Monday, August 29, 2011

"You'll never find more flavor in a tater"

At a lunch buffet presented by Timberline Lodge yesterday, there was a table at which two smiling pickle purveyors plied their wares: Potatoes!

Pickled potatoes, in two spice varieties of your basic dill-pickled potato.

If this seems fantastic to you, check out of the Klamath River Basin. Be the first to amaze your friends.

I can't help thinking that this idea came to somebody in a dream ;) Perhaps a bad dream?

The connection to wine: What wine goes best with pickles? I would say a white wine, with some residual sugar, and it's best if the pickles are with some non-pickled veggies (such as on a salad). Or, if we're talking cornichons with pate and some heavy bread, that's fine with a medium-bodied dry red (Pinot noir, gamay) or even a Cab or Merlot.

Coyote Moon Brianna

I'm excited about growing some Brianna in the PacNW. First leaf for my vines (from Red Dog Vineyards). This is a white hybrid winegrape; supposed to have a pineapple character.

I researched Brianna wines and bought one from Coyote Moon in NY. It won a Double Gold in NYS competition, and was Best in Class in the 2011 LA Wine Competition.

We opened it last night. Overall, it was really teriffic; seriously I would score it 92 points, even against all the viniferas of the world. The bouquet was unctuous/oily, with citrus and hint of pineapple; the palate is surprisingly full-bodied; really rich, smooth, balanced, with a long pineapple finish which I loved. A big wine. No discernible flaws whatsoever. It's a very exciting wine. It has enough RS that Jane didn't like it, but only the super-dry wines will satisfy her. I appreciate a bit of RS, especially when it's needed to balance the acids.

Great praise is due to the grapebreeders who made this grape, and to the winemaker at Coyote Moon in New York State. If that grape can be grown with a little lower TA (and thus a little lower RS), then it could make a great splash in the vinifera-driven WineWorld. If not, it is still certain to have a high place in the wine-drinking community at large. I say bravo!

I think certain hybrid whites are THERE. Not just knocking on the door, but THERE.

Friday, August 26, 2011


French word for the first color in grapes, meaning the beginning of the phase where the grapes turn from hard and green, to either purple or yellow and juicy-sweet.

I believe it's pronounced something like "vuh-ray-ZOhn" (nasal o), and the inclusion of a sound similar to "raisin" is not coincidental: "raisin" is French for "grape" and "venir" beans "to become," so "veraison" might derive from "to become a grape." In the US many folks just pronounce it like the phone company:

You know that grapes are VERY late this year, after a long, cool Spring. Ken Wright's Guadalupe Vineyard just reported its first veraison (first out of all their grapes), on Aug 26. I don't see any veraison in my vineyard yet.

In 2009 (a reasonably normal year), Willakenzie had veraison first on Aug 4. So from that standpoint we are at least 3 weeks behind, and likely more like 4 or 5 weeks behind (because most Oregon PN grapes won't reach veraison for another ten days or so).

Harvest for Pinot noir, one of the earliest-ripening vinifera, is usually about 38 days after veraison, so perhaps this year a fully-ripe harvest would be on about October 15 (that allows ten more days for most of the grapes here to reach veraison). Unfortunately, it almost always rains earlier than that, here. So the ripeness levels here in 2011 will almost entirely depend on the date of the rains' return, and to a lesser extent on the amount of heat and light we get.

I expect area growers will be dropping a lot of crop now, in order to maximize the prospects of getting ripe fruit. The eternal quality-quantity struggle.

Cross your fingers!

All above data taken from this Southern Oregon Univ. article, and from the Ken Wright blog:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crazy and Wonderful Wine Ideas with Smoky Foods

Smoked oysters, topped with rhubarb chutney, and paired with a sparkling Cab Franc? Sounds fantastic!

Or: sturgeon smoked over pistachio and hazlenut shells, paired with Glora Ferrer Carneros Cuvee? Wow!

Smoked foods of all stripes pair nicely with bubbly wines. Why? Because of their palate-cleansing effervescence, their bracing acidity that cuts through the smoky flavors, and their moderate alcohol.

Smoked Oysters with Rhubarb Chutney
From Chef Michelle Bernstein, Michy’s
2 dozen oysters
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 pound rhubarb, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup peeled and diced red onion
1 tablespoon peeled and diced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste
If you have the option, seek the advice of a reputable fishmonger for guidance in choosing the oysters. I prefer to use mollusks, such as Island Creek Oysters, that offer a delicious, briny finish.

Next consider your fuel: Apple, cherry, alder or olive wood are ideal for smoking oysters.

There are two ways to smoke oysters for this recipe:

For a more cooked style, shuck the oysters and place them in a smoker that has already been primed with smoke. Heat for about 1 hour until oysters turn golden. Place them on a dish and brush with a little olive oil, chill and serve with the chutney.

For a more raw texture, yet still with a smoky aroma and flavor, place the unshucked oysters on ice in a smoker and smoke for about 45 minutes. Shuck and serve chilled with the rhubarb chutney.

For the rhubarb chutney: In a small saucepan, combine vinegar and sugar over medium heat. When sugar dissolves, add rhubarb. Reduce heat to low, cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until rhubarb begins to soften. Add red onion. Remove from heat and pour contents into a small bowl placed over a larger bowl of ice water. Allow the mixture to cool completely. Fold in ginger, tarragon, pepper and salt to taste.

Serve chutney over smoked oysters.

Makes 1 1/2 cups (enough for 2 dozen oysters, with plenty left over to refrigerate for next time).


Dying to Eat at McDonalds

With all their food scientists and their renewed marketing about eating healthily, one might think that McDonalds was serving some wholesome foods.

Not so fast. I ate a chicken sandwich there today, which tasted too good. Meaning, I suspected flavor enhancers. So I went online to look at McD's ingredients list. Look at this:

1. You want that 100% Angus beef patty? First, it's been proven it's not what you and I would consider beef meat--it's got a high percentage of other slimy cow-related stuff in it that high-class slaughterhouses do not put in their meat, but McD's does. And it also has yeast extract, which is a glutamate-based flavor enhancer that some suspect is linked to seizures. Hint to McD's: yeast extract does NOT come from beef muscle. The patty also has "dried beef extract," whatever that is. Calling it 100% Angus beef is misleading--maybe the beef is from 100% Angus cows, but there is other (non-Angus) crap in that patty.

2. So, instead, what if you head over to the chicken side of the menu, to eat a bit healthier? Well, the grilled chicken patty includes yeast extract and sodium phosphate, and it's cooked in hydrogenated oil with sodium benzoate and "artificial flavor," whatever that is. The breaded chicken filet has sodium phosphate, autolyzed yeast extract, and artificial flavors, also cooked in trans-fat with Dimethylpolysiloxane as an anti-foaming agent. Yum!

3. The bun has corn syrup in it, and eleven different "dough conditioners," whose chemical names read like a Bill of Materials for manufacturing nerve gas.

4. If you're vegetarian, be aware that even the McD mayonnaise includes "natural flavor (animal source)."

5. Last of all, suppose you take refuge in a salad. Fine so far, but the Newman's Own Creamy SW Dressing includes corn syrup solids and "natural flavors (animal source)."

When did that formerly-impressive company quit selling food that was, well, FOOD?

It is EASY to buy beef that is all beef, chicken that is all chicken, buns that are only flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and butter. Mayo is available that is only eggs and sugar and canola oil. So why is McDonalds poisoning its customers? I think it's a repeat of what Coca-Cola did in the 1920's--Coke included real Cocaine in its drink, to addict its consumers to the product. McDonalds is doing the same thing--addicting consumers with unhealthy flavor enhancers, while scrimping with low-quality ingredients. The managers for those food scientists in the McD labs need to be either fired, or re-directed. And: Where are the lawsuits alleging that McD's is purposefully hurting people for profit? It's kind of a national tragedy that THIS COMPANY is what people think of, when they imagine America. Please, don't let your kids and your grandkids eat there, and for gosh sakes, don't put that crap in your own stomach. Let's force them to change or fail.

And: how this relates to wine: Wine requires good food to accompany it. Bad food hurts the people who love wine, who make wine, who buy wine.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bird repellant device so scary that birds built a nest in it ;)

This device looks like a stooping (diving) owl; its wings flutter in the breeze, to make it even more lifelike.

But, it received only 1.0 out of 5 stars in a user review:

"Horrible Product. Complete Waste of Money!, July 2, 2010
By Adam Wallenta

This review is for: Bird-X OWL Prowler Owl with Moving Wings.
I wish I could give it an even lower rating than one but it's not possible. I made my purchase based on some good reviews but now I am convinced those were all written by the company that produces the item.

I purchased this hoping to scare off the birds, squirrels and other critters that think I planted my garden for them. It may have worked for a day or so but they quickly caught on. I mounted the owl on a good sized pole hovering over the garden and when there is a nice breeze it sort of resembles an owl flying but the fact that half of it is basically a paper bag is pretty weak and I am guessing the other animals are too smart for that.

Just to show you how bad this product is- there is now a birds nest with babies, LIVING inside of the owl. A bird found its way into the owl and built a nest and has laid eggs and is now starting a family. What a terrifying owl.

What a terrifying owl, indeed! Thank goodness for user reviews.

Another user said, "Birds aren't discouraged to come near it, at all. Besides, the owl is so ugly looking, my neighbor asked me if I could turn it around so that it doesn't face her house. Worst $40.00 I've spent."

Birds are very, very difficult to keep away. And why not? They are the descendants of dinosaurs, who lorded over the planet for tens of millions of years . . .

How this relates to wine: Birds decimate vineyards. That raises the cost of wine.

Monday, August 1, 2011

2011 weather: Still Playing Catchup

Wow. 2010 was a cool summer, and yet this year we are still 14% behind 2010, through July 31, for heat. We are fully 40% behind 2009:

2011 Growing Degree Days (base 50), Jan 1 - Jul 31: 743

2010 (a very cool year): 860 , and 2009: 1234

We have a long way to go, to make up the needed heat/sun units. Whether we have a good year or an awful year (I don't see how we could have a great year) will depend on (1) how hot it gets from here on; and (2) how long the summer extends until the Fall rains arrive.

It is not looking good, at all, for the grapes this year. NW Oregon is definitely in a cooling cycle. Some climatologists think that the Northwest is heading into a TWENTY YEAR cooling cycle. While Dallas and Oklahoma City see their 36th straight 100 degree day!


How Climate Change's Extreme Weather Events Affect Grapes and Wine:

  We (Epona) joined the Porto Protocol a year or two ago; it's a collaboration of grapegrowers and winemakers, worldwide, who are focusi...