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. (

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 ( 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 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.