We (Epona) joined the Porto Protocol a year or two ago; it's a collaboration of grapegrowers and winemakers, worldwide, who are focusing on "Green" issues--sustainability; adaptation to changing climate, etc. To join, they ask you to write a short case study about what you're doing or have done, to be more "Green" (we used our solar-powered, earth-sheltered winery, and our modern varieties of grapes as our "reasons to beg into the group"). Here's a report I wrote to my winery association:
Friday, September 25, 2020
Thursday, September 10, 2020
This article describes the huge, numerous, and threatening wildfires threatening people and grapes. Deaths are already being reported. Huge areas are under evacuation orders.
Epona Farm is presently 17 miles west of the area under an Evacuation Level 2 Order (meaning, "be ready to go if we issue a Level 3 order"), from a large set of fires burning on the west slope of Mt St Helens. The fires themselves are 25-35 miles away from us. The winds, which have brought us so much smoke for 3 days now and at times completely obscured the sun, are about to shift, and by Saturday we should see clear skies again. At times the smoke has been at the "unhealthy" level.
Smoke taint is caused by smoke phenols (from burning wood) attaching to grape skins and binding to sugars. Because the phenols are bound to sugars, they are not detectable in the grape (unless you run a lab test, but the labs are backlogged for weeks and the grapes are ripe now). But once the wine is made, the alcohol splits off the smoke phenol and it re-appears in the wine. At small levels it can add an interesting and nice complexifying element, but at high levels the wine is ruined, and there is no practicable fix for that fault.
Dick Erath, one of Oregon's wine pioneers, just advised me that the Willamette Valley saw more smoke than this, for more days, in a past year, and yet there was no smoke taint in their wines that year. We're in the middle of grape and apple harvest, and we'll find out once the wines are made, whether they have smoke taint. At this moment, I feel fairly confident they will not.
The Willamette Valley (and Napa and Sonoma) are under even denser smoke, so that is a threat to many many high-value commercial wines. The first photo is from Oregon (from the article I've linked here), and the second photo is from our farm (near Woodland WA) yesterday.
Thursday, September 3, 2020
The Dutch were one of Europe's first modern nations; they had one of the best economies, and trading systems, in that continent. We all think their tulip bulb mania was a huge economic mess, but actually, it wasn't. Bubbles are to be feared, but this wasn't one!
Friday, August 28, 2020
1. I told my Cab Sauv/Cab Franc grower in Yakima that I can't buy this year. Ditto the Syrah grower in Dallesport. Partly due to Covid risk and partly because my (Double Gold) wines from there just aren't selling fast enough. My market is too small for me to run at max production every year. Hoping to get into some local restaurants, but none of them are buying now.
Saturday, August 22, 2020
Wow. We just finished a really wonderful Zoom dinner with our San Francisco younger friends Bob and Coley. What we do for Covid, but we adapt and it works well. Come on, vaccine!
Here's the entree: Pan-roasted chicken thighs with Blackberries and Thyme:
It is stunningly good. Why restaurants only serve chicken breast meat, I will never understand. Just try it! Cast iron skillet, and everything. It's so simple. So French. So well-calculated (thanks, friend Bob) to go with these wines:
1. 2016 Reserve Comtesse de Lalande (2nd wine of Chateau Pichon Lalande): Wow! is the only word that does it justice: Decanted an hour: It opens with purple fruits carrying lofty notes of oak, cedar, sandlewood--a real wordworker's paradise. As the 2.5 hour dinner goes along (NEVER rush your dinner--it ruins the wine experience and shortens your life!!!), the wine never loses sight of its essence, but somehow its notes become purer and more angelic. This is a stupendous wine, and especially for a 2nd wine of a Super-Second Growth. 94 points, James Suckling. About $50 and well worth it! This is why we buy certain Bordeaux futures. I would grade it this way, over two hours: A- to A. What a great wine. And it's not even the chateau's best wine! This is why I collect more Pichon Lalande, for drinking, than any other Bordeaux (or any other wine in the world). I buy the First Growths for investment, but this is what I buy to drink (on special occasions)! (As you know, because I say it incessantly, you can drink GREAT wine for about $12-15 per bottle; anyone can overpay for wine--it takes no skill; the challenge is finding the many great wines out there which are less-expensive but deliver great quality.)
2. 2016 K Vintners Milbrandt Syrah (Walla Walla WA): 93 points, Jeb Dunnuck: "Dark red with ruby tones. Pungent aromas of cassis, blueberry, prosciutto, licorice, menthol, mint and minerals. Juicy and intense, conveying an exhilarating combination of sweetness and lively acidity to its red and darker berry and spice flavors. A savory element provides a further leavening influence. Finishes long, with firm but suave tannins. Lovely wine with real personality." . About $32. Wow! This opens fast and big. Opulent. Purple robe. If this is a horserace, this wine is first out of the gate. But then, over about an hour, it fades and the bouquet is gone, and there's a note of VA (volatile acidity) that ruins the experience. I'm thinking, "Damn! This blows." The Lalande was really singing, an hour in, while the Milbrandt really sucked. But then (and you live for moments like this) the Milbrandt recovered and the VA was gone, and the wine threw me for a loop with the most-wonderful olive and pickle juice notes, with just the barest hint of bracing acidity and a touch of the bare thought of menthol. I loved it! Its score went from A- to C- to A. What a wild ride! I'm sad that Charles Smith has sold out and there will be no more wines with souls like this, from his shop. Can't we engineer a society where fortunes are not made this way? Why is "a mountain of money" the goal? Sustained excellence, over generations, should be the goal. Let's move toward non-profit corporations, whose purpose is to serve customers and employees, not shareholders. Is that possible?
Just look at these two wines, for everything you need to know about America vs Europe: In the US, we're all about contriving a great experience for NOW (in corporate parlance "this quarter's earnings"), and who cares about the future? This short-changes the children's children and we are curse-worthy for our myopia and greed. In Europe (as in Asia), plans are made for the long term, and the Lalande shows this, with steady excellence throughout its tasting experience tonight. As my friend Nick likes to say, "China's working on its fourth dynasty," whereas there is real question (in my scared opinion) whether the US can survive much longer. I suggest that we find ways to mend our divisions, and quickly. Meanwhile, if you can, get these two wines (probably both still available) and compare them!
What a sad story. Grape growers are being paid to destroy a portion of their crops, in Spain, and elsewhere in Europe. Wine sales are down, due to Covid.
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
We (Epona) joined the Porto Protocol a year or two ago; it's a collaboration of grapegrowers and winemakers, worldwide, who are focusi...
1. Is this a good or a bad year for grapes, here on the wet (west) side of the Cascade Mountains? That is still hard to say for sure, but th...
There are reasons to think that wine consumption will slowly decline in the US, according to this article by Rob McMillan. Crushing stude...
1. Jane's taking vacay today. On the ridiculous side, we're going to get a dewormer for the dog, and on the sublime side we're g...