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Category: Wine & Entertaining

Report of Glyphosate in Wine Not Transparent or Plausible

This photo of a man in hazmat spraying a vineyard has occasionally been used in articles about glyphosate. The chemical in the photo is NOT glyphosate. Read on to find out why.

On March 24th, Moms Across America posted study results commissioned by an unidentified fan, claiming that 10 California wines all tested positive for glyphosate, including organic wines. Aside from being implausible from a scientific standpoint, there are also certain impracticalities involved, which I’ll discuss in a moment. The published material does not identify the wines, or address the chain of custody. Also, MAA claims all the wines are from northern CA (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino), yet the wine featured prominently in a video produced by RT America Firestoneis from Santa Barbara.

Moms Across America

Moms Across America is an organization devoted to inspiring moms to feed their families healthy, pesticide-free and GMO-free food. 

I wrote to Moms Across America, requesting a copy of the full report. I received a response a little over a day later, from Natalie, promising that founder Zen Honeycutt would contact me when she returns from traveling next week. Apparently the ladies, other than Honeycutt, do not use last names on the website.

(Update: No response received from MAA as of April 21, two weeks after contact.)

I noted, while surfing their list of links to source materials, that their list references several heavily contested studies, some of which may even be fraudulent, like material from Dr. Huber and the Seralini study. Continue reading

10 Disgusting Things in Wine

One of the reasons that winemaking is referred to as an art as well as a commerce is that so many things can go wrong during the life span of a wine in production. Aside from mechanical problems like leaking barrels or cellarmen running into tanks with forklifts, wine is chemically delicate and must be supervised and nurtured, like a child, in order to avoid the various infections and diseases to which it might be prone. On top of that, winemakers use some pretty unusual ingredients to get the wine ‘just so’. Continue reading

California’s Forgotten Central Coast

Paso from the air

Culinary author Brigit Binns calls the central coast area of California “Tuscany with cowboys.” And she’s so spot on—the central coast’s golden hills, oak forests, rolling vineyards, and limestone outcroppings still have a strong California-Mexico rancho character. If you’re driving through wine country, you may have to stop your car to let hundreds of bleating sheep and lambs cross the road in front of you, accompanied by their sheepherders and working collies. Occasionally you may come across a loose cow or pig that has escaped their enclosure and is happily taking a wander down the road.

The central coast is halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and stretches from the ritzy towns of Monterey and Pebble Beach through spacey, hippie-throwback Santa Cruz, down through hundreds of miles of wooded coastal highways to laid back Santa Barbara. But the heart of the central coast are the small, untrodden beach towns of Cayucos and Cambria, and the vibrant, Mediterranean-like wine communities of Paso Robles, Santa Ynez and Santa Maria. Continue reading

CandleCage Takes Ambiance to a Whole New Height

If you’re a wine lover, you know how it starts. Everything starts small. A single bottle at a favorite winery you visited. Then the half-case discount. Then the wine clubs. Before you know it, your 24-bottle under-the-counter wine cooler is reserved for “drinking whites” and your collection is stored under the stairs or in the guest room.

For those of you that are graduating to an actual wine cellar—or if, like me, your entire home is an ode to wine—Mark Bloxwich at CandleCage.com has a new “must have” for you. It’s big, beautiful, and romantic, like the wines in your closet.

The 5’10” wrought iron floor-standing candle holders are forged in the shape of wine bottles with custom designed iron work on the cage doors. Customers can choose from a variety of bottle shapes and can order custom iron work featuring their favorite labels, quotes or humorous comments. Each CandleCage holds up to a dozen large candles on a shelf the size of a serving tray, illuminating the custom art and lending an attractive (and safe) candlelight ambiance to any room.

Bloxwich came up with the idea originally as a birthday gift for his wife. “I’m terrible at gifting,” he said. “I once gave her a food processor, but she doesn’t cook.” He knew his wife loved candles and wine—particularly New Zealand sauvignon blanc—and so he set out to make her the most impressive iron candleholder and homage to wine he could. “As you do,” he said, “when you have no known engineering skills and you can’t even weld.”

He sought the help of a local welder in Thailand, where they lived at the time, and created the first CandleCage, which his wife still adores to this day. In fact, it was his wife Janette who suggested he make more. “She keeps trying to run off with the prototypes,” said Bloxwich.

Bloxwich eventually hired a Croatian engineer through an outsourcing site to create some proper drawings, and learned that the man’s entire family are engineers who own a small family-run ironworks and factory. CandleCages are now manufactured by hand in Croatia by the family-run business. Bloxwich travels to Croatia frequently to oversee design and production. Each CandleCage costs around $1,200 US, plus $250 for custom art. Orders may include tax and shipping.

The first CandleCages were released in August 2015 to a mainly E.U. audience. They are now available in the U.S. as well, and a few traveling samples are making the rounds on the East Coast.

CandleCages can take up to twelve weeks to arrive at U.S. destinations as they are too large and heavy for air delivery. But as Bloxwich points out, “These are beautiful heirlooms that will last for many generations, so they’re worth waiting for.”

Learning Wine Varieties

Zin cheer

Just as a vanilla-colored Queen Anne cherry differs from a blood red Bing, winegrapes vary in color and flavor. Each type of grape has a distinctive flavor, and depending on where and how it’s grown, certain characteristics of the grape will become more pronounced. Winemaking techniques will also affect flavor, adding aspects of spice, pastry, or butter, and the amount of time a wine spends in oak will impart additional aroma and flavor to the fruit.

Basic wine varieties

White wines

Malvasia Bianca—A light crisp wine with floral aromas and a core flavor of grapefruit. Good chilled and served with salads or spicy seafood.

Sauvignon Blanc—A light wine with grassy aromas like fresh-mown hay or clover, and flavors of tart apple, kiwi, or citrus. Very good with summer time appetizers, green salads, pasta salads, and minimalist seafood.

Pinot Blanc—Similar to a chardonnay, pinot blanc has a deep blond color and creamy mouthfeel with a definite pear flavor.

Chardonnay—A pleasant workhorse of a wine, chardonnay has fruity aromasand a core flavor of apples. It’s made in a range of styles from those with minimal oak and bright fruit, to heavy oak or butter styles. It goes with a wide range of food, from hors d’oeuvres and salads to light meats and spicy pasta dishes.

Viognier—A tropical powerhouse, viognier is intensely fruity, and sometimes has a grassy finish. It generally has a high alcohol content, which in turn gives the wine a heavier mouthfeel that also appeals to red wine drinkers. The combination of high alcohol and fruit salad flavors sometimes makes the wine seem slightly sweet, even when it is technically dry. Served chilled, it can stand up to very spicy dishes.

Other white wines to try include pinot gris, roussanne, marsanne, and semillon.

Red wines

Pinot Noir—Although lighter in tannins than other red wines, pinot noir is packed with flavor. Its core flavor of pie cherry is accompanied by flavors and aromas of mushroom, hay, cinnamon, pastry and oak. Its gentler mouthfeel and intriguing flavors make it a versatile food wine, good with a wide range of dishes.

Sangiovese—A native of Italy, sangiovese can be slightly heavier than pinot noir, but also has a core flavor of pie cherry or wild berry, with earthy tones and a hint of spice. It ranges in style from light red and slightly tart to heavy spice-and-earth wines. Some producers blend in cabernet to give it mainstream appeal, but I love its brick red color and dancing gypsy flavors.

Merlot—A popular red wine with food, merlots range from light fruity styles to heavy, mountain-grown fruit with intense color that make deep, plummy wines. Softer and fruitier than cabernet and syrah, merlot is a great red wine for sipping and good with a variety of foods.

Zinfandel—The wild child of America, zinfandel is not widely produced in Europe. Its history is shrouded in confusion, but there is nothing confusing about its flavor. It has a standout core of raspberry and black pepper. Styles range from old vine zins with a brick red color and heavy peppercorn, to purple powerhouses with jammy plum flavors and very high alcohol. Generally served with red meats, grilled vegetables and pungent cheeses.

Cabernet Sauvignon—Cabernets and syrahs are heavier reds that age gracefully. Cabernet has a luscious mouthfeel with a core flavor of black cherry or plum, and hints of licorice, herbs or violets. The best cabernets are not over-oaked, so you can taste the layers of flavor and enjoy its intriguing bouquet. Its rich, delicious flavors are great for sipping and relaxing, and also excellent with red meats, rich sauces and potatoes.

Syrah—Machismo flavors of blueberry, beef, smoke and licorice, this robust red wine is great with hearty cuts of meat, grilled lamb, and blue-veined cheeses. Australian producers call it shiraz.

Other popular red wines include cabernet franc, petite syrah, mourvedre, grenache and barbera.

Sparkling wines can be made from either red or white varieties, and sometimes red and white are blended together to make a sparkling rosé.  Inexpensive and delicious Italian sparklers can be found in most wine stores — ask for Lambrusco (red) or Prosecco (white).