Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thinking Like an Organic Farmer: Bob Cannard

If there was a Nobel prize for organic farming, it might well go to Bob Cannard. This Sonoma legend is the source of Alice Waters' Chez Panisse vegetables, as well as the teacher/mentor/genius to many. His Petaluma piece of heaven is called Green String Farm.

My friend Deborah Garcia has a new film coming out now - Symphony of the Soil - and because she and her team couldn't fit all the goodies they shot into the 90 minute film, the project has released many snippets in weblet form. She's calling them "Grace Notes."

 Luckily for us, there's a grace note featuring Bob Cannard. One look at this and you will begin to understand why organically grown wine grapes would be so much better than plants grown with pesticides and other chemical oddities of "conventional" agriculture.

But don't listen to me. See Bob for yourself and then you'll get an inkling of what makes agriculture, done right, such a rich and magical brew that satisfies both us and the plants:


For more soil-loving videos, check out Symphony of the Soil's blog.

And remember to look for organically grown wine!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mark Moffett on Colbert Report on Bees

I had the pleasure of seeing Mark Moffett today at a conference at U.C. Berkeley today. The Indiana Jones of insect researchers, the National Geographic photographer and Smithsonian bug expert appeared recently on the Colbert Report.

Of course, wine pesticides are endangering more about why we need bees:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Mark Moffett
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive
For more, see here:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Storybook Wine: Zin Superstar Winemaker Turns 75

Dr Jerry Seps turned 75 last week. He's won every Zin award in the book.

For more info, see here.

This is a good moment to raise a glass - here's to Storybook's Zin, in its many manifestations.

Oh - and a reminder - the winery's annual summer lamb BBQ is coming up soon - July 15. RSVP now.

Calera Viognier: LA Times Wine Pick of the Week!

Burgundy lover Josh Jensen is one of the smartest winemakers in all of California, and his Calera winery is famous for its Pinot Noir. Jensen has France in his blood.

His chosen site - in limestone soils on high windy ridges inland and far away from any other vineyards - has paid off in spades over the years.

Therefore it's no surprise that his lovely Viognier vines, planted in 1983, continue to produce vibrant floral aromas that enticed the Los Angeles Times wine critic S. Irene Virbilia to select it as the Wine of the Week last week.

See her glowing comments here.

An aside: Sherry Virbilia is my old neighbor and friend - she sent me off on my first wine country trip in 1990 with her guidebook in hand.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Upper Five Debuts First Tempranillo Release in Future Tasting!

Organically grown tempranillo is not easy to find (the only one I know of in the U.S. is Verdad's), but Talent, Oregon's certified organic Upper Five vineyard is arcing toward its first estate-vinified tempranillo.

Get in on the futures tasting coming up in Ashland - Saturday June 16, 2 pm, at Liquid Assets Wine Bar in Ashland - a good weekend to get up to Ashland!

Futures will be selling at 30% off the list price.

Upper Five has been working with Cowhorn where Upper Five's organically grown Sauvignon Blanc is made. The Tempranillo marks Upper Five's first foray into winemaking on its own.

For details check out the winery's Facebook page.

Cowhorn 2011 Wine Releases

Cowhorn Wine celebrated the release of two of its new wines yesterday at a wine club party at the winery  (in southern Oregon).

You can order the 2011 Spiral 36 and the 2011 Sullivan Steele Sauvignon Blanc starting now. Both are highly recommended.

Spiral 36 ($28) - a white Rhone blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne - tends to sell out, so be forewarned and belly up to the bar now if you want to be sure to get some. Food & Wine magazine called it one of Oregon's top wines.

In contrast to its famous, northern Pinot Noir cousins, southern Oregon doesn't get much attention and Cowhorn is one of the few to grow Rhone varietals. However the climate is California-like with hot, dry weather in the area near Jacksonville, an hour drive northeast of tourist mecca Ashland.

The Sauvignon Blanc ($22) is a collaboration with a grower/neighbor Terry Sullivan in nearby Talent, Oregon, who grows organically grown Sauvignon Blanc.

All Cowhorn wines are made from certified biodynamic grapes.

Like me, Wine Spectator wine critic Matt Kramer is a big fan of Cowhorn's wines.

For more on Cowhorn, check out this post from 2011 or visit their web site.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New! First Rose from Cooper Mountain

The inaugural release. Get it here.

Kudos to Cooper Mountain! A Wine & Spirits Top 100 Best Buy Wine!

Cooper Mountain's biodynamically grown Cooper Hill Pinot Noir ($15) is one of the Top 100 Value Wines of the year, says Wine & Spirits magazine.

(I already knew, since it's in my forthcoming wine app, but it's nice to spread the word.)

Wine & Spirits also gave impressive scores to two of Cooper Mountain Vineyards higher end Pinots with Mountain Terroir (list: $45) taking a 92 point rating and "Life" (sold out) garnering 90 points.

I am a big fan of Cooper Mountain and Cooper Hill. The latter brand name is its line of wines sold through distributors only, while the Cooper Mountain wine is available from the winery.

Congratulations, Cooper Mountain! Well done!

A Top 100 Value Wine of the Year

Cooper Mountain along with other Oregon wineries will be putting on a party all weekend Memorial Day weekend. More info available here.

You can probably pay for airfare for a winery weekend in October on the savings in tasting room fees (over Napa, for instance).

Online you can pick up a bottle of this outstanding Pinot Noir (Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator is also a fan) for $13-15. See here.

Stay in the know about all things Cooper Mountain (the only budget brand that's biodynamic all the way) by liking them on their Facebook page.


Masut's 2010 Pinot Noir Release Party in Photos

Last weekend, along the northwest side of the Hopland-Ukiah corridor, high above Route 101, Pinot lovers made their way up a windy road up to Masut Winery for the debut of its 2010 Pinot Noir. 

In general great Pinot Noir isn't found in this valley, but high up enough and with maritime influences, Pinot pioneers here are giving their rival Anderson Valley to the west reason to keep an eye on things. Masut's 2009 release got great reviews from prominent wine critics.

Masut, run by the younger generation from the Fetzer family, is only open to the public this one day of the year, serving pizza, snacks and wine while a live band played Spanish-influence music.

Uncle Jim Fetzer (who owns and runs Ceago) came along to celebrate the occasion as did many others, as you'll see in the photos. 

Driving up the road to Masut's hilltop site
You pass through a beautiful barn bridge
Reaching the winery at the top of the hill - the ridge top views are stunning (sorry, no photos).
It was cool in the shade of the barn.
But the best views were from outside...

Where magic happens!

The Fetzer clan had a happening table!

View from the party

Inspired by the view and the wine, one could be singing Jesse Colin Young's old song, Ridgetop, all the way home.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mendocino Wine Lovers Mecca

There's a nice article in the Press Democrat on longtime Hopland wine bar proprietor (and organically grown wine provider)  Bernadette Bryne, of Sip! Mendocino. The former Fetzer PR person opened her own wine bar in Hopland in 2007 and has been a great source of information for locals and visitors alike.

If you're passing through Hopland, stop in and get acquainted. Sip! Mendocino is the perfect place to start your tour and it's the most convenient place (besides the Ukiah Food Coop) to find organically grown wines.

Pairs Well in Paso: Pizza Parties, Gourmet Burgers and Sheep Tours

Paso Robles, no bastion of organically grown wines, offers its annual Paso Robles Wine Festival this coming weekend (May 18-20).

Of the 150 participating wineries, just three have organically grown wines.

If you're going, seek out:

• Castoro Cellars

One of the earliest wineries in the region, Castoro has a certified organic estate vineyard - Whale Rock. Look for bottles made solely from grapes from Whale Rock (ask).

I've heard that the winery will be labeling their organically grown wines sometime soon (when they stop blending them with non organic grapes).

Castoro will be doing a pizza party Friday night with live music, along with wines ($37.50 per person).

Saturday and Sunday they'll be offering live music from 12-4 pm with food available for purchase. Tasting is $5.

(Note: most of their wines are not organically grown).

• Lone Madrone

Run by the winemaker from legendary Tablas Creek, Lone Madrone has a few organically grown wines. (Ask). On Sunday, Lone Madrone will be serving gourmet burgers, hosting live music, and putting local craftspeople in the spotlight with a crafts fair.

• Tablas Creek

The high point of any trip to Paso Robles is this French-founded Rhone wine powerhouse, beloved by Robert Parker (and many of the rest of us who do not necessarily share his likes/dislikes).

Friday night Tablas will be hosting a dinner at Thomas Hill Organics in town ($89 per person) - 5 courses, and 5 wines.

Tablas will be doing tastings in town at the park (festival location) Friday and Saturday as well as offering tours all weekend, showing their new sheep, alpacas and chickens in the vineyards.

Their new rose will also be on offer. (Won't last long).

With the exception of their Patelin wines (a blend of their estate grapes as well as purchased grapes from non-organic neighbors), all of their wines are organically grown.

Other Destinations

Although they're not listed as official participants, I would also seek out and visit organically grown wines made by winemakers at Ambyth Estate and Giornata/Luna Matta.

The Pinot Festivals are Coming, the Pinot Festivals are Coming!

Let no grape be without its own tribute - and that means festivals! While the Zin crowd has ZAP, Pinot Noir has three upcoming starring roles.

These Pinot Noir festivals should be on your radar screen - Anderson Valley's and the touring Pinot Days Festival.

The Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival - held May 18-19 - has been the Big Kahuna of Mendo-grown mainstays for 14 years. Tickets for the grand tasting on Saturday are almost sold out, as are tickets for the "technical session" on Friday.

Personally I would make it a high priority to attend the technical session's morning presentation (if I could) to hear one of my favorite speakers Glenn McGourty, who is the UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor for Mendocino and Lake Counties. He'll be presenting "The State of the Pinot Noir Union."

Glenn is a great speaker and while he won't be addressing this specifically, he's also one of the state's leading experts on organic viticulture in particular.

The event will be moderated by Greg Walters of the Pinot Report.

At the Grand Tasting: look for this following organically grown Pinot (which, unfortunately, are few and far between - what's with that Pinot crowd when it comes to pesticides?):

• Handley Cellars' RSM Pinot Noir ($52)

This organically grown Pinot - the RSM - comes from the winery's best vineyard, located right on the estate. It's named in honor of proprietor and winemaker Milla Handley's late husband Rex Scott McClellan and the wine is a fitting tribute. It's not made every year - just when it's good enough!

The 2009 won a Gold Medal at the SF Chronicle Wine Tasting Competition.

Says Pinot File: "A first-rate wine of uncommon charm that is terrific now and will age gracefully."

Wine & Spirits selected it for its April 2012 article on the best pinot noirs giving it a 93 point rating.

Pinot Days is June 9-16 in San Francisco, with small events scattered through the city, followed by the Grand Tasting June 16 at Fort Mason.

Organic producers whose wines will be available to taste include:

• Big Basin (selected Pinots)
• Masut (only one Pinot and it's organically grown)

For more on the Masut Pinot Noir, see the post below. I'll be posting pictures from the Masut 2010 Pinot release party (it was Saturday) soon.

I look forward to seeing a list of more of the participating wineries from the Pinot Days web site. I'd expect to see more of the organically grown wines represented when the list is published.

Sonoma's Russian River Pinot Passport event takes place June 9-10.

DeLoach is the only participating winery with some organically grown Pinots.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Masut 2010 Pinot Noir Event - May 12

Masut, up and coming makers of organically grown Pinot Noir, is hosting an open house and wine release party May 12 at their winery north of Ukiah.

The event will take place from 1 to 5 in the afternoon.

Visitors will get a chance to sample the 2010 Pinot Noir, which sells for $40 a bottle.

Their 23 acre site is part of what could be a new AVA named Eagle Peak. Proprietors Ben and Jake Fetzer, along with their neighbors, have petitioned the TTB for this new appellation.

The Masut 2009 vintage won a Top 100 Wine from Wine Enthusiast while the 2010 has just won rave reviews from the Chicago Tribune.

The May event will feature live music, artisan pizza and wine! Admission is $35 per person or free with purchase of 6 or more bottles.

The winery has been certified organic since 1997.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Qupe/Verdad Spring Whites Wine Tasting and SALE!

"Verdad" and "Qupe"...with son- one of tbe great His and Her winery couples of California!

Saturday May 19, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm - join the Qupe/Verdad team for a white wine tasting! Limited to 30 people - and priced quite reasonably at $15 a head - join one of Santa Barbara County's most illustrious wine couples for a special tasting of their Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, and a new Albarino from Paragon Vineyard.

They're even throwing in light appetizers.

The event takes place at their Los Olivos tasting room.

If you're into whites, you should know they make both superstar Spanish whites - Verdad's Albarino is renowned (whether from the organic Ibarra Young vineyard or Verdad's own biodynamic Sawyer Lindquist estate vineyard) and Qupe is a Rhone master par excellence (so the Ibarra Young Viognier is outstanding).

And did I mention there will be special discounts on wine for attendees only?

That ought to clinch the deal.

Their organically grown wines come from Ibarra Young vineyard (organic) or their own Sawyer Lindquist estate (biodynamic).

Send me your photos if you're lucky enough to attend!

Info here 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Last Call at the Oasis - 28 Gallons of Water to Make 1 Bottle of Wine

I spent a lot of time during the past two weeks seeing outrageously great films at the SF Film Festival. including this outstanding film on the coming (and current) water crisis.

The film - Last Call at the Oasis - is both upper and a downer.

While I had heard about the scary pesticide atrazine and its gender-bending qualities, I'd never seen the main research behind it (even though he teaches at U.C. Berkeley) and I hadn't known that Erin Brocovich was still on the job (as it were).

The film comes to theaters this month - don't miss it! Here's an insightful overview of the film from Reuters. And another good piece (an interview with Brocovich) in the Washington Post.

Obviously we totally need to change our approach to agriculture. The fact that Napa's running dry so that growers can raise overirrigated grapes which later have to be adjusted by winemakers is just nuts. But the worst is that most of our wine is grown in the Central Valley, a desert, with an insane amount of water - and all just to make jug wines that benefit mainly four old Italian families. Doesn't quite make sense, does it?

In Europe, it's not really kosher to pour on the irrigation...makes terroir an irrelevant notion, according to their way of thinking, when you put the grapes on irrigation. Their roots are shallow so there's no sucking up the minerals in the soil.

Thanks to those who dry farm and are organic...

There's a lot of great information in the film about pesticides as well.

Don't miss this - coming to theaters soon!