Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The NYTimes is a Freakin' Idiot!

Hundreds and hundreds of peer-reviewed studies published in the world's top scientific and medical publications find that there is very, very little difference between wine, beer and spirits when consumed:

  • in moderation
  • with food.


Wine's biggest advantage is the way it is consumed.

There are probably some small, additional benefits to wine from its various organic compounds. But this NYTimes piece is simply a product of scientific ignorance ... and a lot of PR people from Welch's Grape Juice and your local NeoProhibitionist.

You can find out the scientific facts here:The French Paradox And Beyond.

September 23, 2008

The Claim: Grape Juice Has the Same Benefits as Red Wine


By now the cardiovascular benefits of a daily glass of wine are well known. But many teetotalers wonder whether they can reap the same rewards from wine’s unfermented sibling, or are they simply left out altogether.

Grape juice may not provide much buzz, but you can still toast to good health when it comes to its ability to avert heart disease. Alcohol in moderation can relax blood vessels and increase levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol. But the substances believed to provide much of red wine’s heart benefits — resveratrol and flavonoids — are also found in grape juice, especially the variety made from red and dark purple Concord grapes.

Independent studies have found that like alcohol, grape juice can reduce the risk of blood clots and prevent LDL (“bad” cholesterol) from sticking to coronary arteries, among other cardiac benefits. One, conducted by scientists at the University of Wisconsin and published in the journal Circulation, looked at the effects of two servings of Concord grape juice a day in 15 people with coronary artery disease. After two weeks, the subjects had improved blood flow and reduced oxidation of LDL. Oxidized LDL can damage arteries.

Other studies in humans and animals, including one last year in the journal Atherosclerosis, have shown that daily consumption may lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But beware: some varieties of juice have sugar and artificial ingredients.


Studies suggest that some kinds of grape juice may provide the cardiac benefits of red wine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Livermore (CA) Wine Fest—Getting Stingy! But I Found a Good New Winemaker! [Mac McCarthy]

For the third year, I drove a short distance over the hill to the 27th Annual Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration the first week of September 2008, to enjoy some fine wines from an overlooked gem of a wine area in California.

(If you're visiting Northern California and want to see the wine country, skip Napa, which is crowded and overpriced, and skip Sonoma, which is much nicer but a bit of a drive from San Francisco – instead, try Livermore, in the East Bay – 43 wineries as last count, and every one a gem!)

You pay one price for two days (about $50), park your car, and take the busses along some of the six routes that zigzag through the Valley. That way you don't have to decipher the map, nor worry about driving after drinking (until it's time to go home, of course!).

But I Do Have a Complaint!

As in the past, the wineries pour you some wine tastes, while musicians play, and various booths tempt you with crafts and food. You get three or so wines to taste at each winery – and then there's the Special wines, usually inside the barn, for access to which you have to pay an extra fee, usually about $10.

This isn't so bad because you can taste many yummy wines for your initial fee, and don't have to pay extra for the good stuff (though it certainly is good stuff). The problem is that THIS year they've gotten a little too cute for their own good – most of the wineries have cut way back on the free tastes, and are pushing instead to have you spend extra for the special stuff.

Concannon, for example, had only two wines out front; Retzlaff, a fine winery, had only *one*! A good one, but still... ONE wine on offer! Red Feather had, I think, two – one was a very interesting strawberry-flavored sparkling wine. Of the wineries I visited, only Thomas Coyne had a decent cross-section of its wines for us.

It must get expensive to participate in this event, and none of the money we pay for the event goes to the wineries themselves, I believe – so I understand that the wineries would like to make a buck from all those people flocking in. But think about it from our perspective: We already paid $50 to attend the event. If we pay another $10 for each of the five or six wineries we will be visiting – the day will cost us $100 – each, double that if we're a couple!

I'm sorry, but that's Napa Valley-level gouging, and I'm seriously wondering if this previously wonderful and eye-opening event will be worth going to next year.

(For pictures of the wineries, in case you ever plan to visit—and most don't charge during regular visitor's hours—go to http://www.elivermore.com/photos/Wine_fest3.htm.)

Best New Winery in Livermore, CA: "Longevity!" [Mac McCarthy]

A relatively new winery, and one I'd never heard of, had a small table at the Livermore festival in the tent where they put the smaller, newer vintners: Longevity, a play on the name of Phil and Debra Long, the winemakers. They had by far the most impressive wines I tasted that day.

They specialize in dense but incredibly smooth reds (their Chardonnay wasn't too doggone bad either). The Cabernet was impressive – mouthfilling, smooth and edgeless, with a long, long finish. They also make a Bordeaux-style blend that is very successful. I ended up buying an assortment of their wines – and to emphasize how good their wines are, these are the only wines I bought that day! I could not recommend too strongly that you go out of your way to find and try Longevity wines!

For information about the winery, go to this Danville information page: http://www.danvilleareachamber.com/business-directory/longevity-wines-inc , which gives the address and the tasting hours (weekends noon to 5pm). See if you can get them to ship you a bottle or two. Their wines are priced in the $35 range. Worth double that, easily.

Sometimes It's Tough to Be A Wine Taster! [Mac McCarthy]

One thing I love about working on the SavvyTaste project is that it gives me yet another excuse to taste wines, go to wine tastings, go to dinner-wine pairings, go to wine festivals, and so on. Man, tough job!

But I keep running into a little problem: So many of the wines I'm offered are made in very small lots, or by very small wineries. I put my tasting notes into SavvyTaste.com – but seriously, how will they help the average wine drinker who's looking for a good wine to buy for this weekend? Maybe you'll see one of these wines on the results page and click on it to find out more, and discover "Only 200 cases made," or "Available only at the winery." So how does that help you?

It doesn't. Which is frustrating, because the majority of winetasting events in the San Francisco/Northern California area are of just such wines – small or new high-end wineries trying to generate interest in their wines, or larger established wineries trying to generate interest in their more expensive labels.

The other week, for example, at a wine pairing Taster's Guild event (Taster's Guild is wonderful, by the way, see if there's one near where you live, you've never tasted such wonderful wines and wonderful foods in your life!) – the winery being featured brought a dozen superb wines, and with every wine, the salesperson said "200 cases" or "400 cases of this wine made." Of one wine, just to rub it in, she said "There were 200 cases of this wine made, but only 50 are left."

I sighed and put down my pen. No point doing a taste profile of these, nobody's going to be able to find them in their wine shop, let alone in their supermarket or liquor store!

At the Livermore Harvest Wine Festival in September 2008, I made a point to stop in at Concannon, one of the larger wineries in the valley, so I would be able to taste and rate some wines that might actually show up on the shelves of your local store – and they were only serving one wine, and that one was labeled "LR" – for Limited Release – in fact, it was only available for purchase at the winery!


So to get into the SavvyTaste database some wines that might actually be USEFUL to you, we've started holding SavvyTaste Taste Days – an afternoon where we get together with a dozen local wineloving friends and taste some popular, widely available wines, then put them in the database.

We've had two of these events so far and taste-tested 22 wines – these are wines which are available across the country, in enough volume that most people will be able to find it locally no matter where they live in the U.S., and at prices you can actually afford to buy them without draining your bank account!

It's been a lot of fun, and it also helps me because we're drinking wines that a lot of regular people drink, which helps me keep my taste buds in line after all these high-end tastings of limited-release that cost an arm and a leg – if you can even find them to blow all your money on!