Monday, December 3, 2018

Climate change and grapes

This article scares me: We're seeing, today, the changes in climate that were recently forecasted for 2050!

There are some big losers in Grapeworld, and, probably, a few winners. Poor Australia, hit with more drought and too much heat. When ripening happens too fast, the flavors don't always have time to mature, and yet the grape must be picked, or else the sugars will be so high it's akin to making vodka, not wine.

Even in the US and Europe, flavors are shifting from the red and purple fruits (which I love, as expressed in wine) to black fruits (which I don't like because they can also include flavors like licorice and tar). And higher summer rainfall caused more humidity, which causes more Powdery Mildew on the grapevines. And we are seeing earlier ripening, in our SW WA vineyard, for sure.


(photo credit: Google images)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

2018 Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau!

Embaraassed to say that it's been a long, long time since I drank a Beaujolais Nouveau (made from the Gamay grape in Beaujolais, which sits south of Burgundy and north of the Rhone). The Nouveau is made quickly and sold in late November. It's meant to be drunk young, and slightly chilled.

Why I love this wine:

It's got great purple fruits, to go with its lively purple robe (color). Zesty attack. The fruit notes are much more forward than most European wines, and my New World palate loves that. The grape notes are "grapey," which is unusual in most fine wines ("grapeiness" is usually found in Vitis labrusca species of grape, and Concord (think Welch's grape jelly) is the best example of labrusca). But it works here. There is also a lot of acid (the wine is ridiculously young), but that works as well. Gamay is a great grape that not many winelovers take seriously, but they should. Even in the Willamette Valley, you see Pinot growers plant Syrah as the climate warms--but they skipped over Gamay!

We're going to have this wine tonight with a casserole of potatoes, onion, garlic, in cream and lots of pepper and allspice, and with sardines and anchovies. That is one of several types of preferred dishes with this wine. Can't wait!

My price to sell it was just $15; it has wonderful quality for that price.

It doesn't hurt that this Nouveau was made by Joseph Drouhin, a world-reknowned Burgundy family (Pinot Noir; Chardonnay). But what a great wine, and what a great wine style! I encourage you to buy them. They are only available in November, through pre-order in August or September.


Monday, November 12, 2018

I published a book on modern grapes for the Pacific Northwest!

After researching, collecting, and testing many different grape varieties over the past 23 years, I turned all those testing notes into what I hope is a useful book for anyone considering growing grapes in the Pac Northwest. It is also useful if you want to read about farming, winemaking, and general nature-based philosophy.

You can buy the book (printed paperback or Kindle version) here.



The photo is of my own Leon Millot grapes. Thank you for checking out the book!


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Orin Swift 2016 "Fragile" Rose - Can't live up to its hype

It was with a sense of excitement that I opened this bottle, after several customers told me that "you can never go wrong with anything made under this label." It's about $17-$19 retail, though I found it on a great sale and was able to sell it for just $10.

It's a deeply-colored rose. I am NOT one who likes only faintly-tinged rose wines. Why penalize a wine for having pretty color? Why turn away from a bigger-bodied rose (which a deeper color suggests may be present)? My Epona rose wine looks much like this one. It's a pretty bottle and label, which present well.

Nose: Not much going on. Sad. Our noses can distinguish thousands of different sensations, whereas our tongues can manage only six. Why winemakers don't pay attention to extracting a great bouquet, is beyond me.

Palate: Huh. A little disappointing. This wine is fine--it's got fruit and good acid. Certainly not a revelation or anything like that. There is a fairly pronounced bitter orange peel note that is too strong for me. The wine's definitely drinkable, and it's fine, but not quite super-enjoyable. Give me the $10 Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangio (a repeat Double Platinum winner up here in the NW) anyday over this. Give me an Epona rose (also $10) over this.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Italy's winegrapes suffer from climate change

Check out this article about how climate change is harming winegrapes in Italy. European winegrape production is way down lately, due to harmful weather patterns.

I think grapebreeders need to be making new grapes that feature the red and purple fruit flavors. Any grape that tends to express black fruit flavors will, if exposed to more heat than is ideal, develop flavors of tar, licorice, etc., which I don't like. This has long been a problem in parts of Australia, and is becoming a problem in the hotter parts of California and, now, Europe.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Making Noble Wolf Malbec!

403 lbs of gorgeous Malbec grapes from Adolfo's "Noble Wolf" vineyard near Dallesport WA (high in the mountains above the Columbia River--about 1000' I think). 23 Brix; pH 3.2. Fantastic boysenberry jam flavor. Well-tended vines (a really pretty site, actually). Lucky to have sourced this fruit.

"Mal bec" in French means "bad mouth," meaning the wine tastes green when young. Right now, the juice is pure and rich, with great body and deep flavor, with no greenness, but that may come soon. The secret to good Malbec appears to be aging the wine for a long time, which lets the wine soften and mature into its final richness. Will do.

THANK YOU to Andrew who helped me crush this fruit in very high heat (for so late in September).



Saturday, September 29, 2018

2015 Hors Categorie Syrah

Lucky to be on the mailing list for this one Each of us gets just two bottles. Another spectacular achievement by Christophe Baron:

100 points, The Wine Advocate The 2015 Syrah from Hors Catégorie is spectacular, bursting from the glass with a stunning bouquet of smoked charcuterie, blackberries, licorice, dried violets and rich forest floor. Structured around beautifully velvety tannins on the palate, the wine is full-bodied, layered and immensely concentrated, yet it manages to remain weightless. While there's plenty of fruit here, it's this Syrah's mouthwateringly savory qualities that define the protracted, penetrating finish and make the wine so exciting. Cropped at a mere 0.8 tons per acre from a steep hillside vineyard that's trained on stakes à la Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie, this was matured in neutral oak, with the exception of one second-fill puncheon that was eliminated after the first racking, demonstrating that when it comes to new oak and Syrah, less is emphatically more..."
-- William Kelley of The Wine Advocate


98 points, International Wine ReportChristophe Baron first discovered this site in 2004, as the Syrah was planted on extremely steep slopes (60% grade at some places) near where the north fork of the Walla Walla River meets with the Walla Walla River. The 2015 Hors Catégorie Syrah is an absolutely stunning effort that shows a wonderful stony character along with smoked meats, raw meat, blood orange zest and red cherry candy on the nose. On the palate the silky mouthfeel and percision is simply incredible. The range of flavors continues to entices the senses with red cherry preserves, blood orange, white truffle oil, black pepper and green olive tapenade. The mouth-watering acidity and wonderful lifted character makes this nearly impossible to resist. This is another untterly captivating effort by Christophe Baron in this vintage.



Friday, September 28, 2018

Alloro 2012 Pinot Noir

Enjoying this great Pinot with Andrew, who just helped crush 403 lbs of Malbec from Noble Wolf Vineyard in Dallesport.

This has wonderful boysenberry fruit nose, is super-smooth, ripe and ready.  What an atypical Oregon Pinot, in that the fruits are rich and forward, and there's no barnyard aroma at all. (The barnyard would be welcome if present; it's just not there, and that's fine, too.)

As it ages in-glass, the end-palate and the finish tend to tar and black fruits. Not my favorite part of the experience. But still a fascinating wine. Andrew says there is often a hint of eucalyptus in Alloro's wines, and we thought this one had a hint of that as well.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Epona 2017 Cayuga white wine with grilled no-preservative sausages and a cabbage saute:

Highly recommend butcher boys (butcher shop) in vancouver. Killer good, no-preservative sausages. Simmer, then grill. With this saute of cabbage, shallot, havasu hot pepper, garlic, and our apples, and vinegar and sugar. With mustard of course. And my Epona Cayuga wine. Yum!


Slab 3 finished and for sale!

Slab 3 finished and for sale! Sitting bench or low table. 30"L x 16"W x 16"H. Single slab of walnut. All the wackiness you see in the grain is natural, except for spots where I filled cracks and holes with epoxy. From a fallen dead tree. (It's in Woodland WA now, but I can bring to Vancouver WA.) Custom steel legs with felt floorpads, from a blacksmith I like in NY.

This took about 50 hours of work, starting with a rough chainsaw-cut slab. Sanded by hand through six grits, with five rounds of epoxy fill, and interim sanding. Tung oil finish. Stamped "KLE 3" on the underside. The top is mirror-smooth; the edge is live and semi-rough. 

Next up (slab 4) is a twin of this slab--same size, shape, and grain. If you want a pair, I can't guarantee the finish color of slab 4 will be an exact match.


Check it out! The market will tell me if this is good or not; 3 and 4 are my last slabs unless they sell to enthusiastic buyers, in which case I'll go hunt for slab 5. If interested, pls contact me at kenton.erwin@gmail.com . Thank you!





Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Review: Five Star Cellars 2012 Supernova

I have long loved the wines of Five Star. They're in one of the WW2 army air force pre-fab buildings at the Walla Walla airport. This wine has 60% Petit Verdot and 31% Cab Franc, both from Walla Walla Valley. It's a great wine. Dark purple fruits; smooth; rich. Recommended.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Phelps Creek 2013 Pinot Noir - Review

I usually write how much I like a wine, but lately there've been a string of bad wines. The latest disappointment is the Phelps Creek 2013 Pinot Noir. It's awful. My distributor gave me a bottle to taste, for which I was grateful.

Bouquet: There's no red fruit, no fruit of any kind. Just hot alcohol. Later, the nose picks up some adverse chemical smell. Yuck. I suspect, from the bouquet, that this vineyard was either too hot, or was overcropped (for which Pinot Noir suffers horribly--it loses all of its varietal character).

Palate: From bad to worse. No pleasure at all in this drink. There is not a single thing in the flavors to point to and be positive about.

Not sure what the price is on this one but please don't buy it. Pinot Noir is a great grape, but it is difficult to grow and difficult to make good wine from, and even then it can be frustratingly changeable in the bottle. So much so that we tend to eschew Pinot now. Why waste the money, when so many of them are so uninspiring?

It could be that it's difficult to make a good Pinot Noir in the Columbia Gorge. But I suspect this one was from the wrong vineyard and made in the wrong way. Stay away.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Finally. That's more like it: Burnt Bridge Cellars 2013 "Couve Cuvee" (Columbia Valley WA)

How funny, that a low-cost local wine (made from Columbia Valley fruit) would outscore, BY A HUGE MARGIN, such supposedly-great wines as one from K Vintners and one from Beresan and one from Cascade Cliffs. All of those other wineries are well-known, and K Vintners is one of the great ones. But this red from Burnt Bridge is far better. Sharp purple fruits; good acid backbone; nice finish. It is a pleasure to drink with a mushroomy-beef-onion-garlicky-cream sauce dish.  I'd score it a solid 90. The others scored far worse. You really have to be careful, when you pay up for wines. So many times it is a poor decision.

Way to go Burnt Bridge!


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Tasting note: Beresan 2012 Merlot

I've had a run of unsatisfying reds lately. Cursing the luck.

The oak persists, but the fruit is mostly gone; what remains is a undercurrent of black fruit; not my favorite. No finish and almost no bouquet. Maybe it was better a few years ago, as this is a good winery. Disappointing. We had it with a good vegan dinner at Elements (formerly Willems) on Main in downtown Vancouver.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tasting notes: 2015 K Vintners "The Boy" Grenache

This is a difficult review to write. For years I've stated that K Vintners is one of the three best wineries in Washington state (the others being Cayuse, and Barnard Griffin's white and rose wines only).  I called those three the "First Growths" of Washington.

But something has happened to K Vintners. We went to their Spring release party, and 80% of the wines weren't good to me. Who am I you ask, and it's a fair question. I'm a wine retailer and a commercial winemaker, and I've made wine for 23 years and grown grapes for longer than that. I've collected fine wines and resold them on the international market for over 40 years now. So I'm entitled to have an opinion.

Which brings us to this wine by Charles Smith. 95 points by Robert Parker, and 94 by Wine Enthusiast. Etc, etc. No doubt, Charles has reliably high reviews by the pros. Parker said:

"The 100% Grenache 2014 The Boy is a ripe, wild, peppery, meaty, rose petal and olive scented effort that has full-bodied richness, with a sensational, layered and silky texture, as well as ripe, polished tannin and a great finish. It's difficult to find a better Grenache from the New World."

Friends, I am here to tell you that, even with perfect cellaring, at four years old this wine is nowhere close to being worth $50. It has a good cherry nose, and it's rich and silky, but it's fleeting. The palate is meh. The finish is meh.  My spouse is a very tough critic on wines; she wouldn't drink this one. Wow. I gave it two days in the fridge, but it was no better, so I didn't rob the cradle with it. There is very little to commend it at this price point. Just another example of "experts" being wrong. 

Here is what you need to know: Every fiber of our imperfect mind wants to believe that a more-expensive wine is a better mind. But you need to retrain your instincts to rebel against such mistaken thinking. Italy and southern France and northern Spain and Argentina give us GREAT wines that cost from $9-$13. So why would you overpay $50 for this one? It is not ethereal. Yes, some expensive wines CAN be ethereal, and the search for them is worthwhile. But in general, any fool can overpay for wine--it is the easiest thing to do. What is very difficult is to find great wines at lower prices. That is what I've spent my years trying to master, with much success I think.

Now, understand: Charles is still a wine god to me. He can do amazing things with grapes. But I can no longer expect all his wines to be great. His Kung Fu Girl Riesling is one of the best lower-cost wines in the world. His higher-end Syrahs can be mesmerizing. But do not assume that all his wines are great. They are not. My suspicion is that once a winemaker achieves fame and fortune, it becomes exponentially more likely that their quality will slip. Just my opinion. 


Monday, August 13, 2018

Maryhill Winery to build a wine tasting room on the Vancouver waterfront!

This is good news. That development is exciting--close to our Vancouver house. It will continue to drive Vancouver forward economically.

I view Maryhill as a sound winery in a great location and with a great business plan. Their "Reserve" wines can be very good.


Friday, August 10, 2018

Hybrid wines continue to draw hatred and fear in Europe

This article explains just how much fear and hatred the vinifera world of Europe feels towards modern grape varieties. The animosity is the result of a century of carefully-fanned flames of prejudice. Modern varities of grapes (hybrids) are the answer to Europe's dirty little secret: Growers there are killing their vineyard workers and sterilizing their soil (killing earthworms and beneficial nematodes) with nasty sprays for fungus. But the modern grapes don't need fungal sprays--due to their partial American heritage, they have resistance!

And the flavors are good, too. I win blue ribbons with these new varieties.

But Europe has millennia of well-honored tradition, and resists change.

Let's all please drop the prejudice and the hate, and start saving lives.


(photo credit Google images)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Moderate drinking correlates wtih a lower risk of mental degradation

This British study indicates that both nondrinkers and heavy drinkers have a higher risk of developing dementia, which those who drink from 1-14 servings of alcohol per week see a lower rate of dementia.

So, drink up! But in moderation!


(photo credit: pexels.com)

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The ugly truth about the USA's western forest fires

This article explains how we have caused the massive, destructive California (and Oregon and Washington and Idaho) wildfires: In nature, about a quarter of that area's forests would see a fast-moving fire every year, which cleared out the brush, pine and fir needles, and understory plants, while sparing the large trees. Those are relatively "cool" fires, which pass through an area quickly. But they still do cover the area with smoke and haze.

But we fight the fires, preventing them from doing what nature wants, and allowing the understory brush to thrive, until a fire comes along that is so hot and fast-growing that it can overpower our firefighting efforts, and then there is so much fuel that even the large trees burn, which makes the fire linger over any one particular place and burn much hotter. And of course our homes and barns burn then, also.

What we should do is allow the frequent fires to keep the forest floor clean, and design our rural homes to survive a fast-moving "cooler" fire (large no-plant buffer around the homes). That is the price of living in the dry West--a very sparse yard, and a house made of fire-resistant materials.  Then, we could save many billions in firefighting costs, and lives. But the dry West would be smoky every summer.

But smoke is not good for grapes. It taints the flavors. Hot fires can even kill the grapevines.

So maybe we shouldn't be growing grapes in the dry West, you say? Hmm. Maybe that's right.

I have been saying "dry West," because there is a "wet West"--it's the area west of the Cascades in OR and WA. However, smoke blows wherever the wind takes it, and often lately, therer's been too much smoke and haze in the wet West for ideal grape conditions. So it's an issue in the entire west. But in most years, the wet West has enough good onshore winds, blowing from the cool, clean Pacific, that the grapes here do fine.

Lots to think about. I believe a wise government would start requiring homes to be built (and retrofitted) to be more fire-safe, and then let the forests burn, and fight the fires only to protect designated "safe areas" that are small towns and large cities. We are unable to defeat these megafires, so we need to let their awful destructive power occur once, and then perhaps the frequent cooler fires that keep the floor clean won't be so difficult to deal with, as we let them burn.

(photo credit: Google images)


Saturday, August 4, 2018

New Winery Sign - best use found yet for a wine barrel (no, they are not very good for holding wine)

I made this from the end of a French wine barrel:

1. Cut off end of barrel, keeping about 5" of the staves
2. Hammer hoops tight, then drill and screw them to the staves
3. Stain the sign
4. Take your winery name and logo in a digital file to a woodworder skilled in CNC routing, to carve those into both sides of the face, 1/4" deep
5. Take the sign to a signpainter, to have her paint the name and logo a contrasting color
6. Apply marine spar finish (multiple coats) to every side
7. Caulk the spaces between the hoops and staves
8. Drill and attach eye bolts with washers and nuts, 11" apart
9. Drill and attach hook screws to underside of hanging beam
10. Make and attach, by nails to the top side of the hanging beam, an 8" wide x 3 long cedar roof, painted with marine spar varnish, to keep some of the rain off of the sign
11. Hang the sign

Voila! Because, marketing.


Monday, July 23, 2018

2015 Pra Vinera Reserve Cab - WOW!

I can't recall who gave this to me, but WOW! If you ever wanted to find out what a true Cab Sauv flavor is (it's black currants), this wine has it in spades. So smooth. Liquid velvet. The sensation just rolls. Perfect body. Perfect balance. THIS is how it's done.

Napa at its best. Wow.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The bottling season is upon us

We've bottled almost all the 2017 Epona wines now, starting with the whites and roses, and finishing with the reds and pourt wines. ("Pourt" is a common-law trademark owned by Epona, LLC, and Kenton Erwin of Woodland WA. I invented that made-up word, using a "u" to keep it from upsetting our friends the Portuguese of the Douro area.)

Everything has a season (turn, turn, turn). The mowing season is winding down (we don't irrigate our field grass--why would we? why would you?). The watering season has not quite appeared in earnest. This is the bottling season, to make room in tanks and other liquid-holding vessels for the coming Fall crop of winegrape juice. At this time, you and your racking wand are on very intimate terms. And, once corked, the work is not nearly over: You bottle, and adjust the fill levels in the bottles. You cork the wines. You rinse and dry the bottles. Then, for three days, the bottles sit upright, to bleed out the compressed air caused by pushing the corks in. Then they are capsuled and labeled, and laid down to age (for a short or a long while, depending upon the wine's character and the strength of your resale market).

In the photo (credit to Merry Edwards Winery), this is how they, and we, and countless others, do it. The Italian floor corker is a key component for any small-to-medium sized winery.

There was a guild of winemakers in the Middle Ages, just like the guilds of blacksmiths, millers, coopers, etc. In Italy the winemakers are called "Vinari," and I have a little terra cotta plaque with "Vinari" and a wine bottle on it (from northern Italy), to remind me of the long history of my craft, and how much others know and knew, compared to me.

Winemaking is a great way to keep in touch with your humble side, to sharpen up on Murphy's Law, and to, just sometimes, just occasionally, maybe impress yourself with what you can do with some great fruit and a couple of years. Sometimes ;)


Sunday, May 20, 2018

WHY WHITE FLOUR AND WHITE RICE ARE KILLING US:

 Here is as short a summary as I can write (points 1-6 below--the rest is not short), explaining why white wheat flour and white rice make you sick (and why eating whole grain flours, and brown rice, makes you healthier):

1.  A starch molecule is nothing more than a long string  of sugar molecules stuck together.
2. Usually, a starch molecule contains about 500 sugar molecules  (the actual number ranges from 300-1000, depending on the type of starch)
3. Grains such as wheat and rice contain starch and fiber.
4. Refined white wheat flour, and white rice, have been processed to remove the fiber, so all that is left is the starch.
5. When the fiber is removed, our bodies are very good at breaking down the starch quickly, so we get a big spike in blood sugar. This is bad for the pancreas, which has to make a huge amount of insulin to process the huge amount of sugar.
6. When the fiber is present, it takes much longer for our bodies to digest the starch, which slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream and allows the pancreas to operate at a normal rate. This gives us energy over a longer period of time (helping us to lose weight because we are not hungry again as often).


That's it. Simple. But it means we should NOT be eating: White bread, pasta made from white wheat flour, or white rice. You can take your own blood sugar readings to see how you react to corn and potatoes, but some people can't eat them either (I'm lucky; I can). 

This means we can't eat the bread and rice at places like: Panda Express; Chinese and sushi restaurants (unless they have brown rice); almost all burger joints (fast food and at pubs and at sit-down restaurants), unless they offer a whole-grain bun. We can't eat doughnuts, or French pastries, or cakes, pies, muffins, or cobblers. We can't eat bread crumbs on top of baked dishes. We can't eat pizza dough!

I've found that it's the starch, not the added sugar, where most of the sugar is. What a revelation! That muffin may have added sugar in it, and it may be topped with a heavy sugar icing, but the flour in the muffin contains hundreds of times more sugar than the added sugar does. This is what bakers don't understand: They think that diabetics only need to eat baked products lower in added sugar. Way wrong! Diabetics (and all the rest of us) need to eat less sugar, yes, but most of the sugar IS IN THE STARCH! (It's not in the added sugar.) It is the starch that needs to be changed.

(And don't even think about artificial sugars. They are poisonous--linked to nervous disorders and cancer. Just never go there. And if you're a Supertaster, they don't even taste sweet--they taste bitter.)

Whole kernels and parts of whole kernels are great (wheat berries; wheat bran; flax seeds; nuts).  Your everyday whole-wheat bread needs to be full of those-if you don't see them, don't buy that bread. If the bread label says something like 21 seeds and 17 whole grain flours (e.g., Dave's Killer Breads), then grab that loaf and hug it as your best friend.

This is why I can drink a huge sugar-spiked Starbucks latte and my blood sugar stays normal. It's because we can handle a certain amount of sugar. It's why I can bake my own whole-grain blueberry muffin (with sugar mixed into the flour), and put a sugar glaze on top, and my blood sugar stays normal. But if I eat a "normal" blueberry muffin, or white rice with a Chinese dinner, the blood sugar goes up too high and makes me score in the Prediabetes range (and wears out my Pancreas, which is already getting old and needs all the help it can get). At some point, if I didn't change my eating habits, I would become Diabetic and then at some later point I would die because of it. 

By eliminating most of the refined flours in my diet, and by continuing to eat the same added sugar I always ate, I drove my A1C result (average blood sugar reading over the past few months) from the middle of "Prediabetes" range to well down into the "normal" range. And I come from a long line of diabetics. My doc called me the poster child for how to avoid Diabetes. She says that there is no excuse for any educated person to get Type 2 Diabetes. That is a harsh statement, but what if she's right?

The baking industry is not interested in this science, because it has so much invested in machinery refining white wheat flour, and artificially adding nutrients back into the flour. Because most consumers just buy whatever is in front of them, the baking industry is not going to change unless the law makes it change, and because corporate lobbyists control the government, that is not going to happen. (I contacted the national baking association, and they deny all of this, and they spread "fake news" about the health benefits of refined flours.)  But you can find healthy flours to bake with, if you look: Oat, barley, spelt, whole wheat, are just a few grains with a low/healthy/good glycemic index. I bake with a mix of those. Bob's Red Mill makes flours from all of them. Products made from them taste good, though the healthy flours are heavier, so you may need to use more yeast or baking powder.

Think about it this way: We evolved while eating the entire kernel of grain, for millions of years. That is what our bodies know how to handle. But eating only the stripped-out, bleached, nutrient-less refined flour is about the stupidest thing we could do, because our bodies cannot handle it and it tends to make us sick and fat. In my view, this is making America sick; it is a true health emergency costing many billions in avoidable medical expenses. 

Some vegan products at bakeries are OK (starch-wise), but some aren't. But that is a good place to look, if you're at a bakery. You should also ask what flour is in a baked product, and you should speak to the bakers, which I do at every bakery. Drip drip drip, trying to drive change. I would rather see good science driving smarter food laws, than have to do it through the courts (suing bakeries for poisoning their customers), but if it takes lawyers to fix this problem, then that's how it should be done. You should ask for whole-grain bread at restaurants, and refuse dishes that have white rice or white flour. Each single one of us, acting with purpose, can drive real change. And this is a big one. More than 100 million Americans have Diabetes or Prediabetes.




 

Sources: 
http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/glucose-sucrose-starch-related-3880.html
​https://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/why-you-should-avoid-white-flour/
​ “Now that trans fats are largely out of the food supply,” says David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital Boston, “refined carbohydrates, including refined grain products, are the single most harmful influence in the American diet today.”
​https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0718-diabetes-report.html​


(photo credit to craftsy.com)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A fad long past its time: "Natural Wine":

Thanks to Nick for sending me this article about high-priced "natural wine:"

Ugh. I hate this fad. This is a peculiar form of insanity that needs to be stamped out yesterday. My thoughts:

1. Native yeasts? OK. But risky, as some produce off flavors. Why not use a cultured yeast you know will work? That said, some winemakers believe that all their past yeasts lurk on the winery walls, waiting to detach and waft into the juice when they sense sugar. Maybe so. But in that case, it's not necessarily wild yeast--it could be a blend of all past years' cultured yeasts used.
2. Not adding sulfite to protect the wine: Insanely stupid idea. Causes the wine to spoil, rot, fester, and ruin.
3. Biodynamic: Biggest hoax in the history of the world. The idiot who created the concept knew nothing of growing plants, and just invented stuff that was sort of like his philosophy re how to live, without having ANY underrstanding of what plants need to thrive. (Rudolph Steiner)
4. Cloudy, smelly, sour wine? WTF? Really? With an expensive dinner? Wow. 
5. Pesticides and fungicides and herbicides ruining vineyards and workers health, everywhere? You bet! But my modern varieties need no spray, and nobody gets sick.
6. Fads for the sake of fads, in the instance of something so serious as good wine, disgust me. 

Guess you can tell where I stand ;)

Just because it was done one way, a millenium ago, is NO REASON to keep doing it that way today. 2000 years ago, nobody understood the germ theory, or various forms of microbial spoilage or complex chemical interactions. Most of the wines of 2000 years ago were sick, spoiled, insipid, dangerous, sour, retching, and injurious. People drank them because (a) they knew drinking the local water (in most locations) could make them sick; (b) they liked the effect that alcohol had upon them; and (c) they didn't have any better choices.

If you want to pay for a glass of cloudy, spoiled wine, have at it! I'll be the one laughing at you.


This photo of Agia Galini Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Best use of a wine barrel yet found:

Cut off one end (keeping the metal hoops intact, to hold everything together), and have a wood shop with a CNC router carve your winery's name and logo into the face of the barrel-end, for a hanging sign.

It's certainly a better use for a wine barrel than holding wine in it.

Why not to hold wine in a wine barrel:
1. Barrels leak.
2. Barrels are expensive (new French oak barrel is about $1000 now).
3. Barrels get infected.
4. Barrels can allow excessive wine oxidation.
5. Barrels can be used for only a few vintages (if you want noticeable oak extraction), so they have to be replaced relatively often.

In stark contrast, using tanks for storage (stainless steel, speciality plastic, specialty concrete, or glass) makes much more sense, and the winemaker can carefully control the oak dosage and type--just add the oak to the wine in the tank!

Brilliant.

So please try not to be THAT kind of wine customer--the kind who thinks less of a winery if they don't see lots of barrels stacked around; the kind who asks "how many acres of grapes do you have?" Quality is more important than quantity; science is more important than tradition.

Pictured is my wine barrel-end, after heavy oil staining (to help the staves swell up tightly). Next up is CNC routing of winery name and logo, by a wood shop. Once the carved-out letters and logo are painted white, I'll coat the entire thing with polyurethane (for weatherproofing), and hang it by chains from a new beam we installed over the barn's hayloft doors!


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

World wine output falls to 60-year low!

So THAT's why prices are shooting up! (Maybe).

Read the article here. It's about the lousy weather across Europe last year. So it should be only a passing blip in the long history of wine. I hope. If the weather can be closer to normal, this year.

Speaking of, I attach the annual photo of one of the Epona vines' budding out (this one is Jupiter). I love how a grape vine can show you the four seasons, just about as well as anything else can...




Sunday, April 1, 2018

Dissing on some Brunellos

Twice lately I've been disappointed in some very expensive, well-aged Brunellos. I want the winemakers to remember that the grape is a FRUIT and that wine should therefore taste like FRUIT. Not some overly-acidic, vaguely black-tasting fluid that leaves a sour aftertaste. Not for that kind of money.

Here's to hoping the "classic" style of Brunello goes away very quickly, and that the "modern" wing of the Brunellomakers wins this war. Or, better yet, let's see some US winemakers make some nice, balanced, fruity Sangio. Please?

And you think YOU have problems?

Check out this article, with a video of kangaroos happily destroying Pinot Noir grapevines in Australia. $80,000 damage, and no grapes that year even if the vines survive.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Dissing on Washington Sangiovese? The Goldilocks Syndrome

I want to believe. I want to believe in Washington Sangio. I love K Vintners' wines generally, but their Guido Sangiovese is too dark in flavor for me. And tonight, we suffered through a Five Star Sangio (and I love their wines), but this one sported flavors that were way, way too dark. The acidity was great but the flavors, instead of the proper cherry notes of an Italian Sangio, were deep into dark purple fruit territory. And the wine was a bit hot at over 14% alcohol. It just doesn't work with Italian fare. And yet, many Italian Sangios are so lean, so austere, that yes even with their cherry fruit that don't marry well with Italian food either. Who wants to bathe in burning acid?

What I think we need is a WA Sangio that is grown in a cooler spot and still has the red fruits we expect. Can any of you suggest one? Or we can drink Brunellos (and Rosso di Montalcinos), which are grown in the warmest part of Tuscany (from the Sangiovese "Grosso" clone), and at their best those are just right.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Small wineries are seeing a good increase in sales of their premium wines

This is encouraging news. Small wineries are seeing good growth in sales of their premium wines.

Epona Winery is certainly a small winery, and is also seeing good sales growth of the Epona brand. We sold out of 2016 Cayuga and 2016 Muscat Rose, but there are still some Blackberry Pourts (375ml), and we just bottled a GREAT and very unique wine that brings to mind lying on a sunny tropical beach: It has strong notes of toasted coconut, butterscotch, lime, and coconut oil (as in old-style suntan lotion). Wow! And soon to be bottled are the 2017 Muscat Rose and 2017 Cayuga. The 2016 Leon Millot (big red style) is resting, as it is so great after an extra year of aging.

Thanks, Friends, for your support!

Kenton
(pictured are Epona's Monastery Muscat grapes)


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Robot leaves! Way cool!

My Engineering school (Vanderbilt) has developed a solar cell using "biohybrid" technology--blackberry juice and spinach leaves! It's like robotic leaves--making artificial photosynthesis. Pretty cool. Here's the story.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Growth in wine demand is slowing as Boomers age:

Silicon Valley Bank released its State of Wine Industry report. Highlights:

1. Growth in "premium" wines (wines costing more than $10--that shows you how far up in the wine price curve you are!) is slowing dramatically, probably due to the movement of Boomers away from wines (as they develop age-related health issues, and/or die), and the relatively higher support among Millennials for hard liquor, with less demand for wine. Also, many Boomers who still drink a lot of wine are transitioning to slightly less-expensive wines, as they begin to adjust to a retired life on a fixed income.

2. Ultra-high-priced wines will have difficulty raising prices.

3. Most wine consumers are still moving up in the price curve, but this is predominantly moving up out of the $4-$7 price range, to prices barely higher than that.

Here's the article.


(photo credit to google.com; pictured are some hyper-expensive wines)




Saturday, February 10, 2018

On The Myth and Mystique of Terroir

On the Myth and Mystique of Terroir: 

"Terroir" has meaning, but not the one claimed by many higher-priced wineries. There, it is more of a false marketing concept than anything else. The idea that minor differences in soil, light, wind, rain, and drainage (in short, your "terroir") make your grapes and wine fundamentally different from the grapes and wine made just across the road, is far more fancy than reality. My clay at Epona Vineyard in SW WA is sixty miles from the vineyards in the Willamette Valley, and yet it is pretty much the same clay that's at Ken Wright, or Beaux Freres, or at any other vineyard in the Willamette Valley. Sure, their clay may have more or less Manganese than mine, or mine might have more or less Magnesium, but the differences aren't enough to make our grapes taste significantly different from each other. And you can give names to the different clays in this area, such as Jory, or Willakenzie, but it's clay! And the fact that the Missoula Floods deposited some boulders from Canada ("erratics") throughout NW OR and SW WA, is very cool to study, but doesn't do much to differentiate vineyard soils in this area. The soil in SW WA is generally the same as the soil in NW OR--it's just that a giant river cuts through the middle of it, creating a boundary that we incorrectly assume means differences in the dirt on both sides. 

There can be huge differences in the wines from vineyards that are adjacent or a few hundred yards away, but that is not due to terroir; it is due to different winemakers' skill levels and practices, and different harvest timing, and a thousand other such variables.   You can call that "terroir" if you like. But it's not. If you listen to the higher-priced wineries, you would think their site is so special that you can hear angels singing there. Um, no. 

 And yet, it is true that the same grape will taste different across the world. if you want to see the differences that sites can make, in a grape, consider Sauvignon Blanc: In New Zealand it's got great (really great) lime notes, with a bit of a crushed oyster shell note. In France, it is minerality that drives, with more-subdued fruit notes. In the western US, it is less mineral and has stronger fruit notes, and it can be more grassy than lime-y.  But those are gross regional differences. And they're not always present. Most wine lovers probably couldn't pick out which Cabernet Sauvignon or which Chardonnay was from Napa, or from South Africa, or from Chile.

So my advice is to think of "terroir" as a useful term, only when talking about the soil and sun and water IN A REGION, but don't fall victim to the marketing hocus-pocus that claims "our terroir is unique and better than our neighbors'." Just about everyone in these parts has good soil and great grapegrowing conditions. Yes, at a microscopic level there are differences in the terroir of each adjacent site, but the skill level of the winemaker, and a thousand other factors, are far more important than those tiny differences in terroir.


Friday, February 9, 2018

Super-early grape budbreak in southern California

Ojai usually sees budbreak in early March. Their Viognier broke out on Jan 31! What a warm winter we've had, up in SW WA also. The article is here.

Monday, February 5, 2018

2010 Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino

Awful bottle. Little fruit evident. Predominant flavor is licorice; yuck. And it is far too hot at 15%; this isn't a port, people. When I consider the cost of this Brunello ($90 retail), it's a disaster compared to other Brunellos. Notice that only J. Suckling gave it a really good score; the other pros did not. Stay away! There are many better Brunellos out there, for less money. What a disappointment.

A fine Brunello should sing like an angel. Wow, but this is awful.




Saturday, February 3, 2018

Latah Creek 2012 Wahluke Sloope (WA) Ellena's Sangiovese: Tasting notes

We opened our first bottle of this wine tonight, with an awesome ragu. And, for background, please recall that I found this one one a great close-out sale, and researched it and offered it, without being able to taste it first. 

Thoughts:

1. This is a well-made wine, though it is quite different from a classic Sangio from Tuscany: This one is much mellower--perhaps to the point of indolence. It does not have the acidic profile that is typical--perhaps due to the heat of Wahluke Slope compared to the Etruscan clime; instead it is very mellow, structurally. It is lazy, to my mind, but laziness bred of a confident mind. It is its own drummer. I found the dominant note to be coffee, with an dark undercurrant of cherry, but the acid is so low that it comes--THIS CLOSE--to flabby. Not a bad buy at $12, though very different from "typical." Different, even, from such WA Sangios as K Vintners' (though that one costs more than this one). I prefer a Sangio that is midway between Old World and New World in style, whereas this one is definitely all New World and even then its acid is far lower than normal for this varietal.

2. If you are willing to ignore this wine's eschewing the normal "desire to please," if you are OK with a wine that says, "this is what I am, and I don't care what you think," then this is an interesting wine. I liked it with the ragu (in fact, I was fascinated by it), but Jane didn't--she is enslaved to the world of "typical Sangio." Which type of winelover are you? Are you the one who indignantly pronounces, "but this one is different, and therefore worse?" or are you willing to look deeply into swirling mists of the unknown, to try to understand the novelty there, and being made better by the exercise?


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Stoller buys out Chehalem

One good winery buying another. The story is here.

I've always liked Harry Pederson-Nedry and his wines. He was the first to plant in what is now the Ribbon Ridge AVA.  Chehalem made some very good wines that were priced low enough that buyers were grateful, compared to what some saw as aggressive overpricing by other Willamette Valley wineries.

Harry taught me about how long Riesling can hang--into November! I'm glad he will continue to grow grapes and make wine, under the RR label.

Stoller has a very large operation (very large for NW Oregon), and is committed to wine quality and environmental conservation...I like that grove of trees in the middle of their winery vineyard.


(photo of Chehalem's Ridgecrest Vineyard, from the Chehalem Winery website)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2009 Chateau Prieure-Lichine, Margaux

We opened this at the Columbia Gorge Hotel, a grand 1920s Italian-style gem right on the cliffs overlooking the Columbia River, with a 200'-drop waterfall just a few feet from the building!). Prieure-Lichine is a Fourth Growth from Bordeaux, and is considered probably better than that ranking, today.

So, the color was vivid purple, still young after nine years. The nose was good: Only faint cassis notes, but lots of coffee and some mushrooms there. On the palate, I thought the wine was delicate (as "feminine" Margaux should be), but for me it was too lean/austere, with not enough fruit or body. I am spoiled by the excellent (and cheaper--this Prieure-Lichine is $100 at retail today) Bordeaux-style wines out of Walla Walla. NO WAY does this wine deserve a $100 price tag or a 93 point score.

And, FYI-Don't eat dinner at Columbia Gorge Hotel. At least in January (very quiet season), the food is very average, though prices are reasonable and the staff is friendly. But they upgraded us to a top-floor corner room with a fireplace, for the same price--very nice! And the building is really a treat.


(photo credit: Google images)

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Top Fifty Red Winegrapes


A new "Coffee Table Book"  is out, on the 50 most-important red winegrapes, and one of the lauded grapes is a modern variety (Baco Noir)! It's not my personal favorite--there are so many good modern grape varieties now--but it is a huge step in the right direction.

Saying that you like wine, but also believing there are no good modern varieties of winegrapes, is like saying you are an expert on cars but you haven't heard of the Chevrolet Corvette or the Toyota Camry.


Red Wine: The Comprehensive Guide to the 50 Essential Varieties & Styles


I agree that the conventional wisdom is slowly changing, as it always must, in the face of new truth. Drat that it changes so slowly. But drip drip drip goes the water, falliing fruitlessly upon the giant rock of ignorance, and one day we marvel that the rock is gone.