Sunday, June 30, 2013

Look It's A Bird, It's a Plane? It's a Drone?

Pesticide applications could be done via drones by 2015, says U.C. Davis professor Ken Giles, who, with help from Yamaha, has been testing the use of small Yamaha helicopters with the idea that they may be applying pesticides in hillsides where it's often difficult to apply sprays with tractors.

Giles says it's possible to precisely position the spray.

One of five U.S. universities selected for research, U. C. Davis has been testing the helicopters in Oakville in Napa County.

The research helicopters require two people to operate them - one for piloting and one for spraying. During the test period, only water is being sprayed.

For more see the full story from AP from today's SF Chronicle.

Or for more in-depth coverage, visit the WSJ coverage here.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Somm - The Must See Wine Movie

Three of the obsessed contenders you'll see in Somm
Until now there were only two truly great movies about wine - both Hollywood comedies - Bottle Shock, with Alan Rickman playing the supersnob to Napa's crass-to-class act, which was all too loosely based on reality, and the Santa-Barbara-County-Pinot-loving, Merlot-defining moment in Sideways.

Both took liberties with the truth - but liberties we loved.

In contrast, the other movie that's a contender in the best wine movies ever made category has got to be Mondovino, which didn't take liberties - but it did make you seasick watching the shakey cam. (It also made you endure scenes of Robert Parker's dog farting loudly and prolongedly under the dinner table.)

Now there's a new contender in the big leagues of defining wine movies - the reality film Somm. It's a fast-paced, engaging documentary - with a lot of twists and turns you don't expect at the end.

It's been the #1 indie or doc film on iTunes for a few weeks now.

The documentary is about 4+ guys who are competing to become Master Sommeliers - an elite cadre of wine experts who get to memorize a lot of trivia and cram for years to succeed. They also have to pass a wine tasting exam. For 40 years, there were only 170 Master Sommeliers in the world. Now the race is on - and more and more wine experts around the world are coveting the title and all that it means to make that grade.

My teacher at the North American Sommelier Association took the test in London recently and failed - along with everyone else taking the test in London this spring. It ain't no walk in the park.

Enter four guys from San Francisco and a few from Dallas and elsewhere who are obsessed with passing the test. I don't think I am being a spoiler if I say that the ones you think are so smart may not be, and guys who most resemble slackers may happen to have incredible palettes.

Some of the mistakes people make in the film are unreal - so off the mark they give you hope for your own wine tasting development. One major faux pas that happens is when one guy thinks a wine is albarino and another thinks it's a totally different white wine. That one made me shake my head - and also think there's hope for all the rest of us and our wine tasting abilities, in whatever league you enjoy playing in.

It was especially sweet to see it at the Mendocino Film Festival a few weeks ago - with two of the guys in it on stage for a Q and A afterwards (the one in the middle and the one on the right).

The film got a great review in the New York Times where critic Rachel Saltz put it thusly, saying Somm is, "less about wine fetishism than about the fetishism of mastery." True, but it also made me wonder if she's a cocktail drinker.

I think one of the aspects of mastery is that the film has no web site of its own - redirects to the iTunes listing where you can preview it on iTunes (where you can also purchase it.) Brilliant. I think Jason Wise, the director (or whoever is responsible) deserves a Masters in Marketing for this move.

If you need any more encouragement, check out the trailer on iTunes. It's a great movie to see at home (on iTunes). While drinking wine. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pinot Days This Sunday in SF

The annual Pinot Noir festivities take place this Sunday from 2-5 pm at Fort Mason. Admission is $75 and gets you in to taste with more than 140 producers. Here are the ones who use estate pinot noir grapes grown organically:

Jean Charles Boisset will lead one
of the Pinot tastings
Alma Rosa
Big Basin
JCB (Boisset) (some organic?)
Landmark Vineyards
Morgan (Double L Vineyard only)
ZD Wines

Other events as part of the weekend include Saturday seminars, including one with Jean Charles Boisset comparing California and Burgundy Pinot Noir examples. More details here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Green Gardens, Greenwashing? Of Tomato Festivals and Biodynamic Gardens

Every now and then, I just break down over greenwashing. I can usually just look the other way, but on some days, it's just too much and I have to share these observations with the wider world.

Recently I've been noticing the gardening promotion - i.e. we have a great organic or biodynamic garden. A tomato festival can also be a tipoff that all is not organic in the vineyard. Not even close.

Cases in point:

• Kendall Jackson and their 17th annual heirloom tomato contest

• Round Pond in Napa and their 200 x 50 foot biodynamic vegetable garden

Kendall Jackson in Sonoma

It is widely known that Kendall Jackson was responsible for cutting down hundreds of acres of precious forest on mountainsides in Sonoma and Mendocino - thereby contributing both to clearcutting as well as soil erosion and overall bad environmental management.

Jackson himself used to love to fly in planes and admire his mountain vineyards. He had more mountain vineyards than most wineries - estimates put his tally at 11,000 out of his 14,000 acres.

His marketing team covets the niche described often as LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability), yet none of his wines are known to be made from certified organic grapes. Why bother stopping using pesticides and getting certified, when you can just invite everyone to an heirloom tomato party with bands and food?

KJ would be happy to invite you to come to their Heirloom Tomato festival and celebration in Sept. For $95, you get to celebrate heirloom tomatoes.

Round Pond in Napa 

Reading the description of Round Pond's statement about their sustainable farming practices would have you practically weeping over how much they care about the vineyards.

Here's what they say about their farming approach:

For nearly a quarter century we have had the pleasure and the privilege of being stewards of Round Pond Estate. While chemicals and shortcuts can make for quick fixes, the truth is, consistent, quality winegrowing is about seasons, cycles and a long-term commitment to the land. To promote natural balance and vineyard health we have dedicated ourselves to the principles of sustainable winegrowing.
What is sustainable winegrowing? Simply put, sustainable winegrowing is a quality conscious, socially responsible and environmentally sound approach to farming. In practice, sustainable winegrowing focuses on encouraging natural processes that promote soil health, such as erosion control, native cover crops and composting. In addition, it promotes positive plant-soil interactions and emphasizes a concerted reduction in the use of chemicals and pesticides...
At heart, being a responsible steward means giving back what you take out. Our passionate vineyard team understands this and applies their decades of experience to the task. From planting through harvest, every step in the production of our acclaimed estate-grown wines reflects our respect for the land and its enduring abundance.
The web site goes on to introduce readers to their 200 foot by 50 foot biodynamic vegetable garden and the various garden experiences guests can choose to participate in:

Food and wine lovers! A gourmet garden to table experience awaits you. This intimate Sunday brunch begins with a tour of the biodynamic sensory garden (weather permitting) led by our winery chef, Eric Maczko. 

From this description, it then comes as something of a surprise to learn what pesticides Round Pond is applying to its estate vineyards:

Pristine Fungicide (Boscalid) - a suspected bee toxin

Intrepid (Methoxyfenozide) - highly toxic to birds and bees

Chateau Herbicide, Applaud (Buprofezin) - classified by the EPA as a possible carcinogen

And that's not even including:

• Roundup - everyone's favorite herbicide, but whose inert (i.e. "inactive") ingredients have been found to be toxic in a 2012 French study and whose main active ingredient - glysophate - is highly toxic to aquatic life and has been associated with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to a 2008 Swedish study published in the International Journal of Cancer.

On the bright side, there are two fabulous vegetable gardens you might prefer to visit, since they are at wineries who are committed to certified organic farming on all or part of their estates: Campovida in Hopland in Mendocino County and Raymond in Napa.

Campovida's 13-acre flower garden was the birthplace of the 70's California organic wine grape growers movement, initiated by Paul Dolan and Amigo Bob, and surviving in the form of Bonterra as the #1 selling organically grown wine in America with a market share that dwarfs its competitors. Originally an organic vegetable garden, the current garden was designed by Kate Frey, and is now an internationally recognized horticultural wonder.

Raymond in Napa is in transition to organic and biodynamic wine grape growing (they are working towards certification in the fall of 2013) and has a beautiful, two-acre biodynamic vegetable garden display they call the Theater of Nature.

You can visit Raymond's garden's many exhibits, explaining various farming approaches from conventional to organic to biodynamic, for free (no tasting or touring fee is charged for visiting the garden). However it will be awhile before Raymond has organically grown wines for sale. Like many larger wineries (Parducci, Benziger) they are heavy on the branding side of organic and light on the availability of organically grown wines as they buy many grapes from conventional growers.

So when a winery talks about their gardening practices, make sure you also ask about their vineyard practices.

Whether you're growing vegetables or wine grapes, bee toxins, bird toxins, carcinogens, and endocrin disruptors have no place in the garden.

And beware the claims of "sustainability" - a word that seems to be difficult for the wine industry to use meaningfully.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

McFadden Wine Club Party - July 13 in Potter Valley

Rock the vineyard - and camp in it afterward, if you like - at McFadden's annual wine club bash. I went last year - it was one of the more memorable evenings of the year.

A summer's night, under the stars, in a beautiful farm at the northern end of secluded Potter Valley, a paradise if ever there was one.

The food is fabulous - proprietor Guinness McFadden's daughter is a professional chef in San Francisco. The band plays on, with room for you to dance on the dance floor. And there's acres of some of California's finest grapes all around you - and some that have been into wine that you can enjoy from your glass.

Area hoteliers are also offering discounts on rooms, if you don't want to camp. And for the cheap at heart, who need a bed, there's always the $40 rooms at Motel 6 in nearby Ukiah (clean place, and extremely nice staff).

Arrive by 5 pm for the official farm tour with Guinness himself.

See pictures from last year's farm tour here.

The whole thing's a steal at $40 for members or $50 for nonmembers. That's about half of what most wineries charge for such a shindig.

But of course the real reason to go is to have a really fantastic evening and overnight.

Get all the details on the party from the friendliest winery tasting room manager you'll ever meet -  John Cesano - at 707.744.8463.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Conaway: Drinking Is An Agricultural Act

SF Chronicle wine critic Jon Bonne's column in Sunday's wine section featured an interview with Napa chronicler, author James Conaway, whose two nonfiction books (Napa: An American Eden, and the sequel The Far Side of Eden) on the valley's characters, wineries, and history are now legend.

Conaway's written a new fictional account of the valley (or rather a fictional place similar to it) - the novel Nose.

In the Q and A interview, Conaway is quoted as saying, "Michael Pollan says that eating is an agricultural act, but so is drinking wine."

Bravo. This is the reason I am writing this blog - it's time we started paying attention to the way our wines are grown and what our buying options are.

Well said, Mr. Conaway. Well said.

Conaway went on to say, "it's also an environmental act, or should be, and that's often the conflict between talking about doing the right thing and actually doing it."

For those who agree (and who want to taste, tour and patronize the wineries that use the best farming practices), I hope you'll find resources here on this blog to help you discover the wines that embody these values.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Spanish Varietals in California: Organic Among Them

The TAPAS tasting in San Francisco Sunday (June 23, 2013)
Yesterday's TAPAS tasting at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio was the perfect way to spend an unseasonally rainy June Sunday afternoon and an excellent way to showcase the California (and southwest) vintners devoted to Spanish wine varietals.

It's worth noting that these wines are perfectly suited to our current climate - and are likely to also be the right choice for the warmer world ahead.

The tasting featured two wineries that make organically grown Spanish varietal wines - Verdad Wines, from southern California, which is 100% organic (and biodynamic on its own Edna Valley estate) and Bokisch Vineyards, located in Lodi, which has some organic estate vineyards and some vineyards which are not organic. (See my previous blog about Bokisch here.) I also found one additional wine that appears to be sourced organically - the Quinto Cruz's Graciano - which also comes from the Bokisch vineyard.

Highlights - Great Values, New Flavors

The insider's wisdom has always been that Spanish wines are underpriced, relative to France, and I would say the same applies to the California Iberians as well. You'll find fair prices on the whites, and great values on the reds.

The other great reason to consider these wines is that they get you "out of the box" that too often, especially in California, consists of Cab, Zin, Chard and Sauvignon Blanc.

I especially fell for the Graciano (and I am not the first to do so) - which is sort of secret varietal, as it is not often bottled on its own. But I'd now go all out on it and order a few cases. It's a special medium-bodied red that is just beautiful on its own - a very versatile, food friendly choice.


Louise Sawyer Lindquist of Verdad
with her 2009 Tempranillo, the only
organically grown tempranillo in the U.S.
Verdad Wines, run by winemaker Louisa Sawyer Lindquist, specializes in Iberian varietals and has long had a reputation for fine wine making.

Verdad's wines are solely sourced from their certified biodynamic estate in the Edna Valley, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, and from the certified organic Ibarra Young Vineyard, in Santa Ynez Valley, has a decades long relationship with the Lindquists.

Verdad shared a tasting room with Qupe in Los Olivos. (Qupe is run by Louisa's husband Bob Lindquist, who is a renowned Syrah producer.)

The couple is notable not only for their incredible wines but also for being organic and biodynamic on their estate vineyards, a rarity in the Edna Valley and Santa Barbara County region.

Their wines are bottle labeled with their Demeter biodynamic certification for their grapes (which means they are also certified organic.)


Liz Bokisch with the Bokisch Graciano
Up and coming Bokisch Vineyards is run by the husband and wife couple of Liz and Markus Bokisch. Markus is of Spanish heritage, worked in Spanish wineries and spent time in Napa at Joseph Phelps before he and Liz bought their first vineyards in Lodi and moved there.

Bokisch is one of the few Lodi vineyards that is certified organic.

Their ties to the wider wine world continue and they sell grapes to many high quality vintners, including garagiste Mark Herrold in Napa as well as Neyers and Turley.

Markus also runs a vineyard management company Bokisch Services.

For Mark's latest take on Lodi vineyards, see his 2012 report on the web site.

• Albarino

This white wine varietal is always a crowd-pleaser whenever I bring it to social events. It's a refreshingly different flavor from the usual Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc - with a unique nose of apricot and peach. It's also a wonderful summer sipper. 

Verdad's Albarino ($22) (various vintages)

This wine comes from the certified biodynamic Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in Edna Valley. A previous vintage won an LA Times Wine of the Week - where the competition for wine critic Sherry Virbilia's attention is extremely high. This is a great honor - and a great pick.

Planted in 1999, in Lodi's Mokelumne River AVA, the Las Cerezas vines are grown from cuttings from Spain. Only 85 cases are made. Bokisch also makes another Albarino from its Terra Vista vineyards that is about 95% organic grapes.

• Graciano 

This traditional "spice box" grape is typically used in Spain as a blending grape, but here in the U.S. single varietal bottlings are growing more popular. It's not that easy to grow, so there's not much of it. But it deserves a lot more attention.

Yesterday was the first time I tasted it and I have to admit, it made a very favorable impression. It's definitely one you should put on your "must try" list. I recommend ordering some from each of these handful of vintners. This is a wine that has much to offer - a bit more than a grenache, and less than a tempranillo, it fills the medium red category well.

And right now these wines are incredibly affordably priced:

BEST BUY - Quinto Cruz 2009 Bokisch Vineyard Graciano ($28)

This wine, sourced from Bokisch's vineyard in Lodi, won a Gold Medal at the SF Chronicle 2012 wine competition and has been a sort of underground top pick for a few years now among wine aficionados looking for a deeply satisfying and nuanced red in this price category. (Wine blogger and judge Blake Grey called it out in the 2010 SF Chronicle Wine Competition as well - as an outstanding value.)

Only 225 cases made - I would grab some before they are gone.

BEST BUY - Bokisch 2010 Graciano ($21)

Winner of a bronze at the Sunset Wine Competition in 2012, only 215 cases are made. Bokisch says it was the first to bottle it as a single varietal in the U.S.

My advice: take advantage of this wine's low price before it gets discovered.

BEST BUY - Verdad 2011 Graciano ($22)

Aged three years in Hungarian oak puncheons. Again - only 75 cases made. Online retailers are offering it for $19.95. Go for it!

• Rose

Verdad 2012 Rose ($18)

I have to admit - Verdad's Rose is my summer house wine. I buy it by the case every year - and recently found it at my local market for the incredible price of $12.99. That's pretty amazing for a biodynamically grown rose of grenache. (At this price point, I hope the people who buy those $7 French rose's at TJ's will take note and convert - why not support your local biodynamic producer?)

But neither the price point nor the farming practices would sell me on it - basically this is just a fabulous rose with rose and strawberry on the nose and strawberry and watermelon on the palette.

Goes with: pretty much everything.

• Tempranillo

Amazingly (to my knowledge) this is the only organically grown tempranillo in the U.S.:

Verdad's 2009 Sawyer Lindquist Tempranillo ($35)

This wine comes from the certified biodynamic Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in Edna Valley and is a blend of 84% tempranillo, 8% grenache, and 8% syrah. It's aged for 24 months in barrel; 40% of that is in new French oak.

Verdad also has a Santa Ynez Valley tempranillo that is made from (94%) organically grown grapes  blended with a small amount of nonorganic syrah. The Santa Ynez tempranillo, primarily grown at Ibarra-Young vineyards, retails for $19.

There's so much more to discover in the world of Spanish wines. I hope you'll find your way to these wines in particular to see what else California has to offer - deliciousness ahead.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The World's Most Beautiful Bee Movie: More Than Honey

Last night I got to see the most beautiful bee movie ever made. More Than Honey is a visual feast the likes of which you have probably never seen before. It also packs quite a wallop, in a quiet, understated, nonhysterical way about the plight of bees today - and our shared fate.

You will never look at a bee the same way - or perhaps an almond "orchard" too - the vast plantations of industrial agriculture in California where 80-90 percent of the world's almond crop is raised.

See the trailer here:

While the trailer is fascinating, I found the clip posted by the Toronto International Film Festival even more enticing - bees mating in mid-air. I can only imagine the drone set up for cameras - must have been amazing.

I could tell you more about the plot and protagonists, but I think it's best left unsaid and better off SEEN.

Markus Imhoff, Director

The director, 70-year-old Markus Imhoff, discusses how this amazing footage was shot on the film's web site:

We had our “bee whisperer” traveling with us. Without him a lot of this would not even have been possible.

We had two teams, one for the crew and one twice as big for the bees. To film the honeybees we used high-speed cameras and endoscope lenses, like the ones used for operations on humans. If you film a colony of bees at the normal tempo, all you get is a hive buzzing with nervous activity. With 70 pictures per second, meaning slowed down three times the normal tempo, the bees move about as fast as we humans do, and you can see exactly what they’re doing, their fascinating legs, their huge, hairy eyes, and their tongue.
Sometimes we used mini-helicopters for the flights. All of the bees in flight were filmed with 300 pictures per second. One second of reality amounts to 12 seconds of film, but don’t forget that I had to capture the right second. For the queen bee’s wedding flight, which was 36 seconds, we worked for more than ten days – and we only actually saw it one and a half times. After two years of shooting, we had 205 hours of footage, with which we spent one year in the editing room.

The film appears in theaters soon - or you can arrange a group or community screening. See the film web site for details.

Bees have died in China as a result of the overuse of insecticides
so humans now take bee pollen and pollinate the flowers.
The movie is subtitled when non-American or non-English speaking participants are talking which probably represents about half of the 90 minute screening time.

The stresses on bees are partly due to mites, which are displayed in dazzling detail in the film, as well as insecticides which are only briefly seen in the movie. The EU has put a two year ban on bee toxins in order to see how the bees respond whereas in the US the EPA has refused to ban the bee toxins, which are more widely applied here on corn seed.

Miller, who appears in the film, is one of the commercial
beekeepers whose hives travel to pollinate almond orchards in
Across the state, California farmers used more than 290,000 pounds of imidacloprid, just one of a number of top bee toxins used here. Others include methoxyfenozide, and chlorantraniliprole along with the suspected toxin boscalid.

Commercial beekeepers have sued the EPA for failing to ban bee toxins. To see a map where the use of neonicotinoids is highest in California, check out the Pesticide Research Institute's page here as well as PRI's Bee Resource pages.

See the New York Times review here. You can listen to NPR's coverage here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

California 2011 Pesticide Data Released Online: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

The long-awaited 2011 California Pesticide Use Reports were released online today and for wine grape pesticide use the data shows two steps forward, one step back. Or is that one step forward and two steps back?

Some of the most toxic substances decreased in overall use, but many bird and bee toxins increased, as did the use (and amount) of harsher herbicides in vineyards in an apparent attempt to control weeds resistant to Roundup.

Farmers used a lot more pesticides on crops in 2011 over 2010, with more than 3 million pounds used on wine grapes in 2012, up 12% over 2010. However, most of the pounds are sulfur, which constitutes about 2/3 of the pesticides used by weight on wine grapes.

Statewide for all crops, more than 191 million pounds were used.

Acres planted in wine grapes (according to PUR data) were up 8,000 acres or 1 percent.


All boldings and [comments] are mine.

• Buprofezin and Neurotoxin Chloropyrifos Use Down 63 Percent

"The area treated with buprofezin [possible carcinogen] and chlorpyrifos [neurotoxin listed on Bad Actor list] decreased substantially in 2011 (81 and 63 percent, respectively)."

• Soil Fumigant 1,3 D Use Up 67 Percent
• Acres Treated with Bee and Bird Toxins Increase 87 Percent
• Herbicide Acres Treated Up 17 Percent

1,3 D:
1,3 D is a very toxic fumigant used to kill all the life in a vineyard before the ground is planted or replanted in vines. It's classified as by Pesticide Action Network as a Bad Actor on two counts - as a carcinogen and as a ground water contaminant.

"Though the area treated was small, reflecting the relatively small number of new vineyard
plantings, in terms of amount applied, use of the fumigant 1,3-D increased 67 percent (446,349
pounds). This was the fourth largest amount of active ingredient applied, across all types, after
sulfur, oils, and glyphosate. The area treated increased 78 percent."

Bee and Bird Toxins:
"The insecticides applied to the greatest acreage in 2011 were oils, imidacloprid [bee and bird toxin] methoxyfenozide [bird and bee toxin], abamectin, spirotetramat, Bacillus thuringiensis [organic], and chlorantraniliprole [bee toxin]."

Herbicides Up
"The area treated with herbicides increased 17 percent from 2010 to 2011, and the herbicides used
most were glyphosate, glufosinate-ammonium, oxyfluorfen [possible carcinogen], flumioxazin, pendimethalin [possible carcinogen], and simazine. Use of each of these herbicides increased in 2011, the increases ranging from 13 percent (glyphosate) to 56 percent (simazine). The area treated with paraquat [super deadly] decreased (27 percent) for the second consecutive year, but that treated with glufosinate-ammonium increased (18 percent).

This may be due to the continued prevalence of glyphosate-resistant weeds..."

Normally the pesticide data is released more frequently than 17 months after the end of the year in which the reports end, but the state switched over from an older computer system to a new one.

2012 data is expected to be out later this year.

The full 2011 report can be read online here.

Of course, organic wine grape growers do not use any of the substances highlighted here (except Bt which is organic).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Craig Wolff - Father of the Agricultural Pesticide Mapping Tool

You know those amazingly cool pesticide maps I sometimes feature here on this blog? The ones that show you exactly where toxics are used in California's wine regions? Those were the work of a a man I never knew but only heard about - a man named Craig Wolff. He was from Richmond. He died recently - prematurely to say the least - but his work is being honored by colleagues and lawmakers in California.

Here is a tribute that I received this morning from the California Environmental Health Tracking Program email list:

Craig David Wolff, Geospatial Sciences Director for the California Environmental Health Tracking Program, passed away from an aortic aneurysm on April 30th, 2013 at age 40. Craig's enthusiasm and dedication to providing timely information about and resources to vulnerable communities in California will be remembered as one of his primary legacies.

Craig was instrumental in the conception, establishment, and implementation of CEHTP, and he contributed greatly as the CDC-led national Tracking initiative grew from its nascent stages to the present.  During his 10-year tenure at CEHTP, Craig championed the use of informational technology to improve the environmental health of Californians, developing novel web-based tools which displayed agricultural pesticide applications, potential exposure to traffic pollutants, and locations of public drinking water systems.

Craig was passionate about using state of the art geographic information systems to map environmental and health data for public health programs, policy, and research.   He created the infrastructure for data dissemination and visualization processes for CEHTP, which resulted in a web-based portal with data and information on topics such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, heat-related illnesses, and birth defects.  Craig developed a geocoding service to allow geographic analysis of public health and environmental data, currently used by over 45 state and local programs to support program planning and decision-making.  He conceived and developed web-based tools which allowed researchers to link maternal residence near pesticide applications to the risk of autism spectrum disorders in children.

His most recent accomplishment was the development of a tool which maps public drinking water systems in the State. Knowing the location of drinking water systems can and has been used to inform issues on drinking water affordability and equity, quality, and emergency preparedness and response - benefiting the public health of all Californians.  Craig's next dream was to replicate this project nationally to ultimately inform public health research and policy on water across the country.

Craig held dual bachelor degrees in mathematics and geography, a master's degree in environmental engineering, and in addition to his work at CEHTP, was pursuing a doctorate degree in Environmental Health Sciences at UC Berkeley. 

Craig was a dedicated and loving husband and father who, despite his many responsibilities and interests, always prioritized his family.  He enjoyed spending time outdoors with friends and family, completing the 545-mile AIDS/LifeCycle three times and coaching his children's sports teams.  Craig's survivors include his wife Sonia, and his three children, Clarisa (9), Sebastian (7), and David (5).

Craig was a wonderful co-worker to our team and all of the staff at the Environmental Health Investigations Branch at CDPH.  He was extremely talented and very generous with his time and energy.  He had great enthusiasm for all of his projects, inspired and encouraged many of his colleagues, and accomplished an incredible amount of excellent work.  We are grateful to have known Craig and to have worked together toward a shared vision for improved public health in California.  We are heartbroken by our loss and for a vibrant life cut too short.  Craig will be dearly missed; his legacy and impact on public health in California will continue on. 

On May 9, 2013, the California State Assembly was adjourned in Craig's memory.

See below for a tribute from one of his supporters:

Here is a link to the Agriculture Pesticide Mapping Tool. While it's a little kludgy today, I am sure someone will carry on Craig's work of making it better and more usable.

If you do try to use it, know that you have to w-a-i-t for the results to return for a few seconds longer than you might think. But it's worth waiting for - don't touch it while you wait - and it will appear, rising from the page like an old Polaroid photograph.

It maps much more than I knew for the first several years I used it. I didn't know you could search just by one chemical or one town. Check it out - and you'll find its hidden powers.

Monday, June 10, 2013

2011 Barrel Tasting - Organic Scores from Vinography's Alder Yarrow

Napa's annual charity auction was a record setter this year and gave wine writers a look at the 2011 Napa wines coming down the pike. Here are some of Alder Yarrow's ratings from the barrel tasting event - I've selected the list of organics here. For a full list - see his post here.

Alder uses the scale of 1-10.


2011 Ehers Estate Cab

2011 Spottswoode Cab


2012 Ovid Cab


2011 Ghost Block Single Vineyard Cab

2010 Raymond Vineyards Cab (in transition)


2011 Oakville Ranch - Robert's Cab Franc

2011 Oakville Winery Estate Cab

2010 ZD Wines Reserve Cab


2010 Madonna Estate Pinot