Wednesday, May 23, 2012

hardly food

I'm eating red seedless grapes from the grocery store, in the month of May. I shouldn't be, and neither should you:

1. Taste: There is none, unless "insipid" is a taste. Please don't think that all table grapes taste like this. This bunch was picked green and they don't ripen off the vine.
2. Torture: Most seedless grapes are sprayed with gibberellic acid, to make the berries bigger. I don't know if that acid is OK for us, and for the ground, or not. It just seems weird to me.
3. Travel: In May, most ripe seedless grapes in the US come from the Southern Hemisphere. Think of all the jet fuel it takes to move tons of (unripe) grapes from Chile to the US. That is a LONG way.

You do have to wait until the late summer and fall, but then you can get wonderful French-American hybrid table grapes locally. If you know where to look, or what to grow for yourself, just look at the benefits:

a. A wide variety of grapes, each with a unique and bold flavor.
b. Many of those are seedless (though seeded grapes are much healthier for us (good roughage/fiber, and the grapeseed oil is very healthy) and with a little practice you can either just eat the seeds or chew them first and then swallow). And many of the seedless hybrid table grapes are large, without the need for an acid spray.
c. High disease resistance, which means no or little spraying for fungal diseases. I don't spray any of my hybrid grapes. Talk about "green" gardening! And if you have a lot of grapevines, you save a ton on unused/unbought tractor fuel to power all that spraying. That is double green.
d. Ripe fruit give you much more disease-fighting chemicals (resveratrol; flavonoids; antioxidants; vitamins), which lets you live longer, so you can eat more grapes!

I wish for all of us a world in which we can eat more locally-grown, riper, fruit. There is no reason to give in to the major corporate forces that are trying to dumb down the quality in your food life.

The wines of Portland TN

Yes, there is wine made in Portland. Portland, Tennessee. 

Here is the website for Sumner Crest Winery. Here is the tasting room:

Gallery Image

I just visited Sumner Crest. They pour (no charge) a wide variety of wines, including a Merlot and a Cab. I asked where that fruit was from, and they said, "someplace called Yakima." Funny! Along with Red Mountain and Walla Walla, it's my favorite wine area, and only three hours from my home. 

The other fruit is local: They make Stueben (a pinkish French-American hybrid that I'm growing) into a nice off-dry white wine, with expressive fruit notes. They make a Seyval Blanc that wasn't pouring. The Merlot and Cab fruit must've suffered greatly from that long journey, as those wines were not recognizable as of the same ilk as the wines found in Yakima. A white blend was nice, though the Muscadine didn't seem up to the quality level of the other locally-grown wines. They grow Chambourcin but it wasn't pouring.

You gotta appreciate their use of vinifera-American hybrids, because the disease pressure is very high in humid Tennessee. At least they're not trying to spray their way to low-quality vinifera, like so many mid-American wineries do.

Their Niagara, made "semi-sweet," has nice qualities though it makes me wish more growers tried Cayuga, or in their TN heat, possibly Esprit instead. Niagara is over-rated and should be grown less. I wish they grew Traminette. But it's great to see a winery succeed with hybrids. 

A fun stop; this winery serves its local customers well. 

(Background: I live in Portland OR and have a mother in law in TN; we were driving from Nashville to Cincinnati to see my daughter and happened across this Portland TN winery. I went in for a tasting and the pourer asked where I was from. "Portland," I said, not realizing that was also the name of the hamlet I was presently standing in. "Well, Darlin', you sure don't sound like you're from around here," she said. Funny thing is, my roots may be deeper in TN than hers--our family farm was near Frankewing, since about 1830; one of my ancestors was a Presbyterian minister, and the principal of the Boonshill Academy, and he ran--unsuccessfully, thank God--on the Prohibition ticket for a seat in the US Congress. But it's true that I don't have the TN twang, and neither did my TN-born grandfather.)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pollination of Grapes

The grape flower is one of the smallest on Earth. The distance from stamen to pistil is so tiny that the merest vibration from a breeze can transfer the pollen and fertilize the uva.

Thus (and this is not widely known), bees are not needed to pollinate grapes. However, that doesn't mean that some bees won't do it anyway, pollen-thieves that they are ;)

And the fleeting scent of grape blossom is truly one of life's greatest scents.

Welcome, Spring!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Really? 2011 Bordeaux futures are still insane

Compared to the skytocketed futures prices for the past two years' vintages, we might have hoped for significant price reductions for the 2011 Bordeaux futures, given the "averageness" of that vintage, on the heels of four recent vintages of the century (2000, 2005, 2009, 2010). And yet, look at what we have for a well-regarded Second Growth, in the CHEAPEST first tranche of the 2011 offerings:

2011 Chateau Cos d'Estournel (750 ml): $160 per bottle, and yet Parker and Spectator rate it only 90-93.

I am not so certain that Americans will perceive this as a bargain; they may stay away in droves. I can sell you any number of 90-93 point bottles of other wines, for about $20!

Horrible late Spring freeze in Great Lakes area

I'm not saying the nation's best wine comes from Ohio, but there are many serious growers/winemakers working there, and it doesn't help when they lose over 80% of this year's crop to a very severe late freeze, after the vines are budded out.

We, west of the Cascades, are lucky that this is not often a problem. And we have drier summers with low humidity, which reduces the disease pressure on the grapes. Everywhere east of here, that isn't in a desert, has to deal with both problems.

Read the story here.

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...