Monday, September 30, 2013

Record rains for September are most decidedly impairing what was a very good vintage year

This article describes the effect of our recent heavy rains at harvest time on Pinot Noir. That variety has thin skins and can't resist rain as well as, say, Cabernet Sauvignon can.

Portland saw more than 6" of rain in September, against an average of just 1.5." That makes a big difference to fruit quality. Although Pinot is early-ripening among vinifera, it ripens later than modern varieties do. I harvested Leon Millot two weeks ago with near-perfect chemistry numbers, whereas most of the Pinot is still hanging in the vineyards, under duress from all this rain. But we won't know what the Pinot does until it's been in bottle for a while. 2007 was a very wet, cool year, and yet the high-end Pinots turned out very good.

But clearly, if the winemaker had her choice, she would choose grapes that had hung for a long, sunny, dry harvest season.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Good Gracious! The rain!

It is rare indeed to see rains this heavy come so early in the Fall. We've had a LOT of rain over several precipitative spells this month, whereas usually September is fully dry for at least the first 2-3 weeks. And the first rains are usually little affairs, whereas today we're facing two or three waves of a dying typhoon.

I think that most of the Pinot Noir is still hanging in the vineyards. It should stop raining by next Thursday or so, and a few days of sun will help, but this is simply too much rain.

Modern varieties, however, ripen earlier and all mine are picked (Cayuga was the last; it came in yesterday, whereas Leon Millot was picked two weeks ago and is already finished not only with primary fermentation but also with MLF!).

Every year is different. Just look at our current radar image:


Friday, September 20, 2013

Sad 2 Say, But Sonic Sux

When I was a young man working in the oil and gas fields in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas, or (even before that) working on a U.S. Army Corps surveying crew in those states plus Arkansas and Missouri, every little town had a drive-in burger place that likely as not was the center of that town's youth social scene. Likely as not, that place was a Sonic.

The food was good then.  Yes, I know that once you have eaten at your share of great restaurants, your tastes can become more discriminating, but that is not the whole story. There is no reason that fast food cannot be good. Having spent my adult life working in corporations, it's clear to me that Sonic has succumbed to one of the greatest mistakes a company can make: Driving down quality in an effort to pump up profits. 

Talk about short-sighted!  

Today, their food (from their Wilsonville OR location) sits in my stomach like a mild form of poison. The bun (of course it was a crappy bun made with over-refined white flour and corn syrup) was stale. The condiments on the burger were cheap. The tots smelled like fish, and broke apart before I could even dip them in ketchup (and the ketchup was a cheap corn syrup kind). Even the iced tea tasted off. I'm sure that Sonic (like McDonalds, Burger King, and the other national chains) has legions of food scientists working to find cheap substitutes for older, better ingredients, so that they can increase profits. About 70 years ago the Nazis did the same thing--they invented pseudo-foods made from coal tar and stuff like that, and fed it to their concentration camp prisoners. Unlike the Nazi food delivery service, the server at Sonic today was fantastic, but she has no control over the food. 

The tomato on the burger was barely pink, much less ripe and red. And right now it's the height of fantastic local ripe tomato season! So the company doesn't care enough to exert the effort to increase quality.

Ice cream needs only a few ingredients: Milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla. Maybe eggs. Now look at's list of Sonic's ice cream ingredients: 
The ingredients in the ice cream are: Milkfat and Nonfat Milk, Water, Sugar, Buttermilk, Whey, Corn Syrup, Less than 1% of: Mono & Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Carrageenan, Artificial Vanilla Flavor, Annatto. (Whey? Corn syrup? Pyrophospate? And: "artificial vanilla flavor? Would it kill them to use vanilla?)

Good food reveals the soul and spirit of the chef. But when you cook cheap ingredients in a slapdash way, the food is lifeless, worthless, poisonous. 

When the operational strategy is to cheapen the ingredients and hope that most people won't notice, it is time to say sayonara to Sonic. In the Portland Oregon area, if you want to know what a great burger, fries and shake taste like, head to the Cruise Inn Country Diner (past Aloha), where you'll enjoy local healthy beef (grass fed), local potatoes fried in nearly-local healthier oil (rice oil from Sacramento), and local ice cream made from better ingredients. You won't pay much more but the food is great.

Meanwhile, please don't put Sonic food in your stomach, or your friends', or your kids or grandkids'. If enough people stop buying that crap, maybe the company will notice. Maybe.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Egads! Just look at the yellow jackets on a cluster of grapes in British Columbia:

I harvested near Aurora last week, and there it was honeybees all over the fruit, extracting the precious high-sugar water.

Growing grapes isn't easy. Here is an article with some of the insect-related reasons why it's difficult.

The 2013 harvest is going well. Many good wines will be made in the PacNW, but yields are down due to rains during bloom, which lowered the number of berries that set. As a grower or winemaker, it's maddening to time your harvest, because we get periods of rain that can bring in disease and birds, and given that rain stalls or even backwardizes the ripening process, it is a tricky process. We're getting 4-5 days of rain starting Friday night, but after that we expect a full week of sunny days.

Many of the earlier-ripening Modern Varieties (hybrids of vinifera and American grapes) have been harvested already; the later-ripening Moderns will likely be taken at the end of next week's sunny period, as will a good bit of the vinifera, I suspect.

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...