Thursday, February 21, 2013

Soon, Soon: 2011 and 2012 Pesticide Data to Be Released Shortly, Says Pesticide Dept. Head

In answer to my question at the SpraySafe luncheon yesterday, state pesticide chief Brian Leahy said 2011 and 2012 data on pesticide use throughout the state should be released "any day."

"I looked at the data yesterday," the director said, "we changed from one computer system to another and when you do that, sometimes these things take more time."

According to Pesticide Action Network, last year state authorities were not sure that they were going to make the data publicly available. That predated the appointment of the current director.

Leahy, a Brown appointee, has a long history of involvement with organic farming in California and Nebraska, and served as the executive director of the California Certified Organic Farming group from 2000-2004.

In his brief remarks yesterday at the SpraySafe event in Stockton organized by the San Joaquin Valley Farm Bureau, he spoke about the necessity of pesticides for food security but also emphasized the role of the farmer in guaranteeing worker and public health and safety along with environmental protection.

"In the old days, like back in the 80s, we all remember those times when neighbor's spray drifted across and perhaps we'd start to itch, and our eyes would tear up and then you'd get that jittery feeling. A worker would go home and put the shirt they were wearing when they applied pesticide into the washer along with their kids' clothes. Those days are over."

He pointed out that trends today focus on getting the pesticide on the target as narrowly as possible and avoiding getting it onto people, water systems, air, or the environment.


March 3, 2013: A visit to the online portal for pesticide information shows that the department has announced it will be releasing the 2011 and 2012 pesticide data in June 2013.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

French Study Finds Pesticide Residues in Wines

Here's a top story in the news today - a French study by the Bordeaux-based lab of Pascal Chatonnet has found pesticide residues in 90% of the 300 French wines it tested.

Decanter ran the story here.

Decanter quoted Chatonnet as saying, ‘Even though the individual molecules were below threshold levels of toxicity, there is a worrying lack of research into the accumulation effect, and how the molecules interact with each other." 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

State Pesticide Leader to Speak at Stockton's Spray Safe Event Feb. 20

I'm looking forward to attending the Spray Safe program for San Joaquin's farming community tomorrow in Stockton where the head of California's Dept. of Pesticide Regulation, Brian Leahy, will give a keynote luncheon address.

Leahy himself was a pioneering organic farmer in Butte County and was on the board of CCOF from 2000-2004. He became the head of the state pesticide dept. in a year ago.

He is a Gov. Brown appointee.

The San Joaquin Valley is the biggest wine grape growing region of the state, growing mainly Colombard and Chardonnay. It is home to Gallo and other wineries.

I've only identified one winery that grows organically in the region - Lucas (in Lodi). If you know of any others, let me know.

I'll post more later after the talk.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

On Top of the World: A Trip to Ridge Wine - Now with Certified Vineyards!

A beautiful view from the top of the world at Ridge
Saturday I finally had a chance to visit Ridge Wine, atop the hills above Cupertino...and what a glorious spot it is.

This grande dame of California Cabs and Zin rightly earned her place in the wine firmament in the famed Judgement of Paris in 1976 and then re-upped in the rematch 30 years later in 2006 in the top spot over some of the most famous red wines of France. (See photos below).

Display at Ridge tasting room showing the 1976 and 2006 Paris tastings 

Since that time the winery also bought superb vineyards in the Dry Creek region in Sonoma where it also makes righteously famous Zins - some from 100 year old vines.

The good news now is that after a long time of growing wine grapes organically Ridge has made the decision to become certified organic. About 40% of the vineyards have been certified; more are in transition. (It takes three years of being organic to be certified.)

I asked hospitality and retail sales manager Christopher Watkins, at Ridge's Montebello tasting room  why the winery decided to become certified and he said the winery's wholesalers recommended it. (This makes me curious to speak to someone higher up in the wine distribution chain to see what they are thinking, researching, and analyzing to bring them to this recommendation.)

Certification (Made with Organic Grapes) will begin to appear on the labels of the 2012 releases, Watkins said.

Enjoy these photos from my visit...

The old vines atop the ridge at "The Knob" by the picnic spot
Picnic area, looking up towards The Knob view point
Tasting room in the end of the day light
Tasting room display
Tasting menu - note: the more reasonably priced "Estate Cabernet" is out of stock in tasting room; but you can find some of it to buy online. The Ridge web site still has magnums for sale.

I searched online after visiting the winery and bought a case of the Estate online from elsewhere. 

My friend joined the Collectors wine club (the only way to get a good deal on Montebello) - their famous Cab (Bordeaux blend) - rated 98 points by Robert Parker (for those who count points).

Their Collectors Wine Club costs about $300 a year and for that you get two futures bottles of Montebello (list price $160 a bottle; for club members $90), and then you must also take a minimum of 3 additional bottles each year. 

Ridge is a true part of California's wine legacy. A trip to the tasting room doesn't involve a vineyard tour or many of the trappings one gets at many a Napa winery, but it gets to the point - great wine, consistently produced great wine over a long long span of time, and world class bragging rights - all right here in our own backyard.

And now - it's certified organic fruit! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Organic Wine Tours: Women Winemakers of Sonoma, Napa

I've just launched several new organic wine tours on including two that focus on women winemakers. 

This tour visits three wineries - two started by passionate winemakers and one started by a couple whose passion for farming has made their winery a showcase for healthy ecosystems and polyculture (the opposite of monoculture).

This is the perfect tour for a girls day out or as a special occasion for the bridesmaid. In fact, it works for pretty much any occasion!

Taste world-class wines and a variety of laidback Sonoma countryside. Get the details here.

It's all in the family...

Making great Syrah
At the winery that's also a farm

I am also offering a Women Winemakers of Napa tour as well. See here for details.

Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

$5 Biodynamic Cab and Syrah! Shopping the Bargain Bins - 2007 Mendocino Farms Cab at Grocery Outlet

A rich friend who's good at stretching his funds told me the secrets of his wine cellar last night - Grocery Outlet's wine department. This super budget grocery chain has stores in both Berkeley and Oakland (and elsewhere), so today I was anxious to check it out, based on my friend's advice, and see if there could possibly be any organically grown wine for sale.

Boy oh boy - what a doozey. Right there - with a giant endcap display - was all the 2007 Mendocino Farms Cabernet you could imagine - for $5 a bottle. $5. This is at least a $25 bottle of wine...and it still sells on the internet for as much as $40 a bottle.

This wine, dear readers, was lovingly grown at several of Mendocino's most beautiful, precious, Biodynamic  vineyards - Heart Arrow Ranch and Fairbairn.

The famous Morry's wine store in Los Angeles, waxed enthusiastically about these wines, just a short while ago.

And they sell online at for $488 a case.

But you can get it for $60 for 12 bottles at Grocery Outlet. Hurry!

The selection includes the 2005 and 2007 Cabernet and a 2007 Syrah. Unbelievable. I can't wait to open my three bottles to sample and then head back for more.

Grocery Outlet is open throughout California and a few nearby states. See the map here for store locations.

My Organic Wine Uncorked Tours Launch on!

Thanks to, I am now a guide offering organic wine tours. See above!

Other "experiences" I am offering on include:

Organically: Italian Wines in Napa

Organically: The French Wine Invasion in Napa

Vino Mendocino: The Organic Elite

Secret Organic Wine Adventures: Green and Great

Tours are day long events for 1-10 people and cost $500.

Included: guide services. Not included: Food, tasting fees and transport (which I can arrange for a discount).

Click on any of the links above for more info!

I'll also be offering more tours - including one on Cabs, one on Chards, one on Pinot Noir, and one on Zin Masters.

In addition there will be biodynamic tours in Sonoma, and a tour on the Judgment of Paris in 1976. Another tour will focus on family run wineries in Napa.

I can also do custom tours on a variety of organic, biodynamic and other topics, so let me know if there's something you'd like to see.

And tell all your friends...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dessert Wine for Your Valentine - Part 2

Since this is the season of sweets and sweeties, I covered the topic of dessert wines from organic vintners in a recent post - or so I thought. In the interim, I've remember some I forgot to mention in my earlier post...but I neglected them because of their price point, I think.

Here they are

1. Grgich Hills - Violetta ($85)

Named for the daughter of vintner Mike Grgich, this biodynamically grown, oaked white dessert wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer, and ages 18 months in French oak barrels (75% of which are new).

2. Hawk and Horse Latigo (Cabernet) ($35)

From Lake County high end Cab producer in prestigious Red Hills comes a port style dessert wine made with Cabernet. Fortified with brandy, it is aged for 26 months in new French oak.