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.

Pesticides

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."

Science

• 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.

Environment

• 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...

Farming

• 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).

Expansion

• 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.

Memories

• 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.

THE TOP TEN

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
524 
5. Roundup in Wine? Please, No, Says Mimi Casteel
516
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

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AND A FEW MORE

511
EcoFarm Celebrates Organically Grown Wines in Conference Tasting

471
Deep Roots Coalition's SF Tasting: The Organically Grown Wines

431
Sheep Evangelists Aren't Sheepish: See the Latest Video from Tablas Creek

383
Organic Champagne?! Mais Oui! French Group Proudly Flaunts Their Eco-Cred, Dispelling the "Organic Wine Stigma"

362
Mendocino Wine Competition: Double Gold + Organic Winners