Friday, February 27, 2015

Thank You, Dutch Bird Counters: New Dutch Study Establishes Clear Link Between Imidacloprid and Bird Declines Based on Bird Counters' Data

Perhaps you were the type of person who never placed much value on bird counts, thinking to yourself, "What are those birdwatchers looking at now?"

Now new, groundbreaking research from Holland published in Nature proves that the bird counters have been doing a very good job of collecting valuable data. In fact, their data provides the key proof that the insecticide imidacloprid may indeed be a candidate for what some are calling the Second Silent Spring.

While a number of studies have implicated the neonicotinoid as a toxin contributing to the decline of bees as well as birds, none have shown such a definitive link as the study from Radboud University in Holland which identified links to the most severe bird declines to imidcaloprid found in surface water.

The insecticide imidacloprid is widely used in agriculture around the world. In California, wine grape growers used 44,000 pounds of it on 190,000 acres (roughly 40% of the state's bearing vines).

Earlier studies had linked the insecticide to invertebrates. This is the first study linking it to vertebrates.

"This is the first study that correlates imidacloprid to possible indirect harmful effects, via the food chain, for vertebrates...It explains the decline better than other factors, such as land use," said Professor Hans de Kroon, the lead investigator.

"Neonicotinoids were always regarded as selective toxins," de Kroon said. "But our results suggest that they may affect the entire ecosystem."

The English newspaper The Guardian reported, "At least 95% of neonicotinoids applied to crops ends up in the wider environment, killing the insects the birds rely on for food, particularly when raising chicks."

The Guardian went on to quote that the study found, "water pollution levels of just 20 nanograms of neonicotinoid per litre led to a 30% fall in bird numbers over 10 years, but some water had contamination levels 50 times higher. 'That is why it is so disturbing - there is an incredible amount of imidacloprid in the water,' he [de Kroon] said. 'And it is not likely these effects will be restricted to birds."

The study was created in conjunction with the Sovon Centre for Field Ornithology, which has one of the densest bird monitoring networks in the world, and which has collected and stored data regularly over a long period of time.

"We have sufficient data available on common bird species to analyse densities and trends in their numbers," said Ruud Foppen of Sovon.

For more, enjoy the study's very professional video, in English, featuring the researchers themselves:


Though imidacloprid has been banned for two years in the EU in an attempt to allow bee populations to recover, it is still widely used in the U.S. American beekeepers have filed lawsuits against the EPA to try and ban its use in the U.S.

The EPA has said it will take five years to study the issue.

Here's where it's used on wine grapes in the state of California.
2010 Data from California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation mapped by the State Dept. of Public Health

If you're a bird lover, you might be tempted to patronize wineries that don't use imidacloprid in their vineyards.

Unfortunately, imidacloprid is showing up in California surface water in agricultural areas, and 19% of water samples taken by scientists from the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation in a recent study of three Central Valley sites, exceeded allowable levels for aquatic life, according to the article written by the CDPR scientists published in the March 2012 issue of the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

How much is used in the fine wine growing regions of Napa and Sonoma (where many people live near vineyards)?


• 1,219 pounds on 4,358 acres (11%)


• 1,237 pounds on 5,182 acres (8%)

As you can see below, the highest use clusters along Highway 29 in Napa Valley and around Healdsburg and Geyserville.

Why are wine grape growers using imidacloprid? "Imidacloprid was used during warmer weather between budbreak and harvest to control mealybug infestations," says the CDPR's report on the 2012 data (the most current report available).

Last year, the head of Napa Green, the vintners' association's green program, who's always happy to show folks the bird boxes scattered throughout his vineyard, waxed eloquently (in the Premiere Napa Valley catalog) about how pristine the Napa Valley is, never mentioning that he uses imidacloprid over his 50 acres of vines - which kills birds.

Perhaps it's time for the Napa and Sonoma Audobon Societies to invite the Dutch researchers over for wine and cheese and to see their bird count data and determine the impacts of imidacloprid on local bird populations.

To reiterate, from the Dutch study, Dr. de Kroon: "Neonicotinoids were always regarded as selective toxins. But our results suggest that they may affect the entire ecosystem."

Once again, it's head scratching time - time to contemplate the outdated Newtonian model we use to look at the world - and toxins in particular. When it comes to matter, isn't the universe a lot more like quantum physics tells us it is - interconnected - than what that old materialistic model from Newton says?

Here's de Kroon (quoted in the Guardian), "All the other studies [on harm caused by neonicotinoids] build up from toxicology studies. But we approached this completely from the other end. We started with the bird population data and tried to explain the declines. Our study really makes the evidence complete that something is going on here. We can't go on like this any more. It has to stop."

We are all, but especially here in the U.S., playing a catchup game, to find the smoking gun, when we might act more like some of the Europeans do - creating national programs for pesticide reduction (as France is on a course to do), banning imidacloprid (like the EU has done), and doubling our intake of organically grown wines (which is the case in Australia as well as Europe).

Has the wine industry responded to this study? Not at all. Have consumers? No.

Time to ponder - over a nice glass of wine?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Checking Out the Buyers at Premiere Napa Valley: The Super Fans from Oklahoma and Arkansas

While merchants, collectors and winemakers use Premiere Napa Valley to get some good ink, personally, I've become fascinated by the buyers' clubs from around the country who converge on the event and buy some of the top lots.

Unlike the wine merchants, the clubs don't often have web sites. Super Fans don't need to advertise.

I happened to be sitting on an outdoor couch at one of the Friday tastings at Meadowood where I was surrounded by one group of very nice guys from Little Rock, Arkansas who I might have mistaken for the residents of a Superbowl Skybox. Later I found out this group, all wearing Cliffewood Wine Syndicate name tags, took home one of the priciest Premiere lots - 5 cases of the 2013 Green Envy from Chateau Boswell for $100,000 or $1,666 a bottle.

During the week, they told me they'd dined and visited with Tim Mondavi of Continuum, one of the elite producers on Pritchard Hill (above Napa Valley). They'd bought his Premiere lot last year. "We love that wine," one said to me. "And we really like Tim."

Another group I am perennially fascinated by are the Petroleum Clubs. Last year there was a spirited bidding war between the Texas based one and the Oklahoma based one which the auctioneer played up, merrily making fracking jokes along the way.

In the 1950's, my dad worked for Phillips 66 and I was born in Texas during the time he spent there; my godfather was his then boss, and he lived in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, one of the centers of the fossil fuel universe.

As I found myself rubbing shoulders with one of the Petroleum Club of Oklahoma bunch at the Entre Nous booth (at the Melka tasting at Meadowood), I asked him what the club was all about. (Unlike the buyers' clubs, the Petroleum is a real club, with a restaurant, meeting facilities, and more.) He told me the group just liked to drink wine and that they stocked the wine list with these bottles. "Any member can buy them," he said.

I told him briefly of my ancient ties to Oklahoma, and in typical Oklahoma fashion, he invited me to check out the wine list and to stop by at the club any time. "Just mention that your dad worked for Phillips 66 and they'll let you in," he told me.

After I took a look at the wine list - and its prices - I was ready to book a flight. The prices seem not to have change much from when Napa's finest Cabs cost no more than $110, as evidenced by a 2002 Spottswoode for that price. (That vintage goes for $289 on and a ). There were numerous wines from Premiere on the list - a 2001 Oakville Ranch Cab for $95, a 2007 Martin Estate Cab for $85 and more.

At any rate, it's always refreshing to me to meet the people who love wine and make it their hobby. They come in so many sizes, classes, states - and accents.

(Note: This article breaks with our usual organic theme. In order to eliminate any confusion, the wines mentioned that have organic vineyards in these vintages are Spottswoode and Entre Nous wines. Oakville Ranch's more recent vintages are as well.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Napa's Ne Plus Ultra at Premiere Napa Valley: The Organic Among Them

Credit: Decanter
Premiere Napa Valley set new records this year selling $6 million worth of one of kind wines, up from $5.9 million in 2014.

While 2015 was not a repeat of the high drama of 2014, during which a buyer paid $260,000 for the Scarecrow lot, the average price of a bottle did not change much. The average bottle price in 2014 was $283; in 2015, it was $286.

This year's highest price lot sold for $115,000.

The wine auction benefits the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade association many (but not all) area wineries belong to, providing more than half of its annual revenue.

The wines presented are one of a kind wines, not available outside of the event, and are sought after by collectors and their wine merchants.

Because it's not a charity auction, it sends a signal to the marketplace about the value of Napa's fine wine prices.

Last year I attended the auction and, as luck would have it, sat next to Sasha Vaynerchuk of Wine Library (in NJ), father of the YouTube and social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk. That year Wine Library won only two of his bids. "Prices were too high," Sasha told me. This year Sasha came with Gary, whose picture was plastered over every available social media channel, and Wine Library came home with four (well publicized) lots from Premiere.

To learn more about the event, and to hear from Phillipe Melka (pictured below), one of Napa's top tier winemaking consultants (and one who prefers to use organic grapes in his own as well as his clients' wines), enjoy the Napa Valley Vintners' video below.

Below is a list of the organically grown wines from Premiere Napa Valley 2015, with prices listed for some wineries. (More prices may be added later). Lots that sold for $20,000 or more are in bold type.

Personally, I've become fascinated by the buyers at this event - of that, more later (tomorrow's post).


Grgich Hills Estate, 10 cases, $22,000
AVA: Carneros


Chappellet, 5 cases, $26,000
(Pritchard Hill)

Ehler's Estate, 5 cases, $16,000
AVA: St. Helena

Hall, 5 cases, $26,000
AVA: St. Helena

Inglenook, 5 cases
AVA: Rutherford

Long Meadow Ranch Winery, $12,000
AVA: Rutherford

Rocca Family Vineyards, 5 cases, $20,000
AVA: Coombsville

Spottswoode, 5 cases, $48,000
AVA: St. Helena

Volker Eisele Family Estate, 5 cases, $12,000
AVA: Chiles Valley District


Madonna Estate, 5 cases, $8,000
AVA: Carneros


Lateral, 5 cases
AVA: Carneros

Monday, February 23, 2015

Russian River Documentary - Local Premieres in St. Helena (March 4) and San Rafael (March 12)

The drought in California has brought to the surface tensions that have been brewing for some time over water use and wine. As northern Chilean vineyards shut down due to lack of water there, all over California, drought ranks as one of the top concerns on the minds of farmers, grape growers and everyone who lives here.

The Russian River runs through wine country in Mendocino and Sonoma counties and is the main source of water (along with groundwater) for growers and vintners. There are more than 60,000 acres in vine in Sonoma and 16,000 in Mendocino. Very little is dry farmed and almost all growers use water for frost protection.

Though the river plays a starring role in the vitality of the region, it has never been the subject of a feature length documentary before. Now its turn in the spotlight has come, as local Sonoma folks have put together what looks like a very fine film, judging from the trailer.

Here's a taste of what's to come at local premiere events in Napa and Marin counties.

It's playing March 4 in St. Helena at the Cameo Cinema in an event sponsored by the local Sierra Club.

Details here.

It will also play March 12 at the Rafael Theater in San Rafael at a special screening with the filmmakers in attendance.

Details here.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It IS a Beautiful World

What a lovely world it is when you can have lunch with Jancis Robinson and discuss organic and Biodynamic wines.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Premiere Napa Valley Event: The Melka Tasting at Meadowood

Premiere Napa Valley, an auction of epic proportions, featuring exclusive, very expensive, one of a kind lots from Napa vintners, kicked off Friday afternoon with various group or appellation tastings around the valley. The pre-event tastings are designed to whet collectors' appetites for what lies ahead - the biggest, spendiest gathering of top collectors, elite wine merchants and self-organized wine buying clubs or syndicates.

(The Premiere Napa Valley auction is not to be confused with the Auction Napa Valley, a charity event hosted in May; Premiere Napa Valley's auction benefits the Napa Valley Vintners, the region's powerful marketing organization - a vital part of the local economy and the engine that keeps Napa's wines in the global spotlight).

French born and Bordeaux trained, Philippe Melka, one of Napa's most elite consultants, sits at the epicenter of this whirlwind. Melka is, in the words of Robert Parker, "one of the most powerful people in wine today," and a consulting winemaker at 10 very select Napa wineries. He also makes wine under his own brand - Melka Wines, and, in addition to this Napa clients, also has one client in Sonoma.

Both Melka and Michel Rolland, the other French born major wine consultant in Napa, prefer that clients use organic methods in the vineyards, so I made it a point to taste my way through the four wineries with certified vineyards at the Melka tasting who are all featured below. 

Wine expert Karen MacNeil (author of the ever popular Wine Bible) and
Kort van Bronkorst, both of whom I connected with at the
Wine Writers Symposium, popped in to taste the selections
Joe Filippin from Entre Nous, with the 2012 Cab;
Entre Nous is Melka's only Oakville Cab
Cherie Melka of Melka Wines, holding the
2012 Bordeaux Blend Jumping Goat
(grown in St. Helena)
Stephen Adams of Howell Mountain's Adamvs
holding a magnum of Adamvs, the all estate Cab;
Adamvs' vineyards are organic and Biodynamic
Melka's sole Sonoma client is Skipstone
located in Alexander Valley; Amy Schaefers displays
the latest vintage of Skipstone's Olivier's Blend

If you want to know more...All the wines from these ultra premium Napa wineries (and many more) are featured in the apps Organically Napa: Wine Finder and Organically Napa: A Tasting and Touring Guide ($9.99 each/available on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.) 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Winemakers Announced for SHED Healdsburg Biodynamic Wine GRANGE EVENT

It's not a real grange, but the proprietors of SHED think of their store-restaurant-charcuterie-cheese-shop-and-wine-shop as a modern grange. On March 1, in their modern grange series, four local winemakers with Biodynamic vineyards and estate wines will talk about Biodynamics in the final installment of a six part series on Biodynamic agriculture and farming practices.

This event focuses on wine from Biodynamic vineyards. Forget any wild eyed tales you've read about fairies in the fields when it comes to Biodynamics. This is a certification program, based on a process approach to certification, that reads more like an agro-ecology textbook citing historically tried and true methods (used for centuries) and incorporates all of the federally required materials standards for organic certification.

Biodynamic standards include a grape growing standard that makes biodiversity a requirement and winemaking standards that allow producers to choose to make and market wines without additives in a category called "Biodynamic Wine." (Limited amounts of sulfites are permitted, but nothing more). This is the only no-additives standard in the wine world. (Organically grown wines may include organic additives).

Making wines certified "Biodynamic® Wine" is a high wire act, performed by only a few (but mostly the best) wineries, and relies on the absolutely right soils and farming to let the essence of the grapes and the site come through.

A second standard, "Made with Biodynamic® Grapes" also exists for winemakers who need more flexibility in the cellar. Both may be labeled with the Demeter logo.

(Other vintners make wines solely from Biodynamic estate vines or purchase fruit from Biodynamic growers, conforming to general USDA winemaking standards.)

But whatever the standard is, Biodynamic farming deserves your attention, striving to bring into balance both agriculture and the natural world in a holistic approach that isn't just sustainababble hooey.

I'll be moderating this panel which features folks who are rarely seen at public wine events, so I am hoping you will make it a point to come and see them. They're a fascinating bunch. And there will be plenty of time for Q and A.

Alex Davis
Winemaker and Proprietor, Porter Creek Vineyards

Known For: quietly making acclaimed Pinot Noir in his family's Russian River Valley vineyards on Westside Road in Healdsburg
Wines: 4+ wines ($36-72, 91-93 pts.)
Varietals: Chardonnay, 3-4 estate Pinot Noirs

Biodynamic: since 2003
Biodynamic Vineyards: 20 acres
Certifications: Vineyard, Winery; makes "Biodynamic Wine" (that means up to 100 ppm of sulfites; other than that, no additives)
Biodynamic Case Production: 1,500

Tasting Room: Westside Road, Healdsburg

Ridgely Evers
Proprietor, DaVero

Known for: making Italian varietals, including the rarely grown Sagrantino, and olive oil on a Dry Creek Valley farm

Wines: Malvasia Bianco, Moscato, Pinot Nero, Sangiovese, and an expensive and unobtainable Sagrantino

Biodynamic: since 2011
Certifications: Vineyard
Biodynamic Vineyards: 12 acres
Biodynamic Vineyard Case Production: 1,400

Tasting Room: Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg

Hugh Chappelle
Winemaker, Quivira Vineyards

Known for: making Rhone wines and Sauvignon Blanc in Dry Creek Valley

Wines: 10+ wines ($22-38; 90-91 pts.)
Varietals: Grenache, Mourvedre Petite Sirah, Syrah, Rhone Blends (red and white), Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel

Biodynamic: since 2004
Certifications: Vineyard, Winery; makes "Made with Biodynamic Grapes" wine
Biodynamic Vineyards: 88 acres
Biodynamic Case Production: 6,500

Tasting Room: Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg

Philippe Corderey
Biodynamic Consultant 

Known for: Vigneron from Provence who works with top vineyards in the U.S.

About: raised in a family of French vignerons, he left the family land to become a pesticide salesman.

After a life threatening bout with diseases (from carrying sacks of vineyard chemicals), he healed himself with a strict detox diet, discovered Biodynamics and enrolled in a Biodynamic education program in Pennsylvania. He later worked as a vineyard manager and winemaker at Chapoutier vineyards in the Languedoc and in the Tain L'Hermitage, St. Joseph, Cornas and Chateauneuf de Pape appellations.

Randall Grahm recruited him to come to California to establish Bonny Doon Vineyard's first Biodynamic vineyards in Monterey County, the earliest in Central California to be Demeter certified. He's now based in Sebastopol but works for vineyards throughout California.

Certified Biodynamic Clients: Grgich Hills Estate in Napa, Qupé's Sawyer Lindquist estate in Edna Valley (also known as Slide Hills Vineyard) in the Central Coast region, and Preston Farm & Winery in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley.


The event takes place Sunday at SHED from 5 to 7 pm and there is a $20 admission fee for the panel and tasting.  For more, see the SHED web site here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Another Reason Why Organically Grown Wine Matters: Groundwater Contamination from Pesticides

Many of the organic or Biodynamic vineyardists that I talk to talk about the pride they feel in knowing that the water running through the vines they work on is clean when it leaves the property.

Therefore you'd be forgiven for not knowing what the other guys out there are doing. Because they don't say what the water is like when it leaves their vineyard.

When you buy that cheap supermarket bottle in the grocery (not organic) or even an expensive one from a high end winery, you may be supporting the kind of pesticide use that leads to groundwater contamination.

We are fortunate here in California to live in a state that requires pesticide use reporting. That way state authorities can postulate where the pesticide is coming from when state authorities are monitoring groundwater contamination from pesticides.

This video from the state DPR may make you wonder - well, what agricultural pesticides are they finding in that groundwater? And that might be a good question to ask. Because when it comes to the 90 percent of wine that is grown industrially over the state, as well as those "artisanal" growers, there are indeed neurotoxins, developmental toxins, carcinogens and more that are applied to the vines. It's not a message you're going to hear from the Wine Institute.

This video is in English, with Spanish subtitles.


The state's DPR has just published an update to its ongoing progress report. You can read it here. Chlorpyrifos is one of the wine grape pesticides mentioned in the report. It's in Lorsban and Dursban and other brands.

It's an old school organophosphate that's been linked to autoimmune disorders and more. It's become widespread in some of the agricultural areas of California. This comes from the Wikipedia article about chlorpyrifos:

"In samples collected between 2007 and 2009 from families living in Northern California, TCPy was found in 98.7% of floor wipes tested and in 65% of urine samples tested. For both children and adults, the average concentrations of TCPy in urine were lower in the later study.[48] A 2008 study found dramatic drops in the urinary levels of chlorpyrifos metabolites when children in the general population switched from conventional to organic diets.[49]"

Of course, the best thing you can do to prevent pesticide use is to support organic farmers and organic grape growers and the vintners who grow or buy these grapes.


Here is what the other guys are using (data from the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation). These are the same statistics I trot out about once or twice a year on this blog, but they bear repeating. There are 52,000 pounds - yes POUNDS - of chlorpyrifos used on wine grapes alone on 25,000+ acres.

Bird and Bee Toxins

Boscalid: bee hazard, possible carcinogen
53,340 pounds a year on 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 over 6,465 acres

Oxyfluorfen: possible carcinogen
71,267 pounds on 209,122 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 114,843+ acres

MAP: CHLORPYRIFOS APPLIED TO WINE GRAPES (California Dept. of Public Health map/data from 2010, the latest year for which mapping data exists):

Here's where the chlorpyrifos is. I should clarify that this data is not showing groundwater contamination. This data is showing the application of chlorpyrifos to vineyards. From vineyards, it can reach wells.

Chlorprifos found in well water is heavily linked to a hugely increased risk for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and other pretty dire autoimmune conditions. (Read on for specific citations).

Notice the applications are not just the Central Valley. There are more than a few Lorsban users in Sonoma and Napa counties as well as in Monterey all along Highway 101. Remember this is just showing the chlorpyrifos applied to wine grapes alone. (It's also applied to many other crops.)

Of course, this is one of the leading "bad old pesticides," nothing like the newer ones - like imidacloprid, for instance. Just kidding. (Imidacloprid, heralded as the latest in the long list of "wonder" chemicals, is now on the state's list of agricultural chemicals tested for in groundwater.)

Here are the maps for Napa and Sonoma counties showing where chlorpyrifos is being used on wine grapes. In Napa there is only one company that uses it, but they are the biggest single landowner and grower in the county. In Sonoma, some of the Lorsban users are prominent vintners.

The map shows 2010 data from the California Dept. of Pesticide
Regulation PUR that has been mapped by the California Dept. of
Public Health. The latest available PUR data (2012) has not been mapped
but shows 272 pounds of chlorpyrifos used on 162 acres in Napa in 2012.
 This map shows 2010 data from the California Dept. of Pesticide 
Regulation PUR that has been mapped by the California Dept. of 
Public Health. The latest available PUR data (2012) has not been mapped 
but shows 123 pounds of chlorpyrifos used on 65 acres in Sonoma in 2012.

You can explore the maps and data on California's wine grape pesticides at the California Dept. of Public Health here.

Currently the DPR is deciding whether to restrict chlorpyrifos sales solely to registered pest control advisors. 

Its press release on this matter states, "Since 2004, 1-2 million pounds of chlorpyrifos has been applied each year to agricultural lands in California." At the national level, the EPA estimates that 10 million pounds are used on agricultural lands in the U.S.

All this comes in the wake of epidemiological studies released in 2009 showing rural Californians drinking private well water in Tulare, Fresno and Kern counties had an 82% increased chance of getting Parkinson's due to chlorpyrifos being used in their areas.

(Unfortunately the state of California does not test groundwater for chlorpyrifos, having, for some reason, decided that it is not an imminent threat, but the UCLA researchers did test for, basing their assessment on known health risks and the assessment of other states).

You can contact your local ag commissioner to obtain a list of the sites and applications of chlorpyrifos in your county. Just ask for the latest Pesticide Use Report from the county. It is public information. Some counties (Napa, Sonoma) require sending in a form (which they will email to you) to obtain the data. Others (Santa Barbara County, for instance) just post a link to it online. It makes for interesting reading.

The state's Pesticide Use Reports are available online here. These, too, are broken out by crop type or chemical and location. Readers can read the reports for each county in California as well.

UPDATE: Feb. 22, 2015: I just found out that the EPA has issued a press release expressing its concerns over chlorpyrifos and worker safety. Its latest report states, "We are concerned about some workers who mix, load and apply chlorpyrifos to agricultural and other non-residential sites...We are also concerned about workers who work around areas that are treated with chlorpyrifos as part of their jobs." 

More information is also available from Environmental Health News which posted a story about the topic here.

Biodynamic Wine - All You Ever Wanted To Know - Direct from the Horse's Mouth

Demeter USA will be offering a Short Course on Biodynamic grape growing and winemaking Monday, March 23 at Maysara winery in McMinnville, Oregon.

On the agenda...Moe Momtazi will present an opening keynote...Paul Dolan will give an overview of the Biodynamic farm.

A morning panel of presenters will cover Biodynamics in the vineyard. Featured are Glenn McGourty (U.C. Farm Advisor), Nadine Lew (currently with Soter Vineyards; previously at Bonny Doon and Robert Sinskey); Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate and other experts.

The afternoon panel will cover making Demeter certified wines. Panelists include Tahmiene Momtazi of Maysara, Gilles de Domingo from Cooper Mountain, Ben Thomas of Montinore and Dan Rinke of Johan Vineyards.

And I will be moderating.

Should be an amazing day with this list of experts!

Save the date - or register now.

And, if you can't make it, email me your question for a speaker and I will try to get it answered!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Over the Top and Under the Radar - Cassata Vineyards in Sonoma Valley Gets Amazing Scores

I am updating the Biodynamic wine apps and  just noticed - and want to acknowledge with a quick shoutout - the folks at Cassata Vineyards must be doing something amazing.

This 23 acre Biodynamic vineyard in Sonoma Valley has racked up two impressive achievements:

• A 2014 Sonoma Harvest Fair win for Muscardini Cellars' 2012 Cabernet from Cassata vines

• A 95 Point score from Robert Parker, Jr. for the Jeff Cohn Cellars Zinfandel from Cassata vines, saying the Zin was "as good as this varietal can be."

A random search on YouTube brought up this video review from Wine Weirdos...who comment on the freshness of the fruit.

I am planning a visit to see the vineyards and meet the Cassata family (who are starting to release their own wines under their Utopium label).

Partly one has to wonder what Biodynamic farming does for wine. I have been preparing for the upcoming Demeter Short Course on Biodynamics, which will be held March 23 at Maysara Winery in McMinnville, Oregon and where I will be moderating two panels (one with growers and one with winemakers) during the day long event. In doing some research about Pinot Noirs, I found that 82% of the 60 Pinots made from Biodynamic vines in the U.S. were rated 90+ pts. 

(And I'm not even counting Wine Enthusiast scores - just Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine, Parker, Vinous, Bonné, Asimov and a few others). 82%.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Wine Lovers, Please Come: March 1 - SHED's Grange Event Series to Feature Panel and Wine Tasting on Biodynamics and Wine

Demeter USA has very graciously invited me to moderate an event featuring a panel of Biodynamic winemakers at SHED in SHED's Grange Events series on local farming and agriculture.

The tasting and talk takes place Sunday, March 1 from 5-7. Admission is $20 and includes wine tasting of locally grown wines from Biodynamic vines along with the program which will feature Q and A with Sonoma winemakers who make Demeter certified Biodynamic wines or have certified vineyards.

This is a rare public event showcasing this much misunderstood topic - which is actually the kind of wine grape growing, wine making and wine connoisseurship that the 21st century needs more of. Come out and enjoy yourselves!

You'll learn things - like how the certification "Biodynamic Wine" is the only additive free wine standard, something a lot of people will want to seek out - and enjoy some lovely wines (Pinots, Rhones, and more). For you people who like wine scores, most of these wines are in the 90+ pt. spectrum and some are on great restaurant wine lists as well.

Details here:

I know you will learn something new - and taste some delicious wines that may have escaped your notice.

And you'll get to see SHED, which won the 2014 James Beard Foundation for restaurant design. Learn more about SHED here.