Monday, August 29, 2011

Eat (and Drink) Organic, Says Harvard Professor, To Prevent Autism

Increases in prevalence of autism in last 15 years
A great radio segment to listen to from Living on Earth (sponsored by the National Science Foundation) on the new research revealing the link between autism and environmental factors is much stronger than previously thought.

Dr. Martha Herbert, professor of neurology from Harvard Medical School, says newly published twins studies show that the roots of autism are less about genetics than previously thought - and more about environmental factors, including pesticides.

GELLERMAN: So it’s a very low number in terms of genetics and very high in terms of environmental issues.
HERBERT: Yes, which is really different from what everybody’s been saying up until now.
GELLERMAN: So what kind of environmental factors could we be talking about?
HERBERT: Well, there are lots of environmental factors that people have been talking about and trying to do research about. It ranges from chemicals to nutrition to exposures like to being living near a freeway – many, many different types of factors.
GELLERMAN: Are there any suspects that perhaps stand out from the crowd?
HERBERT: There are a number of chemicals that it’s a good idea to watch out for. Bisphenol - plasticizers that make plastics moldable. Flame retardants - flame retardants in baby pajamas and in bedding that were not tested for the baby urinating in the bed, which then makes the chemicals float around in the air that the baby then breathes in. Pesticides - be really careful about spraying your house. Find more natural ways of avoiding pest exposure. Pesticides in food - try to eat organic if possible. Don’t microwave in plastic. Look under your sink and clean out a lot of the products, which have long lists of chemicals that you can’t pronounce. There’s lots of ways of cleaning your house with simple products, with vinegar and water and baking soda, and things that are not going to cause problems, that may show up now or later.

Read the segment transcript (it's short) or give the segment a listen online (best option) - click here.

Dr. Herbert's forthcoming book The Autism Revolution will be out next year.

(Studies do not name any specific pesticide influences.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Never a Dull Moment in Wine Country

Last month it was a hit and run car accident near Korbel. Yesterday it was a pitchfork tossing speedster leading cops into a two hour man hunt in Jeriko Winery on 101 in Hopland. See Press Democrat coverage of the latter here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

NEW! Our YouTube Channel Just Launched: 10+ Videos

Check out the new YouTube Channel with videos from lots of organic wine makers and growers! - Terra Savia, Voss, Tablas Creek, Elizabeth Spencer, Hagafen, Handley Cellars...and more to come.

Click Here to see them all.

Coming soon - best bits from Mendocino County's Return to Terroir event featuring interviews with old time growers like Frank Milone (yes, that would be the father of Jim Milone of Terra Savia, who himself is on his 35th harvest) and the inimitable Charlie Barra, who seems, as the event moderator Glenn McGourty jokingly put it, to have learned everything from reading National Geographic. You'll see...

Natural And Organic (Certified)

Separating out the natural and organic knowns from the unknowns, here's a rough list of natural winemakers and wineries:

Natural Winemakers Using Certified Grapes

All Wines
• Cotturri - ALL WINES (including estate and purchased)

Some Wines
• Natural Process Alliance (Sunhawk Red only)
• Old World Winery - one wine (DiRicco Vineyard - Sauvignon Blanc)
• Radio Coteau - ask which ones

Using Uncertified Grapes But Who Say They Are Organic
These have their own vineyards:
• Bunter Spring Winery (Bunter Winery estate grapes only; they also make wines under the Spring brand with nonorganic, purchased fruit)
• Clos Saron
• Edmunds St. John
• La Clarine

Negociants - i.e. they buy grapes from a variety of growers; I have not found any with certified fruit (but this changes all the times so I would ask the wineries themselves about any particular wine you want to know about)
• Arnot-Roberts
• Broc Cellars
• A Donkey and Goat
• Wind Gap Wines

Please send me info on any more that are coming up. I'd like to make a Google Map of them all.

I would also add that if you were a true purist and using Alice Feiring's criteria for real natural wine, you would eliminate wines that were made from others' grapes...which would knock out Coturri (many if not most of their grapes are purchased) leaving pretty much only Ambyth Estates (which grows all their own grapes) as the only natural winery growing almost all their own grapes and making all but one of their wines with certified grapes.

A lot of biodynamic wine producers should be listed here as well, but they do use a little tiny bit of sulfite  - including Cowhorn, Grgich (estate wines are all BD), Beckmen, Verdad/Qupe (estate grown wines) and others.

Celebration! Alice Waters/Chez Panisse Celebration: Band/Parade/Hoopla

From last night's event kicking off the celebration of the newly named Edible Schoolyard Foundation at the Chez Panisse 40th Birthday Party.

This is the launch of the next phase of Alice Waters' Delicious Revolution - a movement.

Friday, August 26, 2011

VIDEO - Fresh from Chez Panisse's 40th Bday Party: Alice Waters on Edible Schoolyard Foundation

Here's Alice Waters speech at the kickoff event of Chez Panisse's 40th Anniversary Party which is now transforming its foundation from the Chez Panisse Foundation to the new name Edible Schoolyard Foundation.

Waters' speech is about transforming the public school system with edible education and making good school food available for free to all children.

Scenes from the Delicious Revolution's 40th Birthday Party

Alice Waters and the Chez Panisse Foundation's weekend long celebration of Chez Panisse's 40th anniversary began with a bang tonight at the University Art Museum at U.C. Berkeley.

Gov. Jerry Brown and a Smithsonian official offered congratulations and Alice Waters changed the name of the foundation to the Edible Schoolyard Foundation, dedicated to creating edible education into public schools nationwide. 

"Just like we have physicial education in the schools, we will have edible education," Alice said to the crowd who gave her a big hip hip hooray.

Patrons feasted on small treats of fresh produce, prepared in front of them by cadres of foodmakers. The foods were all simple things one could easily make at home in a matter of minutes. 

The weekend continues Saturday with more events at UAM, including the radio show West Coast Live at 10 am (which can  be heard on KALW live and will be available online for a week following the show).

The University Art Museum at Berkeley was transformed into a farmyard
with sheep amid the sculpture and burning fires
Corn was planted along all the sidewalks on Bancroft
Here's the entry food section
These baby sheep feast on vineyard weeds most of the year (except during veraison)
at Artesa and Mondavi and they have been supplying Chez Panisse with lamp for 20 years
There were a variety of food stations - this one served delicious
little soups as well as tamales
I think these soups were my favorite food at the whole event


People were preparing the food live at each food station

Their artisan way with a piece of chalk - if only...

The crowd inside

Little gems with a lovely eggplant and veggies dollop
laddled inside

The food stations and drinks area when you could still actually walk around
(later is was so packed you could hardly move)

Definitely a touch of herbal Bacchus - this liquid was an herbal concoction

The herbal concoction came from these ingredients

Another herbal concoction sampler


Maidens from the parade - Anandamai (who I know from Tail of the Yak and mutual friends) is in the middle

Rose drink (I'd like to try that)

A great photo, eh?

Serving up local cheese

I think they might be asking: where's the BBQ?

My pals Kath Delaney (whose company Madera came up with the Free Speech, Free Lunch slogan and more) and Marissa from Bay Area Green Tours

Berkeleyites heard speeches from Gov. Jerry Brown and a Smithsonian official

Berkeley fashions

The only meat station - little bites

Alas they ran out of the herbal cocktail so I don't know how it tasted (must have been good)

The overall hall

On the way out, people stopped to visit the lambs - who were feeding from a milk bottle

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hagafen's Organically Grown Riesling

More in my video series from the Family Winemakers of California tasting event earlier this week: here's proprietor Ernie Weir on this organically grown Riesling, sourced from Lake County.

Click on the lower right in the video for HD quality.

For more on this wine, click here.

Having Fun Again - LOL Over the Devil's Dictionary of Wine

LOL over Keith Levenberg's Devil's Dictionary of Wine. To wit:

"Tasting note, n. A genre of prose which customarily attempts to describe the experience of drinking a wine in terms never used to describe any experience worth having."

(I couldn't agree more.)

For more witticisms that are sure to have you in paroxysms, see here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Reviewish: Naked Wine by Alice Feiring

Alice Feiring is the Woody Allen of the lefty wine world - a natural wine lover who seems a bit overanguished about her obsessions, which in this case is the purity of natural wine.

In this book, Naked Wine, she at least mentions the devotion to the Talmud that runs in her family history - which goes some ways in clueing us in to why she's - would saying neurotic be going too far? - about wine. She likes adherence to a philosophical standard.

Alice has a very fine writing style - at least she's charmingly neurotic at times - and manages to get a lot of mileage about not very much happening.

She comes to California to try her hand at making some wine (not sure why she never tried it in France, given the number of trips she has written about there), but she decides to put the pedal to the metal in Dry Creek at Davero. Woe to the winemaker who assists her, as all manner of impure processes proceed to take place - mostly having to do with the fact that she hasn't raised the grapes herself, let alone picked them, and they end up having to water down the wine, which would be illegal in Italy but is not in California, as the wine is too alcoholic (picked too late).

Alice then goes to France, on a pilgrimage to the altar of various natural wine gurus, who tell her there really are not as many rules as she may have been led to believe by the French natural wine choir boys.

She returns to California and lo and behold "discovers" the Coturris, who have of course been making natural wine in Sonoma for 30 years, longer than her French idol.

Is this somewhat offensive to us Californians? For myself, I would say yes. There are so many natural wine makers here - she mentions only 3 or 4 of the 20-40? Perhaps she is coming to see the film Wine from Here tomorrow night in order to learn about the others. Being a Frenchie, she got her intro to natural winemakers here in part from the guys at Terroir, who used to work at Arnot-Roberts, but mostly import French natural wines, as they do not like most California natural wines (when they acknowledge their existence.)

At least she also meets the Natural Process Alliance guy, Kevin Kelley (who has to have the worst wine site on the Internet, and yet fantastically fun fresh wine).

In Alice's book, a favorite scene for me was the one where she's visiting the eminence gris of the natural wine movement...and instead of sipping and spitting, everyone is drinking. This makes Alice uncomfortable as she wanted to interview the chap - Jacques Neauport.

There is a big emphasis in the French natural wine movement on not adding sulfur, which has her American friend and French vigneron Amy (whose hubby has a job at Cisco which allows them to live in France telecommuting) anxious, too, since her wines are ever so slightly sulfited.

Jacques tells Alice they started making no sulfur wines because they are drunkards who don't like to get hangovers. I want to say, Alice - let go and drink! That's what wine is for - not for critiquing, so much, searching, so much, and testing purity, so much.

My beef with natural wine here continues to be the lack of certification for a large percentage of all of the grapes used by "natural winemakers" in California. (This is a contrast to their French counterparts who are organic and who also do not irrigate in the natural movement.)

I once asked Glenn McGourty, probably the most knowledgeable go to guy in California on organic viticulture, about natural wines. "I don't know what that is," he said. As do many others.

Most broadly defined, it means purity - i.e. no added sulfur, no chemicals, etc. etc. In France it means organic. But if you ask negociant wineries like Wind Gap, or Arnot Roberts or A Donkey and Goat - as I have - if they are organic, they mostly say no. We don't know if no means it's organic but not certified or if it's not organic. They also use irrigated fruit, unlike the French natural wine makers. Natural, to Alice Feiring, really means also growing your own fruit - the vrai vigneron model.

Almost all unsulfited biodynamic wine by definition then qualifies as natural in the American context (assuming irrigation and organic and native yeast), but you'd never know that from the California natural wine hype. Because unlike the biodynamic bunch, who are very certified, many (but not all) naturalites don't believe in certification of any kind. As Clos Saron's Gideon Beinstock explained to me at the Family Winemakers of California event this weekend, "it's just a game."

In Alice's definition, one must raise the grapes as well as make the wine. Which, of course, is not something she has ever done. Perhaps she will in her next book. :)

Tomorrow night, the natural wine film - Wine From Here - debuts in SF with Alice Feiring in attendance. I'm going. I'll keep you posted.

I like natural wines. I like them a lot. I just like the certified ones more. I look forward to drinking!


Oh I did have a few good tidbits from the book to share:

California winemaker Ridgely Evers: "Sustainable means sustainable for the farmer." (Well said - suddenly and finally I understand the new meaning that gives to the Wine Institute's sustainability program - i.e. it's not sustainable for the land to use pesticides but it works for the farmer!)

Nearly thirty wineries were shut down in Hebei Province (in China) in 2010, after the discovery that some Hebei wines contained only 20% grape juice.

(I read today that the wine thieves were being sent to prison.)

It is misleading on page 35 that Alice talks about pesticide residues being found in wine in a PAN Europe study (they were but the amounts were minute). She's got it a bit screwy - the main danger from wine grape pesticides is to the environment and to the workers - but she doesn't mention this.

On page 69 - I love how she describes Nicolas Joly - "Joly has become the Deepak Chopra of wine biodynamics."

And I hadn't known (page 73) that Demeter USA (go Demeter-USA) "is steps ahead of Europe's certifying arm."

It's fun hearing in her book about the stupid things the French wine industry does.

But it's ridiculous how little she knows about California's BD wines, completely dissing them in a French competition. (Has she never tasted AmByth? Verdad? Qupe?)

Classic Alice as philosophe: "Vin naturel should be naked wine; it is honest, transparent and sensitive." Well if you have to believe in wine...

(Ironically searching "Naked Wine" online leads to two primary destinations - an organic brand from the Snoqualmie, or the next-day delivery service in the UK. And CalNaturale - the boxed wine in tetrapaks sold in supermarkets - has that "natural" name and may in fact be the only "natural" product in the supermarket that's actually organic and certified.)

The education of Alice will continue, no doubt, and we can continue to hear about the journey.

Voss - Newly Organic Sauvignon Blanc from Napa

Tasting at the Family Winemakers of California, I came across a new-to-me organically grown wine - Voss' Sauvignon Blanc. Here Crista Johnson, Marketing & Sales Coordinator for Voss, tells you more.

Voss is known for a more New Zealand style of Sauvignon Blanc.

You can taste it for yourself at Napa Wine Co.

For more info, click here.

Demise of Daily Grape Videos

So sorry to see Gary V is stopping the Daily Grape videos. Was it business or personal reasons for stopping?

I rarely agreed with his reviews, but he sure pushed the envelope on wine videos and for wine overall as a daily drink for the refined masses. Mixing sports and wine - what a coup, among many.

We'll see what happens next - he still has speaking engagements and maybe another book?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Saracina's Latest Release - Chardonnay

According to winemaker Alex MacGregor, in this video, this is the first Chardonnay to come off the original Sundial Chard vineyard since about 1989...anyway, it's the opposite in every way (form old overoaked Chard style born in that vineyard)...light, fresh, unoaked, organic, with tropical fruit...

I tasted it Sunday at the Family Winemakers of California event at Fort Mason in SF - beautiful.

Check out the video here:

Lovely Video of the Life of a Winegrape - But They Left Out the Herbicides/Pesticide Part...

This "nature video" comes to us courtesy of the Sonoma Wine Grape Commission.

Where is the part where they apply synthetic herbicides and pesticides?

That's what happens to 97% of wine grapes grown in California...

Here is what the data from the state of California Dept. of Public Health web site tool combined with the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation shows us when we look at pesticides used on wine grapes in Sonoma County.

Here is how much Roundup was applied in 2009 in Sonoma alone (click on the image to enlarge the image):

The California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation data for Sonoma County wine grapes
This graph shows the Roundup sprayed on wine grapes in this county alone.
Some people think Roundup is not really that dangerous (although more and more health authorities do not agree with them), so let's look at the category of scarier substances - "known/possible/probable carcinogens" in 2009 in Sonoma County here (click on the image to enlarge the image):

The California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation data for Sonoma County wine grapes
This graph shows the known/probable/probable carcinogens sprayed on wine grapes in this county alone.

Ok, it's not looking very good. But let's say you're a PhD in something scientific and you say, well, we don't know exactly what pesticides we put into the category of "probable" carcinogens, so perhaps that's not the best indicator.
So let's look at endocrine disruptors, shall we? Here's the Sonoma County data on that from the same sources for 2009 (click on the image to enlarge the image):
he California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation data for Sonoma County wine grapes
This graph shows the endocrine disrupters sprayed on wine grapes in this county alone.
Would you like to know more about endrocrine disruptors? This is the stuff like BPA that we just got rid of in plastic water bottles. I would recommend listening to a few podcasts from the National Science Foundation funded NPR radio program Living on Earth which has done a good job of reporting on them over the last 15+ years.  There is a surgeon at UCSF and Children's Hospital in Oakland - Dr. Laurence Baskin - who does surgeries to fix little baby boys' genitals, making them more manly, because of the presence and effect on small children of endocrine disruptors. These are not trivial matters.

But the wine industry is busy out there replenishing the supply.

I think that for truth in advertising the Sonoma Wine Grape Commission - as well as all the other wine grape commissions and sustainability programs - should add these graphs from the Dept. of Pesticide Regulation and the California Dept. of Public Health, plus footage of herbicide and pesticide application, plus some Alfred Hitchcock shower scene music and pictures of birds, fish and marine mammals dying.

We are soooo being brainwashed into thinking wine grapes are good neighbors to the environment. They could be, but the way our industry works today, it is not. This is what the industry's face of "sustainability" looks like and it's not a pretty picture.

The good news is that we do have choices - and we can choose to patronize those in the wine world who don't subscribe to applying these synthetic and dangerous chemicals onto 500,000 acres of California's agricultural lands. That would be our poor, unsung heroes - the organic AND sustainable wine community - which is why I am writing this app so you can find out who they are and BUY THEIR WINES.

We want our wine industry to stay - we just want it to be a good neighbor.

For a complete list of pesticides used on wine grapes in California, the Pesticide Action Network has an easy to read listing of the data collected from the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation. Click here.

To use the California Agricultural Pesticide Use Web Mapping Service yourself, click here.

Missing Statistics: Cheater Capitalism At Work in the Wine Industry

Here is the Wine Institute's snapshot of relevant statistics about wine grape growing and winemaking in California. (Click to enlarge).

Look at all the info on jobs provided (they don't say how many of the jobs were for farmworkers and they don't say how much the average winery employee or tasting room host earns) and economic impact.

Don't see anything about pesticide use?

Here is the California Dept. of Public Health and Dept. of Pesticide Regulation's Agriculture Pesticide Use Mapping Service's view of the state of California showing all pesticides applied to wine grapes in the state. (Click to enlarge).

We the public pay for all the environmental damages caused by these pesticides - not the wine industry.

Just another case of what environmental Randy Hayes calls "cheater capitalism" - when industries don't pay for the cost of ecosystem services. (Yes, I know - that's a much bigger discussion.)

Why shouldn't we have a pay-to-play system for the wine industry where you have to PAY to apply pesticides? Like carbon credits - you pay for the right to pollute.

If we factored in the cost of these pollutants, what would that do to the Wine Institute's economic statistics?

But we don't have to wait for that to happen - we could start just by buying wines from wineries that don't at least put known endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and other synthetic chemicals into our water, air and soil.

Buy Organically Grown Wines. It's what you can start doing - right now.

Jon Bonne's Red Rhones Roundup: Two Organic Greats Here

Jon Bonne's recommendations in the SF Chronicle today feature eight red Rhone wines - and two of them are from organic vintners - Qupe's new biodynamic Syrah and Tablas Creek's new red recession wine, Patelin de Tablas Paso Robles Red.

I am happy to report the latter was already in my Organic Under $20 app.

Everything from Qupe's new biodynamic estate in Edna Valley is great - check them out and see if you agree.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quote of the Day: The Dark Side - Organic in a Nutshell

Sojourn Winery's proprietor Craig Haserot's response when I asked him if they had any organically grown grapes in their wines:

"No it's just a way to have to pay a lot of money to not use Roundup."

In a nutshell.

Presumably Haserot doesn't spend a lot of time himself in the vineyard using Roundup. Let's hope.

Yet another of life's little ironies is that one of the vineyards they make a single vineyard-designated wine from - Rodgers Creek - is, in fact, organically certified.

Family Winemakers of California: The Organically Grown Among Them

The folks at Urban Legend (proprietor Steve Shaffer on the left) have the SB as well as a Lake County Riesling with grapes that are in transition to being certified

Voss was new to me - this one's got newly certified grapaes

You can sample the Voss Sauvignon Blanc at Napa Wine Co., says Voss marketing and sales coordinator Crista Johnson. The grapes are just about to be certified (this is the third year on the path to certification).

I hadn't met the folks at Canihan before either...they've got some pretty impressive awards under their belt

Looking forward to visiting Canihan soon - they're in Sonoma. That's Bill Canihan on the right.

Adastra of Carneros

The folks at legendary Calera have just started putting Certified Organic on their back label - Marta Rich shows it off with panache

Josh Jensen of Calera holds up a bottle of their Viognier (I can put their half bottles in my new app since they're under $20)

That would be Calera - for how many years now?

Bucklin and his infamous field blend map dating back to the mid 1800s

Richard Arrowood's Amapola Creek from Sonoma

Another label that I didn't know about and didn't know was organic - Audelessa - from Glen Ellen; Parker's a fan

Oakland's Aubin/Verve makes a Pinot Noir sourced from Oregon's Momtazi vineyard's biodynamic grapes

Greg Graziano from Mendocino has Eddie Graziano's organic Zin (but it's almost all gone)

And the always impressive Grgich Hills (completely biodynamic)

Mila Handley from Handley Cellars - I saw some newbies here getting blown away (and rightly so) by their sparkling rose (I agree - it's soooo good)

Spencer (of Elizabeth Spencer) and I had a brief chat about how do you know something is organic if it's from be continued

The always wonderful Mike Dashe and I realized we both worked together at Apple long, long ago (a previous lifetime, to be sure) - I am a  huge fan of the wines he makes from McFadden's grapes

Corley of Monticello has some in transition wines

I ran into the wonderful former wine director of Fish Ehoud Amos, and his wife - they wanted to make sure I got a chance to try the wines from Stone Edge - definitely going to visit them soon (Sonoma/Mount Veeder) - that's Dorothy Moller-Racke, Stone Edge Farms' marketing director, on the right.

Stone Edge's Surround is a blend of four nearby vineyards (all certified organic)

Stone Edge's Cab

Jim Milone from Terra Savia pouring  - almost all of his wines are in my forthcoming app. Look for tasting videos to follow in later posts.

John Fetzer and Patty Rock from Saracina - their new Chardonnay is AWESOME and especially for $16

Saracina's inaugural articles was on display (2004)

Definitely the best dressed award goes to Jason Haas from Tablas Creek, who was doing a fabulous  job showing off their newest vintages (one of which made the Chronicle today) - he was kind enough to do some spur of the moment videos, too - of which later