Friday, March 1, 2013

At Least 7 Glasses of Wine Each Week

By James Hamblin

Pivotal research in the New England Journal of Medicine today confirmed well-worn notions that the Mediterranean diet -- including produce, olive oil, nuts, etc. -- significantly reduced rates of heart attacks and strokes, as compared to a low-fat diet. Now, to make these foods as accessible as corn sugar

When research has to be stopped because it would be "unethical to continue," it suggests one of a few polarizing scenarios. In this case, it's because the study found something that was clearly good. So good that after five years of watching trends in heart disease and strokes among people at high risk, the researchers could not in good conscience continue to recommend a "low-fat diet" to anyone.

On the island of Ikaria, in Greece, there are more centenarians than you can shake a stick at. In Loma Linda, California, the Adventist community has a lifespan that's five to seven years longer than the average American's. These are people who eat a Mediterranean diet, and we've long inferred correlations between that and their prosperity and longevity. But we haven't had solid research to show us how important their diet -- as opposed to other factors genetic, lifestyle, and social -- actually is.

That's why today's study in the New England Journal of Medicine is particularly important.

As Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, told Gina Kolata at The New York Times, the study "says you can eat a nicely balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and olive oil and lower heart disease by 30 percent ... And you can actually enjoy life."

So, enjoy life, if that's what it means to you.

Of course, utilizing this knowledge doesn't just mean educating people about diet choices, but also making these foods accessible. That would necessarily involve reassessing and prioritizing how the U.S. subsidizes agriculture. You don't need to eat a ton of any one these items to see the benefits of the diet, so making them more common in U.S. culture is not at all inconceivable.

Here's how the study defined and broke down the diets it tested:

Click for recommended Mediterranean diet, Table #1

Sofrito is "a sauce made with tomato and onion, often including garlic and aromatic herbs, and slowly simmered with olive oil."

I note the wine as a point of interest because a lot of people ask me how much they should drink. But no one element of these diets clearly shouldered an undue share of the glory or burden. I take this as a check in the "good" column for alcohol, among the thousands of studies that look more specifically at its goods and bads.

Copyright © 2013 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.

I've been telling you!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wine Myths That Need Shattering

A fellow came up to me the other day and said, "How long do you think such-and-such wine will live?" My initial impulse was to reply, "How the hell do I know?" But that, of course, is hardly what he wanted to hear.

So I blathered on about cellaring conditions (cold slows maturation), cultural differences in taste (the French and Italians prefer younger wines while the English like their wines well-aged) and, finally, the sheer impossibility of predicting the life trajectory of any wine.

I should have saved my breath. "I don't think the wine has structure," he said, full of self-assurance. That, he asserted, was the predictor of longevity.
Where does this stuff come from? And, more important, why does it persist? It's astonishing how certain beliefs are the undead of wine, forever resurrected and roaming about. For example:

The Structure Myth. Structure is no more a predictor of a wine's future "career success" than your fourth grade attendance record. So why did this business about "structure" become such a devoutly held article of truth?

The myth of structure derives from a long-held and mistaken notion about tannins. Time was wine drinkers looked at tannin levels in wines, especially red Bordeaux, as a marker of longevity. A wine without a sufficiency of tannins was thought to lack the necessary "carpentry”; it lacked structure. Wines that could age needed musculature; short-lived wines were akin to jellyfish. (You needn't be a Freudian to assess George Saintsbury's famous description in his Notes on a Cellar-Book of a 40-year-old Hermitage, made from tannin-rich Syrah, as "the manliest French wine I ever drank.")

Effectively, the business about structure came from a Bordeaux-centric view of wine, one that persisted into the 1980s. You might well ask, "What about all those white Burgundies and German Rieslings that age successfully for decades?" Good point. They were conveniently ignored as outliers. Real wine was red, and needed "structure" in order to age for decades.

We know better today, of course. Indeed, the Bordelais themselves long ago dispensed with "structure" as a guiding measure, instructed by no less influential a figure than Emile Peynaud (1912–2004), the university professor and ubiquitous Bordeaux winemaking consultant who single-handedly reshaped how Bordeaux châteaus made their wines.

The breakthrough moment was the 1982 vintage, a rich, ripe year that traditionalists harrumphed lacked "structure." Have you had an '82 red Bordeaux lately? Thirty years have now passed and the '82 red Bordeaux are sailing along just fine, thank you.
Wines age successfully thanks to a confluence of forces involving acidity, phenolic ripeness, pH and that mysterious thing, the wine version of dark matter, called "balance." Some wines, such as cru Beaujolais from great vintages, reach magnificent heights after decades of aging with nary a tannin to be found. Ditto for Barbera, which is one of nature's least tannic red wine grapes. Forget "structure" in evaluating a wine's capacity to age to glory. It's a myth.

The Money Myth. This one will never die, I know. But still, it's got to be said: There's very little correlation anymore between the cost of a wine and its intrinsic quality. And once beyond, oh, $30 a bottle, there's absolutely no correlation whatsoever.

It's irresistible to conclude that something more expensive is always going to be better than something cheaper. As Thomas Paine put it, “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem lightly. It is dearness which gives everything its value.”
So, OK, I accept that this myth will persist. But I have to add that never in the history of wine has it been less true than today. Winemakers everywhere have advanced scientific educations, equally advanced modern equipment and high ambitions toward quality. The result has been an unprecedented explosion in superb wines from everywhere.

Inevitably, some wines will be better than others. And some wine districts are still improving, with yet more accomplishment to come. But the fact is—and it is a fact—that the old wine aristocracy has been supplanted today by a new wine meritocracy. If you miss this critical fact, then you've missed the most important feature of 21st century wine.

Thanks to this revolution, price has lost potency as a predictor of quality. Simply put, many of today's most interesting, most invigorating—dare I say "best"?—wines are not necessarily high-priced. Many superb wines from Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Oregon, Hungary, New Zealand, Australia and, yes, even California, sell for $20 to $40 a bottle. That may not quite be pocket change. But it's not expensive, either—especially given the quality and originality on offer. That price tags now tell us anything worthwhile about wine quality is a myth.

The Humidity Myth. I've banged on about this for decades, so I'll be brief. You've all read, over and over again, about how your wines should be kept in a cellar with a certain amount of humidity. The figure cited is anywhere from 70 percent to 95 percent humidity. The reason, so-called, is that you need to keep the cork moist. This is nonsense. Think about it. Your wine is encased in a glass bottle. It's sealed by a tightly compressed cork, one end of which has a dime-sized exposure to air. (Actually, that’s not even fully exposed, as most corks are covered by a capsule.) The other end of the cork is kept outright wet by the wine if the bottle is stored horizontally.

How much humidity, if any, is going to penetrate the cork, which is already very tightly compressed? Virtually none. And no scientific study, to my knowledge, has demonstrated otherwise.

So why does this myth persist? Fear, mostly. And history. Wine used to be shipped and held in wooden barrels or casks, even in private homes and certainly in restaurants. Private consumers bottled their own wines when they saw fit.

A wood barrel, unlike glass, is porous. When wine is held in a barrel you most definitely want a high humidity, which helps keep the staves tight and reduces the amount of evaporation through the pores of the wood.

In a conventional winery cellar, about 10 percent of the contents of a barrel is lost through evaporation every year. This is why wineries like to have caves, which have an ultrahigh, 95 percent humidity. In Napa and Sonoma, which have high-priced wines, the cost of constructing a cave pays for itself in about seven years from "saved" wine.
Simply put, what's good for wineries and their wood barrels makes absolutely no sense for home cellars with their tightly corked glass bottles.

The need for humidity in home wine cellars is a myth.

Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Red Wine's Resveratrol Helps Bees Live Longer

Bees? Yes. Scientists say honey bees have important similarities to humans; fed a diet including resveratrol, bees ate better!
A recent study on the red wine compound resveratrol is generating buzz with its conclusions. According to researchers at life science centers in Arizona and Norway, the behavior of honey bees is altered when they are fed diets supplemented with resveratol.

Prior studies show some promise that resveratrol may increase lifespan and preserve animals' cognitive functions as they age, according to co-author Gro Amdam, a food scientist at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. "In the current study, we tested whether we could promote healthy aging in the honey bee via the administration of resveratrol," his study states.

What does bee health have to do with human health? Honey bees, the study explains, are similar to humans socially, in that they have different social statuses. The ways in which bees behave, based on their roles in life, impacts their probability of survival. Honey bees caring for young in the hive are not as exposed to danger as foraging bees, for example. Therefore, the authors argue, if resveratrol shows health benefits for one higher-order species, there is a possibility this may carry over to other groups of organisms.

In the study, populations of bees were separated and provided either a normal diet or a resveratrol-enhanced meal of ground pollen and sucrose. Free access to sugar was always available. The scientist measured how long the bees lived.

Two resveratrol treatments, in amounts of 30 and 130 micromoles, lengthened the average lifespan in wild-type honey bees by 38 percent and 33 percent, respectively. Amdam says it's because the resveratrol-diet bees regulated their intake of sugar better. But he couldn't say if such results may translate to humans. "We do not know if resveratrol can change peoples' food perception, but this effect is clear in bees: they become less interested in sugar, and consumed less sugary drink when they have free access to it," Amdam told Wine Spectator.

However, unlike other studies, the 130 micromoles solution was no more powerful than the smaller dose; rather, the opposite was observed. "Less is more—at least for the bees," said Amdam. "That does not mean that every species, including humans, will react the same way. We have to be open to the possibility that dose responses are not a simple linear function going up into the sky. Too much isn't always better."

Jacob Gaffney
Wine Spectator

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

2008 Edward Sellers MAYHEM - New Release

The ideal situation would be to bypass all of the drama and MAYHEM in life, but what fun would that be?

Our first offering of MAYHEM blends the lush dark fruit and dark berry flavors of Syrah, the powerful concentration of smokey, meaty Mourvèdre, the intensity of Grenache’s crushed dark cherries, with a hint of black berry and licorice flavors of Zinfandel. This blended with a kiss of French oak produces an opulent red wine with great complexity and length.

Experience the MAYHEM with your next bone-in Rib Eye off the barbeque, or a Tuesday night retro styled, pulled Pork sandwich with friends.

And sometimes… you just need a little MAYHEM by yourself.

MAYHEM Statistics:
Blend: 65% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 5% Zinfandel
Appellation: Paso Robles
Alcohol: 15.3%
T.A.: 5.4 g/L
pH: 3.75
R.S.: 0.19%
Cooperage: 100% French Oak
Release Date: August 1, 2012

"Experience the MAYHEM today!"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Weather Update in Our Vineyard

Mid-July is generally quiet from a viticultural perspective (at least from what we can observe) but the last two weeks are worth mentioning. This week we had two days that topped out at 72, which is a record low for those dates. A deep marine layer embedded itself here which made the air feel moist enough to drink. In contrast, during the previous week we tried to get all of our outdoor work done before noon because the temperature breached 100 (109 on July 10th!) for three straight days.

While the temperature swing itself probably will have little if any specific impact on this year’s harvest, it’s worth noting to illustrate the challenges that all farmers face.

The brief heat spell, for example, meant that we had to ensure that the vines were adequately hydrated well before the mercury began its ascent. Water stress can be a tool to quality-minded grape growers, but too much stress will kill the plants.

The low temperatures per se were not especially harrowing for the vine, but they did nothing to promote maturation. Plus, the low temp and high humidity increased the threat of powdery mildew infection and growth, keeping us on our toes and reminding us to shorten our spray interval. Now that we’re biodynamic, we must be extra vigilant against powdery mildew and other unwanted visitors.

We are still on track to normalcy phenologically, meaning the average temperature this year is closer to the 10-year average than the previous three years and the vines are advancing on pace. We will soon see some color in the reds and sugar accumulation in the reds and whites, as the vines begin to devote their energy to the fruit.

In the midst of all the weather happenings, we bottled a great new value blend in screw cap called appropriately, MAYHEM, which is an easy drinking everyday red wine, easier to open and pour. Our MAYHEM helped us muse on the last couple weeks.

Jeremy Weintraub,
Winemaker & Farmer

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vineyard Update - May 11th

May 11, 2012

Our estate vineyard is brimming with life. The plants are fully awake, the ladybugs are ganging up on delicious (to them) aphids, and, if you listen closely enough, you can just about hear the shoots growing.

Our Grenache vines are the most advanced so far, with shoots about 6 inches long. The Roussanne is lagging, with shoots between one-half inch and 2 inches. The trend will likely continue past fruit set, but we will undoubtedly harvest Roussanne before Grenache.

As noted in a previous post, we’ve begun some important changes here at Edward Sellers. We have purposely cut back on the available fruiting positions on the vines to redirect some of the energy back into the wood and, further down the road, the potential grapes. Come harvest, the vines will yield no more than about 2 tons of fruit per acre. In doing so this year we hope to enliven the vines and make the fruit that we do harvest that much more concentrated.

With all the desirable growth we must also contend with springtime’s unwanted visitor: powdery mildew. Mildew is present in every vineyard worldwide and loves the kinds of temperatures that grapes and humans also like: 70 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Left unchecked, powdery mildew will destroy a season’s crop.

To combat powdery mildew we spray a mixture of organic horticultural oil and a dilute tea that we make from the plant Equisetum arvense, commonly known as horsetail. We follow the UC Davis Powdery Mildew Index to determine when and how often to spray. Generally, we will do so every 12 to 14 days until the fruit reaches about 13 brix.

Next week we will begin thinning shoots and removing suckers. This cultural practice will allow the vines to focus on growing the fruit that we want and it will open them up to the sun and the wind.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Going Biodynamic!

The 2012 growing season has just begun here at Edward Sellers and along with the change of seasons we are taking a new approach to growing our grapes. We are now farming our estate biodynamically, with an eye toward enlivening not just our grapevines but also our olive trees and our soils in general. We hope this approach will lead to even more interesting wines and a healthier environment for all the animals (those that drink wine and those that don’t) that visit our estate.

Austrian farmer and philosopher Rudolph Steiner developed the Biodynamic farming method in the 1920s as a holistic way to grow crops, and he did so with the understanding that farming is not just about rainfall, micronutrients and heat. There are spiritual forces at work, too. The Biodynamic method of farming incorporates the rhythm of the earth and the movements of the planets, enfolding these seemingly disparate systems into a whole. Think of your own circadian rhythms, or the effect of the moon on the tides, and you’ll get an idea where the biodynamics is coming from.

In practical terms, that means, among other things, rejuvenating the soil by applying concentrated amounts of cow manure to the ground after we have stirred this mixture by hand for an hour. And when we prune now, we do so according to the position of the moon and the planets.

We don’t expect to see results immediately. We may not, in fact, see any measurable results for several years. That’s okay. We are farming this estate for the future and making wines that can be enjoyed for years to come.

Jeremy Weintraub