Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holy Cow!

It's not good when your wine storage facility in Quebec allows the air inside to get too wet and cold, resulting in mold and the spoilage of a magnificant collection of First Growth wines.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bethany Vineyard in Clark County WA

Bethany Vineyard and Winery is one of the best wineries in Clark County WA (and before you say, "well, that's not saying much," please read on). Four of us visited Bethany this past Sunday, after our fence contractor and some other folks told us we had to go there. To describe it, I'll resort to letter grading:

1. Physical plant: Grade "A": The tasting room is large enough to handle a dozen or more tasters comfortably, while still feeling cozy. It's well-appointed and a nice place to hang out. You can sit around high tables, or you can belly up to a pretty stone bar and stand. There are several buildings there, including an old large barn that may be the winery, and the owner's pretty house. The parking is paved. The location is just a few miles ESE of exit 14, up I-5 in Washington.

2.  Grounds: Grade "A+": I was amazed at what Walt Houser, the owner/winemaker, has done there. He has a pretty large vineyard planted on slight slopes that meet downhill at a little swale into which he has constructed a gorgeous lake. The hillsides are smooth with well-mown grass, like a giant lawn. It is a true estate. The lake is pretty. It has a rock wall around part of it. There is a huge rocked, covered patio that would be a great place to sit and enjoy a bottle in the warm months. Wow, is all I can say. This was hiding here in Clark County? And the oldest grapes are 18 years old. I know how much work it was to create the lake and the wall and the patio and the vineyards; just amazing. And expensive. It shattered me in a way, as I am thinking of a pretty country place with a vineyard, but I doubt it will ever look like this place. If you know someone who wants to marry at a local winery, consider this spot.

3. Tasting Setup/Efficiency/Friendliness: Grade "A": Walt is enthusiastic and fun to speak with. He obviously draws a lot of energy through having people in his tasting room. He moves through the crowd, talking and working and laughing; this is Heaven for him. His wife is there and another young lady who took very good care of us.  Tasting fee is $5 but comped if you buy something. Besides wines, they sell these really neat candles made from real and used Bethany wine bottles with the labels still on; $15 and worth it, and a nice way to recycle. They had a large hunk of a Swiss-type cheese out with crackers. About 8 wines were pouring, plus Walt brought out an '02 Cab as a special pour (free). They could not, however, accommodate an Oregon buyer who asked to avoid the WA sales tax.

4. Vineyards: Walt owns two vineyards: one at the winery, and one in Dallesport WA (that's across from The Dalles, and is hot desert vineland, perfect for warm weather grapes and I think he has Italian varietals there. He also buys other warm-weather grapes from vineyards in Prosser WA (also a great area for warm weather varietals).

5. Grape variety choice, at the Clark County vineyard: Grade "C-": He planted Cabernet Sauvignon and other warm weather grapes there, and I'm afraid those grapes need more heat units than our climate can give. Hell, we can't even ripen Pinot here in some years, and the hot sites of Lyle and Hood River can't even ripen Cab. Walt tries to accommodate for the weather by dropping most of the fruit, and that is an intriguing approach, but it's like trying to grow pigs and hoping to produce beef from them, when you plant warm weather grapes in Clark County. It's a great approach for cool-weather grapes (especially Pinot, which needs uncropping anyway), though. 

6. Wines: This is a matter of personal taste, so you should discount my thoughts somewhat. Overall, the wines have less color than you would expect for their variety, and the bouquets are light or absent; this is partly due to growing the wrong varieties for the climate in a particular spot. The winemaker's general style (which actually is in vogue now but it's not what I would do) is to put a large streak of acidity in the wine, with a wave of acidic finish--and this will make the wine good with food but it is more difficult to enjoy it alone. The best wine he poured was his '11 Chard--it has wonderful body (it was alone in having good body) and crispness and nice fruit; its undertones are unusual but the overtones are classic (butterscotch, citrus, apple); light or no oak; and it has layers of complexity. A really nice wine and the only one I would buy (though I think it's overpriced at $22 and as you all know I'm not a Chardonnay fan, having been burned so badly by the tidal wave of bad Chard (overoaked; over-MLF'd) that flowed from CA starting 20 or 30 years ago. "Sweet Riesling" has only 0.5% RS so it's dry or off-dry and thus misnamed; its nose is unusual and unique, off-type, but the wine (as all his wines) is clean and well-made. His '09 Pinot would be at home at some places in the Willamette Valley, but for me it was too light and thin. His '09 Sureoh (Pinot, Syrah and Merlot) is better than the Pinot due to the addition of some Merlot. The pure Merlot ($22) was light, had no nose but was nice in the mouth, though not big enough to be a typical Merlot. The '09 Sangio was thin but nice and had that acid streak. The '02 Cab (grown in Clark County) was a no. The '09 Tempranillo (from Prosser)  was OK. All these red wines were like Burgundian Pinot Noir in their light bodies and faint colors, though not as subtle or complex as the French wines. The '07 Syrah (alone among the reds) was dark-ish. It was grown on the Clark County vineyard, and since the Rhone lies 2 regions South of Burgundy, it's not completely crazy to plant it here in Pinot country (Amalie Robert succeeds with it in Salem, but Salem is hotter than here and A.R.'s Syrah has the northern Rhone style that I don't prefer as much as the fruitier, richer Southern Rhone style. This Syrah had a light nose and the same large acid streak as the other reds. Last was a $25 blackberry dessert wine; 12% alcohol and sweet enough to match the berry's intense acid; unfortified. For me, give me my blackberry pourt; that richness really helps the blackberry experience. Overall, an impressive slate of wines, but the wines will be best appreciated by those who like the Burgundian style of Pinot Noir.

7. QPR (Quality for the Price): Grade "B-": You can't fault a winery for pricing its wines as high as it can, but these wines seem high-priced to me, especially for a winery located in an area that is pretty new to winemaking. I also saw overly high prices at Heisen House, where I honestly suspect they are about making money from the tasting fees and they don't care as much about selling the wines--when I bought a bottle from them, they didn't even have a bottle ready and labeled for sale! Now that I think of it, that might be in play at Bethany, too. It's a smart strategy where you don't produce much wine, and Walt drops a lot of fruit at Bethany, to try to drive up fruit quality; this of course reduces production. There are discounts if you join their club and buy in bulk, but here are some sample full retail prices: Chard $22, Merlot $22, Sangio $28, Syrah $24.

I can't offer you his wines, as he sells 99% of them at the winery (so, why would he sell at wholesale when he doesn't have to?). You will need to pay retail prices plus sales tax at the winery. However, the tasting experience is quite good and I do recommend it. If you're up there, also try Olequa and Confluence; skip North Fork until they figure it all out a little better, although the second-best fish shop in Portland is next door to them, and you should definitely go there.  

And I ran into my customer Denise F at Bethany, who was tasting with friends; great to see you!

It is very impressive what Walt and family are doing at Bethany; they deserve your support. I think he is quite happy and successful with what he's doing there now, but if I were in charge I would make some stylistic changes to the wines and would stop trying to force warm weather grapes to grow here. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Robert Parker steps down!

Not a great surprise that Robert Parker, perhaps the foremost wine critic in the world (and an ex-lawyer), is stepping down as Editor in Chief of The Wine Advocate. He has been at this for a long time, and rumors of his coming retirement have been commonplace.

It is more surprising that the publication is moving to Singapore, will take on three Asian wine investors, and will for the first time accept advertising (non-wine related ads only).

Parker's a part owner of our own Beaux Freres in Ribbon Ridge. I have followed his opinions for decades now, and have binders full of his pieces on Bordeaux wines. End of an era.  His arc proves the value of following one's passion.

On the negative side, if asked to drum up a few critiques of his operation, I would say:
a. His wine descriptors were too outlandish at times, as if the wine critics were trying to outdo each other in convincing consumers of the extent to which each wine was individualistic. I have posted about these humorous, over-the-top descriptors before.
b. The whole debate about 100-point scoring (really, it's 50-point scoring, as the 0-50 range was rarely or never used), which works for me but many complained that wine cannot be objectified in that way.
c. The most serious comment in this little list: Parker maintained the image (or at least I incorrectly held the image) that he paid for all the bottles he tasted, and he always tasted blind. Neither of those are true. I have long known that if he had always tasted blind, then we would have seen more examples of lower Growths outscoring higher ones, which rarely happened with Parker.

He will be greatly missed as a wine critic.

Read Decanter's article here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pity the Poor Riesling

I wrote this to my customers, who as a group ordered NONE of the two Rieslings I offered (both, high scorers from the Mosel region of Germany):

It is OK. You are not hurting my feelings ;)  It's a free country. I learn a lot by your collective preferences. Guess how many people ordered either the Rieslings or that mostly-Sangio Italian red wine that I threw into the mix so that you would not be completely overcome with "Riesling Revulsion?" That's right--none. It amazes me that out of all my customers I think there are just two of us who "get" good Riesling. There is an ocean of bad Chardonnay out there, and yet many of you love good Chardonnay, so I wonder why your early negative experiences with cheap sweet Rieslings prevent you from returning to that grape's higher expressions in your later life? Riesling is one of the (slightly arbitrary) seven greatest winegrapes of the world (Cab, Pinot, Merlot, Chard, Riesling, Syrah, Sangio--with those grapes one can make perhaps 95% of the world's most-acclaimed wines--Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Rhone, Tuscany, and most of the best California, Oregon, Washington, Australian wines). I admit that I care not at all for the petrol nose in some high-end Rieslings (I worked at natural gas processing plants long ago, and the concept of petroleum distillates in my wine is offputting), but it's pretty easy to find great Rieslings that aren't full of gasoline aromas. Anyway, no worries, and if some of you have fallen in love with, or rediscovered Malbec, or Petit Sirah, or Viognier, as a result of my offerings, than how could I be happier? Happy Holidays! 

- P.S. - From "I think that Riesling is indisputably the greatest white wine grape in the world but many people think I am mad."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Historic French wine chateau demolished "by mistake"

Right. A priceless 18th-Century chateau, the landmark for its little town, was demolished (compeltely; to the ground) "by mistake." Sure, I can see that. It almost happened to the Washington Monument once ;)

There's an investigation; I predict it will find that the new owner of the property, a Russian businessman, ordered its demolition after getting city approval for a renovation (which would have preserved the building).

Pretty fishy! The businessman assures us that he will rebuild the home exactly as it was. That's a new twist on the Las Vegas approach.

Interesting: I've sold this place's wine to you: Chateau Bellevue. The vineyards are not affected. But here is what was lost:

Ken Wright setting up grape program at Yamhill-Carlton High School

What a great idea! The kids in this program will tend a vineyard to be planted next to the high school. Real wineries will make the wine, because for political reasons the kids couldn't do that. I hope this program spreads.

Read the article here.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gotta get me some of THAT!

Savor this description by Robert Parker of a 90-point lesser 2009 Bordeaux from Graves;

" . . . its classic Graves nose of tobacco leaf, burning embers and scorched earth." 

Please oh please, where can I get some of that? :-p

If the prospect of ash and scorched earth turns you on, here is the wine:
2009 Le Thil Comte Clary, Pessac-LĂ©ognan

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Men's vs Women's Tastes in Wine

Turns out that men prefer Cab, Merlot, and Pinot Noir much more than women do. And the only wine that women like much more than men do is (gulp) White Zinfandel.

Women consume more wine than men, however, but spend less per bottle and are less likely to drink wine while alone.

 Read about the study here.

 (royalty-free stock photo)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shortage of Farm Labor Causes Problems, Changes

A new article points out that orchardists of all stripes are having more trouble finding farm labor to manage and pick their crops. The problem is causing losses for many farms as crops go unpicked.

Causes include: rising wages in Mexico and right-wing political hostility towards undocumented immigrant workers.

One solution may be mechanized harvests. Easy for wheat, but very difficult for grapes and some other fruits.  It requires major changes in planning and practice, but perhaps as machines continue to develop in dexterity and nimbleness, we will someday only gaze over our orchards and vineyards as machines do all the work. Very Sci Fi, but . . .

Read the article here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Winterizing pots of outdoor plants

I lost some potted grapevines one year, to winter's cold. They just died.

"But wait!" you might say. "Your varieties are cold-resistant." It's true--the modern varieties I'm growing have much better cold tolerance than vinifera do (due to the American grape genes in the modern varieties).

But, I say, that is only true for vines in the ground. The trunk and canes ARE cold resistant, but when the grape is in a pot its roots are exposed to the bitter cold, whereas the grape in the ground has roots which are protected from the cold by the insulating earth! The tops are cold resistant, because in the real world (before came along humans with pots) that's the only part of the vine that needed to be. That is why your modern grape varieties, which are very cold-tolerant, can die over winter in their pots. Of course vinifera would do the same.

So, here's what I did, headed into winter in the Northland: I put the pots (not only my grapes but my bonsai too) in a spot where they'll get rain but be sheltered by two walls of my house, which should add a little warmth. Then I piled bark mulch all around the pots, as if mimicking a raised soil level, as if the vines were in the ground. Here's a pic:

We'll see how it works. These vines are headed to my new rural vineyard, next year. They will grow on a gorgeous South-facing slope with great sun exposure, overlooking the pretty Lewis River.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Modern varieties of winegrapes continue to make inroads

The rise of modern varieties of winegrapes* continues:

Here is a good article describing how much a panel of wine lovers in California liked wines made from Marquette grapes in many northern states (Marquette was developed to prosper in cold climates).

The list of modern variety winegrapes that make good wine is growing. Each grape performs differently in different soils and climates, but for the PacNW, such a list might include (but is by no means exclusive--there are others, too):

Whites: Cayuga (and this one may be head and shoulders above the others), Interlaken, Traminette (if it ripens quickly enough), Esprit, Briana, Jupiter, New York Muscat (the last two make Muscat-style whites)

Reds: Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, Regent, Cascade, Burdin 6055, Noiret

1. These are crosses of Vitis vinifera (French winegrapes, which have great flavor for wine) and American grape species (which have more disease resistance and which ripen earlier). It is old-fashioned crossing--putting the pollen of one grape on the uva (egg) of another, and a few years later you find out what you've got (because it takes a few years for a grape to mature enough to bear fruit). Sometimes (including lots of additional crossings--each of which takes more years) a terrific new variety is developed.

2. Some call the modern varieties "hybrids," but that term  is perjorative to some people, as "hybrid" is a synonym for "bastard," "crossbreed" and "mongrel." Hey, we are all mongrels but the term is negative.

3. Why the push for modern varieties of winegrapes? Because they are so "green." They don't require fungal sprays (unlike vinifera, which require so much spray that Europe is considering regulating their spraying. Even if the grower uses organic sprays, it still requires a lot of tractor fuel to apply all those sprays). They ripen earlier, which is an advantage in the PacNorwest (it's more likely to beat the Fall rains and it can even sometimes avoid the predations of birds, without having to install nets).

4. I choose not to grow Marquette because it has very high acid and thus is much more work in the winery. Ditto with Baco Noir.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Not exactly a dearth of new wine, but:

Global wine production in 2012 was the lowest since 1975: "just" 250 million hectoliters. That is 6.6 BILLION gallons of wine. Wow--better go out and stock up! ;)

The drop was due to poor weather in Europe and to vine removals in some parts of the world. That's interesting, because there are places where arguably too many vines are being planted.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pinot Noir: Two styles

(The following piece pulls extensively from a good article by Craig LaBan, Philadelphia Inquirer Restaurant Critic; his complete article is found here.

Pinot Noir is on just about everyone's "very short list" of the greatest grapes (along with, most likely, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, Riesling, and Chardonnay). But Pinot is infamous for being ephemeral and inconsistent: It varies from one bottle to the next, and it can even vary from month to month. It is more difficult to grow and to vinify. It can disappoint, or exalt, and you never know which until you pull out the cork. Personally, I do not appreciate the "what will I get?" aspect of Pinot Noir (or, stated another way, I prefer a baseball batter who hits lots of singles and doubles, compared to one who strikes out a lot but also hits a few home runs). However, I agree that, at its best, it is the greatest grape on Earth. However, it's a shame that we don't get to see it at its best very often. It's also a shame that Pinot is so expensive, but that is mostly because the variety loses its varietal character if it's overcropped--and thus, much of the fruit must be cut off and discarded while still green. This drives up the cost of the wine, obviously, because the yields are lower.

There are two fundamental styles of Pinot Noir:

1. The classic French style: thin, watery, often with weak color, with subtle flavors and suppressed fruit. For reasons I do not fully comprehend (other than Gallic tradition and dominance), this is the most popular PN style, and it is growing in prominance.

2. The "New World" style: more fruit-forward; a darker wine; richer/more body (thickness in the mouth).

LaBan's article contrasts Kosta Browne (a cult CA Pinot producer) with Littorai (which makes classic Pinots). The two wineries share the same zip code in Sebastopol, CA, yet cannot be more different.

Kosta doesn't grow any grapes. They make Pinot from other people's grapes, in a warehouse. Their expertise lies in skillful blending. Their wines sell for $52-$72 and are typically big and fruit-forward, though not too hot (alcoholic). There are over 10,000 people who are waiting to get on their mailing list.

Littorai (Latin for "coasts") loses points with me because it adheres to one of the greatest hoaxes of all time: Biodynamic farming. The only science behind it is that which can be easily gained by studying organic farming practices, which predate the Biodynamic farce and which are well-supported by science and proved in the field; all the rest of Biodynamic farming is hocus pocus dreamed up by a snake oil salesman who knew nothing about botany. Wineries, and their consumers, should be embarrassed to fall for it. Littorai's wines are lighter-styled but reknowned for rich berry and earth elements.

In Oregon, we are heavily influenced by the great Domaine Drouhin winery, which of course was begun pretty long ago now, in an epic move here by the historic Drouhin family of Burgundy fame. I think our wetter climate probably lends itself to the classic style, as well.

I am sick of all the mediocre Pinot being made in Oregon. The great bottles are fantastic and the skill of their makers is remarkable. But there is just too much Pinot Plonk here, too many pretenders. The variety's seen a  quadrupling of acres planted in the past decade, and a lot of that is being made into poor quality wine.  We shall see what the market thinks, over the long term. Meanwhile, YOU should see which style you prefer.

Final report on PacNW's 2012 vintage weather

Portland, Oregon saw 2625 Growing Degree Days this year, which is quite a bit above average. The Fall was long and mostly dry; it allowed the luxury of picking on flavors. We had a record-dry July-Sept quarter. Some unirrigated grapes at harvest were shriveled from lack of soil moisture, which can lead to high alcohol wines. But overall, a very good vintage and I expect many high-quality wines.

My higher vineyard saw fewer GDD's, probably around 2300 (because Hillsboro saw 2025, and we lie between the 'boro and Portland's West Hills weather station). But that was enough to ripen many tomatoes with great flavor, and even some peppers got ripe this year. Funny--in Houston we had ripe tomatoes by May! and in Portland we're lucky to get them in August.


Rollin Soles, a very friendly and talented winemaker from Texas, has been making wine at Argyle for many years. A few years ago he started Roco, his own place.

Now they're opening a new tasting room, and Spectator gave one of his wines 95 points! Pretty high score for an Oregon Pinot; not many have scored so high.

You can read about all that here.

Wine bottle maker operates in Kalama WA

Bennu Glass started making wine bottles in August in Kalama WA. They hope to ramp up production to 100 MILLION bottles per year in coming years. This is a restart of a failed wine bottle manufacturing effort that went bankrupt a few years ago due to repeated and expensive problems with the melting machine.

Pretty cool. If I ever start up a winery near Woodland, it won't be far to get bottles!

Read more here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Non-amazing Amazon is starting a service that will allow small wineries to reach more customers. If I understand the terms of the program, it really stinks for the wineries and I hope they will stay away from Amazon in droves:

Amazon will list the wines for sale, but the wineries must handle the shipping and legal compliance (not a slight matter, as the wine laws differ in every state). The wineries have to pay Amazon $40/month AND 15% of their sales. It is difficult to imagine a worse deal than that, for the wineries. If Amazon handled shipping and compliance, that would be different.

In contrast, opened an online wine marketplace; shoppers can pay $49/year for unlimited wine shipping; I'm not sure of the terms for the wineries, although they have to ship their wines to distribution centers.

The article about this is here.

Here is Amazon's new building in Seattle WA:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Southern Oregon winery foreclosure

Oregon Vineyard
Bank Owned Property, approx. 20
acres, of which 12.5 acres are wine
grapes. Estimated at 1000 plants per
acre of Pinot Gris & Pinot Noir, on
east slope with three wire trellis, and
5.5’ X 9’ spacing.
Junction City, OR  541-752-5161

Oregon has seen such a rush of plantings over the past decade that it's not surprising to see such listings. It would take a serious case of optimism to plant large quantities of Pinot Noir here now, and note that Southern Oregon is not known for good Pinot Noir, but even in the Willamette Valley I believe there are far too many acres planted.

There ARE other grape varieties that do well here. Why be a sheep?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Notes on a couple of good wines tasted recently

1. Weingut Joh. Haart 2001 Kabinett Riesling: Eleven years old and still fresh and fruity! In fact, the fruit was so concentrated that the wine tasted sweeter than it was. Excellent balance; enough zip to impress with food. A rare warm year on the slatey slopes of the Rhein and Mosel. A very enjoyable wine. There are many sad things about this life, and one of them is that so many wine drinkers cannot enjoy a quality Riesling. Riesling is  one of the five or six greatest wine grapes on the planet.

2. Gruet Demi-sec sparkling wine: Wow! I knew Gruet's sparkling wines, and have sold a lot of them, but mostly the Brut Rose and the Blanc de Blancs. This is not as sweet as you'd think; the European descriptors regarding residual sugar (RS) in sparkling wines are not understood by us Americans. For example, this wine comes off as dry with perhaps the least hint of RS--my spouse won't drink sweet wines and she loved this one. Yet the makers call it slightly sweet. It's not that, but it is great. I want more! A sprinkle of dosage really helps bring balance to the acids and it helps the fruit notes shine.

Gruet's owner grew up in Champagne country, and found near-ideal growing conditions in high-elevation New Mexico. Don't laugh! This is high-score, well-respected bubbly! I think it's 100% Chardonnay but it wouldn't surprise me if there was some Pinot Noir in there, too; certainly the Chardonnay flavor profile is not overbearing in the wine.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cool trellis!

Check out this grape trellis, in the Old Country. Some trellises are to resist extremely ferocious winter winds (such as the one that rips out of the Northeast towards the Dalmatian Coast), while others are selected for their unique grapegrowing/fruit ripening characteristics for a grape variety, and still others are done in a certain way because that's what's been done for centuries, with no special reason other than [cue Fiddler on the Roof:] TRADITION!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Poor 2012 vintage in Europe?

This article gives several examples of how hail, drought, and other natural maladies have reduced harvests this year in Europe, or in some cases resulted in no crop at all. Ouch. We were much luckier in the PacNW.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Oregon wine grape harvest 2012

Today's Oregonian has an article (front page of the Business section) about the Oregon Pinot harvest. The photo (of Alloro's Pinot Noir grapes on the vine) looks pretty bad to me--many grapes are shriveled from this near-record-setting drought we've had this year. The loss of water in the grapes drives the sugar level crazy high. The article talks about the risk of excessive sugars and the resulting "hot" (high-alcohol) wines.

So I'm modifying my earlier statement about how this is likely to be a generally great vintage; I now think it might be great for some wines. I think the best wines may come from (a) vineyards that irrigated a bit in the past month, to keep the grapes plump but not so much as to dilute flavors; or (b) older vineyards whose roots have better access to groundwater even in this drought.

High-alcohol Pinot is no fun, and if water is added by the winemaker to reduce the alcohol, that can dilute the flavors.

The Fall rains come tomorrow night and hit in earnest on Saturday or Sunday. Goodbye to one of our longest, deepest summer droughts ever in NW Oregon.

Check out the shriveling/raisining on Alloro's Pinot Noir grapes (photo taken from today's Oregonian article):

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

health benefits of wine - a new twist

A study at UNC concludes that drinking wine, by itself, does not necessarily make you healthier (that's in contrast to the French Paradox*), but wine drinkers eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer red meats and fried foods, they exercise more, and they have lower body mass index scores, as compared to non-drinkers and drinkers who primarily drink beer or spirits.

One could be forgiven for concluding that wine drinkers are better-educated about lifestyle choices. I would expect that wine drinking correlates pretty well with college education and with income, and I think it's a no-brainer (subject to many exceptions, of course) that generally, more school and/or higher income lead to better lifestyle choices.

You can read the abstract here.

* The French Paradox is: "How can the French eat so many of those cream-based sauces on rich meals, and yet be thinner and fitter, and have fewer heart attacks, than other populations?" I think that later findings have indicated (1) the French don't eat more cream than others do; and (2) the French walk a lot more than some other populations (such as Americans, who walk very little and whose lifestyles often involve suburban living which requires extensive use of automobiles instead of walking); and (3) the hype about resveratrol--the allegedly life-lengthening substance in red grapes and red wine--was probably at least mostly just hype.

(photo courtesy of

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pretty Darn Good Harvest Weather

I have a few "modern varieties" of grapes still hanging, but have harvested seven varieties already (they ripen earlier than vinifera do, as a general rule). But I think most vinifera grapes are still out there on the vines. Their growers are glad to see a later-than-average start to our famous Fall rains.

The 15-day forecast shows 100% chance of of our first heavy rain on Oct 15, so that is a target date for some growers who will want to pick before it hits. But other growers who need a touch more ripening may wait through that cycle (they'll rightly say that their grapes needed a quick freshening from some rain; they may even rightly say that a bit of rain can push more carbohydrates (sugars) into the fruit, which at first seems counterintuitive). Too early to tell, yet, when the next rain will come, after the first wave hits. There is typically a following period of regained nice weather, after the first rain.

But usually the first Fall rains come in late Sept or early Oct.

We've had a very unusual drought this year--only 0.25" of rain in the July 1-Sep 30 quarter! That's the least in EIGHTY YEARS! And we always get rain until July 4-5 or so, so this is quite unusual.

Wed, Oct 3Sunny. Mild.68°F48°F16 mph / NE22%66°FLow4%
Thu, Oct 4Sunny. Mild.69°F41°F11 mph / NE24%66°FLow5%
Fri, Oct 5Passing clouds. Mild.69°F43°F11 mph / ENE22%67°FLow5%
Sat, Oct 6Passing clouds. Mild.71°F39°F10 mph / NE23%67°FLow8%
Sun, Oct 7More sun than clouds. Mild.74°F37°F5 mph / ENE23%69°FLow13%
Mon, Oct 8Scattered clouds. Mild.72°F39°F4 mph / W27%69°FLow19%
Tue, Oct 9Scattered clouds. Mild.71°F39°F6 mph / NW33%68°FLow27%
Wed, Oct 10Sunny. Mild.69°F35°F4 mph / NNE45%69°FLow0%
Thu, Oct 11Sprinkles late. Mostly cloudy. Mild.72°F35°F7 mph / SSE73%74°FMinimal26%0.08"
Fri, Oct 12More sun than clouds. Mild.69°F35°F1 mph / NE69%69°FLow10%
Sat, Oct 13Mostly sunny. Mild.70°F36°F7 mph / NE50%70°FLow0%
Sun, Oct 14Light rain late. Partly sunny. Mild.72°F39°F9 mph / S70%74°FMinimal37%0.09"
Mon, Oct 15Rain late. Mostly cloudy. Mild.70°F39°F14 mph / SW83%70°FMinimal100%0.71"
Tue, Oct 16Scattered showers. Mostly cloudy. Mild.68°F36°F11 mph / SW76%68°FMinimal63%0.24"
Wed, Oct 17Light rain late. More sun than clouds. Mild.64°F32°F6 mph / SSE79%64°FLow20%0.11"

(above forecast info is taken from

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ripening Regent grapes

With nets (nets with spreaders, this year), and mean-looking plastic snakes and good luck, so far the grapes are ripening unmolested. Pretty blue color that will go to deep purple. The grapes are already about 18 Brix with superb rubbable skin pigments.

The clusters aren't completely full because not all the flowers got pollinated, as there was some rain during flowering this year. But the crop on my three vines is looking great--perhaps 70 or so clusters and plenty of healthy leaves to ripen them all, if this great sunshine holds. The 15 day forecast predicts a continuation of warm, sunny weather--just ideal.

Vanderbilt Engineering

Wow. Vandy is my alma mater (Engineering and Law). This year the Engineering school had 5,300 applications for just 320 seats in the Class of 2016. Yes, kids apply to multiple schools, but not to 16.56 schools! It's safe to say that Vanderbilt can fill a class with some very special kids. And even when I went there (1976-1980), my engineering class was more than a third women, which was an unusually high fraction at that time, and something (even before I met my feminist wife) that I was very proud of. Also proud that my daughter and my grandfather attended Vanderbilt.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Somebody's list of Oregon's Top 50 wines

This list, like all such lists, is, of course, condemnable for the many good wines it leaves off.

However, it's useful to peruse it, for several reasons. First, some wines you may not have had are listed, and those would be fun to try. I know White Rose pretty well, including its winemaker Jesus, but W.Rose hasn't gotten a lot of press recently; however, they hold down the #1 and #2 Pinot Noir spots!

Also, notice the high score given to Gamay (the '11, by Division Winemaking Company). Gamy is a grape grown between Burgundy and the Rhone, which suggests it could be grown here, in the warmer parts of the Willamette Valley, because there is good Syrah made here now, too.

The list is here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

But, if soil minerals don't flavor wine, at least nearby aromatic plants do

It makes sense that stuff floating in the air can stick to the grape and thus make its way into the wine. We know that smoke from forest fires does that (with sometimes terrible results). So can aromatics, such as resins from plants. Think rosemary, sage, pines, eucalyptus . . .

"Garrigue" is a hot term now, to describe woodsy flavors in wine (esp in the Rhone). It relates to the native bushes and trees that grow in and near the vineyards, and rosemary is one of those in the Southern Rhone.

I think such botanical influences on wine add to the complexity of the wine, and can foster a unique "terroir" for each vintage and each vineyard. Now, if the grapegrower can just deter any passing irritated skunk . . .

The article is here.

Here's a photo of garrigue (photo credit to Ian Whitehead):

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pac NW grape weather update, 9-13-2012

Very good news. A dry and warm summer (warm for this region, which would be a summer cold crisis just about anywhere else). And now, a continuing sunny spell for at least two more weeks. We haven't had more than a tenth of an inch of rain since July 6.

The grapes, all grapes (vinifera and modern varieties), are looking great, though some are already suffering some bird predation.

It would be easy to go ahead and declare a triumphant, wonderful year! but it is prudent to wait and see.

And yet, the harvest is so close now.

(photo credit:

Minerality in wine? Only problem is, there isn't any.

. . . or so say researchers:

We see many winemakers referencing their wines' "minerality." Whether it's oyster shells in the wines of Marlborough, New Zealand, or Burgundy's limestone, or the Sierra Foothills AVA's decomposed granite, many wines are marketed as having unique minerals in the wine.

It's almost as if making wines is more like a rock and mineral show than a study in fruit.

But a fascinating article shows that minerals in wine are not detectable by humans. Really? Yep.  There are certain smells and flavors that we associate with minerals, but we cannot detect the minerals per se--there just aren't enough ppm of the minerals in the wine, for us to be able to notice them.

One example is flint. Flint is silica, which is what we make glass from. Flint is odorless and tasteless. We make glass from it precisely because it's odorless and tasteless. Ergo, it can't be a taste or aroma in wine.

However, we all know that smell after a summer rain on hot rocks. We all know what "flinty" means in a wine descriptor. So I think that even though the minerals aren't perceptible to us, there are other smells and flavors (perhaps from the fruit?) which we describe as mineral in origin. No harm, no foul. And as we know, grapes are the original chimeras of the plant world: Grapes alone are able to mimic the bouquets and flavors of other fruits. Yes! Just think of the many fruits we taste in grape wine: strawberry, kiwi, citrus, blackberry, apple, peach, pear, currant . . .

Read the article here.

(photo credit:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pretty impressive wine haul

Every picture tells a story. This first pic says, "61 cases of wine purchased from the bankruptcy trustee's rep safely made it back to Portland from Seattle, and are eagerly awaiting enthusiastic drinkers."

The second pic is my home's foyer saying, "My joists are aching! I sure hope everybody gets their wine soon!"

Wow; what great prices! I am happy that we can enjoy some of that '06 Merlot; Walla Walla fruit, perfectly mature now, expertly made, and a super, super treat! And of course the '07 Narcissa is just wonderful in every way. What a find!

Considering both volume and vehicle weight ratings: 61 cases just barely fits into a Highlander and a Civic. In case you wanted to know. Also, an SUV's mpg (which, admittedly, is not so great to begin with) doesn't seriously suffer when it's loaded to max weight; who knew? And: would you be surprised to know that our '06 Civic can carry nearly the same weight as our Highlander? (of course, it doesn't have nearly as much room, but it could carry almost as much weight).

I learned more about the Whitman bankruptcy. There were several owners, and the majority owner really loved the Narcissa (who doesn't?) but he made too much of it--more than could be sold. That's about all it takes to get into trouble. So sorry it happened. But don't feel too bad when consuming this wine--at least we're all helping the unpaid creditors get some of the money owed to them, by buying the bankrupt estate's assets.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

online comments

Online comments can be snarky, but just look at these priceless gems from a (tongue in cheek) online recipe for how to make ice cubes:

“This recipe is horrible!” declares Chef #1408275. “Maybe I should have left them in longer than two minutes (the recipe doesn't say how long to leave them in the freezer so I just kind of guessed) but mine came out all watery. I won't be making these again.”  
“I harvest my own free-range water, so the idea of putting it in a plastic tray and a commercially made electricity-wasting freezer disgusts me,” huffs donquix66.  
It goes on, beautifully: “I was wondering if you had a crock-pot version for this recipe.” “So easy and low carb/cal, lactose, and gluten free.” “The addition of 1 1/2 T of Sriracha really lifted the oxygen flavor that was being overpowered by the doubled hydrogen.”

Those are from an article by Slate magazine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pears are more mysterious than you may think

We have a spot on our front hill where a thorny shrub has been trying to thrive for years, and for years we have battled it, removing it wherever we found it. Yesterday, I found a spot, in a cleft between two boulders lower down on our slope in a wild area, where this thorny shrub has grown unmolested for a few years. But there are pears atop the branches!

What is this craziness? And then I learned that most pears are thorny when young, and the thorns disappear when the tree is mature. Most nursery pear trees are sold when mature, and are thus thornless. Ours must be a chance seedling planted by a bird. We'll harvest after the Fall equinox, then let the pears ripen at room temperature (they don't ripen on the tree), and then when the flesh beside the stem is soft, they're ready to eat, and we'll find out just what kind of pears these are--right now they look like Bosc (brown, rough surface) but on one side a pretty rosy blush is appearing, so who knows?

Sometimes, pears will "escape" into the wild, creating thorny thickets that puncture tractor tires and cause real mayhem with their thorns. But, in thinking about it, it's a great way for the tree to repel predators like deer, and once the tree is tall enough, it doesn't need the thorns anymore as the growing tips are out of the deer's reach. And, I'm here to tell you, these are some pretty nasty thorns!

Moral: When you are trying to kill or demolish something, first be very certain that this is what you want to do!

We are pretty happy that our destructive efforts failed. And, BTW (as this is a wine blog), I made a pear wine once that made several wine lovers think it was a white vinifera wine.

More info is found here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Finally, a great year in Oz: 2010

After many years of torrid heat and backbreaking Herculeics in the wineries which nevertheless resulted in unformed or overcooked wines, in 2010 Australia got a great weather vintage. Let's watch for these wines, and see what Oz can do when presented with good weather.

However, in 2011 South Australia and  Victoria had heavy rains during summer, with cool temperatures, and tremendous disease pressure. There will be some good wines made here and there from 2011 fruit. Poor Australia cannot catch a break. Too much heat and drought in so many years, and then too much rain. But, we will always have 2010!

Here is the article.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to store an opened bottle of wine

I used to think that the best way to store an opened bottle of wine was to stick the cork partway in the neck and put the bottle (red or white) in the refrigerator. The thought was that the coldness would slow the natural process of oxidation to such a reduced rate that one could enjoy the wine up to a week or more later.

Supporting the above theory, read this:

As a final thought, and in keeping with the discussion above, be sure to store your opened bottle of wine in the refrigerator. If you must keep an opened bottle of wine for a few days, the best place to store it is in your refrigerator which is typically at a temperature of about 41°F (5°C). The chemical reactions leading to spoilage (primarily oxidation-reduction) will be slowed down by a factor of 6 to 16 times compared with storage at room temperature (about 73°F). Therefore, a wine should last 6 to 16 times longer in the refrigerator than at room temperature. Red wine can be poured in a glass and allowed to slowly warm before consumption or put in a microwave oven for 15-20 seconds.
1Re-published from The Alchemist’s Wine Perspective, Issue One, November 1996.© 1996, 1998 by Alexander J. Pandell. All rights reserved.

However, what is Life if not the chance to keep learning? A grapebreeder friend of mine, who is a very accomplished chemist, explained to me that the temperature of refrigerators is only cold enough to slow oxidation by only 10-20%, and he advises that the opened bottle of wine should be recorked with a Vac-u-vin rubber cork and then the accompanying pump should be used to pump most of the air out of the bottle. Only then should the wine be stored in the refrigerator.

If you are the cautious type, you should probably follow the second method. If you think every situation is a laboratory experiment waiting to be performed, why not try it both ways with two identical opened bottles of wine, and compare?

As mentioned in the above excerpt, to drink a red wine stored in this manner, simply pour it in a glass and microwave the glass for 10-14 seconds (depending on your microwave's power and your desired ending temp of the wine). We have done this for years and it does not seem to impair the wine's quality. To drink a white wine stored in this manner, simply pour and drink (or if the wine's a bit too cold--after all, most Americans drink their red wines too warm and their white wines too cold), simply pour it and let it sit in the glass for a few minutes.

If you do not properly store an opened bottle of wine, all is not necessarily lost: Certain very youthful red wines will benefit from air exposure, as that, like heat, can hastens aspects of aging. This is how a young big red can improve after decanting (exposure to oxygen). But for all other wines, if you aren't going to store an opened bottle correctly, then you should consider finishing the wine at one sitting, if possible (and for goodness' sake, do not do that if you are going to be driving a car or bicycle, or doing anything else where being impaired is unwise).

Here is information on the Vac-u-vin pump system.

Veraison on my Regent grapes, 2011

This looks like a Frankenbunch, but it's two overlapping bunches of my Regent grapes. Notice how some grapes are getting close to purple, while others are still green. Seemingly strange but entirely normal.
It helps explain the variation among the individual berries, at harvest time. Every grape in the cluster will be slightly different. For example, a berry located more towards the sun, or further towards the lower tip of the bunch, might be riper.

"Veraison" is a French word meaning "the onset of ripening," but it has also become a common English word. Technically, it is the transition from berry growth to berry ripening.

AVAs in Oregon

American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, are grapegrowing regions which have specific attributes and thus can be fairly marketed as geographically distinct.

In Oregon, this may be a complete list of our current AVA's:

Willamette Valley (which is a larger AVA, and includes the following smaller AVAs:)
Chehalem Mountains
Yamhill-Carlton District
Ribbon Ridge
Dundee Hills
Eola-Amity Hills

And then, there are these AVAs in Southern Oregon:
Umpqua Valley
Red Hill Douglas County
Rogue Valley
Applegate Valley
Southern Oregon

Finally, some Oregon vineyards are located in AVAs which are predominantly sited in Washington:

Columbia Valley
Walla Walla Valley
(and perhaps others)

And there may soon be another Willamette Valley AVA:  See this.

The proliferation of AVAs is partly due to winery owners' perceptions (not sure if they are correct) that being in a small AVA helps the winery to market itself as unique and thus desirable.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Walla Walla: again, it's just the best

It is time to praise Walla Walla wines again. And the wines from the nearby also-WA desert areas of Red Mountain, Tri-cities, and Yakima.

There is great wine from many places on our planet, but: most of California and France's wines that are high quality are more expensive; it can take some effort to taste through the mountains of Italian wines, to find the best ones (which are insanely good), and many of those are quite spendy. Some great wine areas are limited in what they can do (New Zealand, whose Sauv Blancs can be amazing, and cheap, and unique, but their Pinots, while cheaper than Oregon's, are overall just OK-to-interesting. Willamette Pinots are (generally speaking) too expensive for the quality presented and the product too variable. Andean Argentina comes to mind for amazing quality at low prices in the Malbecs, as do the old-vine Garnachas from Spain, but Washington rings the bell with a large number of successful grape varieties.

Desert Washington is slowly becoming better known, but that climate married with red vinifera and skilled winemakers results in better and better wines that (for the most part) are still fairly affordable. And at the top end, WA has wineries (Quilceda Creek, K Vintners, Cayuse) which routinely outscore 99.99% of the wines of the world, and they do it cheaper than most other top-end wine regions do.

Therefore, I reiterate: Desert Washington's wines just may be the world's best, for the price.

This photo is of Girasol Winery; the dry hills are very representative of W.Walla, which is near the Blue Mountains and thus has sufficient water available to quench the thirst of vines laboring in extreme heat and sun.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oldest liquid wine found?

Reported by Wine Spectator: 

Archaeologists in China have unearthed what may be the oldest liquid wine yet discovered (dried residues have been found on older vessels). The liquid is in one of six bronze vessels that date from the West Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 771 B.C.) found in a tomb at a dig in the city of Baoji. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2011 Bordeaux Futures fizzle

The wineries got a bit greedy, and didn't discount their prices enough, compared to the recent great vintages' stratospheric pricing. 2011 was a good Bordeaux vintage, but not as good as 2010 or 2009.

The photo is of La Mission Haut Brion:

See Spectator's article here.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Salt and Straw

We heard this was a hot new ice cream place on NW 23re in Portland. Drove there after a great Tuscan dinner at Porto Terra, only to find the line for the ice cream place around the block! Guess we'll try again later. Life is too short to wait in line with the herd. If there is a line at the pearly gates (not that it's assured I'll be in that line), I will very likely just opt for the other place ;)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Univ of Ark a leader in breeding of table grapes

John Clark at U of Arkansas is releasing four new table grape varieties.  They have named them:
Faith, Hope, Joy and Gratitude.  
It appears the astronomers couldn't find planets as fast as Arkansas can produce new grapes.

A few years ago, Arkansas released a truly great grape: Jupiter--a seedless dark Muscat hybrid grape. Large oval berries, laughs at Oregon rain, ripens even in cool, short years, and is disease-free. It even has good chemistry for wine.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hot summer?

It's 105 today in South Carolina, breaking a long-standing record. And it's 99 today in Illinois, also breaking a record. Some rather-northern areas are getting plus-100 temps for the next ten days. Growers around the Midwest and South are starting to expect a drought and high temps this summer. Hard to say, yet, what it will mean for grapes. Could mean an early harvest and a small crop. They are already having a much earlier budbreak and flowering than normal.

Weather west of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades is not necessarily correlative. However, we are seeing earlier flowering than last year, in Portland, and the temps (and YTD Growing Degree Days) are higher.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012 showing us a much better start than 2011's

A grower in the Willamette Valley saw 236 Growing Degree Days in April/May this year, versus just 38 for that same period last year. If this trend continues, we can expect that this year will be a better year for grapegrowing than 2011.

Monday, June 25, 2012

2010 Keuka Lake Vineyards Leon Millot

(Leon Millot is a French-American hybrid red winegrape.)

I really liked this wine upon opening several days ago. But tonight, after sitting recorked in the refrigerator (where, I tell my customers, all opened wines, white and red, belong, as the low temps retard oxidation and keep the wine fresh) this wine shone like a champ. It's young and had improved. It's kind of the first time I can truly say that, for me, a red hybrid wine matched the level of a really good vinifera wine. (My palate has hit this point repeatedly with white hybrids, but for me the reds have proved more elusive--though I've gotten very close, earlier, with Regent and with Noiret--so this, for me, is a big deal.)

The menu: (1) Black bean burgers with (2) mango-pineapple-red onion-cilantro-cumin-vinegar-brown sugar-green onion-20,000 Scoville units red pepper-salt-black pepper relish; and (3) creamed corn with roasted poblanos and carmelized onions (in a sour cream sauce). I'm not sure what about that menu allowed the wine to ring the bell so perfectly, but the corn/poblano/sour cream dish seemed a good match for this wine.

The wine: Color: Super-staining dark purple, truly a stunning color. Bouquet: a bit musky; vinous; nondescript (but so many good red viniferas have struck me the same way lately that I have begun to despair whether only the Kiwis (with their Sauv Blancs) truly understand the importance of a fine bouquet--perhaps, as the French do with a touch of Viognier in their Syrahs, some Muscat or other aromatic hybrid needs to go into red hybrid wines, to help the nose).  Palate: Thick, good body; big enough; smooth tannins; some vanilla from the oak; nice purple fruits; not as complex as high dollar vinifera, but better than 80% of viniferas at this price. No flaws whatsoever (which, you gotta admit, is fairly rare with red hybrid wines). I gave it 86-87 points when opened, and 88 points tonight. Darn good. If it had a good nose, another layer of complexity, and could finish longer, it'd be 90s. But, even as it is, it's way better than just good enough, AND it is saving the world. (And, it's from a northern vineyard, which is pretty exciting, as most fine big red wines of any stripe don't hail from near the "halfway point" of latitude.)

What helped this wine to reach this level? I read (see links below) that the winemaker started at Swedish Hill (interesting, because some of the S.Hill white hybrids really rang the bell for me in past years). Also that this one won Best Red at a NY competition. Also that the vines for this wine are 60 years old! Looks like the right skill in vineyard and winery with the right fruit and vintage (only that).

Some very interesting links about this wine:

It was selected best red wine, New York Wine and Food Classic:

Finally, we each have our (usually different) "Eureka" wine moments; your mileage may vary. But I suspect many lovers of vinifera reds would be amazed by this wine. I think, as the frailty of vinifera, imposed by our centuries of refusing to let it evolve, makes the environmental and monetary costs of vinifera spray programs rise to unacceptable levels, these kinds of successes with disease-resistant hybrid winegrapes will attract more and more notice. Eventually, consumers (starting with the green ones) will push the market over. What the hybrid industry needs is more and more successes, like Steve Snyder's high score with The Wine Advocate for his Regent wine from NW WA.  And then, of course, publicity. If Europe is starting to consider regulating the spraying of viniferas, can the US be far behind? I can tell you exactly what it feels like to be Cassandra, having a clear view (only sometimes, unfortunately) of the future, and yet almost nobody believes you or cares. If you're proved right after you're dead, does it make a sound? ;)

THANK YOU to all of the grape breeders who keep pushing the ball down the field, and to the winemakers who care enough to work their rears off to figure out a way to maximize the potential of these different varieties of grape. A most worthy endeavor.

Footnote for those readers are totally geeked by more detail: There are two clones of Leon Millot (which, itself, shares the same parents as Marechal Foch and Lucie Kuhlmann): There is Wagner's Leon (sometimes, "Leon Noir"), and there is Foster's Leon (sometimes, "Leon Rouge"); the former ripens later and has higher total acid, and I think is the basis of the above-reviewed wine; I am rooting the latter, which may make a softer, more Pinot-like wine.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Best wine shops in Portland?

From reader surveys:

1. Cork Wine Shop - 25% of the vote.  2901 NE Alberta Street, Portland OR. 97211 Map (503) 281-2675
2. Liner & Elsen Wine Merchant - 8.8%. 2222 Northwest Quimby Street Portland, OR 97210  Map  (503) 241-9463
3. Vino Wine Shop - 6.9%.  137 Southeast 28th Avenue Portland, OR 97214  Map  (503) 235-8545
4. Vinopolis Wine Shop - 6.8%.  1025 Southwest Washington St. Portland, OR 97205 Map (503) 223-6002
5. Blackbird Wine Shop - 2.3%. 4323 Northeast Fremont Street Portland, OR 97213  Map  (503) 282-1887
6. Great Wine Buys – 2.3%. 1515 NE Broadway St Portland, OR 97232  Map  (503) 287-2897
7. E&R Wine Shop – 2.1%. 6141 SW Macadam Ave #104 Portland, OR 97239.  Map  (503) 246-6101
8. Division Wines -1.72%. 3564 Southeast Division Street Portland, OR 97202  Map  (503) 234-7281
9. Trader Joe’s 1.7%. 6 local stores, check website for locations.

KLE's notes: Seems like Fred Meyer, Safeway, QFC belong on such a list, for the variety and occasional great sales if for no other reason.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Sometimes a person posts some writing that is so concise and full of meaning (and wry humor) that it simply must be shared. This post relates to the topic of whether you can deduct a charitable contribution, concerning a decrepit home that you allow the local fire department to burn down, for training purposes:

Posted by Crow: "After reading over all these complications, I just decided to burn my old house down myself. If the fire department comes by and puts it out, fine; otherwise, it's no loss to anyone. P.S. I went through and made sure all the street people and kids was out of it. All I found was co-habiting squirrels, and a Vietnam vet that President Reagan made promises to, and never kept. I bought him a dollar meal at McDonalds, and a fried apple pie (which the teenager behind the counter referred to as "fresh fruit")." 

The whole blog is here.

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.

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...