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 and, 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:


  1. I am a tiny grower producer in the Howell Mountain sub appellation of the Napa Valley. We are not certified organic, but have stopped using herbicides 2012/2013, stopped spraying systemic fungicides (2016/2017), and stopped using chemical fertilizer (2013/2014). We have never sprayed insecticides using large numbers of beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, predatory mites, assassin bugs, pirate bugs, and praying mantises. We currently use composted manure, pressings, and other organic preparations for fertilizer.

    The truth about the wine industry is (excuse my French) no one gives a shit. The general public is content to sip away at someone's chemistry experiment (don't get me started on post modern winemaking techniques, 'sweet spotting', distilling err, ummm I mean reverse osmosis, crossflow filtration, flavor maker, color maker, weird yeast nutrients, sacrificial tannins, and awww you get the point) as long as it is light, sweet, and uncomplicated. Anything else gets shitty scores and a solemn 'tsk,tsk' (shakes head) from critics and the wine writer in chief.

    We use nothing but the grapes we grow, natural/organic/nongmo yeast from the wall of a chateau in St Emilion, natural malolactic bacteria from a compost heap somewhere in the Russian River AVA, sulphites (used in winemaking since at least the Roman Empire), tartaric acid if it needs it, calcium carbonate if it needs it. All of the oak comes from sustainably farmed forests in France and Hungary. That's a long list but involves no scary chemicals, carcinogens, weird extracts, sugar or grape juice concentrate making our wine relatively 'lite' at approximately 600kcal per 750ml bottle. Properly cellared our wines will last 25+ years, and have a soft floral opening followed by flavors of strawberry and currant, a bit of spice, leather, tobacco, cedar, graphite, sage/bell pepper, and a prolonged finish. Our wines were mistaken for classified growth bordeaux by MS's and MW's in a blind tasting.

    No one wants to pay for this kind of care. I can't tell you how many retailers, restaurants, distributors, and other outlets are perfectly happy pouring cheap, sweet, chemical laden wine. It gets a good score, and no one asks any questions after that.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Keep up the good work! We have to build a movement of consumers who do care.

      Check out which I will be announcing soon. But you can take a look or subscribe now.