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Posts Tagged: wine

Roof-top gardens on LA skyscrapers connect people with food

UC Cooperative Extension's Rachel Surls said consumer preferences are driving the growth of urban agriculture.
Galvanized horse troughs arranged on the top of a Los Angeles skyscraper have become a productive high-rise herb and vegetable garden, providing ultra-fresh produce to an on-site restaurant, reported Robert Holguin on KABC TV.

"Chefs are using what's produced (in the garden) in their kitchens because they know their customers appreciate fresh, local food," said Rachel Surls, the sustainable food systems advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County.

Surls was part of a recent tour of urban agriculture in downtown Los Angeles, a story that was also covered by the LA Times.

The visitors — who included growers, urban policymakers, consultants, entrepreneurs and representatives of nonprofits — wandered around the vegetable beds and asked questions as they got a taste of the garden. The article said the garden, on the fifth floor of a building at 6th and Figueroa streets, cost about $40,000 to build and yields as much as $150,000 worth of produce every year.

Other news:

Drought clouds future of California wine industry
W. Blake Gray, Wine-searcher-com

The California drought didn't impact the wine industry in 2014, but a dry forecast for next year has growers worried. One major issue is the buildup of salts in soils, said Mark Battany, UC Cooperative farm advisor in San Luis Obispo County. During a wet winter, these salts are washed away. But California hasn't had a wet winter in three years. Farmers were able to irrigate at the beginning of the drought to make up the difference, but increasingly water supplies are restricted.

Battany says that excess salt buildup in the soil can cause grapevines to lose their leaves. "Without a way to process sunlight, you won't see sugar ripening," he said.

Showdown looms as California eyes pesticides
Ellen Knickmeyer, Associated Press

Organic farmers are challenging a proposed California pest-management program they say enshrines a pesticide-heavy approach for decades to come, including compulsory spraying of organic crops at the state's discretion.

The farmers are concerned about the California Department of Food and Agriculture's pest-management plan, the article says. The 500-page document lays out its planned responses to the next wave of fruit flies, weevils, beetles, fungus or blight that threatens crops. Many groups challenging the plan complained that it seems to authorize state agriculture officials to launch pesticide treatments without first carrying out the currently standard separate environmental-impact review.

The article reported that the California organic agriculture industry grew by 54 percent between 2009 and 2012. California leads the nation in organic sales, according to statistics tracked by UC Cooperative Extension specialist Karen Klonsky, who says the state is responsible for roughly one-third of a national organic industry.

Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 9:49 AM

The fine art of spitting: Allowing underage students to taste alcohol

Wine samples ready for tasting at UC Davis. (photo: Ann Filmer / UC Davis)
California's drinking age of 21 prohibits many undergraduate students from learning critical skills early in their academic careers — sensory skills that they will need when they move on to jobs in the multimillion-dollar winemaking, brewing, and food industries.

Not until students turn 21 can they taste the wine and beer they make and learn to assess its sensory quality. Learning the characteristics of a wide assortment of good (and not-so-good) wines and beers is an important component of winemaking and brewing. Having to wait until their junior or senior year to learn these skills is a disadvantage for these students.

Legislation (AB 1989) has been proposed by California Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro (D-North Coast) that will allow students, ages 18 to 21, enrolled in winemaking and brewery science programs to taste alcoholic beverages in qualified academic institutions. The students can taste, but not consume — which means they must learn the professional practice of spitting during the tasting process.

Professor Andrew Waterhouse, an enologist in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, notes that tasting is critical to the students' education.

“Winemakers taste wine daily during harvest to quickly make critical decisions as the winemaking is underway,” Waterhouse said. “Our students need to start learning this skill here, with our guidance. And, they also have to get over the embarrassment of spitting — after every taste.”

Chik Brenneman, the UC Davis winemaker, said that the bill, if passed, “will allow students to move on to the sensory program a lot sooner, before they've finished most of their winemaking classes. Earlier sensory training will help them when they go to work in the industry.”

A student, over age 21, testing wine at UC Davis. (photo: John Stumbos / UC Davis)
Waterhouse said in an interview with NBC Bay Area, “If you don't have the experience of what wine tastes like as it's being made, then you're completely missing a critical skill, which you then have to learn on the job.”

If the legislation passes, it will benefit enology and brewing students at UC Davis, which is the only University of California campus to offer undergraduate degrees in viticulture and enology and in brewing science (an option within the food science major).

While parents of college students may worry that the bill will open the door to widespread drinking, Waterhouse and Brenneman both noted that the focus of the bill is so narrow that its impact will benefit a limited number of students, and that it's unlikely to lead to excessive drinking. They say that the over-21 students routinely spit what they're tasting in a standard industry manner, and that “drinking” in class is not a problem.

With passage of this bill, which is backed by the University of California, the state will join 12 other states that have allowed this educational exemption for students.

Read more:

Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 8:38 AM
Tags: alcohol (2), Andrew Waterhouse (2), beer (3), brewing (1), Chik Brenneman (1), enology (4), students (1), UC Davis (3), viticulture (4), wine (28)

Local collaboration is one secret behind excellent Napa Valley wine

Napa Valley has a worldwide reputation for producing superior wines.
One reason the Napa County wine industry is so successful is its commitment to working together, wrote Paul Franson in an op-ed piece that ran in the Napa Valley Register today. Franson credits frequent industry meetings in the area, where a wealth of information on grape growth and wine production are offered.

A recent meeting he cited was a field day last month in which John Roncoroni, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Napa County, took two groups through the Huichica Creek Demonstration Vineyard in Carneros to teach attendees how to identify weeds that commonly occur in vineyards.

Other local organizations that bring together local grape and wine producers are the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner's office, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Napa Sustainable Winegrowing Group and the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology.

"It’s no wonder that Napa Valley growers get the highest prices for their grapes in the state. They learn how to grow the grapes better," Franson wrote.

Posted on Friday, May 3, 2013 at 8:49 AM
Tags: John Roncoroni (1), Napa County (1), wine (28)

A 'spectacular' year for Mendocino County winegrape growers

Glenn McGourty, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Mendocino County, predicted 2012 will be a wonderful vintage in the North Coast wine region, reported the Ukiah Daily Journal.

"We kind of wish every year could be like that. There was enough water, practically no frost protection needed, and no mold, mildew or rot on the fruit," he said. McGourty told reporter Justine Frederickson he usually finds growers to be pessimistic when they begin harvest, but that wasn't the case in 2012. "I even saw one of them break into a smile," he said.

This winter, the grapevines have been enjoying a much-deserved slumber, particularly with the recent cold snap.

"They like it," McGourty said of the frigid temperatures, adding that the prolonged cold weather in the Ukiah Valley the first half of January is not likely to cause damage.

"The vines are pretty tough," McGourty said. "They can take a lot of cold, and they can go underwater for weeks (without problems), unless there's any foliage."

wine for sale
wine for sale

Posted on Friday, January 25, 2013 at 8:37 AM
Tags: Glenn McGourty (2), Mendocino (1), wine (28)

Farewell corks? Screw caps may outshine corks in wine quality

While many of us cherish the mystique of popping a wine cork, screw caps are becoming more commonplace in the wine industry. Half a century ago, screw caps were associated with cheap rotgut wine, but now they have replaced corks in many premium wines and at many of the world’s best wineries.

Wine bottles are sealed primarily in three ways — natural corks, synthetic corks or screw caps. All have their advantages and disadvantages, and most certainly their proponents and opponents. While synthetic corks never gained much of a foothold in the wine industry, screw caps are being studied more frequently for their efficacy and quality.

While screw caps were originally thought to be airtight, resulting in the unpleasant aroma of hydrogen sulfide inside some sealed wine bottles, screw caps have been developed with different levels of permeability. Most aluminum Stelvin caps are lined with a polyvinylidene chloride–tin foil combination (Saran-Tin), or a polyvinylidene chloride–polyethylene mix (Saranex); each yielding different permeabilities, and chemical and taste profiles in the wine.

Research is weighing the value of screw caps on wine quality and consumers’ ability to taste differences in wine bottled with a cork or a screw cap.

Professor Andrew Waterhouse, UC Davis wine chemist
A new UC Davis study spearheaded by wine chemist Andrew Waterhouse, professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology, is examining Sauvignon Blanc wine quality during aging, and consumers’ ability to taste differences such as oxidation in wine capped with natural cork, synthetic cork or screw caps. The UC Davis research team includes John Boone, a radiologist, and David Fyhrie, a biomedical engineer — both professors in the UC Davis School of Medicine — who will work with Waterhouse to analyze the corks, the wine color and oxidation of the wine.

The study, which will be completed next year, is not touted to give a definitive answer to the best type of wine closure, but it will, according to Waterhouse, give winemakers reliable information on which to judge the type of closure that works best on their wines. (Watch Waterhouse explain the study in a video.)

An earlier study at Oregon State University, and reported in ScienceNews, said that consumers could not discern a difference in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines capped with natural corks or screw caps.

Perhaps what merits future study is the type of linings in screw caps. As screw caps continue to gain a foothold in the wine industry, it’s reasonable to assume that additional research on cap linings will produce additional options for winemakers, resulting in high-quality wines with greater longevity.

Based on research studies and wine experts’ judgments, here are some advantages and disadvantages of different types of wine closures:

Natural Corks:

  • Traditionalists claim that "real" corks allow healthy gas exchange for flavorful wine
  • Some claim that good sources of natural cork are dwindling
  • Not all natural corks are alike, resulting in variable cork properties
  • Higher chance of “corked” wines and trichloranisole (TCA) taint

Synthetic Corks:

  • Considered expensive and unpopular with consumers
  • Many synthetic corks let too much air into the wine bottle
  • They’re often difficult to remove from the bottle, and to re-cork the bottle

Screw Caps:

  • Less chance that wines will be “corked,” and probably fewer tainted wines
  • Some say that air-tight screw caps are “suffocating” to wines

 

Read more:

  1. Corks and screw caps? Can wine consumers taste the variation? UC Davis study
  2. Wine corks are going: the screwcaps are winning. HubPages
  3. Cap or cork, it’s the wine that matters most. ScienceNews
  4. Great wines under cork and screw cap. Forbes
  5. Corks vs. screwcaps. Total Wine & More
  6. Chateau Margaux corks a problem with a screw cap. The Wall Street Journal
  7. 7. Cork vs. screw cap: what’s all the fuss about? Imbibe Liquid Culture
Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 9:16 AM
Tags: Andrew Waterhouse (2), corks (1), David Fyhrie (1), John Boone (1), screw caps (1), UC Davis (3), wine (28), wine quality (1)

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