Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I know you.
You buy organic salad greens and tomatoes. And you are starting to gain interest in organic and biodynamic wines.
You inquire about where your food and wine comes from when you dine out.
You care about what you put into your body.
But what does your favorite restaurant do with your empty bottle of wine at the end of the night?
The people behind Drinking With Benefits asked that same question and got a disturbing answer.
Narisha Johnson looked around as she was having a drink at a local bar one day and wondered where the hundreds of empty glass bottles ended up.
After a little investigation, she found out that bars and restaurants in her hometown of Dallas were sending all these empties to the landfill. The local government does not supply recycling services for businesses. And the restaurants and bars saw no reason to spend extra money on a private service.
So Narisha took matters into her own hands and created a program that creates value for the restaurants, the recycling companies and of course the end consumer as well.
She created buzz for the participating venues by holding special 'drink green' parties. These venues are listed on her website and advertised as drink green restaurants. This allows consumers to identify and support venues that share their values.
Drinking With Benefits negotiates rates with recycling companies and acts as a third party certifier to insure these companies are truly recycling and not dumping the bottles after pickup.
What small green steps can you take in your city, your office or your favorite restaurant?
Posted by Amy Atwood at 10:49 AM
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I have written about Natural Merchants before because they import some wonderful organic and biodynamic wines from Europe.
BioKult Wein is one of those wine treasures. Amazing quality for the price and made from biodynamic grapes to boot.
The Michlits family is the largest producer of organic wines in Austria.
Still confused about the difference between organics and biodynamics?
The grapes are grown without toxic chemicals to act as pesticides and herbicides. So far so organic.
But biodynamics is also about treating your land as a whole organism , whose overall health needs to be maintained. The natural treatments used to ward off pests and to fertilize the vines should come from your own land.
Biodynamic wine does not use commercial yeasts for fermentation , instead using native or wild yeasts. BioD wines are not chemically manipulated in the cellar either, meaning they do not have added sugar or acids.
(This is where it gets tricky since there is a difference between BioD wines and wines 'made from BioD grapes'. The latter does sometimes add sugar, acid and commercial yeasts.)
And yes, harvesting, applying treatments, etc is done according to the biodynamic calendar, much like the old farmers almanac.The Michlits have a herd of 50 Angus cattle and grow organic wheat as well.
BioKult Gruner Veltliner 2008 $14.99 (Available at Wholefoods Markets nationwide)
Light golden color with slight green hue. Aromas of peaches and even kiwis. Slight fizziness to this wine which is refreshing. Flavors of apple fritters and lemons, touch of pepper. Made with Gruner Veltliner, the most popular white wine grape in Austria.
BioKult Rose 2008 $14.99
Dark rose and ruby color. Aromas of cherries and watermelon. Beautiful acidity to keep it light and fresh. Flavors of summer raspberries. Made from Zweigelt, Austria's #1 red grape variety.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 8:59 AM
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
This week MyDailyWine speaks with John Albin, Director of Wine making for King Estate Winery in Oregon. King Estate is certified organic by Oregon Tilth.
1) How did you become a winemaker?
I started making wine with my father when I was a kid. I grew up in Seattle and at the time there were no grapes grown in Washington so we bought grapes from the Central Valley that came in on a rail car. While attending the UW I worked at Associated Vintners; that lead to UC Davis and a career in winemaking.
2) King Estate's own vines are certified organic. But you also purchase grapes from surrounding vineyards that are not certified organic. What specific standards do you hold these outside vineyards to, especially regarding pesticides and herbicides?
All of our contracted vineyards develop an annual vineyard management plan during the off season. That plan is reviewed together. We have worked with most of these growers for many years so we are all on the same page as far as what we are striving for. If you were to examine the practices of all of our growers you would find that they are all in the sustainable camp, some are LIVE certified and some are in the process of being certified organic. No pre emergent herbicides are used nor are herbicides that “travel”; chemicals like Paraquat or 24D are not allowed.As far as pesticides go, no one uses insecticides; we are fortunate in Oregon that insects are not really a concern. Sometimes sulfur is used to keep mites in control but we use that mainly for powdery mildew. Fungicides would include those on the organic list; sulfur, potassium carbonate, copper sulfate. In addition, many outside growers add DMI’s to the list. All of this boils down to using a little common sense when it comes to using any material responsively whether they are organic or not .
3) You obviously care about producing pure fruit grown without chemicals. How does this translate in your actual wine making process in the cellars?
The winery is also certified organic. We don’t use any wine additives that you wouldn’t recognize; things like egg whites, yeast, gelatin. Same thing for cleaning supplies.
4) Do you believe that organic grapes produce better wines or is organic farming simply better for the environment?
I don’t think those statements are mutually exclusive and depends a little on what your definition of “better” is. Organic farming can be better for the environment depending on the farmer. Organic grapes can produce better wines, certainly it can be done sustainably which is better no matter how you slice it. Good farmers on good sites will produce good fruit, that’s the long and the short of it.
5) What has been your biggest challenge to date as a winemaker?
I think the biggest challenge has been to try and figure out what makes Oregon viticulture tick. There are so many micro climates and soil types along with clonal selections and rootstocks that getting down to what are the best combinations is a life long endeavor.
6) Which winery or winemaker inspires you and why?
Robert Mondavi; great winemaker and a great promoter of American winemaking. He’s probably done more than any other single person for winemaking in America.
7) Please share your favorite wine and food match.
We are very fortunate to have a chef on staff. Michael Landsberg makes a seared scallop dish with fresh sweet corn, leeks and a wonderful Aromatique sauce. I’m addicted to it. Our Signature Pinot Gris is dynamite with it.
MyDailyWine tasted two King Estate wines recently:
King Estate Signature Pinot Noir 2007 $25
Beautiful bright ruby color. Tastes like plum tarts and cinnamon. Light style for a domestic pinot noir. Delicious with Moroccan style braised chicken with golden raisins and almonds.
next Riesling from King Estate 2008 $12
Light golden color. Flavors of marinated peaches and lemon custard. Very bright acids to cleanse the palate. This is definitely the wine for spicy food. Great match for Thai or Vietnamese cuisine.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 10:01 PM
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Alice Feiring, the fearless wine iconoclast and well known writer, graciously granted an interview to MyDailyWine. The links to her recent book and her website are below. Both are essential reading for winelovers.
*THE BATTLE FOR WINE & LOVE
(or how I saved the world from Parkerization) --out now!
New York Times Book Review Section, Summer Reads: "Both lively and sardonic." --Bryan Miller
1)Which wine was your first love?
I still have the bottle. A 1968 Giovanni Scanavino, drunk in 1980.
2)What was your first wine writing assignment?
It was in 1990 on Long Island wine, written for Connoisseur magazine.
3)What is natural wine and why do you champion it?
The Alice definition? Nothing added to the grapes (except maybe a little bit of sulfur before bottling) and nothing taken out (such as alcohol and acidity). The hard-core natural is nothing added ever.
About a decade ago I became fed up with much of the wine I was tasting. The wines I was enjoying, as I later found out, were natural. I became fascinated (and pained) with the ways wine could be manipulated. Dismayed most people believed the marketing crap: wine was made in the vineyard. Many winemakers who were manipulating believed it as well. (Disconnect? I don’t get it.) Like becoming a writer, where I thought I had little choice in the matter, it was this genre of wine that just evolved into my ‘material.’ These are the wine stories, and the issues, that captivate me.
4) You travel quite a bit for your wine writing career. What was your favorite recent wine travel experience and why?
I loved my last visit to Rioja in April. I had never seen the vines there at the very gentle moment of bud break, like a swelling under the bark, for some reason I found it very moving. I also got to drink great old rioja for real cheap and that was thrilling..
5) There has been some discussion on your blog recently about elitism within the natural wine movement.
Do you think natural wine is harder to understand and/or enjoy than so called conventional wine for the average wine consumer?
Many of the wines are vin de soif, easy and can be appreciated by anyone. Many of the hard core natural, the wines that really fit the vin naturel category, like Puzelat, Rimbert, Souhaut, Chaussard, Pacalet…etcetc. can be difficult because the liveliness combined with the translucency is shocking to those who are brought up on 90+ points or commercial wines. Also, there are flavors that the drinker of conventional stuff doesn’t have a vocabulary for, or a context. They can be shocking. But, on the other hand, a favorite story of mine is early on, when Frank Bruni (departing NYTimes restaurant critic) returned to New York for the gig, I gave him a glass of Patapon (made by Chaussard, which was pineau d’aunis).At the time he was still charmed with oak. His reaction? He laughed. And then bought a case. He didn’t have to think twice. That wine changed his relationship to wine. Other people might have spit it out.
6) Why do you write about wine? Is it to share your thoughts or to educate wine lovers or neither?
Good question. Believe me it wasn’t my idea. Only a fool or someone independently wealthy would want to write about wine today. Ach, maybe I’m a fool? I keep on saying I’m getting a job at Whole Foods. I’m moving north and raising goats. There are so few slots and shrinking daily. And frankly, most of what editors want (or people) is what they should drink, save the words and the story, just show me the wine. That’s not what I want to write about. I love writing about the way wine fits into culture. And for some reason even though I’m constantly quitting my blog and pitching stories, I don’t seem to be able to keep my mouth shut or my hands off the keys.
7) Which wine is your current love?
Looking for one! But it’s summer so it’s muscadet. Luneau-Papin, Domaine Pepiere, Guy Bossard and Jo Landron.
But right now I’m feeling older Barolo deprived.
8) What makes you happy?
Oh, Amy, such a question! I’ve been trying to find that one out for decades. I’m just an old Russian Jew in disguise. Being in the moment, being in my skin, writing well, connectedness. Funny, a wine that is transportational shared with someone who ‘gets’ it, delivers that in a sip.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 1:05 PM
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Fifi from The Ten Bells tells all!
1) What was the vision behind opening Ten Bells?
The story of The Ten Bells was to open a place where we would go to : good food with the priority of getting ingredients from local producers working organic or sustainable methods, and natural wines.
2) What did you do before Ten Bells?
I worked for more than 8 years @ Le Pere Pinard, a French Bistrot who was located on Ludlow Street, 3 blocks away from The Ten Bells. As the G.M, I was running the day to day operations including taking care of the wine list.
3) Are all of the wines at Ten Bells considered natural wines?
I would say 99% are.
4) What does the term natural wine mean to you?
A wine is considered natural when the winemakers use organic methods not only in the vineyard but in the cellar as well, meaning less intervention as possible, indigenous yeast, no sugar added, very low or no sulfites, no collage.
5) Do your customers understand natural wine and do they ask for wine that is organic or biodynamic?
Some of them knows and come to us because we carry the wines that they're looking for. But for most of them, we have to explain the difference between organic, natural and biodynamic. The only phase of winemaking that got the "organic" label is the growing of the grapes. After that, winemakers can use chemical yeast, add sugar, wood chips or sulfites as much as he wants, he will still have the "AB" label on his bottle. Then the natural wine keeps the organic methods in the vinification process, and for biodynamic wines, every steps of the process is ruled by the invisible forces of the Earth.
6) What makes you happy?
Right now, the first thing that makes me happy is my daughter... she was born 3 weeks ago!!! In a more general way, I would say that my life makes me happy. I do what I love. I travel to visit vineyards and winemakers, only in France so far, I visit farms upstate New-York to find ingredients, and the final idea of it is to share it with people that understand or hopefully will understand that it is a necessity for everyone to eat and drink better. And with The Ten Bells, it's the perfect way to show that you can do so without breaking your wallet.
7) What makes Sundays so amazing at Ten Bells?
We created the "Sunday Night Delicacies" so every Sunday we offer a special treat to our patron. it changes every week and we like to bring items that people are not use to eat. So from one week to another, you can feast on a roasted baby goat or a suckling pig, a creamy chicken gizzard and heart stew or a spicy lamb curry.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 1:10 PM