Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019's Most Popular Posts: Pesticides, Science, Environment, Memories, Good Wines

2019 was the tenth year of writing this blog. It's fun to look back and see what readers paid the most attention to.


As usual, pesticides remained a big topic, getting the most page views. This is news that is generally unreported (why?) yet very, very important.

• Sonoma trumpeted its good green-ness in sustainability hype, overlooking the fact that the county used 81,000 pounds of glyphosate alone in 2017.

• Speaking in a well attended talk at Ecofarm, Amigo Bob Cantisano, a long time organic champion, railed against pesticide food testing methods, saying they were a fraud

• But the topper was the video of a U.C. professor (on the verge of retirement) singing a pro-spraying song to a group of Sonoma growers, and encouraging them to sing along, "I Sprayed it on a Grapevine."


• While the internet was rampant with misinformation about organic growers  allegedly choking France to death with copper sprays, science came to the fore (for those who could read) in Seralini's mass spectrometry analysis data (published in a peer reviewed journal) showing that copper was much more widely and intensively used by conventional growers. Copper is a common ingredient in conventional fungicides. More startlingly, Seralini showed that copper residues were also showing up much, much more in the conventional wines.

• In addition, while organic groups widely circulated the fact that organically grown wines had glyphosate in them (albeit in tinier amounts than conventional wines), consumers were not focusing on the real culprit on glyphosate consumption: glyphosate ridden grains, which I tried to bring attention to.


• Oregon's second generation winegrower and farmer Mimi Casteel (her family owns Bethel Heights) made headlines when she was featured (hurray) in the podcast I'll Drink to That and in an article by Eric Asimov. Before all that happened, I had the good fortune to have a long phone call with her (as I was and have almost finished a website organically grown wines of Oregon) and I had also featured her compelling video on why not to use Roundup in a blog post. While a lot of what Asimov writes is excellent, he still seems to underestimate the use of pesticides in vineyards.

• Bonterra had soil scientists track soil carbon drawdown in 13 of its vineyards and compared data from conventional, organic and biodynamic vines to see which sequestered the most carbon. Guess who won...


• My first trip to Ecofarm, the organic farming conference held annually in California, led to posting the fun video from Tablas Creek on keeping sheep year round in their vineyards. Many other wineries rent sheep in the spring to save on tractor passes and mowing, but only one other (Preston Farm & Winery in Healdsburg) has them year round. (Both rely on selling lamb meat to offset the expense of caring for them year round).


• While organic did not come up as a topic in the state of the wine industry presentations given at Unified Grape Symposium in Sacramento, at the press conference afterwards, I was able to ask the assembled experts their views on its future in the state.

I'm not sure why a $1.4 billion wine sector gets so little attention.

The U.S. lags far behind European producers in organically grown wine production. Production here is about 2.3% compared to 8-10% in the three major wine producing countries in Europe (France, Italy and Spain). Most organically grown wines in the U.S. sell for premium prices (i.e. $10-20) a bottle so this would seem like a lucrative market since that is what all the mass market Big Wine companies want...to edge higher and higher in that price range.

• One of the top wineries in the U.S., Heitz Cellar, also changed ownership and acquired additional property. The new management has announced plans to convert the winery's 400+ acres from organic to biodynamic certification.


• The legendary and good humored Charlie Barra died this year and was celebrated and mourned with deep affection. He did so much more than most people knew in his early days battles to get fairer compensation for growers who were far more at the mercy of the big wineries then than now. His list of accomplishments continued over the decades. His place in history is assured.

Good Wines

• Finally, four stories celebrated excellent wines from organic vines and these got a lot of page views, too. See the stories on the Ecofarm tasting, Mendocino Wine Competition's organic winners, the Deep Roots tasting and the organic growers of Champagne who showed a lot of joie de vivre in San Francisco.


4,004 page views
1. Mendocino Producer Charlie Barra Dies, Age 92, After 73 Harvests; Organic Since 1945, Fought for Growers, Created One of the First AVAs

1,304 page views
2. Your Tax Dollars At Work: UC Davis Professor Dr. Carl Winters of UCCE Shares Song "I Sprayed It On a Grapevine" with Sonoma Growers at DPR Accredited Educational Event--"No Problems with Glyphosate"

1,211 page views
3. Conventional Wine Has 10X the Glyphosate Level of Organically Grown Wine, But Conventional Grains Have 500% More Than Conventional Wine

1,133 page views
4. Science! New Soil Study Shows Carbon Sequestration 9-13% Higher for Biodynamic and Organic Viticulture Than Conventional

1,040 page views
5. Roundup in Wine? Please, No, Says Mimi Casteel
5. Mimi Casteel in New York Times and a Note for Eric Asimov on Actual Pesticide Use

798 page views
6. Organic Vineyard Consultant and Farm Advisor Amigo Bob Says Pesticide Residue Testing "Is a Fraud," Urges Activism

775 page views
7. At the Press Conference: Unified's State of the Industry Panel Sees "Continued Growth" of the $1.4 Billion Organic Sector

634 page views
8. Science! New Seralini Study on Copper: Conventional Wines Contain 10 Times More Copper than Organically Grown Wines—And You Can Taste the Difference

562 page views
9. Sonoma's Certified Sustainable Glyphosate: Average of 81,319 Pounds Each Year for Four Years in a Row

520 page views
10. Heitz, One of Napa's Biggest Organic Producers, Acquires 51 Acres of Vines; Will Convert New Holdings to OrganicAnd Biodynamic



EcoFarm Celebrates Organically Grown Wines in Conference Tasting

Deep Roots Coalition's SF Tasting: The Organically Grown Wines

Sheep Evangelists Aren't Sheepish: See the Latest Video from Tablas Creek

Organic Champagne?! Mais Oui! French Group Proudly Flaunts Their Eco-Cred, Dispelling the "Organic Wine Stigma"

Mendocino Wine Competition: Double Gold + Organic Winners

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Wine Geeks: How to Relax Over the Long Holiday Weekend—Watch Fungi and Wonder About Their Influence on Wine

The weather's cold. It's time for a fire and a feast. And the warmth of the boobtube?

Many of us will have a little leisure time this coming week (after Thursday) and look for some kickback time - possibly spent on a screen.

I can recommend a few fun options.


The movie Fantastic Fungi is now in (obscure, art) movie theaters in the Bay Area and maybe where you live. I saw it this weekend at the delightfully quirky New Parkway Theater in Oakland where it's playing until Nov. 28. It's also going to the Roxie in SF. 

“Louie Schwartzberg’s lightly informative, delightfully kooky documentary, “Fantastic Fungi,” offers nothing less than a model for planetary survival.” NY Times Review

“Schwartzberg’s film quickly proves to be one of the year’s most mind-blowing, soul-cleansing and yes, immensely entertaining triumphs.” - Roger Ebert

Yes, you can take the whole family, including visiting relatives. The time lapse action will entertain them all. And you.

After the film, which is mind blowing and FUN, you may find your appetite has simply been whet. Not satisfied? Move on to...


Genius researcher and explainer Paul Stamets has a lot of great YouTube talks (including TED talks) but to my mind, the best one by far is the one he gave at EcoFarm in 2017, just two short years ago. You will see just how much radically inspiring, super cool scientific discoveries he's been making about mushrooms.

One example is saving the bees with fungi. Yes, saving the bees.

Yes, there's fun stuff about magic mushrooms, but the magic of mushrooms goes so much further than even what Timothy Leary and the Terence and Dennis McKenna experienced.

Find out what I'm talking about in Stamets' talk. One example: antiviral properties in mushrooms that inspired the Dept. of Homeland Security in a post 9-11 world to give grant money to study Stamets' mushroom collection where it was discovered that out of 200,000 antivirals, one mushroom compound proved the most effective way of combatting potential bioterrorism. Or the largest network of fungi—in Oregon—that covers four square miles.

Stamets' latest research probes ways to save the bees, and succeeds in using mushroom extracts to kill off the varroa mites infecting and killing bee colonies. There's hope!

After watching these videos, the next morning it became clear to me what is happening in biodynamics is that the cow poop aged in cowhorns decomposes with the help of fungi. The powdery substance that emerges after six months is teeming with fungi.

Who knows: it may turn out that the sole reason that the tea known as 500 (a solution of the thoroughly decomposed poop) works is that it is an effective way of spreading an awesome antiviral (fungi) on the vines.

Who needs chemical fungicides when nature's are at work?

It also means we should be re-examining the impacts of using chemical fungicides: are they killing off the useful fungi deep in the soil that's pulling those minerals out of the rock layer and into the vines? Now I want to know more about arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which a friend told me about today, and its role in grapevine soil.

Do we know which precise fungi are in 500? It would be likely that it varies from farm to farm, and yet...do we know? Where's the research?

Was the specificity of the instructions for making 500 an attempt to control the process so certain fungi would appear?

Stamets goes on to talk about how the red bellied polypore mushroom degrade pesticides, including DDT.

Today, I walked out into my yard where there are four giant eucalyptus trees and for the first time, one of them had a mushroom at the base of it. (Rain had not started yet at that point).     

Are mushrooms ready to tell their story?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Organic Champagne?! Mais Oui! French Group Proudly Flaunts Their Eco-Cred, Dispelling the "Organic Wine Stigma"

Morgane Fleury of Champagne Fleury, the oldest biodynamic grower in Champagne,
at the San Francisco tasting organized by the Association des Champagnes Biologiques.
She also runs a wine shop in Paris, Ma Cave Fleury, carrying her family's wines.
France's vintners have embraced organic wine growing and certification in far more vast numbers than U.S. producers, but there's big divide between those who make fine wines and those who make lower priced, table wines in how the groups talk about organics.

Overall, the table wine producers from Languedoc-Roussillon and other regions are happy to put the Ecocert (organic certifier in France) logo on their bottles and exhibit at Millesieme Bio, but fine wine producers with certified organic vines in Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone and elsewhere haven't been so enthusiastic about waving their organic flags. (The situation is the same here in the U.S. Substitute Mendocino for Languedoc-Roussillon for the table wines and Napa/Sonoma for the fine wines).

Now comes a vanguard--what a breath of fresh air--an organized, proud and effervescent gang of organic Champagne producers.

Vincent Couche was the first Champagne grower and one of the first vintners in Champagne to become biodynamic
Grower champagne, or terroir champagne (probably a more accurate term) flourishes in the margins of the Champagne region but not all producers are working organically and fewer still certify or bottle label their organic certification. (The same is true of producers in the U.S. In Napa, out of 50 wineries with certified organic vines making at least one wine solely from certified grapes, only 10 label their organic certification on the back label).

No other organic fine wine producers have risen to the organic communications challenge, proudly declaring the benefits of organic and exhibiting as a group.

The Champenois do so amidst a region that uses the most pesticides on wine grapes in all of France. (The black regions in the map below show the highest use of pesticides. The black region in the upper right is Champagne.)

In their first American tour, the group of 15 producers from the Association des Champagnes Biologiques took over San Francisco's Cerf Club Tuesday for an intimate, informal trade tasting. Only two percent of the region's producers have certified organic vines (up from 0.5% in 2009), but they're ready to make noise about it. (There are a total of 63 producers in the region with certified organic vines. Roughly 1,400+ acres [out of a total of 83,000+] in Champagne are certified organic. Fewer still are certified biodynamic).

Though I only found out about the tasting at the last minute from a friend on Facebook who was in attendance, it was enough to make me drop everything and drive over the bridge for the last precious hour of the tasting.

No more having to go booth by booth and having to ask, "Are you organic?" as is standard protocol at most tasting events. (Though I often ask tasting organizers in advance which producers I might target who are organic, it is usually impossible to get a list of them.) No more smirks and stares, like why would being organic be important? And why would certification matter?

Here, to my profound amazement, I not only met many of the 15 organic producers but also more than a few Demeter certified biodynamic producers. Some of these producers have been organic since 1971 and biodynamic since 1989.

The natural wine magazine Glou Glou features an interview in its Champagne issue with Jean-Pierre Fleury, the first to go down the biodynamic path.

From Glou Glou, Champagne issue, No. 1 (Sorry I wasn't able to find a link
online to purchase the issue, or I would have posted it here).
The association was selling copies of Glou Glou (now transformed into Super Glou, a New York based importer) which covered the region's organic producers. They wrote about AND defended certification, a rare phenomenon. In the U.S., most natural wine people do not like to talk about certification. It's almost a dirty word: like, "what, you don't believe us?! Trust us." (I wouldn't; ask to see the spray reports. And be sure to do it on a wine by wine basis with U.S. natural wine producers since most are buying grapes from uncertified sources.)


Bottle Labeling

Each producer had the little green leaf, the Ecocert label, on the back of the bottle.

Why Organic Matters

Glou Glou's coverage talked about growers' practices and why they are so important. It had a frank explanation about copper. (Headline: "Copper is a problem invented by industrial agriculture to undermine organic farming.") It had a timeline of the organic movement in Champagne. It had explanations about soil, and terroir, and root depth. Without the bullshit.

Why Excuses for Not Being Certified Are Just Excuses

There was a section called "The Gaslighting of Organics," detailing the typical excuses given by other wineries for not being organic.

They were all too familiar: "It's too expensive." (In the U.S. it ranges from $11-40 an acre, a little known fact. If you can't afford that, should you really be in the wine business?) Their answer: Ecocert certification fees are 800-1,500 euros a year. Which translates into costs of one to two cents per bottle. 

How much time does certification take? Their answer: 3 hours a year maybe? But it's worth it because, "it gives our customers greater transparency."

For those who don't certify, they had these words: "In Champagne, there are lots of people who say they're organic, but not certified. Why? Because they're not organic," says Vincent Laval in Glou Glou.

Pascal Doquet echoes that observation, "Winemakers who say they farm organically but aren't certified are almost always liars, That is to say, they use chemicals in difficult years and they're organic 80-90 percent of the time." (I would say this applies to more than a few producers in the U.S., too). He continues, "I don't know a single winemaker in Champagne who actually farms organically in Champagne who is not certified. Anyone who is not certified continues to justify the existence of the chemical industry. For me, they're against organic farming."

And most damningly, in keeping with my own horror show responses to wine shops (including natural wine shops), Doquet describes his visit to New York wine sellers with Laval: "Everything there was labeled 'organic' or 'organic practicing' or 'organic non-certified.' Yet it was nothing but chemical farming."

Reports on farming practices provided by wine sales reps should be taken at face value.

"Anyone who's not certified can spray pesticides whenever they damn well please."


Although I only made it through about 5 to 6 producers' wares, the wines were uniformly fantastic and showed the nuances of terroir and subsoils. It's a pleasure to taste the terroir.

Retail prices were in line with other Champagne producers, with entry level bottles in the $35-50 tier and special bottles around $75 and up. Many also made a zero dosage or no sulfite Champagne as well.
Georges Laval, certified organic since 1974

Georges Laval's boxes show where the wine is from, a lovely touch for those
marketing wines of terroir

Lucie Cheurlin of Champagne L & S Cheurlin
Dominique LeLarge-Pugeot and her husband 
Dominique are the seventh generation at the family 
estate; they are also Demeter certified biodynamic.

To learn more about the producers, visit the association's excellent website or visit the 15 producers this weekend at Raw Wine in LA, where I imagine they will be quite a hit. 

You can also read Terroir Champagne, by the very capable Caroline Henry (featured in a previous blog post here) who lives in Champagne and writes regularly about the organic and biodynamic producers in the region. Her book is the indispensable guide.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

What Effect Do Fire Retardants Have on Vineyard Soil?

Can anyone point me to any research on this?

Here's the only article I've found so far:

Monday, October 28, 2019

Timely | Stephen Pyne's TED Talk: How Fire Shapes Everything

Stephen J. Pyne: The Pyrocene

I am posting Stephen Pyne's magnificent summary of the history of fire on the planet. I just discovered his work today, and it seems so timely.

His initiation into the world of fire started at 18 when he began working on a fire crew, work he continued for 15 years, first during the summers when he was an undergraduate at Stanford. Later he became a professor, authored 35 books and was awarded a MacArthur fellow. He retired from Arizona State University in 2018.

Winter Isn't Coming - Prepare for the Pyrocene

Millions of acres are burning in the Arctic, thousands of fires blaze in the Amazon, and with seemingly endless flareups in between, from California to Gran Canaria – fire seems everywhere, and everywhere dangerous and destabilizing. With a worsening climate, the fires dappling Earth from the tropics to the tundra appear as the pilot flames of an advancing apocalypse.  To some commentators, so dire, so unprecedented are the forecast changes that they argue we have no language or narrative to express them.

Actually, the fire scene is worse than the headlines and breathless commentaries suggest because it is not just about bad burns that crash into towns and trash countrysides.  It’s equally about the good fires that have vanished because they are suppressed or no longer lit.  More of the world suffers from a famine of good fires than from a surfeit of bad ones; the bad ones are filling a void; they are not so much wild as feral.

Underwriting both is that immense inflection in which humans turned from burning living landscapes to burning lithic ones in the form of fossil fuels.  That is the Big Burn of today, acting as a performance enhancer on all aspects of fire’s global presence.  So vast is the magnitude of these changes that we might rightly speak of a coming Fire Age equivalent in stature to the Ice Ages of the Pleistocene.  Call it the Pyrocene.

So there does exist a narrative, one of the oldest known to humanity, and one that has defined our distinctive ecological agency. It’s the story of fire.  Earth is a uniquely fire planet – it has been since life clambered onto the continents.  Equally, humans are a uniquely fire creature, not only the keystone species for fire but a species monopolist over its manipulation.  The fires in the Arctic testify to the planetary antiquity of fire.  Nearly all are kindled by lightning and burn biotas nicely adapted to fire; many could be suppressed, but extinguishing them will only put off, not put out, the flames. By contrast, the fires in the Amazon bear witness to a Faustian pact that hominins made with fire so long ago it is coded into our genome.  They are set by people in circumstances that people made, well outside ecological barriers and historical buffers.

This is a narrative so ancient it is prelapsarian. Our alliance with fire has become a veritable symbiosis.  We got small guts and big heads because we learned to cook food.  We went to the top of the food chain because we learned to cook landscapes.  Now we have become a geological force because we have begun to cook the planet.  We have taken fire to places and times it could never have reached on its own, and it has taken us everywhere, even off world. We have leveraged fire; fire has leveraged us.

How this happened is a largely hidden history – hidden in plain sight.  Fire disappeared as an integral subject about the time we hid fire into Franklin stoves and steam engines.  (The only fire department at a university is the one that sends emergency vehicles when an alarm sounds.)  It lost standing as a topic in its own right.  As with the fires of today, its use in history has been to illustrate other themes, not to track a narrative of its own.

Yet how the present scene came to be is clear enough in its general contours.  How, outfitted with firesticks early humans could take over select biotas.  How, with axes and plows and livestock as fire fulcrums, societies could recode the patches and pulses of vast swathes of land for agriculture.  How, hungering for ever more firepower, we turned from burning living landscapes to burning lithic ones – once-living biomass converted over eons into oil, gas, lignite, and coal.  Our firepower became unbounded.

That is literally true.  The old quest for sources has morphed into one for sinks.  The search for more stuff to burn has become a problem of where to put all the effluent.  Industrial combustion can burn without any of the old ecological checks-and-balances: it can burn day and night, winter and summer, through drought and deluge.  We are taking stuff out of the geologic past and unleashing it into the geologic future.

It’s not only about changing climate, or acidifying oceans. It’s about how we live on the land. Land use is the other half of the modern dialectic of fire on Earth, and when a people shift to fossil-fuels, they alter the way they inhabit landscapes.  They rely on industrial pyrotechnologies to organize agriculture, transportation, urban patterns, even nature reserves, all of which tend to aggravate the hazards from bad fire and complicate the reintroduction of good fire. The many conflagrations sparked by powerlines nicely capture the pyric collision between living and lithic landscapes. Still, even if fossil-fuel combustion were tamed, we would yet have to work through our deranged relationship to fires on living landscapes.

Because fire is a reaction, not a substance, the scale of our fire-induced transformations can be difficult to see.  But we are fashioning the fire-informed equivalents of ice sheets, mountain glaciers, pluvial lakes, outwash plains, and of course changing sea levels, not to mention sparking wholesale extinctions.  Too much bad fire, too little good, too much combustion overall - it’s an ice age for fire.  The Pyrocene is moving from metaphor to descriptor.

It’s all there: narrative, analogue, explication.  A couple of centuries ago we began hiding our fires in machines and off site, which can make it difficult for modern urbanites to appreciate how profoundly anthropogenic fire practices inform Earth today.  We use the rampaging flames to animate other agendas, not to understand what fire is telling us.  But fire, the great shape-shifter, is fast morphing beyond our grasp.

What does a full-blown fire age look like?  We’re about to find out.

If you want more, go for the bigger enchilada:

Update: Status of Organic Vineyards in Kincade Fire Area

NOTE: 15,000 of Sonoma's 60,000 acres of vines are located in Alexander Valley.

Alexander Valley Vineyards | Facebook Update, Monday, Oct 28, 10 am:

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. These are just a few (pictured above) of the many that left their communities & families to protect ours. We didn’t get to see them all or even learn their names, but we are forever grateful to each & every one of them. Prayers for their continued safety.


Press Democrat reports:

Hank Wetzel, owner of Alexander Valley Vineyards, said several outbuildings suffered minor damage on his property. He has about 500 tons of grapes still in the vineyard, which could likely go to rot as the property does not have electricity.

“We just don’t know if we are going to get them picked at this point,” Wetzel said.

With nearly 15,000 acres of vineyards, Alexander Valley is home to 31 wineries and 82 growers. About 80 percent of the valley’s grape crop had been picked before the Kincade fire started last week, said Michael Haney, executive director of the Sonoma County Vintners trade group. The valley, known for its premium cabernet sauvignon, is typically the last wine region where harvest wraps up for the season.

• Eco Terreno (Cloverdale) | Mark Lyon | Facebook Update, Monday, Oct. 28

Updates; The Vineyard, Employees and Animals are out of harms way of the Kincade Fire. Fortunately; Eco Terreno Vineyards and House are up in the Northern Part of Alexander Valley. Winds are currently pushing the fire from Southern Alexander Valley to Chalk Hill Rd. No evacuations in Cloverdale. We have delayed our harvest today; to hopefully resume tomorrow; but that’s still not certain until evacuation orders are lifted.

We are very worried about client/wineries that are on Chalk Hill Rd, along with employee/friends in the Healdsburg/Windsor communities. We hope that our brave and exhausted fire fighters can thwart the flames. These are very sad times for those who have lost homes and wineries. Our Sonoma County community is strong and will rally to help.

For now; we are hunkered down in the town of Sonoma at our house. We do have power and not under any evacuation orders. Luckily; no new fires have ignited in Sonoma County; despite fierce winds last Saturday night thru Sunday PM. We heard a transmission line blow up Saturday night. This is a nightmare and need these winds to die down.

• Medlock Ames | Facebook Update Sunday, Oct. 27, 10 am

Update: another scary night. Our tasting room on Alexander Valley and our winery on Chalk Hill are still standing but remain threatened by #kincadefire. Our hearts ache for our neighbors who weren’t as lucky. Our entire team has been evacuated but all are safe. We remain eternally grateful for the first responders and crews who work tirelessly to fight back the flames. We will remain closed until further notice.

Last night the #kincadefire swept quickly through our vineyards at Bell Mountain Ranch and touched almost 75% of our property. With the amazing efforts of the first responders, none of the buildings including our winery, barns and offices burned. 

A few vines out of our 55 acres were singed. 

Our wines were safe in our winery and the remaining 30 tons which we harvested quickly were brought to our friends @saintsburywinery in Carneros as soon as the evacuation order was given. 

We couldn’t be more thankful for the help of the first responders and will let them continue in their tireless efforts to protect our community. Our team remains safe albeit in different spots due to the evacuation. Thank you all for your love and support and we will share more details soon.

Here are the terraces of our Jefferson merlot block today. Still standing and #sonomastrong

• Skipstone | Facebook Update Monday, Oct. 28, 9 am

Late Wednesday night, the Kincade fire broke out in the hillsides above Skipstone, and rapidly spread throughout our region near Geyserville in Alexander Valley, including Skipstone.

The fire continues to burn to the south of our property and has grown with limited containment, but we are hopeful that the immediate threat to Skipstone and our neighborhood has passed. We're now keeping a close eye on the number of smoldering spot-burns spread across our property as the wind conditions remain concerning at this time.

Most importantly - all of the Skipstone team and our families are safe and secure. Our horses and sheep are also accounted for, and have been removed from the property to a safer zone.

The fire swept broadly through our estate grounds, and we lost several of the structures, but are fortunate that our main residence is still standing. Portions of our vineyard and olive groves also suffered some damage, but we will repair and replant as necessary in the affected areas to fully recover. 

Our wine and olive oil program will continue uninterrupted. 

The 2019 wine lots are safely fermenting and the recent vintages are aging in barrels in our remote winery, so there is no impact to any of our Skipstone wine in the very near term.

Other Sonoma wineries in Dry Creek, West County and Sonoma Coast as well as many in Napa: closed until power outages are over.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Watch This: Great Documentary from Germany (in English) on Insectageddon and How to Help

I stumbled across this last night in my YouTube feed and, after viewing, wanted to share it as widely as possible. It's a great show from German public television that follows several prominent scientists who have been studying insectageddon. Travel with them to Romania (where insects still thrive, undiminished by massive pesticide use) and into the labs and apple orchards where research is being conducted.


Friday, October 18, 2019

Mimi Casteel in New York Times and a Note for Eric Asimov on Actual Pesticide Use

Nice to see even more coverage of Mimi Casteel's pioneering regenerative philosophy and world view in the New York Times.

Read Eric Asimov's article here.

I did disagree with his statement that most wineries don't use agrochemicals. Here's my comment on the NYT site:

You write, "Today, although mass-produced wines are still largely farmed industrially, the best producers have mostly abandoned the fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and supplements that are the foundation of chemical farming." 

I so wish I could say this is true. But as the author of OrganicallyNapa.com and OrganicallySonoma.com, I can tell you these two "best producer" regions still use tons of glyphosate (carcinogen; used on more than half of Napa vines in 2017) as well as imidaclopid and boscalid (both bee and bird toxins; used on more than half of Napa vines in 2017) along with more dangerous chemicals like glufosinate-aluminum and the neurotoxin mancozeb. Sonoma growers use these at even higher rates. 

It would be wrong for consumers to think that these chemicals are not routinely used on the "best" wines. 

It's time to stop granting conventional and "sustainable" growers a free pass on their anti-eco practices and enable more transparent and honest conversations about their farming. 

There are alternatives. Eight percent of Napa's vines are certified organic. Which is why I chose to write about them, as well as other producers (including in Sonoma) who are farming at the standards most people would feel comfortable with and admire."

Here are the latest stats for Napa from the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation:

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Charlie Barra | A Worthy Tribute

A big shout out to Heidi and to the Ukiah Daily Journal for this worthy memorial tribute article to Charlie Barra. This should stand as the definitive account of a great man. And a fun guy, too!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Organic Winners on Wine & Spirits Top 100 List: 16%

Sixteen percent of the U.S. wineries with certified organic vineyards placed among the 36 wineries from the U.S. in Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries of 2019.

Since organic vines represent about 2 percent of California vines (except in Napa where they are 9 percent of the total), they are overrepresented by 800 percent compared to other wines.

That's something to raise a glass to.

Mendocino County
• Roederer Estate (BD at Domaine Anderson)

Napa County
• Storybook Mountain Vineyards

Paso Robles County
• Tablas Creek (BD)

San Benito County
• Calera

Sonoma County
• Radio-Coteau (BD)
• Ridge Vineyards

Willamette Valley
• Brooks [Eola-Amity Hills] (BD)

Half are Biodynamic (About 10% of the U.S. Winners)

In addition, it should be noted that four of the 36 wineries are also Demeter certified biodynamic, which also represents an over-representation. Demeter certified vineyards cover about 3,450 acres.

Friday, September 13, 2019

German TV Documentary Profiles Bayer's Dilemma and the Scientists on the Right Side of History

Tow days ago, DW, Germany's public television service, broadcast an in-depth 45 minute documentary on the science and ag business impacts of the current controversy over Monsanto's glyphosate based products.

 Level headed television journalists interview a wide variety of participants in the story, from industry officials to farmers who defend herbicide spraying to farmers whose families got cancer.

 Some of the leading scientists, including one who participated in IARC's landmark 2015 ruling that the herbcide was a probable carcinogen, are featured. (I wish some others like, Antoniou from London and Seralini in France, had been included).

 A few of the comments surprised me. Locals who live near Bayer are upset because the company's had to cut back some divisions, meaning their adult children (who parented their grandchildren) are going to lose their jobs over Bayer's lack of financial foresight.

 In another segment, an industry spokesman says court decisions and jury decisions don't matter. Only the rulings of regulators mean something to him.

 Of course, IARC, which is a pure science group (and notably not regulatory), was the only entity initially brave enough to look at the evidence and not be cowed by industry lobbyists pressuring regulators.

 Yet even in 1983, the EPA's toxicologists and regulators, ruled against glyphosate--initially. Enjoy the rest of the story here (in English) on YouTube.


Sonoma's Certified Sustainable Glyphosate: Average of 81,319 Pounds Each Year for Four Years in a Row

The Sonoma Sustainable team has been out in full force today, tooting their horns and telling the uncritical media how green it is. See the Esther Mobley piece in the Chronicle and the North Bay Business Journal article.

In case you think that the program is resulting in meaningful reductions of glyphosate use in the county, here are the Sonoma stats from 2014 to 2017 (a period of drought). Five years ago the county set a (marketing) goal of 100% certified sustainable by 2019.

Pounds Used on Wine Grapes in Sonoma County

2014: 79,000
2015: 92,562
2016: 79,000
2017: 74,715

Total: 325,277

Average: 81,319

And that was during the drought years. 

As my friend Monty Waldin, the English organic wine expert says, "Sustainable means you used to smoke a pack a day and now you only smoke 10 a day. But you still smoke."

In this case, there's not really a real reduction. 

Here's a comment I wrote on the North Bay Business Journal site in response to Kruse's statements.


Karissa fails to mention that in 2017, Sonoma's sustainable wine grape growers used more than 74,000 pounds of glyphosate on their vines. In the meantime, cities in Sonoma and Napa have been banning glyphosate left and right. The entire county of Sonoma banned it from any county owned property as did Petaluma and Santa Rosa. In Napa, American Canyon, Yountville and the city of Napa have all banned its use on city owned property.

In addition, Sonoma's Certified Sustainable program enforcement under the Fish Friendly Farming standard (one of the four Sonoma approved third party standards) appears to be quite lax, with Kruse's boyfriend Steve Dutton using Mancozeb on a Fish Friendly Farming property for many years. (He stopped last year after I wrote about his use. And he publicly-in writing published on a wine industry news web site-accused me of libel for writing what the pesticide use report data said). (This claim was incorrect, as the editor of that site informed him). Mancozeb is prohibited under the Fish Friendly Farming certification program. It is highly toxic to fish.

In addition, Dutton went on to label all of his wines from those Mancozeb vines with little green Sonoma Sustainable labels. And so did all the other wineries who bought grapes from him, who wanted to use the green label. So where's the enforcement?

Kruse says in this article that the organic people aren't getting certified sustainable and that's why it's not 100 percent. Not so. There are others, like Laird Family, which owns vineyards in Sonoma, who are not taking the self assessment test. (And since when did self assessment count as certification?)

Laird is the biggest land owner in Napa with 2,200+ acres (or about 5% of the vineyards) and has never been certified sustainable in Sonoma. (Check the Sonoma Certified Sustainable honor roll in 2019 and you won't find them under their Bayview Vineyards farming company name or under Laird Family.)

It's time that journalists did their homework instead of uncritically just printing wine industry press releases.

74,000 pounds of glyphosate contains heavy metals, arsenic and other toxic ingredients, according to toxicology reports, which have analyzed the ingredients using mass spectrometry. (http://www.seralini.fr/wp-c...

It's time for Sonoma Sustainable to start counting more than media impressions and give us meaningful data.

And now Karissa want to talk climate change. Yes, let's! The latest Bonterra study (https://www.bonterra.com/so... shows that organic farming in wine grapes sequesters 9 to 13 percent more soil organic carbon than a conventional control vineyard. Why can't Sonoma both farm organically AND sequester carbon? Or is that too much to ask?

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Roundup in Wine? Please, No, Says Mimi Casteel

Oregon wine's deepest ecological thinker is having a moment. Mimi Casteel, whose family started Bethel Heights, is one of the most thoughtful and well educated people in wine when it comes to the topic of true sustainability.

Her appearance on Levi Dalton's I'll Drink To That podcast has catapulted awareness of her insights into a more prominent dialog among wine writers, wine lovers and wine makers.

You can catch the two hour talk here.

For the short attention span version, there's an article about her in Punch, as well. (But you'd be missing a lot if you didn't listen to the podcast to get the Real Download).

I spoke at length on the phone with Mimi this spring, as I was writing an as yet to published website that includes her current winery, Hopewell.


But many don't know about her kickass video, based on science--she has a master's in forest science--for vintners on Roundup and why you don't want it in your vineyard. It's worth tuning into:

Bayer's Bad News: Asset Selloff and German Ban

The German news publication DW.com has two stories on Bayer's strategies for surviving the disastrous, financial meltdown it faces as Roundup lawsuits increase.

It has begun selling assets: See story here.

Meanwhile Germany announced plans to ban Roundup by 2023. See story here. (Austria has also banned it.)

What is the takeaway? Roundup isn't getting any good publicity. What will wineries do about?

The future is unclear.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Beyond "Grower Champagne": Caroline Henry's U.S. Book Tour for Her Book, Terroir Champagne

Matt Cirne (Verjus and Quince), Caroline Henry (author) and
two fans at her book signing event at Verjus in San Francisco
Caroline Henry was in San Francisco this weekend on the tail end of her U.S. book tour, promoting her book Terroir Champagne, which has become the definitive guide to a category that people sometimes call "grower champagne." But is grower the right word?

"I was always intrigued by the idea of terroir in champagne," Henry said, over a light lunch of omelets stuffed with Boursin cheese at Verjus, where we dined before her afternoon tasting there. A book signing and tasting, hosted by Verjus somm Matt Cirne, featured wines from nine producers.

Champagne's major houses have traditionally blended their wines, growing estate grapes and purchasing significant amounts of fruit from local growers. 

Terroir champagne turns the game on its head. The subtleties of grapes and varying blends from tiny plots, grown by vignerons, has reinvigorated the industry and given the little guy independents - usually families - a voice for their soil and winemaking styles.

Eco-luxe is another part of the indie picture. Many of these tiny producers are practicing organic or biodynamic farming and/or have certified organic and biodynamic vines (all of which are listed in Terroir Champagne).

Henry regaled me with her insider stories about Champagne, from its major houses to its tiniest producers. She lives in a small village there (population 750). Her exploration of the vineyards in Champagne began when she took her dog on daily walks.

There, she could see the blue bits of plastic in the ground from the compost routinely exported from the cities to the countryside until 1998. And she could see the spraying and the tell tale yellow strips left by Roundup applications in the spring.

"It wasn't just in Champagne," she said, "that the French garbage compost was applied. It was in all the wine regions." Governments later decided to burn the compost.

Image result for pesticides map franceWhile some producers strive to reduce pesticide use, which is part of French government mandates, the region is still among the heaviest users of herbicides and fungicides in France. (See map - the red spots show the heaviest pesticide regions.)

In the Champagne region, there were two valleys that suffered from water so polluted that residents didn't have drinkable water, Henry said.

Overall, Champagne's markets have shifted from France to export markets.

I asked her about the recent Seralini studies on the taste of pesticides in wine and whether or not they had had any impact on the industry.

"The 30 glorious years, from 1970-2000, in Champagne were the time of chemical farming," she said. "And at the same time, that was when the wine expert degrees like the MW and WSET program, grew more popular. Those flavors (of pesticides) became the benchmarks, so people are used to tasting the wines grown with chemicals."

Henry herself teaches English at the business school in Reims. "That allows me to stay neutral," she said, as opposed to being beholden to the wine industry and its marketing muscle which often makes it hard for writers to share the stories they want to write about.

Many of the wineries in Terroir Champagne are certified organic or biodynamic.

Some of the big guns - like Roederer - have decided to pursue biodynamic practices and certification. The reason?  "They want to make better wine, and places like DRC have convinced them that is the only way," Henry said.

Roederer's Crystal is now sourced entirely from organic or biodynamic grapes, she said.

During her SF visit, Henry also appeared at Foreign Cinema in San Francisco, where she said many consumers attended the tasting (but didn't buy the book). "The trade did buy the book," she said.

Before the tour, she'd sold roughly 2,000 copies. During the tour, she sold 1,500 more books, proving there is interest in this topic in the U.S.


Here are two of the wines from organic or biodynamic vines.

The Reasonance champagne from Champagne Marie-Courtin, made by Dominque Moreau (page 52 in the book), was crisp and precise, with a generous amount of frothy mousse. 

The fresh Thomas Persaval Tradition (page 143 in the book) offers up bright citrus notes and packs in some pucker power to boot.

I've left out a lot of the information about herbicide and fungicides in Henry's book as that's covered in Gwendolyn Alley's blog post about Henry here.

To order the book (available in hardcover or as an ebook), click here.

Image result for terroir champagne book

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Mendocino Wine Competition: Double Gold + Organic Winners

An esteemed panel of judges awarded medals this weekend in the 2019 Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition held in Boonville. Judges included Dan Berger, Laura Ness, Mark Bowery, John Sverko, Mike Dunne, Chris Sawyer, Greg Richtarek, Debra Del Fiorentino, Melanie Mann and Donny Sudthisa.

Photo credit: Chris Sawyer
One wine has been a standout year after year, consistently beating out bigger competitors (like Roederer Estate). The McFadden Cuvee Rosé, which has been unavailable for several years, is back and took Best of Show in Sparkling.

Image result for mcfadden sparkling rose brut

From a field of 264 entries, the judges selected 33 Double Gold winners. Ten were from certified organic vines.

Most of these wines (with the exception of the sparkling wine) are on the market for $25 or less.

Cabernet Sauvignon - Double Gold
• Girasole 2017 - Best of Class
• Yorkville - 2016

Chardonnay - Double Gold
• Barra 2018
• Blue Quail 2018

Gewruztraminer - Double Gold
• Handley Cellars - Estate 2018 - Best of Class

Italian Reds - Double Gold
• Chance Creek - Sangiovese 2014 

Other Whites - Double Gold
• Girasole - Pinot Blanc 2018

Rosé - Double Gold
• Boonville Road 2018 

Sparkling Wine - Double Gold
• McFadden Vineyards - Best of Class and Best of Show in Sparkling

Zinfandel- Double Gold
• Bonterra 2017- Best of Class

Dashe Cellars Makes Its Move: Big City Vistas from Alameda

Dashe Cellars, one of the best urban wineries in the Bay Area, packed up and moved from its long time home in Oakland (not far from Jack London Square) to the wilds of the Alameda shoreline.

The views from the new site are stunning -- incredible to see the SF skyline from their "edge land" setting on the Alameda coast. But that's not all - there's also a bird sanctuary right there so you can watch the nesting big birds there in their day to day lives.

Winemakers Michael and Anne Dashe source several wines from organic vines in Mendocino. Their McFadden Riesling is always a standout.

The winery had to move when its landlord decided to rent their old space to a cannabis operation, willing to pay way more in rent -- a common cause of warehouse space "cannabizisation" in Oakland.

Visit soon!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

My Article on Winery POS (Point of Sale Systems) Is Out In the August Issue of Wine Business

While my main passion in wine circles is organic and biodynamically farmed wines, I also come to the world of wine having spent 25+ years in Silicon Valley.

So therefore, when I went to Wine Business IT conference last year, I was wowwed.

Here's the result - an in-depth piece on winery POS vendors and the stories of wineries who use them. POS systems seem like a mundane category until you realize they are the digital nerve center of every winery's direct to consumer marketing ecosystem - i.e. their life blood.

Here's the link. (Free to read, free registration required).

I'll also be moderating the panel on POS systems at the 2019 WBITS.com Conference with panelists who were interviewed for the story -- so you can get the real life lowdown on their user experiences. More info about that here.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Is Bayer Interested in Settling Roundup Lawsuits?

The St. Louis Business Journal reports this week that Bayer is taking baby steps toward settling the 13,400 pending Roundup weedkiller lawsuits.

"Bayer CEO Werner Baumann held a series of meetings with shareholders in Frankfurt, Germany, last week, Bloomberg reported. Bloomberg Intelligence analysts told investors that Ken Feinberg, the high profile mediator appointed to lead settlement talks for some of the cases, met with both parties and wouldn't have agreed to take the job if he didn't think he could broker a deal, Bloomberg said. Bayer declined to comment," the paper wrote.

Bloomberg is closely covering how analysts are calculating the potential financial impacts of the Monsanto lawsuits. See Bloomberg article.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Mendocino Producer Charlie Barra Dies, Age 92, After 73 Harvests; Organic Since 1945, Fought for Growers, Created One of the First AVAs

The legendary Charlie Barra of Redwood Valley and Calpella died this weekend. He was 92.

Born to an Italian immigrant family from Cuneo (in the Piemonte region) in Calpella in 1926, his family grew grapes. His grandfather Guiseppe Rovera came to San Francisco in 1900 when Charlie's mother was three. After the devastating 1906 earthquake, the family moved to Calpella, where many Italians lived. His father bought land for $5 an acre and planted grapes.

There Antonio Barra, also from Cuneo, met and married Marie Rovera. When Charlies was born, he was part of the third generation. He started working in the vines when he was 10, getting paid 15 cents an hour.

In high school, he was student body president and basketball team captain. Barra leased his first vineyards while still in high school, and, as legend has it, he made three times what the high school principal made from selling his grapes. The principal made $3,300. Barra convinced the principal to let him come to school in the mornings and work in the vines in the afternoons. In one season, he made $10,000 on his grapes--and got his diploma.

The year was 1945.

He was organic from the start, saying that when the pesticide salesmen came calling, his family would say, "Why would you even spend the money?"

He started out selling grapes to Italian Swiss Colony down the road. But their wines sold for 59 cents a bottle. He saw that varietal winemakers were commanding almost twice the price for their wines so he started planting varietals they might want to buy. His bet paid off.

By 1955 he'd bought his first 175 acres of vineyards in Redwood Valley, east of Hopland (where the temperatures are more moderate than in Ukiah and Calpella) and grew a variety of grapes.

He sold to the best of them--Mondavi, Wente and others--but soon realized that growers were getting the short end of the stick. He organized the growers into the California North Coast Grape Growers Association to fight for better contracts and they got them.

The group got the California North Coast AVA approved, and raised the requirements on varietal bottle labeling to 75%. Before that, wineries could call a wine a Cabernet if it had 51% Cab in it.

In 1960, he made what was perhaps his greatest contribution to the California wine industry--the idea of spraying vines with water to protect them against frost. He got the idea, he said once when I heard him speak in Ukiah, while he was in the bathroom reading a National Geographic article about Israeli farmers who protected vegetables this way. Wine history was made. Today the technique is used all over the U.S. to protect vines from threatening frosts. replacing the older method of bringing fossil fuel guzzling, propane heaters into the vineyards.

In the mid 1980's, after growing organically for 40 something years. his neighbors at Frey Vineyards encouraged him to get certified organic, which he did. Today, 35 percent of Redwood Valley vines are certified organic, due to the demand initially created by the local wineries, Frey Vineyards and Bonterra, who produce wine only from certified organic vines.

Charlie with a bottle of his second brand, Girasole
As time progressed, many large growers launched their own brands, the route Barra decided to go after yet another downturn in the grape market. He and his second wife Martha went a giant step further than most, however, buying a large production facility, Redwood Valley Cellars, in 1996, which they use for their own wines and as a custom crush facility.

In 1997, the couple launched their own brand. Their first wine was a Petite Sirah. Twenty two year later, their 2016 Petite Sirah got a 90 point rating from Wine & Spirits.

The brand is also known for its Cabernet vines which date back to 1955.

Charlie's favorite, however, was his Sangiovese.

In 2011 Slow Food honored Charlie with a banquet at the elite Masa, attended by Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini and then San Francisco Slow Food leader Lorenzo Scarpone, that was a fundraiser for the Slow Food's youth education programs. Barra's wines were served with all the courses and Charlie was honored in speeches.

On the Barra winery website, Charlie's favorite line is said to be, "Don't ever take no for an answer."

Clearly, he lived by those words.


Martha Barra has posted a page about Charlie here. A memorial service is planned for July 24 in Ukiah.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Heitz, One of Napa's Biggest Organic Producers, Acquires 51 Acres of Vines; Will Convert New Holdings to Organic--And Biodynamic

Gaylon and Lisa Lawrence of Heitz Cellars

Not many people know it, but Heitz Cellars has (quietly) been one of the top most organic vineyard owners in Napa, growing its organic acreage slowly over decades.

Its long time vineyard management consultant, Mark Neal, has gradually shifted all of the winery's 425 acres to organic certification. Now the number will increase to 476 acres.

Under the new ownership of Gaylon and Lisa Lawrence, Heitz has now purchased the 51 acre Wildwood Vineyard, adjacent to its own Trailside Vineyard in Rutherford. (The price was reportedly $25 million, or about $500,000 an acre.)

UPDATE (posted July 10)
The new president of Heitz, Carlton McCoy, Jr., announced that the winery intends to convert all of its vineyards to Demeter certified biodynamic farming, among other changes planned for the brand.

Read more:

Monday, June 24, 2019

Your Tax Dollars At Work: UC Davis Professor Dr. Carl Winters of UCCE Shares Song "I Sprayed It On a Grapevine" with Sonoma Growers at DPR Accredited Educational Event--"No Problems with Glyphosate"

In what some would say is a surprising display of tastelessness and scientific inaccuracy, UCCE staffer and UC Davis Professor Dr. Carl Winter this week demonstrated just how blasé the wine industry is about safety issues when it comes to Roundup herbicide and its listed ingredient glyphosate.

Nichole Warwick, co-founder and executive director of the Sonoma based group FACTS (Families Advocating for Chemical & Toxics Safety), attended the latest Sonoma County Vineyard Technical Group meeting on June 21 where Winter spoke.

"He said there is no definite science to indicate carcinogenicity of glyphosate," Warwick reported.

Winter earned his Ph.D. at U.C. Davis in agricultural and environmental chemistry, not medicine.

His remarks come after three jury trials (one federal and two state) have found Monsanto at fault for not warning of the dangers of using the herbicide. Juries found Roundup use played a role in the plaintiffs contracting non Hodgkin's lymphoma.

More than 13,000 more lawsuits are pending and Bayer's stock has fallen by nearly 50% since the trials began. These plaintiffs' exposure came from applying the product. They say they were not sufficiently warned in advance of its potential hazards.

Some of the authorities testifying in favor of the plaintiffs about the herbicide's toxicity include former heads of the U.S. government agencies overseeing federal toxicology standards.

• Dr. Charles William Jameson, an animal toxicology expert who was formerly with the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health

• Dr. Chris Portier, who directed the federal government's Environmental Toxicology Program and later worked for the CDC. (Monsanto has led well funded efforts to discredit Portier for years.)

Warwick photographed slides from Winter's presentation and reports that during the event he told the group that dietary intake of glyphosate did not pose any danger. See the slides he presented to the growers group below. His slides focus on dietary intake and use data from 2015-2016.

He did not include the fact that the California EPA declared glyphosate a carcinogen in 2017, and, in fact, the California EPA won a lawsuit in 2018 filed by Monsanto, challenging its classification of the chemical.

He did not cite more recent research from:

Dr. Michael Antoniou of University College in London, documenting that levels as low as 2 ppb of glyphosate lead to an increase in fatty liver disease

• The May 2019 UCSD study (from his own UC university system) on the relationship between glyphosate levels in the urine and fatty liver disease

It is true that the Monsanto trials did not include exposure from dietary sources leading to NHL. But there is scientific evidence connecting dietary exposure to a variety of human health impacts, as the latest UCSD study shows.

For a slide deck from Dr. Mills on this topic, click here.  Dr. Mills is Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health and Director of the Center for Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health at U.C. San Diego.

Winter also did not address the issue of the toxicity of the unlisted ingredients in Roundup raised by Antoniou or of those clearly documented by French researcher Gilles Seralini, of the University of Caen.

Warwick says Winter dismissed IARC's findings of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen because the IARC scientists gave weight in their assessment to independent (i..e non-industry) studies and excluded known Monsanto-funded study data. (This is noted in his slides). This point as been Monsanto's party line and has been discredited in many news reports and in the trials.

IARC committee members have said that is IARC's regular policy; it uses only data from independent sources, not from industry sources.

"It's a big problem to remove glyphosate from IPM plans," Winter said, according to Warwick.

The Department of Pesticide Regulation granted attendees an hour of continuing education credit for attending the event.

Meanwhile over at the ASEV meeting in Napa, wine industry professionals intent on finding alternatives to Roundup were listening to a lecture from Kenneth Olejar, a research fellow from Lincoln University in New Zealand, on the use of textile mats as weed mats, a promising method of weed control in vineyards.

But in Sonoma, Winters tried to lead the group in song, using the tune from, "I Heard It from the Grapevine" in his rendition of "I Sprayed It On a Grapevine."

Here's Winters performing the song, in video, recorded June 21 (see video above). (As one astute reader noted the song is about an insecticide, not an herbicide, which was supposed to be the subject of the presentation.)

You can see slides from his Winters' presentation here.


I bet you're wondering how I knew
About those bugs' plan to make me blue
The holes in the leaves. They make it clear
That there are invertebrates to fear
It took me by surprise I must say
But this insecticide will save the day so...

I sprayed it on the grapevine
Pretty soon those bugs will be dyin'
I sprayed it on the grapevine
Cause if I didn't there'd be no grapes for wine
Honey, honey, yeah

You know I'd prefer not to spray
But those bugs I've got to keep away
IPM has clearly got a role
And I'm all for biocontrol
But sometimes the sprays work the best
And put my worst fears to rest.
That's why

I sprayed it on the grapevine
Pretty soon those bugs will be dyin'
I sprayed it on the grapevine
Cause if I didn't there'd be no grapes for wine
Honey, honey, yeah

Yes. I'm aware of consumer fear
But the residues will disappear
I understand the environmental view
And worker safety is important, too
But I followed all the rules
And it's one of my best tools...

I sprayed it on the grapevine
Pretty soon those bugs will be dyin'
I sprayed it on the grapevine
Cause if I didn't there'd be no grapes for wine
Honey, honey, yeah

Postscript: Bolding is mine.

• I have contacted both DPR and UCDavis for comment and will post their comments here.
• According to one source, Friday is Winter's last day before retiring - at taxpayer expense!


UPDATE:  Comment submitted by Professor Seralini June 25, 2019

We have demonstrated that glyphosate is present in non organic wines (Seralini & Douzelet, Food Nutrition Journal, 2018) by contrast to organic ones, and it changes their tastes. 

The rats from my lab which received Roundup containing 0.04 microgr/kg (around 10,000 times more than indicated on the slides here) had not only liver disease (my collab with Antoniou, the photographs of the livre in my paper from 2014) but also kidney lethal insufficiencies and mammary tumors. This was due to the omnipresent glyphosate formulants now identified. 

This is why the presentation above is ignorant.



Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

DPR’s process for reviewing and approving continuing education (CE) applications consists of a CE review committee that meets twice a week to review course agendas and content submitted by the course sponsor. The course content submitted is reviewed by at least two program staff including environmental scientists and management to ensure the content meets the requirements in regulation for approval which state in part…

“The instruction must focus on pest management and pesticides including topics as specified in the Food and Agricultural Code section 11502.5 (plant health, organic and sustainable practices, water and air monitoring and residue mitigation, maximum residue levels, quarantine practices, and the on-farm storage of fumigants….. “

For this specific course in question, the application and agenda was submitted with the information on main topics to be discussed. It was not made clear that the  staff would sing a song or claim there is no danger. In fact the title of  Dr. Winter’s presentation was "Glyphosate- a roundup of risks, regulations and reactions."

We appreciate you bringing this to our attention and will discuss the matter with the course sponsor, as well as, watch for and maintain an awareness of any other future problematic courses where opinions on pesticides will be discussed.

Charlotte Fadipe
Assistant Director, Communications. 
Ca. Dept. of Pesticide Regulation
California  Environmental Protection Agency