Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is your Wine - Too Smokey?

As reported by "Wine & Spirits Daily"

October 22, 2008

Smoke Taint Abroad

California is not the only wine grape producing region that has faced smoke taint in recent years. Australian vintners, Canadians and producers from Greece, among others, have reported brushfires which some scientists warn could get worse in the future as the climate changes. Exposed wine grapes run the risk of passing the flavor to wine, resulting in a not-so-pleasant product that is described as tasting like smoked meat.

Scientists are focusing their attention on smoke taint and ways to prevent it. An article in ABC news claims a variety of solutions are now on trial, including vine sprays and reverse osmosis. One thing scientists recently learned: grape leaves are most likely responsible for absorbing the smoke, although the skin of the grapes was initially considered the gateway.

Causes for alarm began with the 2003 brushfires in southern Australia and were heightened after Napa Valley faced its own brush fires this summer, which is now beginning to show effects in California wine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wine Pouring in New Jersey

Brother in laws can be great. I sure have one in Tony Jackapino. The top picture is Tony with Piero Ferrari, in Italy (for Ferrari 60th anniversary event, with me) and the next picture, Tony is pouring our wine with his lovely wife, Raeanne (unfortunately not pictured), in New Jersey at a fundraising event. Am I ever lucky!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Water and Climate in California as reported by ACWA

Delta Vision Strategic Plan to be DiscussedThe fifth and final staff draft of a strategic plan for the Delta was released Friday by the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force. The task force will meet this Thursday and Friday to discuss the plan. Once finalized, it will be sent to a cabinet-level Delta Vision Committee charged with making recommendations to the governor and the Legislature.ACWA submitted formal comments last month on the fourth draft of the plan. ACWA’s comments are available here. The fifth staff draft is available here.The task force meeting will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, at the West Sacramento City Hall Galleria, 1110 West Capitol Avenue, West Sacramento.Visit for more information.

MWD Closes Boat Ramps at Diamond Valley, Warns of RationingThe Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves nearly 18 million people, closed the boat ramps at Diamond Valley Lake in Riverside County due to low water level. The lake is at 60% capacity. Opened in 2003, Diamond Valley was meant to be the major drinking-water storage facility for Southern California, as well as an insurance policy against a traumatic cutoff of water. MWD General Manager Jeff Kightlinger said that the district’s board will soon be considering rationing, either by “easing into it” in 2009 or cutting “steeply” in 2010.

New Report Says California's Heating UpAverage temperatures are on the rise in California and especially in the Central Valley, according to a new report released today by Environment California Research & Policy Center. The report, “Feeling the Heat: Global Warming and Rising Temperatures in the United States,” compares government temperature data for the years 2000-2007 with average temperatures for the preceding 30 years. It finds that Central Valley cities such as Redding, Stockton and Fresno recorded average temperatures up to 1.8° F above the historical average in 2000-2007. In 2007 alone, the average temperature was 1.4° F above normal in Redding and 1.6° F in Fresno.The report cites a recent report by the Bush administration that identified water shortages from early snowmelt, degraded air quality, wildfires, drought, extreme rainfall with flooding and sea-level rise as particular risks for California and the Pacific region if warming continues as projected.The Environment California report is available here.

Some Bottled Water Exceeds State Limits, Tests FindOakland-based Environmental Working Group has tested 10 brands of bottled water and found that several contained chemical levels that exceeded legal limits in California.The tests discovered an average of eight contaminants in each brand. Four brands including Wal-Mart's Sam’s Choice also were contaminated with bacteria.The environmental group filed a notice of intent to sue Wal-Mart Tuesday, alleging that the mega-chain failed to warn the public of illegal concentrations of trihalomethanes, which are cancer-causing chemicals.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Great kudo's for our winemaker Marta Kraftzeck

Dean of female winemakers
Kraftzeck crafts products for Chateau Julien
By ROBERT WALCH • For The Salinas Californian • October 13, 2008

CARMEL VALLEY - It's very possible that had Marta Kraftzeck not become a winemaker, the Monterey native would have gone into teaching.

The veteran Monterey County winemaker, who will celebrate two decades at Chateau Julien in Carmel Valley next year, has discovered she enjoys sharing her knowledge of wine and winemaking with anyone interested enough to listen.
In fact, her eyes light up when someone asks a question about her profession. In a sense, she considers herself an ambassador for the wine industry.
"I enjoy explaining how we make wine and why we do the things we do," Kraftzeck said.
She also likes to help people determine why they like a particular wine. If an individual can master a few "descriptors" - adjectives that describe a given wine - he or she will be better equipped to make intelligent wine purchases, she said.
"Rather than asking for a bottle of white wine, if a person can say he or she wants a Chardonnay with no oak or a 'soft' cabernet, the individual is saying much more," Kraftzeck said, as she explained why some knowledge is important when selecting wine. "I think the key is to determine what you like or what you don't like and then be able to describe that wine in simple terms."
Although she has always enjoyed talking about wine, the dean of Monterey County's female winemakers has discovered there are a lot of people eager to hear what she has to say.
About 10 years ago when Peter Meckel, director of Hidden Valley in Carmel Valley, asked Kraftzeck if she would be interested in conducting wine classes as part of the Elderhostel program offered at the center, she said, "Sure, why not?"
Since then, Kraftzeck has become certified as a wine educator. There are only a few hundred individuals in the U.S. holding such certification.
Liking an educational challenge, Kraftzeck said she took the test not because she was conducting Elderhostel classes but because she wanted to see if she could get the certification.
"I think there's a little intimidation that's been created by some people in the wine industry," she said. "I'd like to lessen that fear some people have that they should be afraid of voicing their likes or dislikes about wine."
Kraftzeck emphatically stated that she encourages her students to "follow their own taste buds" and not be influenced by someone's ranking or how many medals a wine has captured.
When she conducts her Elderhostel classes two or three times a month, Kraftzeck will have between 12 and 50 people in the room. What she likes about working with seniors is that they are very honest.
"They are very up-front and not afraid to say anything," she said. "At their time in life they aren't shy, nor do they care what someone else thinks. But best of all, they are still interested in learning and that's why they participate in the Elderhostel program."
Does she ever take offense when some of the seniors nod off during a class?
"Never!" Kraftzeck exclaimed. "It's after dinner, so of course that will happen occasionally. I never take it personally. Someone falling asleep doesn't faze me at all - as long as there's no snoring."
Kraftzeck also teaches a monthly class at Chateau Julien called The World of Wine.
"I give a slide presentation of various wine regions so everyone has a visual idea of the area, and then we do some wine tasting," she said. "We have had about 25 people at each session."
As with any dedicated teacher, Kraftzeck is also striving to learn more about her subject area.
"I like to study and keep learning new things," she said. "I believe learning should be a lifelong passion, not something that stops when you leave school."
To this end she recently took and passed the first level test to be a certified sommelier. In December she'll tackle the second of four levels.
"I don't think I'll go any further than level two, since I have no real desire to serve wine," she said. "I just wanted to see if I could do it."

What Does the Federal Reserve have to say about the West

October 15, 2008
Federal Reserve Districts
Twelfth District--San Francisco
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Full report

Economic activity in the Twelfth District weakened further during the survey period of September through early October. Retail sales were very sluggish on net, and demand fell for most categories of services. Manufacturing activity slowed, but sales continued to grow for agricultural products and natural resources. Activity in District housing markets generally remained anemic, and demand for commercial real estate weakened further. Contacts from financial institutions reported a decline in loan demand and credit quality, along with a drop in credit availability. Upward pressures on prices remained significant overall, due to the delayed influence of past increases in the prices of energy and selected commodities.
Wages and PricesDespite some easing of late, upward pressures on prices remained substantial. Prices on energy and selected commodities, including food products and some raw materials, have come down from their recent highs. However, these prices generally remained at elevated levels and continued to exert substantial upward pressure on overall final prices, due to the delayed effects of earlier price increases. Prices for many retail items were held down by extensive discounting, but some contacts cautioned that pending increases have been working their way through the supply chain and will reach consumers late this year and in 2009.
Wage pressures eased further as the degree of labor market slack deepened. Job cuts were reported across a wide range of industries, particularly in the construction, finance, and real estate sectors. As a result, unemployment rose throughout the District, and contacts noted that wages have been largely flat of late. The primary exception is worker groups whose skills enable them to use advanced technologies, for whom wage gains remained significant.
Retail Trade and ServicesRetail sales were quite sluggish and appeared to fall during the survey period, despite the influence of the back-to-school shopping season. Sales remained weak and inventories rose further for department stores and smaller retail outlets alike. Discount chains continued to see stronger demand than traditional department stores, as consumers switched away from high-priced items and curbed discretionary spending; outdoor equipment such as camping gear was one bright spot, as households gravitated towards low-cost vacation options. Sales for retailers of furniture and household appliances continued to slide from already low levels, and unit sales of gasoline fell further. Sales fell considerably for all types of automobiles, both new and used, with reduced credit availability reportedly emerging as a significant constraint.
Demand for services fell further compared with the previous survey period. Health-care providers reported declining demand, with some medical centers noting a significant drop in cash collectibles recently. Sales weakened for providers of advertising, professional, and legal services, idling some workers and reducing capacity utilization. Activity remained moribund for providers of real estate services such as title insurance. Contacts noted modest declines in tourist activity in some major tourist destinations in the District, such as Southern California and Las Vegas; the drop was more significant in Hawaii and was accompanied by layoffs there.
ManufacturingDistrict manufacturing activity slowed during the survey period of September through early October. Although manufacturers of commercial aircraft still faced an extensive backlog of orders, activity in that sector was sharply curtailed by an ongoing labor dispute. Makers of semiconductors and other information technology products continued to experience high rates of capacity utilization and moderate sales gains, but signs of a softening in global demand have emerged. Demand for wood products remained very weak, causing additional mill shutdowns. Activity at petroleum refineries continued at low levels, and capacity utilization remained well below its longer-term average. Capacity utilization also was very low among metal fabricators, for whom demand has weakened substantially. Firms in most sectors reported limited capital spending of late, with plans to hold flat or reduce spending during the balance of 2008.
Agriculture and Resource-related IndustriesDemand and sales for agricultural items and natural resources continued to expand during the recent survey period. Brisk sales were reported for most crops, propelled in part by strong export demand. Demand remained solid for petroleum products, spurring further expansion of extraction capacity. However, the recent decline in oil prices has reduced the viability of some high-cost expansion projects, and the recent hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico sharply curtailed capacity utilization for District companies with operations there.
Real Estate and ConstructionThe District's severe housing slump continued, while demand for commercial real estate eroded further. Demand and sales remained very weak for new and existing homes, and prices continued to fall. Foreclosure rates on existing homes, which were already high in parts of Arizona, California, and Nevada, rose noticeably in Utah and Idaho. Widespread availability of foreclosed homes at bargain basement prices spurred sales of existing homes to exceed their levels from twelve months earlier in some parts of California. Demand for nonresidential real estate fell, and limited credit availability reportedly constrained property purchases and the number and scope of projects that were underway in some areas. Vacancy rates on commercial space rose in Las Vegas and other major metropolitan areas. Contacts noted that the strongest construction activity by far was for public buildings such as hospitals and schools.
Financial InstitutionsLending activity and credit conditions weakened noticeably during the survey period. Demand for commercial and industrial loans fell further, and demand for new residential mortgages remained very weak. Credit availability declined significantly as banks and other financial institutions faced rising difficulties securing short-term funding. Contacts also pointed to higher delinquency rates in all loan categories. Banks and customers are taking steps to enhance deposit-insurance coverage of existing holdings by spreading deposits across multiple banks.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Stock and Credit Market Woo's - What a Week!

This has been a difficult week to pay attention to anything other than CNBC. The world has, once again, is in financial distress. Hard to find fun things to Blog about.
One good thing, our Estate Sangiovese, used for Rosato and Sangiovese, is nearing harvest as the Brix level has reached 20.2. We are fully two weeks ahead of last year and look forward to harvest in a few weeks.
Observation - A few Glasses of wine and the world seems to be a better place!