Monday, May 2, 2016

Biodynamic Bordeaux Wine Family Buys Robin Williams' Napa Estate; Biodynamic Community in Napa Now 100% French

Many people know that Robin Williams' Napa estate recently sold, but few know who bought it: the Tesseron family, who own Chateau Pontet-Canet, the only Biodynamic estate in Bordeaux's prestigious Medoc Cru Classe. The price: $18 million (down from an initial asking price of $35 million).

The Mount Veeder estate is located high above Napa Valley in the Mayacamas. Musician Boz Scaggs, who has a small wine label, is the nearest neighbor.

The vineyard comprises 18 acres.
The Tesserons evaluated the potential for making great Cabernet from the estate with their technical director, Jean-Michel Comme, and decided it had the terroir they could work with. According to Bloomberg, they plan to bring Biodynamic practices to their Napa estate. (Learn more about their Biodynamic farming in Bordeaux in a Wall Street Journal article here.)

It's worth mentioning that French (or French influenced families) are responsible now for all of  Napa's Biodynamic estates, a list that includes:

• Adamvs (owned by the Adams family [Americans], who also own the organic Chateau Fonplegade estate in St. Emilion)

• Araujo (owned by the Pinault family, who also own organic estates throughout France, including Chateau Latour)

• Raymond (owned by the Boisset family, who own an organic estate in Burgundy)

Another Napa winery, Ehler's Estate, owned by a French foundation, was formerly Demeter certified Biodynamic.

Cute Picture of the Week: Bunny at Martian Ranch & Vineyard

Monday, April 25, 2016

Bordeaux Town Moves to Restrict Vineyard Pesticide Spraying to Protect Sites Where Local Children Live and Play

Parents protesting in Feb. in the Gironde
Vineyard owners in the Gironde district of Bordeaux face new restrictions on pesticide spraying, due to local protestors' concerns about children's health risks in the region.

While the prefecture voted in 2014 to protect schools from spraying at certain times, this week the region voted to expand the list of protected sites to include other places were children play or live, including day care, nurseries, playgrounds and health facilities, according to La France Agricole and the French TV as well as other French news sources.

Gironde growers will be encouraged to install protective vegetation, such as hedges, and employ anti-drift measures, during spraying. The government-recommended steps include maintaining a distance of 50 meter from sites, unless using specialized spray equipment, in which case the distance can be reduced to 20 or 5 meters from the site).

The government took these steps after public hearings were held, which were attended by parents and local growers and winemakers.

In the past year, the region has become a lightning rod for anti-pesticide activists who have become alarmed over children's health risks from vineyard pesticides, which was sparked in part by a 2014 incident at the school in Villeneuve-de-Blaye when vineyards sprayed fungicides during a windy day, sending 23 children to the hospital. One of those spraying was the town's mayor.

The local families' rising concern and fight to protect their children was documented in the French TV expose on pesticides that aired in February across France.

(I posted about the show in Feb.)

Quoted in Rue 89 Bordeaux, the pesticide activists say the new measures fail to address the dangers of pesticide sprays, saying that a hedge cannot protect against the chemicals sprayed in vineyards.

A vineyard worker is quoted as saying, "The Prefect does not takes its responsibilities seriously...making dialogue impossible."

The story hasn't made the wine press yet, but was featured in The Times of London (subscription required).

Gironde is the largest wine region in France.

The response from Bordeaux's leading wine association CIVB was swift, with CIVB leadership saying it the industry has a duty to be exemplary, and must sharply cut back on or even eliminate the use of pesticides. Speaking on behalf of CIVB, Bernard Farges said the goal will not be met in the short term, but that growers should begin by being careful in areas near residences.

Though the Gironde vineyards comprise only 3 percent of agricultural land in France, they use 20 percent of the pesticides applied in the country.

This local TV news report presents many of the residents and growers involved in the conflict.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ancient Wine Seminar: The Morning Session Videos

Dr. Patrick McGovern's keynote address is now available online, thanks to the generosity of Darrell Corti.

Enjoy this introduction to ancient wine from one of the world's leading experts on the topic. (And be sure to check out his book Ancient Wine, as well).


After you're finished with the keynote, continue your Ancient Wine experience with the next video - on Georgian wines, via a Skype interview with Georgian wine expert and MW Lisa Granik speaking
from Tbilisi.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ancient Wine Seminar, A Blast from the Past, Part 1: Wines from the Earliest Known Winemaking Regions in the Caucasus (Georgia and Armenia)

Has there ever been such an exciting day in the history of wine classes?

For those of who love ancient history AND wine, there probably has never been a more thrilling assemblage of learned speakers and wines from ancient wine regions than the class and grand tasting The Origins of Wine Civilization. This one day event took place March 13 at the San Francisco Wine School in South San Francisco. (You can read the schedule of the day's event here.)

David Furer, right, who organized the event (with David
Glancy. left, of the SF Wine School)
Thanks to David Furer for putting the event together, a process which is said to have taken place over a period of 15 years. (The last ancient wine gathering of note took place in 1991 under the auspices of the Mondavi winery. Perhaps things move slowly in the world of ancient wine.)

Not one, but two Dr. Patricks (Patrick McGovern, the distinguished wine archaeologist from UPenn and author of the essential book Ancient Wine, the classic in the field, published in 2003, and Patrick Hunt, an archaelogist who has taught at Stanford) attended, each giving an engaging keynote address, with Dr. McGovern kicking the event off in the morning and Dr. Hunt leading the afternoon's proceedings.

As fate would have it, I took a seat in the front row (the better to take pictures and record audio) only to find a few minutes later that Dr. McGovern had the adjoining seat. It was good fortune to be able to ask him a few questions over the course of the day.

Dr. Patrick McGovern, the leading U.S. academic in the field of ancient wine;
his lab is the most advanced in terms of analyzing the chemistry of wine
residues found in ancient clay containers
Morning Keynote

Dr. McGovern introduced the morning session's coverage of the most ancient wine sites in the Caucasus, including Georgia and Armenia.

McGovern giving his keynote; the event was sold out
Armenia is home to Areni, the cave that, so far, appears to be the earliest known wine making site. It was only "discovered" in 2007 and announced in 2011. (Sadly the cave is not open to the public). Several new wineries have opened in the Areni area, leveraging its historical notoriety for hoped for commercial winemaking success as well as homage to wine history and Armenian pride. (It should be noted that none of the current Areni wineries can be said to be growing the indigenous varieties that were made in the Areni cave as these varietals have not yet been identified).

The site of the Areni cave, which dates back to 4000 BC, making it the earliest known winemaking site
Also in the Caucasus is Georgia which, as many know, is still the living repository of what many consider to be ancient varieties and wine culture, celebrating a love of the vine that is enshrined in daily life and rituals.

McGovern's talk ranged from the earliest known sites to later developments in Egypt, Turkey, Italy and beyond. (If you feel desolée because you missed the seminar, much of what he said can be viewed in an earlier presentation he gave which is on YouTube here.)

To read the first chapter of McGovern's book, which covers the earliest known period of winemaking, click here. He recapped his first major finding, which was determining that wine was definitely present in jars found at Godin Tepe, a site in Iran, in 1991, by identifying the presence of tartaric acid. This discovery was explored at the 1991 Mondavi seminar when McGovern and his colleague brought the jar to Napa.

Other important ancient sites include Tel Kabri in Galilee

Most ancient wines were blended with herbs and resins, to preserve them. They also served as a way to deliver medicinal herbs. Wines were also blended with other fermented beverages including mead and ale as well as honey.

By 3150 BC wine growing and winemaking had migrated south, as those south of Lebanon and the Egyptians mastered the art of growing vines with irrigation.

Here are a few slides from McGovern's lecture:

One of the most interesting slides from McGovern's talk, which provides
some surprising correlations; it shows that most cultivated European wine grape varieties
came from sources in the Caucasus, Zakros and Taurus mountains
Caucasus Panel and Tasting

L to Right, Alberto Antonini, winemaker at Zorah (one of the Areni area wineries);
Lisa Granik, MW, Georgia; Zorik Garibian, Armenian native and Zorah's founder and proprietor
Following McGovern's lecture, a tasting panel with winemakers from the Caucausus region featured wines from Georgia and Armenia along with Skype appearances by Lisa Granik, MW, widely considered to be the most well informed authority on Georgian wines (she works for the U.S. AID-sponsored Georgian Wine Association) and Zorik Gharibian, an Armenian native and Milanese resident, who started Zorah, and Zorah winemaker Alberto Antonini.

Jeff Berlin, standing, center, of A Cote, explaining how to get diners to
taste wines beyond their comfort range
The panelists who attended live included Jeff Berlin, manager and wine director of A Cote in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood (a spot which I frequent), known for his flights of comparatively obscure wines (like those of Georgia) along with Paul Hobbs, a Sonoma winemaker who also works for Yacoubian-Hobbs, an Areni area winery, and Pasadena resident Robert Michero, the wine importer for another Areni area winery, Trinity Canyon Vineyards.

"Wine is a sacrament," said Jeff Berlin, "a part of everyday life, a part of celebrating life, and it was treated with much more reverence then than it is today."

Berlin got a big laugh from the audience as he explained how he got A Cote diners to taste wines from Georgia and other lesser known regions. "I just remove all their other choices from the menu," he said.

Lisa Granik, MW, who works for the Georgian Wine Association, described the two main wine regions in Georgia on the east and west sides of the Caucasus Mountains. "There are 525 indigenous varieties in Georgia," she said, of which 46 are in commercial production. Georgia's indigneous wine grape varieties are in a Renaissance phase, following the collapse of the USSR. Many, if not most, are made in the traditional kevri, which are large clay pots buried in the ground.

Blue Danube imports Shumi Tsianandali, a Georgian wine, which
is 85 percent Rkatsitelli; it retails for $12-13 a bottle; it was
one of the four wines in the Caucasus panel tasting
In neighboring Armenia, a landlocked country between the Caspian and the Black Sea, the Soviet Union converted all of the wineries into brandy making facilities until recently. Sweet wines were mandatory. The discovery of the Areni cave was a turning point for the country's winemaking, catalyzing the recent trickle of western funds and producers - including Zorah, Yacoubian-Hobbs, and Trinity Canyon - who are interested in producing dry red wines.

Zorik, who made it as a Milanese clothing manufacturer, said he had originally intended to start a winery in Tuscany, but after the discovery of the Areni cave, returned to visit his native Armenia and decided to start his winery there, with Antonini as his winemaker. Zorah's wines sell for roughly $35+ in the U.S. and are made from indigenous varietals, including Areni Noir, from the Areni area. Well crafted, they have won praise from the likes of Jancis Robinson and won a Decanter wine award in 2012. It is going after the high end of the market.

Zorah's Karasi wine made from the Areni Noir grape, which we
enjoyed over lunch

At Zorah, the vines are on their own roots, according to Antonini, in "a dreamland of limestone soils." There are no synthetics being used, he said. Fermentation of Zorah's wines takes place partly in amphoras and partly in concrete. The aging takes place in amphora and old casks.

Paul Hobbs from Sonoma, winemaker at Yacoubian-Hobbs, with Robert
Michero of Trinity Canyon Vineyards; both wineries are in the Areni region
Hobbs described his approach to planting a vineyard in the Areni region, using very dense plantings of 5-6,000 vines per acre.

He describes as the typical Armenian approach which he said is "Laissez-faire trellis and canopy management and no use of herbicides."

Hobbs and Yacoubian have planted 18 hectares, using concrete piers as posts. "We are taking two paths," he said. "Local cultivars as well as others from California, France and Argentina, to see what performs best."

"It's high elevation, with cold winters - colder than the Finger Lakes of New York," he said, "and the growing season is short, with bud break in April and picking by mid October."

Both Antonini and Hobbs are flying winemakers, who service a number of wineries.

By contrast, says importer Michero, Trinity Canyon, the third Areni area winery featured, uses a winemaker who lives locally and trained in Montpelier and Germany.

The Trinity Canyon 6100 (left), which I thought was superb, was on our lunch table,
along with the Georgian Shavnabadi and Armenian Zorah selections
An articulate and engaging raconteur, Michero, a California native of Armenian heritage, described Armenian winemaking as "pre U.C. Davis." Trinity Canyon has just 4.5 hectares in vine; three more hectares are coming soon, he said.

Half of the Trinity Canyon vines are head pruned, in the traditional way; half are double cordoned. The acidity of the wines is in the 12-13% range. The price for the outstanding 6100 red wine is $12-13 a bottle in the U.S. 

All three Armenian wineries talked about the difficulty of transporting equipment and other essentials to and from the Areni sites.

If you'd like to see some scenes of the Areni cave, check out this video from Trinity Canyons.

The Morning Wine Sessions

Overall, the morning's wines were outstanding and many were real bargains I am tempted to buy cases of.

It was interesting to see what we want to know about ancient wine and what it means to us now. We want to know who drank wine then (everyone or just kings?). We want to know what it tasted like. We want to know what grapes were grown. We want to know what wine meant in the society.

In approaching the winemaking today in these regions, it appears as if the very few Armenian wineries near Areni are trying to reinvent something that Georgia never lost.  The Soviet era dampened wine traditions in both countries. But Georgia's seems to have bounced back - or lost less of its continuity. While in Areni, modern winemakers are struggling to make something of their "new found" heritage, a heritage that could be eclipsed with a future discovery of an even older winemaking cave in another country. The Great Search is on for that cave and all of the countries in ancient winemaking regions is hopeful they will be the next winner.

For winemakers, there are lots of choices - dry farmed, head pruned? We also know that in some regions, wine grapes were grown up olive trees, for instance (to get two crops from the same area) so how was wine grown in 4000 BC?

At Areni, winemakers are grappling with these questions. To age in kevri or not? To grow on cordons? To irrigate? To prune?

Most of the Armenian producers exemplify these challenges, often choosing to experiment in this phase. But all are hopeful the region will attract more attention.

I was not able to determine which wine were grown organically, as there is very little certification in Georgia and I am not sure if there is any at all in Armenia. However, the use of pesticides in vineyards in these regions in general in no way approaches their use in more developed areas like France, Italy, Spain and California, so it's a pretty safe bet that many of these are grown organically. (I would wonder if Hobbs is an exception, given that his farming practices in Sonoma County, but I didn't ask.)

Trinity Canyon uses the word "organic" on its web site; it is unlikely that there is any certification involved.

Clearly these wine regions are producing some very novel and intriguing wines and expanding wine lovers' palates in entirely new ways, since so many of the indigenous grapes found here are foreign to us. And most are affordably priced, presenting a far more adventurous alternative to comparatively priced $12-14 bottles from American producers. I say take the plunge and discover new flavors. Get out of the box. There are some great wines here.

Stay Tuned for Turkey and the Middle East in Part 2

In the interests of making blog posts that are managemable in size, I'll make a separate post about the afternoon's speakers and wines in Part 2.

In the meantime, you can enjoy watching the first hour of the symposium, thanks to Darrell Corti, who had it videotaped and posted on YouTube. Organizers said he would be posting the entire day's proceedings online on YouTube, so stay tuned for updates or subscribe to his video channel. (Click on the YouTube icon below and go to the site to do that.)

I don't know why it is so heavily emblazoned with David Glancy's title, but...oh well.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Great Arsenic Skirmishes - And A Tale of Two Industries (Beer Versus Wine Industry's Attitudes Toward Ingredients Labeling)

If you are the type of person who reads the labels on food, you may find the lack of information on a bottle of wine a little weird.

Wineries aren't required to state the ingredients on their bottles - but they are required to include a blanket statement on the label that warns that drinking this wine may cause cancer or, if pregnant, birth defects.

While such a label may seem like one of the last of America's strange artifacts of Prohibition, it masks the larger issue of what, besides alcohol, is actually in wine.

Such is the clout of the wine industry. The industry breathed a sigh of relief when it essentially won a victory (which may be only a temporary victory; time will tell) in what I am calling the Great Arsenic Skirmishes, the lawsuit filed by plaintiffs who claim that wineries that produced wines containing arsenic in wine at levels higher than those allowed in drinking water should be required to communicate those health risks to consumers on the bottle label.

(You may remember this story, which first broke in the mainstream media in 2015, caused a hue and cry at the time. Out of 1,306 wines tested for arsenic, 83 exceeded drinking water levels.)

Last week a judge in Los Angeles Superior Court found that the wines exceeding the arsenic limits of drinking water did not need further labeling, since the blanket statement that wine may cause cancer or birth defects gave some indications of risk.

The court did not rule on the issue that arsenic risks are not connected to cancer, or only to pregnant women. In essence, the ruling suggests that since there is some hazard to drinking wine, wineries are not required to label all the risks.

The plaintiffs' attorneys said the ruling will be appealed. Denver attorney Michael Burg said, "We plan to continue fighting to protect consumers and ensure that they get accurate information about the wine they're consuming.

The Denver based company Beverage Grades provided the initial testing identifying the arsenic in wines. Although Beverage Grades is not a party in the lawsuit, it is widely believed to have initiated the movement towards the proceedings.

Beverage Grades now offers consumers a database showing wines that tested the lowest in heavy metal residues in wines which is available online here. Many suspect that the testing facility initiated the law suit to drum up its testing business.

(Read more details about the latest legal ruling at Wines and Vines.)

While the arsenic lawsuit broaches the subject of warnings, it is not an effort to build a movement among consumers who would like to see wine labels provide a full list of ingredients.

Even the august British magazine Decanter has raised the issue, with veteran wine writer Andrew Jeffords calling on the wine industry to label ingredients in a 2014 column you can read here.


In contrast to the wine industry's amazing powers of aversion to ingredients labeling, the largest brewers in Europe and U.S. craft brewers are taking quite a different approach to labeling.

Heineken and Carlsberg announced last year that they will join the movement among brewers to put nutritional labeling on beer. Read more at Beverage Daily.

And in the U.S., the FDA is requiring nutritional information on certain types of beers (including wheat beer), craft beer, and beer served on tap.

Quoted on the ABC Denver affiliate Channel 7, brewer Mike Lawinski of Fate Brewing Company said, "Craft brewers would love ingredients to be listed...because that's what really separates us as 'craft'' and a lot of the bigger breweries are using GMO ingredients and high fructose ingredients."

The whole GMO-in-my-beer issue has raised a lot of public interest.

In a parallel universe, when will the fine wine industry in California wake up and see that people want to know what's in their wine? Not just the arsenic in 83 wines, but the whole enchilada?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

IN PHOTOS Bokisch Vineyards' Grand Opening Celebration: Winery's Tasting Room Comes Home To Its Terra Alta Vines

Lodi's Atkins Road, home to Bokisch Vineyards, is the kind of place that puts the "country" back in "Wine Country." My GPS kept me going, from one country road to the next, as I drove on Saturday, absorbing the smells and the sights of one very green spring.

I passed industrial orchards of almond trees on the flatlands around Lodi, as well as the Diamond nut plant, but the closer I got to Atkins Road, the more the land rolled, becoming a sea of gentle hills dotted with oaks. 

As I turned onto Atkins Road, the orchards were gone, replaced by grazing cattle.

I was here to see a major milestone for fans of organically grown wine as Bokisch winery owners Markus and Liz Bokisch celebrated the opening of their tasting room at their Terra Alta vineyard and Bokisch Vineyards winery site.

It was the culmination of a vision that started 21 years ago when they were living in Yountville and decided to buy a 100 acre property in Lodi.

"This was grazing land," says Liz Bokisch, "when we first moved here. Markus identified the soil here as volcanic clay loam, which is ideal for high quality wine grapes." The neighbors did not agree and tried to warn the couple that it was not a place for vineyards.

But Markus, who was at the time had worked for Napa's elite Joseph Phelps Winery in vineyard management, persisted, and the couple planted their first vines in 1995. 

"At first we started with Rhone varietals," Liz recalls, "Syrah, Viognier, and more, but then we went Spanish, our true love." (Markus' mother is Spanish and he grew up partly in Spain). 

"And now things in Lodi have changed, are changing," Liz says. "It's being called the new Lodiberia. There are more than 20 wineries making Spanish varietal wines, including Tempranillo."

Bokisch said the diurnals of the area, the difference between the day and night temperatures, are what makes the region a great place to grow grapes. "While Lodi's got a great reputation for Zinfandel," she said, "it's got the potential to be a lot broader than Zin."
Today the Bokisches have a great reputation in the area for their vineyard management company, which farms 2,000 acres of wine grapes in the area.

In 2015, Vineyard and Winery Management put Markus Bokisch on its list of the Top 20 Most Admired Grapegrowers in North America. (You can read more about his vineyard expertise in a recent Wines and Vines article here). 

I looked at this list; Bokisch is the only grower on it who is certified organic on his own land.

In addition to the couple's own two vineyard holdings, they have a stake in all the grapes they farm, and sell some to Frey Wines in Mendocino. 

"Some of our neighbors are now wanting to go organic, too," says Liz. 

Until recently, Bokisch's tasting room was in a shared tasting room in town. Was it scary to leave the crowds behind and come out here to the country, I asked Liz. 

"It was always our goal to be here," she said, "so people could see the vineyards and the area. It helps us to really tell our story. There's nothing like seeing this view. It gives people a new appreciation when you get people on your soil. It connects you to the place and the earth and the wines."

Bokisch Vineyards makes four wines from its organic estate grapes - two Albarinos, a Grenache and a Graciano. Recently the winery launched a second label, Tizona, of non-Iberian varietals, making a beautiful Zinfandel from the historic Kirchenmann Vineyard (which is farmed organically but is not certified).  It's owned by Tegan and Olive Passalacqua; Tegan oversees Turley's vineyards, which includes a treasure trove of the state's best historic vineyards. Bedrock, the winery owned by the family of Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson, also makes wine from this vineyard.

In addition, the Bokisches make one Tizona wine that is a one of a kind - their late harvest Graciano. (This is under the Tizona label, though it's from a Spanish grape variety traditionally used as a blending grape with Garnacha).

Both their Garnacha and their Albarino regularly take Gold Medals at the SF Wine Competition and in 2015, The Daily Meal, an influential foodie web site, listed them as one of the Top 100 Wineries in America (the only Lodi winery on the list). 

Enjoy these photos from the grand opening celebration. And if you're passing through Lodi, head on out to Atkins Road. You never know when you might realize you just need a case of garnacha.


The facility also does custom crush work

There's some shade out there where one could picnic (because it sure does get hot in Lodi)
The barrel room sits on the lower level; the higher ground is where the winery and tasting room are
The outdoor hospitality area has lovely views of the rolling hills and oak trees
Before the official ribbon cutting, a few words from the Lodi Wine Commission
and the Chamber of Commerce
Organic vineyards
Add caption
Spanish paella with Grenache - always a winning combination
Paella goodness
The barrel room
Bokisch's most unique wine - a late harvest Graziano, the only one in the U.S.  (and maybe the globe)
Elyse Perry assumed the position of winemaker for Bokisch in Jan. 2016 
The tasting room looks out into the winery

The Bokisch label is all Spanish varietals; the Bokisches launched  a second label - Tizona - for their non Iberian wines 
A great place to sit awhile

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Save the Date - March 19-20 - For a Road Trip to Lodi's Newest Winery Tasting Room: Bokisch Vineyards

Where can I buy great wine, grown organically, that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? This is the most popular question I (and probably most other wine types) get asked by friends.

It ain't easy to find, but one all star stands out - Bokisch Vineyards in Lodi.

For years, the hard working couple who own the label, Mark and Liz Bokisch, have labored to build the pieces you need to have to become a real, grownup winery - their own vineyards and their own winery. Next weekend they're launching the next biggie: their own facility and tasting room in Lodi.

Bokisch is a standout for many reasons. One, they are pretty much the ONLY Lodi winery with organic vineyards. Two, their wines have been winning gold medals in state competitions for quite awhile. And three, the estate wines they make are affordably priced at $18-23 a bottle. And fourth, all their organic vineyards are planted to Spanish varietals, which are climate appropriate for California's hot inland climate.

I first wrote about them in 2013 (see here) and their wines have only grown in stature over time.

Here are three of my favorites:

Albarino ($18)

One of the world's most delicious white wines and under appreciated here in the U.S., Bokisch makes two versions from two different estate sites.

Garnacha (Grenache) ($20)

Their 2012 got a double gold at the SF Chronicle wine competition and the 2013 won a gold medal.

Graciano ($23)

My personal favorite, this rarity is a gem. Usually a blending grape in Spain, a very few California vintners bottle this on its own. It's unique and food friendly and one of those off the beaten path fun wines that no one else brought to dinner.

Learn more about Bokisch on its web site, from Wines and Vines magazine (the industry rag) or the Lodi Wine site.

Friday, March 11, 2016

57 Different Pesticides Found in Poisoned Honeybees: Neonics Among Them

A heart breaking study from Polish researcher published today finds that European honeybees carry traces of 57 different pesticides.

One of the regular culprits, the neonics, were among them.

For details on this story, click here.

In California, wine grape growers use plenty of these neonics. The most common one is imidacloprid. Using the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation's data from 2012, the California Dept. of Public Health's pesticide use mapping tool shows where imidacloprid is used on vineyards in the state.

The first map I created, below, shows the total summed pounds used on wine grapes only. The second map, below it, shows the pounds used per acre.

In the first map, you can see how heavy imidacloprid use is in the area around Santa Rosa. While we usually expect to see high pesticide use in the Central Valley, you get a clearer picture from this data, about just how widespread imidacloprid's use is across Lodi and the south Central Valley but also in Monterey and Santa Barbara Counties.

The second map reveals more about the intensity of the use - showing pounds/acre. Again the area around Santa Rosa pops out as well as portions of Napa lining Highway 29. San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Monterey counties, where big growers like Jackson Family, Fetzer, Gallo and others make their "coastal" wines, are also heavy users of imidacloprid.

One has to ask: are neonics really worth it? Based on a more in-depth look at Sonoma and Napa that I've done in the past, using this same data, more than ten percent of the vineyards were using imidacloprid. So it's just a few bad apples who seem to be addicted. Still, those bad apples add up.

I can't say in other regions what percentage of the vineyards imidacloprid is used on, but I might look into it more in future posts.

I've also added a third map that is an enlargement of the summed pounds map, showing the Sonoma-Napa region.