Hello and happy weekend. I hope this post finds everyone safe and healthy and hopefully happy. Lots going on here in wine country—fires continue to rage on, but despite the smoke in the air bars, restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms are still attempting to serve people outdoors, per COVID rules. And in the midst of it all, earlier ripening varieties are ready for harvest, while later ripening varieties are being tested for potential smoke taint. Oi. Wine Spectator does a great job rounding up all these issues and more (such as labor shortages and the danger to our fieldworkers in the midst of our smokey-COVID environment).
Over in the blog-o-sphere, Jason Haas of Tablas Creek talks about why wineries and tasting rooms—and their guests—should expect intermittent closures for the foreseeable future. (Just be prepared.) Monty Waldin speaks to the injustices to vineyard farmworkers around the world. And Eater gives us more info on why we won’t be seeing any James Beard awards awarded for at least another year.
Of course, you know me, I always like to share some happy news as well. Like this story from Eater about a Taco Truck feeding undocumented workers. And, I know this isn’t really wine-related, but I can’t help but include news about recent research showcasing the benefits to painting faces on cow’s butts. (Just read the article.)
As always, there’s tons more—so scroll through, catch up on stuff, have some fun. And don’t be shy…drop me a line and let me know how you’re doing and what else you’d like to see on my site. Cheers.
Eater: As Wildfires Rage, a Bay Area Taco Truck Is Feeding Undocumented Farmworkers
The proprietors of La Santa Torta and Al Pastor Papi are offering their support during a time when immigrant farmworkers are especially vulnerable
Best known for its Jalisco-style birria tacos, La Santa Torta is no stranger to feeding those in need. Even as the food truck has struggled to stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis, it has made giving free food to anyone who needs it — especially the sizable homeless population in Oakland’s Jack London Square area, where one of the La Santa Torta trucks is usually stationed — a core part of its business identity. (When placing an order through its website, customers always have the option to make a donation to help support these efforts.) … But the situation with undocumented farmworkers hits especially close to home. READ MORE…
Sonoma Index Tribune: Sonoma wine, weed and water on SVCAC agenda
Neither pandemic nor storm nor fire nor election-year meddling can stop wineries and cannabis producers from applying for permits in Sonoma County.
Korbin Ming, of Lunar Ridge Farms LLC, seeks a use permit to operate a 19,000-square-foot commercial cannabis cultivation site on property his company leases from his parents, Mitchell and Jenny Ming, at 4800 Cavedale Rd. in Glen Ellen, along the Sonoma/Napa county borders. The 132-acre farm currently includes both a residence and a 19-acre vineyard.
Mitchell Ming owns Korbin Kameron Vineyard and Jenny Ming is CEO of the clothing chain, Charlotte Russe. She formerly helped to launch the Old Navy brand and served as the company’s president. Local viticulturist Phil Coturri has worked with the Mings on their vineyard projects since 2013. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: Harvest in a Time of Flames and Pestilence—Another Challenging California Vintage
Wildfires and coronavirus punctuate harvest struggles, as concerns over weather, labor and grape supplies loom for California wineries
The 2020 vintage is adding more trials for wineries. Fires, labor shortages and an oversupply of grapes have plagued vintners in recent years, but this year coronavirus–related issues add an extra layer of complications. Economic burdens resulting from shutdowns and new safety protocols to deal with COVID-19 are challenging vintners’ adaptability in an unprecedented way. READ MORE…
The Tribune: Paso Robles Mayor Asks Governor to Allow Indoor Dining As Smoke Chokes City
The mayor of Paso Robles on Friday sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom urging him to consider temporarily altering COVID-19 restrictions to allow indoor dining after a heat wave and blowing wildfire smoke created hazardous conditions for the city’s restaurants.
San Luis Obispo County — and especially the North County and Paso Robles — have been experiencing a heat wave featuring triple-digit temperatures for more than a week. Paso Robles has broken multiple daily heat records this week, with temperatures climbing as high as 114 degrees.
Then, on Tuesday, smoke from wildfires burning near Salinas and Big Sur began blowing down the coast, blanketing Paso Robles in a smoky haze and creating dangerously unhealthy air. The city continued to suffer from hazardous air quality conditions on Friday with air quality index numbers above 300..
NYPost: De Blasio has ‘no plan’ for return of indoor dining in NYC
“There’s not a context for indoor dining. We’re never saying it’s impossible. But we do not, based on what we’re seeing around the world, we do not have a plan for reopening indoor dining in the near term,” de Blasio said.
He cited COVID-19 resurgences in Hong Kong and Europe linked to the activity.
Andrew Rigie, head of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, was infuriated by Hizzoner’s answer. READ MORE…
Forbes: Shifting Climate Alters Prime Vine Locations In Burgundy
It took twelve centuries for monks to determine Burgundy’s best grapevine locations. As climate shifts occur, those locations are also shifting. READ MORE…
wine-searcher: The Rise of Low-intervention Winemaking
Why do so many winemakers across the globe choose to adopt this laissez-faire “hands-off” mentality?
Industry buzzwords come and go, but “hands-off” winemaking has remained oddly persistent.
Well regarded for environmentally friendly practices and minimal use of additives, hands-off vinification has become a favored style of winemaking for vignerons across the globe. However, this minimalist way of working actually involves more intervention than you might think. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: Jackson Family Wines Buys Australia’s Giant Steps Winery
The deal is a strategic move for JFW. It expands the company’s Australian portfolio and vineyard holdings in a way that doesn’t compete with its other properties, adding an exciting brand in an emerging category in Aussie wine of fresh, cool-climate wines. READ MORE…
SevenFifty Daily: Rebuilding Your Restaurant’s Wine Program
To minimize purchasing spend and energy, beverage directors are streamlining programs, rethinking pricing, and taking advantage of deep deals
After months of being closed to the public, restaurants are reopening into a precarious dining environment with an uncertain future. This presents new challenges for every aspect of the business, including the wine program, which may have seen massive changes as operators sold off inventory or pivoted to off-premise sales. And while wine is an essential revenue driver for restaurants, beverage programs are often first to experience cutbacks when budgets tighten, requiring beverage directors to do more with less.
As restaurants face the possibilities of additional restrictions or closures, beverage directors are looking for ways to limit purchasing and minimize waste while maintaining a creative wine program. SevenFifty Daily spoke to sommeliers and beverage directors across the country for their strategies for success in this new landscape. READ MORE…
Eater: No Black Winners and Rampant Allegations Led to the Cancellation of the James Beard Awards
The allegations range from bullying to sexual harassment, leading the foundation to reassess what constitutes award-worthy chef behavior, per the New York Times
According to the Times, the James Beard Foundation found itself struggling to stay on top of new allegations as well as changing ideas of which chef behaviors should be considered acceptable, let alone award-worthy. While some chefs voluntarily dropped out, others were reportedly asked by the foundation to withdraw their nominations due to allegations.
Another factor contributing to the decision to cancel the awards was the lack of Black winners in any of the 23 categories. The James Beard Awards and the industry it honors has long been criticized for elevating and rewarding high-profile names who tend to be white men. This year, a handful of nominees were Black, but they ultimately didn’t emerge as winners in the voting. READ MORE…
Modern Farmer: Painting Eyes On Cows’ Butts Can Scare Away Predators
This crafty little tactic defies the highbrow standards of academia.
The promise of this simple trick, called the “i-cow” solution, has been highlighted in a recent paper using 2,061 cows on farms in northern Botswana’s Okavango delta region. The study compared how predators reacted to cows that sported eyes on their rear end, ones that had “x’s,” and some with bare backsides. The “i-cow” method involves applying acrylic paint on the bums of cattle with foam stencils that look like a sketch of an eye. The eyes trick certain predators, such as lions and leopards, that try to sneak up on livestock, into thinking the animals can see them.
Researchers tracked herds over a four-year period and found that 15 out of the 835 unpainted cows were killed by predators, four of the 543 cattle with “x’s” died, but every single one of the 683 animals with eye doodles were still alive. READ MORE…
Blogs Worth a Read
Taken from the list of Blogs I follow regularly, here are just a few posts from this past week I think are worth a read. Shoot me a note if you have suggestions of blogs to follow or want your blog included on that list.
Grape Collective: What About the Workers? Why Certifications Don’t Go Far Enough.
As an industry we should demand stricter guidelines regarding the health, safety and well-being of vineyard workers, many of whom have non-fixed contracts, minimal insurance, the barest of employment rights, making them expendable.
Worker exploitation is the dirty secret that our industry is turning a blind eye to. Wine journalists mostly exist in a symbiotic relationship with the wine producers and regional wine marketing associations. Most editorial efforts are directed at ratings and service journalism as the advertising from wineries and trade organizations keep the lights on at the major wine magazines. Very little work has been done on advocating for worker rights. READ MORE…
Masters of Wine: Sixteen new Masters of Wine
The Institute of Masters of Wine has announced 16 new Masters of Wine, taking the total number of MWs in the world today to over 400.
The new members of the IMW have proved their understanding of all aspects of wine by passing the Master of Wine exam, recognised worldwide for its rigour and high standards.
The MW exam consists of three distinct parts; the theory and practical exams that are taken at the end of stage two, and the research paper submitted at the end of stage three. The RP is an in-depth study on a wine-related topic from any area of the sciences, arts, humanities or social sciences. Meet the new Masters of Wine.
Tablas Creek Blog: Wineries (and visitors) should expect months of recurring periodic closures to tasting rooms
Welcome to 2020. Anyone waiting for things to go back to normal may be waiting quite a while. And I’m just not sure that wine lovers — or wineries — have fully realized that this uncertainty is likely to be the norm, rather than the exception, for tasting room operations over the next six months and more. For our part, I’m fully expecting that we’ll have to be closed at least one day a week, on average, over the next six months. READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: Praisy Dlamini – from sugar cane to grapes
Back in 2004 I took an interest in winemaking to challenge the myth that people from my province, Northern KwaZulu-Natal, appreciated umqombothi (local maize-based beer) more than wine. Sugar cane, not vines, dominate the farmlands of the province, including my own family’s farm. With a positive attitude and dedication, I learnt early on to turn my challenges into advantages.
Not only did I become proficient in Afrikaans, but after completing my BAgric degree at Elsenburg Cape Institute in 2007, I landed a three-year internship with the Cape Winemakers Guild, becoming the first woman CWG Protégée mentored by and working alongside some of South Africa’s leading winemakers, which for me was a privilege. READ MORE…
GuildSomm: Three Misunderstood Topics in Spanish Wine
My Fair Lady did a great disservice to anyone wanting to better understand Spanish geography: the rain in Spain most definitely does not fall mainly on the plain. The Meseta Central, which comprises most of Spain’s core, ranges from 600 to 750 meters in altitude, with a dry, continental climate. There are, however, other regions of Spain that offer cool conditions in an otherwise hot country—and this extends beyond Galicia. READ MORE…
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**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**