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.

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...