Sunday, August 31, 2014

Harvest Beauty Shots, Continued - Brosseau Vineyards

Limestone and a cool climate conspire to make Brosseau Vineyards (near Pinnacles National Monument) one of California's great spots for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Copain, Fulcrum, Testarossa and now - the newly launched Brosseau Wines - make wine from it.

The vineyard was just certified organic in 2013. It's one of the very few certified vineyards in Monterey County.

Here's a shot from Fulcrum Wines' Facebook page of harvest at Brosseau this week.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Grape Love at El Jabali

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards in Sta. Rita Hills posted some beauty shots from its Pinot Noir harvest last week. Enjoy.

El Jabali was planted by the legendary Pinot pioneer Richard Sanford in 1983. It is the oldest certified vineyard in Santa Barbara County.

Pesticides: Spotlight on Chlorpyrifos, an Old School Organophosphate Whose Time Has Come - And Gone

Today Pesticide Action Network's leading a twitter storm in a campaign to get this dangerous pesticide out of California farmlands. It's a widely used organophosphate, a group of chemicals that have been proven to cause harmful effects in numerous scientific studies - and it's being targeted by PAN in part because children are the most at risk.

More than 1.1 million pounds of chloropyrifos were used in California agriculture on 1 million acres in 2012, according to state figures. What's worse, a lot of that was applied near schools.

The wine industry was responsible for 52,341 pounds on 28,359 acres.

The worst offenders? (These are for wine grapes only.)

• Kern County
24,997 pounds on 13,293 acres

• Monterey County
5,532 pounds on 3,355 acres

• Madera County
2,514 pounds on 1,338 acres

• Fresno County
1,653 pounds on 920 acres

There are many other (nonorganic) products on the market that are far less toxic for growers to use.

Monterey teachers groups have asked the California Dept. of Regulation to take action.

The state of California has the power to stop the use of this pesticide, which has already been banned from home use (because so many studies have documented its harmful effects). Encourage them to stop dragging their feet - and protect kids from harm.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

IN PHOTOS: Harvest 2014 Continues..."The Gardener's" Love Affair

How a Pinot Noir winemaker, in this case, Suzanne Hagins, of The Gardener (sister label of Horse & Plow) defines happiness….

…with beautiful grapes from Robert Sinskey Vineyards...

This year marks a decade of The Gardener making a Pinot Noir from Sinskey's Carneros grapes. 

RE: The HuffPo Bronco Wine Brouhaha - People Look for Wine's Dangers in All the Wrong Places

The recent brouhaha over Bronco Wine's mechanical harvesting raised a ruckus in social media and media circles recently. The Wine Spectator weighed in with an overview of why people think cheap wine must have a flaw.

Similar themes - in articles on the themes of wine additives and ingredient labeling - have cropped up recently.

The political clout of the wine industry is hard to fathom in this day and age where everyone is reading food labels and trying to out-organic each other on the foodie front. The wine industry's tooting its horn for "being a food" at the table yet hiding its 25% non-California origins on most bottles labeled "California wine." (Are the grapes from China yet, or still the usual suspect -Chilé?)

But the real wine flaw is in the vines, not the wines. 

In response to the Wine Spectator article, I posted the following comment, which is the same information published in my Biodynamic wine apps in the section on Pesticides. Here's the real danger in wine.


These statistics come from the latest California Pesticide Use Report issued in 2012. 

Thanks to Susan Kegley from Pesticide Research Institute for her help in highlighting the chemicals of major concern.

Bird and Bee Toxins

Boscalid: bee hazard, possible carcinogen
53,340 pounds a year over 239,940 acres

• Chlorantraniliprole: bee hazard
3,877 pounds on 52,626 acres

Imidacloprid: kills bees and birds
44,040 pounds spread on 189,885 acres

Methoxyfenozide: kills bees and birds
28,711 pounds spread on 139,978 acres

Carcinogens - Probable and Possible

1, 3 Dichloropropene: probable carcinogen
666,004 pounds on 2,648 acres

• Mancozeb: developmental toxin and probable carcinogen
9,482 pounds on 6,465 acres

Oxyfluorfen: possible carcinogen
71,267 pounds on 181,160 acres

Pendimethalin: possible carcinogen
142,253 pounds on 68,146 acres


Chlorpyrifos: neurotoxin
52,341 pounds on 28,359 acres

• Glufosinate ammonium: neurotoxin 
70,701 pounds on 114,000+ acres

But Wait There's More...Much More

• Paraquat dichloride: acutely toxic; suspected endocrine disruptor
99,172 pounds on 112,926 acres

Roundup: kills microbial life in soil
646,014 pounds on 431,891 acres

For the complete list, click here (and then, in that document, scroll down to "Wine Grapes.")

Pre Plant Vineyard Fumigation

The most intensive and highly toxic applications are applied when vineyards are replanted. 

In organic or Biodynamic farming, the vines are pulled out and replanted after the field lies fallow - a process which takes three years. 

Some chemical farmers, who don't want to wait, pull out the vines and then basically nuke the soil - killing every type of living organism in it. They treat the soil not as a living system but as a sterile planting medium. To do this, they apply:

1,3-Dichloropropene: probable carcinogen; produces birth defects in lab tests
2011: 446,349 pounds over 1,624 acres


So no - the wine industry isn't exactly making California vineyards a good, safe place to be. The chemicals wind up in the air, water and soil. And, as we see from numerous university sponsored health studies, in human beings, as well.

For anyone who wants to see what is being applied in their area, the State Dept. of Public Health and the California Environmental Health Tracking Program publish the California Agricultural Pesticide Mapping Tool which allow you to map pesticide use for wine grapes in all of the growing regions in the state. To see the maps, go to It's only showing 2010 data now (but is schedule to update to 2012 in the near future).

(Tip: if you find the tool isn't working well, try using it in Chrome or IE. I did not get results when I was using the Safari browser).

For more information on disease impacts in wine country, including geeky data on cancer and asthma rates, you can also take a look at the Environmental Health Tracking Program web site.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sorting Grapes? There's a Tool for That: Lemelson's, One of a Kind "The Enterprise"

No running up and down ladders constantly during grape sorting at sirree. The Oregon winery, founded by offspring of one of the country's more prolific inventors, came up with this very unique contraption. See it in action here.

They call it, endearingly, "The Enterprise."


The contraption was created in 1999 by "the crazy welder guy" Steven Cornish, at the request of winery owner Eric Lemelson.

A crew of 8 can ride on board, as the forklift delivers yellow bins to them on the "craft." The crew sorts grapes on the shaker table; the conveyor belt sends them to the on board destemmer - and the grapes (all organically grown) head directly into the fermentation tanks.

Nothing like it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wine Geek Chic - Even Eyrie's Vintage Pickup Truck Ages Well

Eyrie's got historic bona fides in spades already - as (now famously) the first Oregon Pinot in Willamette Valley (when it was thought completely nutty)...maker of ageworthy wines (tasting room visitors can routinely taste library wines)...choice terroir (from the largest lava flow in the world)...and the old time-iest wine web site ever (complete with downloadable order form for buying wines, which you then mail or fax to the winery). But wait - there's more. 

Here are pictures of the winery's pickup. The same pickup truck is still in use...40 years later. It's got a name, right? Ma Joad (of Grapes of Wrath fame). 


Oh, and I almost forgot to mention it - after 48 years of farming organically, Eyrie decided it was okay to get certified. Six of the 2011 and 2012 wines are from the "in transition" vines; the 2013's will be officially from the officially certified era.

Oregonians: Get Ready to Visit The New Brooks Winery

Brooks Winery's gotten a total makeover - a new winery.

The Amity, Oregon producer - specializing in Riesling and Pinot Noir - has built a new home, just up the street from the old one on a country lane.

The new location is among the vines, so you'll be able to enjoy tasting with a view of the vines. See the winery's construction process in the online photo album.

Wine Club members will be celebrating with a Sept. open house and screening of the new wine documentary, starring Brooks (in part) American Wine Story.

To plan your own visit, click here.

Brooks's Biodynamic estate vineyards produce 3 Rieslings, a Pinot Gris and its Rastaban Pinot Noir.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

So Long Ceago

Jim Fetzer
Sadly Ceago has announced its closing. Proprietor Jim Fetzer has decided to retire. His son Barney Fetzer will continue to farm the vineyards. But no more Ceago wine will be released after mid Sept.

You can read more about it in the Press Democrat article here or in the Lake County News here.

Fetzer, formerly president of Fetzer Winery, when he and his siblings ran the Mendocino wine giant in the 1980's and early 90's, started Ceago and moved it to its current Lake County location, hoping to pioneer a resort and development on the lake shores. It was the only boat-in winery in California.

In addition to his wine industry contributions to organic farming, in particular, and his commitment to putting Lake County on the map, he was known at Bonterra/Fetzer - as well as at Ceago - for the beauty and beautiful places he created. At Bonterra today, one can still enjoy the legacy of gardens, garden structures and the winery barn he and his collaborators (including biodynamic consultant Alan York) leave behind. While the public can't visit these areas, trade and press visitors can, as well as those who work on the sites.

You can, however, still see the beauty at Ceago - at least for a few more weeks.