Archive for the 'highlights' Category

Ice cream: an impossible food-wine pairing?!?

ice creamNow that summer has officially and unofficially started, we need to turn our pairing thoughts to that summer staple: ice cream. Is it an impossible food-wine pairing?!?

I don’t particularly like soft serve but just thought it was a really good picture. If you have a wine suggestion, please note which flavor makes for the best pairing. And if you had a thought about whether making ice cream at home is worth the time and money, let us know that too!

E Pluribus Vinum – a new motto for wine America

co1bert flagE Pluribus Vinum will be the new motto for America, soon to be the top wine drinking country in the world! Katie of Ramsey, N.J. suggested it and you voted it.

As a prize, I sent her a signed copy of the hottest (only?) wine book to be released in July, my own, Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters, and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink. Thanks, Katie, and thanks, all, for your votes!

Red, white and blue wine: a wine lover’s guide to the presidential primaries

With the Iowa caucuses (finally!) happening tonight, we need a wine lover’s guide to the presidential election.

Mitt Romney: According to the NYT, he is so “vigilant about nutrition” (read: boring!) that he eats the same meals every day. Anathema to the wine lover! Added bonus: teetotaler. No love from wine geeks.

Mike Huckabee: He’s reputedly a charmer, plays guitar, knows (or knew) how to eat, and jogs every morning. But he’s also a southern Baptist minister, so he doesn’t dance and is a teetotaler. So close, yet so far. Wine pick: “Fre,” a de-alcoholized wine.

giuliani.jpgRudy Giuliani: Rudy used to like Long Island merlot but 9/11 changed everything. Now he’ll drink whatever is local, as long as it is American.

John McCain: He used to be more of a loose cannon eight years ago. Now, the fire in the belly appears as mere embers. His wine is a 10 year old Turley Zinfandel, fiery in it’s youth, now sadly without vigor.

obamaclinton.jpgBarack Obama: This man has got style. Heck, one commentator even said he was the “wine track” candidate some time back. So he’s our man for the White House. He’s also quite a blend himself, born in Hawaii to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya and lived early on in Indonesia. This eloquent American blend could be none other than one of the finest wines in America, with structure and spice: Ridge Monte Bello.

Hillary Rodham Clinton: We know Hillary hearts New York but is she cold as ice? Wine pick: Standing Stone, Vidal, ice wine 2005, Finger Lakes.

John Edwards: he’s made it far on his “two Americas” theme. We know what that means–beer America and wine America. We’ll split the difference and put him down for a Franzia box wine.

The wild cards

goldbottle.jpgRon Paul: this guy may be crazy–he wants to eliminate the IRS, the Federal Reserve and a host of government departments and restore the gold standard–but if he is, then he is rich and crazy thanks to his $19 million in fund raising last quarter. Wine pick: Armand de Birgnac, Ace of Spades, “gold bottle,” non-vintage Champagne $300.

Fred Thompson: This Tennessean seems like a natural fit for Bourbon. No love from wine geeks.

kucinichwife.jpgDennis Kucinich: Given his hhhhot young wife (born 1977), he clearly likes youthful reds. We’ll put him down for a California Pinot, most recent vintage available.

Christopher Dodd: His move to Iowa in a desperate attempt to score fourth place makes him seem pandering. And nothing tries harder to be a crowd-pleaser yet fails to inspire more than Merlot.

Bill Richardson: He’s big and he claims to have the most foreign policy experience. Wine pick: the brawny 2004 Numanthia from Spain.

Related: “Bush-Kerry 2004: an election guide for wine lovers

Varietal stemware: genius or hucksterism?

Georg Riedel, 10th generation Austrian glass-blower, invented the delicate crystal glass designed for each grape variety.

Many wine lovers around the world have cabinets stuffed with complete sets by each varietal. But Riedel continues unabated, subdividing grapes with his just released Oregon pinot noir glass–mere grape no longer suffices as now terroir is overlaid on grape. The logically possible amount of stemware just increased exponentially.

Daniel Zwerdling burst into the wine world like a bull in a decanter shop. His story, “Shattered Myths,” in Gourmet (August 2004 and very, very unfortunately not available online), asserted that Georg was pulling the wool over discerning drinkers eyes: the reason wine in Riedel stems tastes better is not because of a tongue map–it simply tastes better because we believe it should.

So, as we contemplate adding more crystal to our collections and to give as gifts this holiday season, have your say in the latest poll!

poll now closed

Calculating the carbon footprint of wine: my research findings

Is that a whiff of raspberries and leather you get from that red wine–or a whiff of petroleum? With some premium wines consuming three times their weight in petroleum, don’t be surprised if it is the latter.

My previous postings on the carbon footprint of wine made me want to determine just how much carbon is involved in the making and transporting of our favorite beverage. So I collaborated with Pablo Paster, a sustainability metrics specialist, and we ran the numbers. Our findings have just been published as a working paper for the American Association of Wine Economists, available here as a pdf.

While I welcome your comments on the whole paper, I’ll post some of the key findings here:

* Organic farming has lower greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity than conventional farming but I was surprised that the difference wasn’t greater. Clearly there may be other differences in a local ecosystem but the GHG difference was surprisingly small. But on the whole, it was the transportation that played a more significant role from a GHG perspective.

* Regarding the “food miles” debate, we find that distance does matter.

* But not all miles that a bottle travels are the same. Efficiencies in transportation make container ships better than trucks, which in turn are better than planes.

* Shipping premium wine, bottled at the winery, around the world mostly involves shipping glass with some wine in it. In this regard, drinking wine from a magnum is the more carbon-friendly choice since the glass-to-wine ratio is less. Half-bottles, by contrast, worsen the ratio.

* Shipping wine in bulk from the source and bottling closer to the point of consumption lowers carbon intensity.

* Light packaging material such as Tetra-Pak or bag-in-a-box has much less carbon intensity.

* Using oak chips is a more carbon friendly alternative than oak barrels, particularly those that are shipped assembled and empty around the world

* There’s a “green line” that runs down the middle of Ohio. For points to the West of that line, it is more carbon efficient to consume wine trucked from California. To the East of that line, it’s more efficient to consume the same sized bottle of wine from Bordeaux, which has had benefited from the efficiencies of container shipping, followed by a shorter truck trip. In the event that a carbon tax were ever imposed, it would thus have a decidedly un-nationalistic impact.

What does this mean for the green wine consumer? Drinking a wine made without agrichemicals, from larger format bottles, or wine that has traveled fewer miles is the more “green” option. Beyond these points (or in addition to them), you could perform your own carbon offsets, for example, by giving up one bottle for another and saying no to bottled water.


Red, White and “Green”: The Cost of Carbon In the Global Wine Trade,” By Tyler Colman and Pablo Paster

UODATE: This paper was been published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Wine Research
image 1:

Kids at wineries, the winner is… Jackson!

And the winner in the kids at wineries photo contest is…Josh for his son, Jackson, propped on a new oak barrel. Even though Josh had an inside edge thanks to starting his own winery in Sonoma and his own blog at pinotblogger, site reader Damon mounted a formidable campaign for photo of his adorable daughter Avery. It was such a heated battle that there was a lead change as recently as yesterday! But the late surge put Josh/Jackson over the top with 47% of the 377 votes cast when polls closed. There is some poetic justice in Josh’s victory since it was his original comment that sparked this whole kids at wineries thread about six weeks ago.

Josh wins a complete set of books by my wife, Michelle, in the Urban Babies Wear Black series, including the New Baby Baby’s Journal, and the black onesie/tshirt. Do Sonoma babies wear black? Time will tell…

Thanks to everyone who submitted very cute photos. One of the other finalists, Amy, has her own winery in the Rhone and put up a posting related to this thread. Amy sez: “I can certainly tell you that here at La Gramière we couldn’t get along without kids! They are always an enormous help to us during harvest, and they add such a wonderful esprit to the whole event. So here are some of my favorite kid photos from our past 3 harvests…”

One final vignette: I was on a panel with Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Winery last week and he told a story about grape ripeness. Thirty years ago he would throw his son on his back and walk through the vineyards to check the sugar levels with his refractometer. The best measure for ripeness, he found, was simply to pass a grape back to his son, Morgan: if he ate it they were ripe, if he spit it out, the grapes had to stay on the vine a little longer.

So here’s to responsible kids and parents at wineries, something (nearly) everyone can raise a glass to!

Kids at wineries: let the voting begin!
Kids at wineries, a photo contest
Poll: should kids be banned from wineries?
Urban Babies Wear Black

Go native – indigenous varieties – WBW 37 roundup!

For the latest edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, 54 bloggers around the world accepted my mission to “go native.” Each one chose a wine made from a grape variety indigenous to where it was grown.

The result was a terrific listing of many unheralded yet rewarding wines. Tannat, for example, featured prominently with no few than four bloggers tasting this burly red grape and three of them tasting it both from its native France and comparing it with versions from Uruguay. Bloggers explored many remote corers of Italy, the country that produced the most tasting notes. Even the good old USA got some grapes written up, though only one Norton and assorted hybrids and clones developed to become indigenous.

Bonus points were awarded to those bloggers who dared to compare–two versions of the grape, from the homeland and a new home. The bonus points committee also rewarded bloggers who were able to try the grape in its growing area since, they too, were going native.

Without further ado, let’s go to the roundup! Read more…

Poll: should kids be banned from wineries?

Discussion on a recent posting highlighted that the new Sattui castle winery in Napa has a “no kids” policy, which set off brief exchange with one reader supporting it. One dad emailed that he thought there should be a “no asshole” policy instead. As a wine-loving dad, I certainly enjoy going to wineries with my wife and four-year old–heck, we’ve even been to NYC wine bars together, though at an early hour.

So I thought I would give this a more public airing with a poll. What do you say: should kids be banned from wineries?

Thanks for voting; poll now closed.

Related: “At Wineries, the Visitors Can Be Young and Bubbly: Napa Valley” (NY Times, May 22, 2005)



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