.

Third, if you take [yellow tail] out of the mix, then by any standard, Australia is not increasing shipments and California is not losing ground. If you do include [yt] then Australia is gaining in volume, but losing severely in price per unit - slitting its own throat but slowly, like with a butterknife.

Last, the fact that more European wines are consumed on the East Coast and that they are cheaper there should be filed under 'D' for "duh". French wines are cheaper in New York than they are in California because they are closer which means lower freight costs. Plus, Easterners have always consumed a larger portion of EU wine, this has been a known, accepted fact for decades.

It is interesting to note the dissatisfaction with wine by the glass pricing as that has become up to 50% of some restaurants pours (the balance being full-bottle purchases) and shows a strong upward trend, even at high-end restaurants. More people are drinking BTG and restaurants do need to reflect this with lower pricing and broader selection.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Something's fishy here

And it's Msr. Nicolas Joly!

(From Neil Pendock, writing on South Africa's Wine.Co.Za)
That Buddha of biodynamism, Nicolas Joly, was the most controversial personality to open the Nederburg Auction since the Minister of Police and Prisons, Jimmy Kruger, did the honours back in 1979. The penny dropped for me during Joly's workshop on the eve of the auction, when he related how his friend, an Austrian vet, cured a cow by forcing it to eat a live trout. In the biodynamic world, a cow is an inward process and hence linked to water and we all know what fish do in water. It was pure Salvador Dalí with Joly brandishing an electric field detector in theatrical fashion (it looked like a transistor radio with a shiny aerial) whereas Dalí relied on his waxed moustache tips to pick up electrical emanations from the higher spheres.

To criticize Joly for the arcanae of his craft - burying cow horns filled with manure and hanging a stag's bladder stuffed with yarrow in a tree - besides being boring, is to miss the point when his aim is to highlight the contradictions in our thoroughly modern world of technologically driven wine. ...

Too bad it's never related what the cow was suffering from, but regardless - I can't see anyone trying to feed a live trout to a cow! That would've been great video...worthy of the Three Stooges...I wonder if it's on the internet somewhere...

As for Joly's real mission being to raise awareness of "technologically driven" wines, I guess he accomplishes that rather well. What he seems to be incapable of is producing a convincing argument as to why those particular wine techniques are "bad" to start with...

If you like the taste of it, drink it. If not, don't.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Results of New Wine Consumer Survey

An interesting survey of 2,500 regular and occasional U.S. wine drinkers was released by the Wine Institute last week. The survey, performed by The Yankelovich Cos., revealed some interested data.

(Caveat: I tend to distrust all wine consumer research as wine consumers are notorious for overstating their preferred price-point as well as their own knowledge base - the "wanna-be wine snob phenomenon")

American wine drinkers are more likely than the rest of the US population to:

  • Be open to new experiences
  • Follow their own path in life
  • Be information-savvy and confident consumers
  • Desire intangibles, experiences and emotions
  • Have their life priorities in order
  • Eschew brands as badges

California wines also came across as best positioned to take advantage of these trends as they rank first in familiarity, consumption and positive impressions - as compared to other wine-producing regions.

Its also interesting to note the rankings of what attributes are important to U.S. wine consumers:
Color and Varietal 69%
Consistent taste bottle to bottle 64%
Value 62%
Familiarity/Comfort with 56%
Food pairing 54%
Good for everyday 48%
Special treat 43%
Personal recommendation 39%
Name/label 37%
Country/region 36%
Reputation 32%

Stunningly, the appellation/origin of the wine is only important to 36% of buyers, but varietal is important to 69%. You have to ask why, then, are most stores laid out by region, not by varietal? Let's put the Chilean Chardonnay next to the White Burgundy, no?

In another chart, Yankelovich showed that California was the only region to have both high familiarity and high frequency of purchase with these consumers. Italy and France showed the highest Frequency of other non-California regions, but not the familiarity of California (probably due to the difficulty of understanding their appellation and labelling systems). Following France and Italy were mostly "new world" regions - Australia, Spain, New York, Washington, Oregon, Chile, New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa, in that order.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I live for quotes like this

John Reganold, a professor of soil science at Washington State University, has studied biodynamics for nearly 15 years. His research suggests that the special preparations do indeed have a positive effect on compost. However, he says, “the jury is still out” on how effective they ultimately are, or whether there truly is much difference between the health of biodynamic farms and typical organic farms.

“We just finished a study that looked at a number of soil properties over six years, and there were no significant differences between biodynamic and organic practices,” says Reganold. However, he adds, “Biodynamic farms may be the most holistic farms that I’ve seen.”

As I continue my quest to understand exactly what BioD is (and how it could ever possibly contribute to improved wine quality) I become more and more convinced that the real benefit of BioD is in the increased attention the farmers pay to their farms.

And here, we see John Reganold, who has been a proponent of BioD for the last decade-and-a-half, essentially state that there is no difference even after 6 years between the two types of farming. This is perhaps one of the reasons the BioD supporters disdain traditional science experiments with BioD...their beliefs are continually disproven with quantitative analysis.


Onto another article in the news: Grgich Hills went BioD, which is in fact "old"news...
This is yet another troubling piece - in that many false conclusions are presented to the reader as fact (most are quotes directly from the Grgich's)...

By using biodynamics, he hopes to achieve healthier plants and improve the terroir. "How can you talk about terroir if the soil is dead," he said.
This just presupposes that conventionally farmed soils are "dead". No proof to support that claim is given. It would be better if he had just stated he was trying to improve the soil quality...

"It (biodynamics) will give the vineyard longevity," Jeramaz said. "Here (in Napa Valley) we're lucky if we get 40 to 50 years in a vineyard. I've seen 10- and 15-year-old vineyards being pulled. Because of bad farming, they weakened the plant. I'm convinced that (our) vineyards will be producing to the age of 80." He pointed out that a vine in Grgich Hills' Calistoga vineyard is 110 years old.
This is just speculative, there are many reasons vines are torn out...not just "worn out" soil or bad farming techniques. They've only been BioD for 3 years now...And wait!...what's that they're bringing forth as proof - a 110 year old vine? my calculations that vine seems to have THRIVED and SURVIVED for 107 YEARS on conventional agricultural techniques...hardly a point I'd be making to espouse the benefits of their "newly" adopted system.

"It's common sense agriculture," he said. "It's not cutting-edge technology. It's just going back to what three or four generations (before) did. We depend so much on machines that we forgot about nature."
Oh, that's just great. The wisdom of the past speaks yet again...
It was good enough for Great-grandad, so it must be good enough for me.
Why stop there? Why not go back to horse-drawn wagons for transporting your product Mr Grigich? While you're at it, try offering your workers a healthcare package commensurate with the technology available four generations ago, and pay scale to boot...since it was obviously "good enough" for the good folks four generations ago.

Jeramaz said the moon also has a huge influence over plants. "The full moon brings fertility and water," he said. "The earth can be more effective if it's in rhythm."
Yeah, I've heard this one before...too many times to count.
First - the Sun brings fertility, not the moon, you dipwads!
Second - the "earth" has never been "out" of rhythm...what a waste.
(See this link of the Skeptic's Dictionary)

The Grgich Hills brochure points to the effect the moon has on the oceans' tides and on people - "the word 'lunatic' derives from 'luna' (moon) because of the moon's effect on human behavior" - and also mentions circadian rhythms, a human's biological clock that is attuned to the earth's rotation.
The link between "lunatism" and and any effects on human behaviour due to influence from the Moon have been disproven for years. Sad to see that brought up by them as well - though not unexpected considering their other stated beliefs.

Here's a real reason they're going through all this:
Jeramaz said that next year the winery will probably place a reference to the wine being made from biodynamically-farmed grapes on the back labels....
What's the reaction from consumers and the trade? "It's mostly positive," Jeramaz said. "Most people are conscientious about the quality of produce," but they tend to equate biodynamics with organic.
Interesting. I wonder if they'd still be going in this direction if consumers thought it was all bunk? Probably not, and I bet they're banking on higher sales and increased prices per bottle once they get their certification and can put "biodynamically grown" on the label.

The is yet another assault on science and modern agriculture, and it continues with each of the articles like this that come out.

And it's sad that such an important topic as soil health and farming practices will be reduced to merely an argument from authority as the Grgich's are quite famous, and what they say must must make sense - or so the implied argument follows...

Good night, and good luck...

Labels: ,

Friday, January 06, 2006

After the Flood

Hard to believe I took a picture of a cormorant swimming through the grapevines right here just 3 days earlier (see below for that pic)...

Thankfully we can start drying out again.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Where'd she get that?

The following excerpts came from an article which appeared at the beginning of last month, and was one of the gazillion-and-counting pre-holiday wine and drinks specialty columns written to ‘help’ consumers with the task of selecting holiday wines. The writer was Lucy Siegle of the Observer Magazine in the UK.

And there are some serious flaws with it.

I’m concerned first with the comment made that “…it's no secret the average glass comprises several splashes of oil (if you factor in production and transportation) and even optical brighteners…”.
To a casual reader this may come across as the wine actually contains oil, which it certainly shouldn’t. As to “optical brightners” – I can only assume she is referring to fining – and those compounds get filtered or racked away from the wine, so aren’t really present in the final product. There is petroleum used for the production machinery and farming equipment of all things in the modern food supply, and if that’s the only yardstick used to measure a particular wines worthiness…well, read on…there’s more.

She continues with “Then there's viticulture's massive pesticide habit: a recent Friends of the Earth study found residues of two pesticides in white wine which are known human disrupters.”
What are these human disrupters? Are they similar to Romulan disrupters? Kilngon disrupters, perhaps?
All joking aside, any specific information is lacking, and leaves the reader wondering what the severity and nature of these residues are, which wines they were found in – certainly not all white wines have these residues, right? - as well as what level they are found at and if it’s significant. But that information isn’t there, and the reader is locked onto her personal emotional rollercoaster…

Next is “Move the focus away from the personal health effects, and you're left contemplating the impact on the environment. Industrialised production - a recent Ethical Consumer investigation ( discovered that the world's viticulture industry is now in the hands of 10 major corporations - has resulted in the increased use of pesticides and global transportation.”
Hmmm. I guess I wasn’t too far off the mark with my previous point: She’s insinuated negative health effects from the residues found, extrapolated those findings to accuse all wines and wineries, and then slapped the entire industry with her conclusion that “industrialsed production” = negative environmental impact.
No question or debate arises, and no support for that conclusion follows (other than the false impression left from her reference to the Ethical Consumer article – and NO, the world’s viticulture is NOT controlled by just 10 companies). Incidentally, the link to Ethical Consumer isn’t really all that informative…it’s their homepage, where (conveniently) you can purchase their report on perfumes and wines.

"The real grapes of wrath, however, lurk in the industry's appalling record on social justice. Again, there's the prolific use of pesticides (200,000 people die as a result of pesticide poisoning every year); add to that the fact that cellar workers often suffer from respiratory illnesses. As well as this is the industry's inglorious tradition of paternalistic vineyard owners, racism and exploitation." This is news to me…are there really 200,000 deaths in the wine industry due to pesticide exposure every year? Or is she using the yearly worldwide death toll from pesticide exposure in all industries? The context there is damning, and I’m also not aware of any higher incidence of respiratory problems within the wine industry’s cellar workers then the normal population.
She continues with some quick snippets against wineries which haven’t made the list of her favorite ‘fairtrade’ and ‘organic’ watchdog groups, or that may ship wine around the world.

Finally, she concludes with “Before we raise a toast to sustainable Christmas wine, there's one last point to make. Last year Oddbins changed 40 per cent of its bottles to plastic screwtops, part of the drive that has left Europe's indigenous cork oak forest under threat. So reverse this trend, in a final act of ethical drinking, and remember to put a cork in it.”
Oh, right…like screwcaps and alternative closures are the real reason cork is on the decline. Has this hack never heard of TCA? And those screwcaps are probably tin or aluminum, not plastic as she states (except the liners of said closures) which is yet another way she throws a slant on the conversation.

This article suffers from one of the classic failures of environmentalist writing (and I say that while I count myself ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘eco-concerned’) – it plays to emotion with no real logical support. All the while it argues from passion, but it does not convince, and it remains easy to dissect and deconstruct because no evidence is brought forth to defend the position taken. Eventually the reader who is actively reading (thinking) is left with the impression the writer is just another crackpot activist…and that’s a disservice to the environmental movement on the whole.

It’s also one of the reasons the recent anti-GMO ordinance in Sonoma County failed: emotion was the only argument presented in its favor (not that it should’ve passed –it was reactionary and fatally flawed).

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Waist-high to a grapevine

This was at a higher point, but it was still raining pretty hard when I took it, and the water was rising as I drove back...

The irrigation controls in the lower right foreground are pretty ironic right now...

This next shot is further down the road toward the Russian River, and was actually after the river had crested and started to recede. Still raining and gray, but interesting to see the variation in vineyard elevation (evidenced by the mid-ground vines bieng slightly lower - even submerged!).

(photos taken 1/1/06, waters have receded since then...)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

No Glassy-Winged sharpshooters...

...but should I spray for Cormorants?!
(click pic to enlarge)
Yeah, it's not something that's on the usual Wine Country tour, and I don't think they'll be hanging around too long after the waters recede. Note the debris which has gotten caught up on the top of the trellis system - the water was almost another 3' higher before I got myself out of bed New Year's morning.
I know several people who are stranded back in Monte Rio and Guerneville, and several more families from both Napa and Sonoma Counties who had their homes flooded.
Thankfully, I haven't heard of any serious injuries or fatalities - even to those in homes which had trees fall on them - quite lucky for all involved.
I'd brought up the issue of flooding on the Russian River back in June on a post about real estate in the Russian River appellation. As I said then about seeing a sign that you're in the Russian River AVA...
(click pic to enlarge)
Yup. New Year's highwater is here yet again.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Floods ~ Happy New Year!

This is the way to start 2006: wishing hard for blue skies...

Some pics of the flooding in Sonoma County...