April 1, 2008
No Joking Around

It may be April 1, but you won't find any pranks here. These items are the real deal:

- When officials of California's Democratic Party met in San Jose over the weekend they were poured the first wines to be released by the United Farm Workers' Union, reported KCBS News. Sure enough, the brand Black Eagle Wines is raising its profile this week with several tastings as the union commemorates the 40th anniversary of Cesar Chavez's first long public fast. According to the brand's Web site, the first three wines - cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, merlot - are being made by a Napa Valley winery with Napa Valley fruit. They can be ordered through the Web site.

- When a bottle of wine appears in a television show or movie it just doesn't happen to be chilling in a fridge on the set. Product placement is big business, of course, and Kevin McCallum of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat gives it an unusually deep and entertaining look by focusing on just how one small participant, the wine trade, is involved. His insightful read can be found here.

- Charles Bamforth, chair of the department of food science and technology at UC Davis, has a new book out, "Grape Vs. Grain," in which he explores the contrasting traditions, science and culture of beer and wine. I'm about halfway through it, and just came across this comment: "One of the biggest differences between beer and wine is that to make the former a huge amount of water is used, whereas for the latter, there is need for relatively little." This is apt to alarm more than comfort highly regarded wine writer Jancis Robinson. As she points out in a recent essay, it takes as much as 10 litres of water in the winery alone to produce a litre of wine, and that's just for cleaning the equipment. She provides other unsettling figures, some of them from vintner David Graves of the winery Saintsbury in the Carneros area at the southern reaches of Napa and Sonoma counties. Robinson is pretty frantic about the long-range consequences of climate change and thirsty vineyards, so it might not be the best time to offer her a beer.

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