Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Celebrating Earth Day: Check Out Our Newly Released Biodynamic Wine Apps

Here they are - three, count-em, three new apps on Biodynamically Grown Wines.

Now you CAN - find the more than 300 wines made from certified Biodynamic vineyards. And yes, the apps are available for both Apple iPhone users, Android users, and all tablets.


All three apps include:

• Introductory articles covering Biodynamic farming, pesticides, growers' and scientists' research, the history of Biodynamically grown wines in the US, and much more
• Detailed wine information including cases made, price, and vineyard and wine making details


The two wine finder apps include:

• Wine listings (150+ in each app)
• Sorting filters to help find wines: critics' picks, where the wine comes from (appellations) - about 25 different ways combine with 3 additional filters to give you hundreds of filtering combinations


In addition, there's a tasting and touring guide that includes:

• 50 wineries to visit from Lompoc (Santa Barbara County in California) to Seattle (in Washington),  and everything in between
• Winery clusters are located in Napa and Sonoma in Northern California and the Willamette Valley outside Portland, Oregon
• Trip planning features - find wineries with bocce ball, owner tours, gardens, food, and more
• Eat/sleep overviews - find suggested farm to fork restaurants and interesting accommodations, including farms and B&Bs
• State of the Art Phone Mapping - GPS to lead you to each and every location (and even order a cab for you)
• Facebook, Twitter and video links to connect you to winery social media streams


The apps cost $9.99 each and come in these flavors:


• Apple App Store Link
• Google Play Link

The original, the first, the only guide to Demeter certified wines grown in the USA. Get the app and see what you can find in your local wine shop or grocery aisle!

This baby has 160+ wines made according to Demeter winemaking standards - this means you know what's in the bottle and a bit about how it was made. It also means you'll find the Demeter logo or Biodynamic language on the bottle.

To make it snappy, there are two kinds of Demeter certified wines - one lets winemakers do a few things in the cellar (use organic yeast, for instance) but not very many things (unlike conventional wine with up to 200 additives).  This standard is called Made with Biodynamic® Grapes.

The other standard - a gold standard, really - is Biodynamic® Wine. This means no additions (other than a low amount of sulfite). I repeat - no additions.

Carcinogens used in California from
growing wine grapes (State Data)
Both standards allow no more than 100 ppm of sulfites (a low amount). Sulfite has been used to prevent wine spoilage for millennia). And, of course, the real chemicals we need to talk about are not sulfites. None of the following are used in Biodynamic (or organic) vineyards: imidacloprid (the suspected bee killer, used in the vast majority of American vineyards and agriculture), no Mancozeb (linked in many scientific studies to Parkinson's disease, and more), no Roundup, no other dastardly stuff.

Wines in this app: 161

Wineries in this app: 31

Wines rated 90+ pts.: 65 (more than 40% of the wines)

Wines that cost $25 or less: 41

There are wines you can find in most Whole Foods and Costco's (from a producer who make 70,000 cases a year) and wines that can't be found in any wine shops (40 microproduction wines). There are 90+ pt. rated wines under $25 and there is even one of Napa's finest and most expensive historic Cabernets ($175+).

Get the app and see what you can find in your local wine shop or grocery aisle…it's the wine finder game app, really.

I can find 6 at my local grocer in Oakland including one of my affordable favorites - Verdad's Rosé.

(Of course if you can't find them on the shelf, contact the wineries to buy the "inobtainium" - i.e. wines left behind by our byzantine and overpriced wine distribution system.)


• Apple App Store Link
• Google Play Link

Not satisfied with merely finding certified wines? Move on to the next level of the game - finding the wines from certified vines (only).

What's the difference?

Many producers certify the vineyard - but not the wine - meaning they have more options in the cellar (no restrictions on yeast, sulfites from 0 to 350 ppm, etc.) but the vines are grown according to the same Demeter farming standards.

These wineries can talk about Biodynamic certified vineyards on their web sites but you won't find any Demeter logos or Biodynamic language on the wine labels. Call them the stealth wines.

This app lists all of these certified vine made wines - or at least that is how the vintners are representing these wines. A number of these wines come from estates with all Biodynamic vineyards. Many have not certified the wines because they've felt there hasn't been enough consumer interest in Biodynamic certification to make it worth their while. (Hopefully - with your help - that will change).

See how many of these you can find…(and if you can't, order directly from the winery).

Wines in this app: 157

Wineries in this app: 49

Wines rated 90+ pts.: 53 (a third of the wines)

Wines that cost $25 or less: 47

Of these wineries:

Wineries with estate vineyards (meaning they grow their own grapes): 29

Wineries purchasing Biodynamic grapes: 20

Most of these make single vineyard designate wines (meaning 95-100% of the grapes are from the designated vineyard).


• Apple App Store Link
• Google Play Link

Go to the source.

Now that you've learned about the wines, meet your vineyardists and winemakers on their home turf - the wineries. See where the wine comes from, sip and savor and perhaps buy wine or join a wine club. (After all, what's the difference between a wine club and a CSA - Community Supported Agriculture? None.)

Plus you'll find pretty much all of the wines for sale when you visit the winery. Take a tour with an owner or vineyard manager (aka farmer), relax in Biodynamic gardens, and stay awhile while you enjoy the fruits of everyone's labor - including soil organisms, microbes, yeasts, insects, birds, vines, growers and others. Yeah baby. Soak it up. What better way to celebrate Earth Day!


California: 31 
Colorado: 1
Oregon: 8
Washington: 3

P.S. Today we're working on our new web site to provide one spot to learn about all of these three apps. Pass this blog post along and sign up for news of our app home site launch at www.biodynamicwinefinder.com!

Worst. Green. Wine. Video. Ever.

Was Wine Spectator trying to get us excited about "green wines" with its Earth Day video about Bonterra? It feels more like going to church. A dark room with Bad Lighting. No B-roll. A lackluster, forced dialog.

Biodynamics is much more exciting than this. And so is Bonterra. What were they (i.e. Wine Spectator) thinking?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Best Film About Wine/China/Cabernet You Never Saw: Red Obsession

Somehow this film passed a lot of people by, but don't be among them. Red Obsession is (newly) one of my favorite wine films of all time.

You don't even have to know anything about wine or care about wine to enjoy it.

It's an inside look at the madness of the rage for Bordeaux wines and of the growing enthusiasm of Chinese wine aficionados for the wares of Aquitaine. A story of global proportions and classic syndromes. Visually stunning and completely compelling viewing. 

See the trailer here; you can buy it on iTunes ($12.99).


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Brooks Winery Breaking Ground on New Winery

Last September I had a chance to see Brooks Winery in Oregon's Eola Amity Hills, but I didn't get to tour the vineyards. Now we both can, thanks to the magic of YouTube. 

Hear winemaker and vineyard manager Chris Williams explain what's out there in the winery's vineyards, which you will sooooooon be able to tour. Brooks just started construction on a new winery and tasting room that will sit on the same site. See the second video for a look at Janie Brooks Heuck breaking ground on the winery's new 12,000 square foot building.

Winemaker Chris Williams on the vines...


Proprietor Janie Brooks Heuck breaks ground...

IN PHOTOS: Rhone Rangers Awards Robert Haas Lifetime Achievement Award

Celebrating Robert Haas' lifelong promotion of Rhone wines, the Rhone Rangers this weekend awarded him their annual Lifetime Achievement award. Enjoy hearing what his peers have to say about him here....in this video below...and check out the lovely photos below from the award ceremony held Saturday night.

Haas started Tablas Creek, one of California's top Rhone producers.

The winery makes 10+ highly rated estate wines from its 120 acres of certified organic vineyards.

Robert Haas with former winner Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard

Jason Haas and Robert Haas

Monday, April 7, 2014

IN PHOTOS: Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting: Up and Coming Brands (Part 2 of 2)

This post features younger brands with up and coming wines:

• Chacewater, located in Lake County with estate vines in both Lake County and the Sierra Foothills
• Campovida, located in Hopland, with some wines from organic Mendocino vineyards
• Martian Ranch and Vineyards, a Central Coast producer with 8 wines from its Biodynamic estate

Chacewater makes organically grown wines from its Sierra vineyards;
it also has vineyards (not organic) and raises olive trees in Lake County
Chacewater's Syrah ($20) and rosé of Syrah ($16)
Campovida, located in Hopland, sources 7 wines from
certified organic or Biodynamic vineyards
Campovida's Grenache comes from
the Dolan family's certified
Biodynamic Dark Horse Ranch 
A standout: Campovida's organically sourced Viognier 
Martian Ranch and Vineyards' general manager
Dawn Wilson and proprietor Nan Helgeland
celebrate their latest releases. The Santa Ynez
Valley winery's  20 acre vineyard was certified
Biodynamic in 2014. A number of their 9 wines
have been featured in the LA Times,
the SF Chronicle and the NY Times.

IN PHOTOS: Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting - Part 1 (of 2)

It was a beautiful day by the Bay Sunday as dozens of wineries and hundreds of tasters gathered for the annual Rhone Rangers grand tasting held in a new venue this year.

See this post and the following one for photos of the event. 

This post focuses on established brands with Rhone wines including Big Basin, Morgan, Quivira, Qupé, and Tablas Creek. See the second post for smaller, up and coming brands.


1. Quivira's new Biodynamically certified rosé - a lovely first release…I look forward to trying this out all summer long. 

2. Tablas Creek's En Gobelet - a Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend with 24% Tannat - my personal fave of the day.

3. Cassoulet from the Girl and the Fig catering - how perfect a pairing with Rhone wines.

[Not pictured: Bonny Doon which has two Biodynamically certified wines - both of its Le Cigare Blanc wines.]

Ferries hired specifically for the event brought attendees
from the city to the East Bay venue at Craneway Pavillion
Morgan's Double L estate vineyard, certified organic, is the source
for Morgan's Double L Syrah (the 2011 garnered 90 pts. from Parker).

Pictured below: Big Basin's Bradley Brown with his Old Corral Syrah
sourced from certified organic estate vineyards;
Antonio Galloni (Wine Advocate, Vinous) rated it 94 pts.

Quivira's Ned Horton, vineyard manager, and Andrew Fegelmen,
Director of Marketing, with Quivira's impressive Rhone lineup. A third
of Quivira's wines (12 different wines) are sourced from certified Biodynamic
vineyards, making it the second largest Biodynamic producer
in Sonoma County. New this year: an all BD-sourced rosé.
Instead of the usual grand tasting fare (cheese nibbles, etc.) attendees were
treated to cassoulet from the Girl and the Fig's catering program
 a perfect pairing with Rhone wines.
Central Coast producer Qupé's booth was the most popular booth at the
trade and media tasting, with its decade long reputation for top drawer
Syrahs and other Rhone wines. (That's winemaker Bob Lindquist in the
blue shirt on the right.) The winery sources 25% of its production from its
Demeter certified (Biodynamic) Sawyer Lindquist vineyard in Edna Valley.
Qupé's finest Syrah was recently voted California's best by a
New York Times tasting panel.
Tablas Creek was the other popular spot with a
continuous crowd sampling wines.
Well known for its "real" Rhone roots, it famously
imported vines from its parent company,
the Perrin Family in France's Rhone valley.
Founder Robert Haas was honored with a
Lifetime Achievement award for his role in
promoting U.S. grown Rhone wines.
Pictured above: winemaker and vineyard manager
 Neil Collins and Jason Haas, general manager.
My favorite wine of the day was their En Gobelet, a GSM
blend with the added excitement of 24%  Tannat.
(It could have been the cassoulet speaking,
as I tasted both together, but regardless, it
was the wine of the day for me.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

California's Best Rhones - Grand Tasting This Sunday in Richmond

Credit: Anagram Press
The annual love fest of Rhone producers and Rhone wine lovers takes place this weekend in the Bay Area's premiere waterfront location in the historic Craneway Pavilion in Richmond. (It's a breaktakingly beautiful spot.)

Credit: Anagram Press

In addition to the Grand Tasting on Sunday afternoon (3 pm for general public; 1 pm for weekend pass holders and trade), there are seminars Sunday morning (one on microproducers; another on grenache - $75).

Saturday evening there's a $150 winemaker dinner (benefits scholarships; currently sold out) at which Robert Haas, partner and co-founder of Tablas Creek, will be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to American grown Rhone wines. (He should also get an award for having 120 acres of certified organic vines - 100% of the Tablas Creek estate is organic.)

All inclusive weekend passes are sold out but there's still plenty of room for the Grand Tasting ($65).

There are lots of organic and Biodynamic producers attending this annual Rhone Rah Rah. Here's a list. (Producers who are 100% org/BD in brand are in bold.)

1. Morgan - Estate grown Syrah (Double L)
2. Big Basin (Estate Syrah)
3. Bonny Doon (its Le Cigare Blanc wines are certified Biodynamic)
4. Campovida (some wines sourced from organic or Biodynamic vines)
5. Martian Vineyards (Santa Barbara producer with certified Biodynamic vineyards; up and comer with affordable prices; 100% of wines in brand are from its BD estate vines)
6. Morgan (a few estate wines are organically sourced)
7. Quivira (7,000 cases - 1/3 of production - comes from three BD certified vineyards; 10 wines are certified BD wines)
8. Qupé (100% of estate wines are all Biodynamically grown and certified BD)
9. Tablas Creek (star producer when it comes to Rhones - all estate wines organically grown; the only exception is its Patelin wines which are sourced from estate grapes as well as grapes from neighboring vineyards)

Getting to the event itself can be easy and/or fun. Ferries are running from Pier 43 in the city directly to the venue, which is in the historic complex of World War II ship building monuments, including the NPS's Rosie the Riveter museum (next door to the Craneway). You might also want to check out the restaurant in the complex - Assemble. (Reservations would be a must this weekend; get one on Open Table). In addition to the ferries, the event producers will be running a shuttle bus to and from the nearest BART station.

Click here for all event details.

If you go, here are a few of my favorites (though I haven't tasted all of the wines from the producers listed above):

• Enjoyed (Tasted)

Qupé/Verdad's Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, Edna Valley 
***Qupé's Sawyer Lindquist Syrahs - and everything from this vineyard (indeed this is my favorite California Syrah to date - coincidentally it is New York Times' wine critic Eric Asimov's as well)...some of the other Qupé wines from Bien Nacido are in the certification pipeline...don't miss the rosé (of Grenache) from Qupé's sister label Verdad

***Tablas Creek - I'm not sure what they will be pouring (maybe not their version of a Chateauneuf de Pape), but pretty much everything is top flight..

• New to Me

Martian Vineyards - I haven't tried these (yet) but am looking forward to - you can buy these in the Mission at BiRite Market (one of the few California BD sourced wines available there)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mike Grgich's 91st Birthday News

Napa vintner and partner in the largest Biodynamic winery in America, legendary winemaker Mike Grigch announced this week that he's paying it forward with a new wine studies scholarship program, in partnership with the James Beard Foundation.

To honor his new philanthropy, his photo appeared in Times Square today.

To Mike we say, Happy Birthday and thanks for making all of your 300+ acres of prime Napa vineyards organic.

Sri Lanka Bans Roundup; Brazil May Follow

Roundup is (rightfully) under siege, yet again.

Sri Lanka implemented a countrywide ban two weeks ago following a scientific study that presented convincing evidence that Roundup appears to combine with toxic pesticides (applied to plants and soil) which in turn leach into hard water (containing heavy chemicals) to create a toxic brew that causes a lethal kidney disease.

Reuters reports that authorities in Brazil are also considering a countrywide ban on the widely used Monsanto herbicide Roundup (which contains glyphosate). A ban on 2, 4 D is also being considered in Brazil.

Both glyphosate and 2, 4 D are widely used in the US in agriculture, including in wine grape growing regions in California, but there has not been an epidemic of chronic kidney disease as the other factors in the deadly combo may not be present. Sri Lanka also uses a lot of Mancozeb and chlorpyrifos.

In addition to Brazil and Sri Lanka, thousands have died in the southern India province of Andra Pradesh and in Central America from chronic kidney disease. Studies correlating the incidence of hard water and glyphosate in these regions have not been released. There are still a number of competing hypotheses in the Central and South American populations.

It's estimated that more than 25,000 have died in Sri Lanka so far; thousands more have died in other regions.

The chronic kidney disease outbreak has puzzled researchers studying the problem from a number of institutions including Stonybrook, Boston University, and Harvard.

But a paper published in Feb. in the  International Journal of Research and Public Health by authors from Sri Lanka and Long Beach, California seems to have cracked the riddle of this multifactorial epidemic explaining the mechanics of how glyphosate combines with other compounds. The report's summary states,
"Although glyphosate alone does not cause an epidemic of chronic kidney disease, it seems to have acquired the ability to destroy the renal tissues of thousands of farmers when it forms complexes with a localized geo environmental factor (hardness) and nephrotoxic metals."

The study's authors believe the same pathway is at work in the other tropical regions where chronic kidney disease is at epidemic levels. In addition, Reuters reported, the researchers, "noted that earlier studies had shown that typical glyphosate half-life of around 47 days in soil can increase up to 22 years after forming hard to biodegrade “strong complexes with metal ions.”

Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, has also been under siege in Argentina for glyphosate, as Reuters reported earlier. A combination of factors has led to conflict there. 

The Associated Press found numerous instances of improperly applying the herbicide too close to homes and schools. 

But aside from misuse of toxics, the respected scientist Andres Carrasco - a University of Buenos Aires medical school professor, head of the Molecular Embryology Laboratory at University of Buenos Aires and chief scientist at the National Council for Science and Technology - has conducted tests using Roundup on embryos and documented glyphosate's negative health effects. He spoke at the University of California, Irvine at a public health conference about his research, which you can see on YouTube here or below:

Obviously these stories relate to third world, heavy pesticide use applications. If anything these are more typical of the intensive applications of glyphosate in the corn and soy heartland of the Midwest where Roundup is used in higher concentrations than wine grape growing in California.

However, it's good to know what's happening with the widely used herbicide in the broader context and how it changes when it comes in contact with other substances. The Sri Lanka story is a dramatic medical detective story - possibly writ large.