Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Hard-Working Chicken - The Whole Story

The economy is bad. Prices on gas, milk, orange juice and a decent bottle of grower-produced Champagne are skyrocketing. Desperate times call for drastic measures.

It's time to get to work.

This fine country was founded by hard-working folks and I'm not going to be the one to let our reputation slip. With that in mind, I headed off to my freelance fundraising gig. It's a pretty sweet deal: lots of fresh air, meeting new people and good times shared with my fellow freelancers.

Since Twisted Oak Winery was proclaiming the week, Take Your Rubber Chicken to Work Week, I brought along "Soup," my Twisted Chicken, and of course, I brought along P-Nut, my trusted canine sidekick--in case any other freelancers try to move in on my block.

Well, it seems the Twisted Crew liked the pictures I sent of our day. They even selected me as a finalist in their photo contest. I'm not saying you should vote for me, but you should.

Unfortunately, the picture they posted was only one of three that I sent, and it might reflect badly on my work ethic. In the interest of fairness, I think my readers deserve to see the whole story.

We've just gotten set up in this one. I'm checking out the scene. Traffic looks slow. Not good.

You have to work it for the crowd. This business is all about style. 
"Hey Brother! Can you spare a few bucks for a bottle of Tanner Vineyard Syrah?"

*@#$! cheapskates!

Well, that's it. It wasn't our best day ever, but we had lots of fun.

Don't forget to vote for me.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Green Wine on the Web

Trolling around the Web, I've found some interesting items related to earth-friendly wine consumption that I wanted to share.

Mike Dunne of the The Sacramento Bee has this article concerning what some winemakers are doing to be more environmentally conscious.

On the other side of the world, Darby Higgs of Vinodiversity and Albarino to Zinfandel has this lens on Squidoo about reusable wine bottles.

A new Brim reader, Sean, told me about Glunz Family Winery, outside of Chicago. Glunz sells most of their wines in refillable one-liter swing top bottles. They give a one-dollar discount on the next purchase when the bottle is returned.

It's wonderful to see so much interest in ways that wine drinkers and winemakers can be more environmentally responsible.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Local Wines

My last post has me thinking about local wines. I’m a great proponent of local wines, which can vary widely depending on where you live.

If you live in Washington State, Oregon, California or New York, you probably have a good selection of wineries that are “local.” If you live in Florida (and don’t have an affection for muscadine wine), your options are much more limited. Even states with newly blooming wine industries don’t offer the same quality of vitis vinifera wines as states with a long history of wine production.

I am thrilled, however, by the proliferation of wineries across the country. Appellation America provides a wealth of information about wineries in your area and nationwide, along with the ability to buy many of them.

The rise of local wineries no doubt leads many wine lovers (like myself) to dream about planting their own vines and making Chateau John. A while back, I stumbled across a great blog, Vine Stress, which chronicles the day-to-day work of starting a commercial vineyard in Missouri. It’s a fascinating look into local wine production and a must-read for anyone who is thinking about planting some vines.

My hat's off to Dave, Vine Stress’ author, and all the other fine folks in Kansas, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and the other “non-traditional” wine states who are busting their hump to make Thomas Jefferson’s dream of a nation rich in vineyards and great wines a reality.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Red, White or Green?

Green is the word of the moment.

Like many people, I’m trying to be more aware of where the products I buy come from and purchase more items locally — or as locally as possible. I even found a company in Montana, West Paw Designs, that makes all kinds of cool stuff for my dogs. No more “Made in China” for the pups.

Unfortunately, finding local goods can be challenging, as well as expensive. While I’m doing my best to re-think my food purchases and examining labels a little more closely, wine presents a bit of a dilemma.

Those of you who live in California Wine Country have a distinct advantage when it comes to buying local wine. I would love to be able to visit so many great wineries and purchase my wine there, or at least know my wine didn’t have to travel far.

Since it’s a bit of a haul from South Carolina to California, that’s not really an option. I could still buy California wine on the premise that it’s closer than some of the other places that produce the wines I enjoy.

That brings up the issue of cost. I drink very little California wine, simply because it costs significantly more than wines of comparable quality from elsewhere. Even the once super-affordable zinfandel is climbing towards $20 a bottle for decent juice. When there are so many great wines coming from Spain, Italy and South America in the $8-$12 range, I have a hard time justifying the higher cost of California wines.

Plus, I'm poor (and cheap).

The East Coast is certainly producing great wines and production is increasing every year. From Massachusetts and New York to Virginia and North Carolina, new wineries are popping up and existing wineries are coming into their own as national players.

South Carolina, as with many things, is far behind the curve.

Thanks to bickering between the states and archaic alcohol laws, I can get all the California wine I want, but North Carolina and Virginia wines are difficult to find. I have been able to find some of the wines I love, especially the wines of Horton Vineyards, but I'd like a larger selection.

I’m aware that most retailers shy away from East Coast wines because there isn’t much of a demand, at least around here. I hope that as people become more aware of the energy it takes to move your beloved vino from the winery to your table, buying local will become more of a priority.

I also hope the less-than-enlightened politicians (yes, I’m talking to you, S.C. politicians) realize that grape growing and winemaking are a big asset for the local economy. One look at the success New York or Virginia has had is enough to convince anyone that a local wine industry attracts tourism, creates jobs and (if done right) has a relatively low environmental impact.

It's also up to wine drinkers to discover, drink and promote local wines, whether they live in Napa or Missouri. Wine lovers are frequently the people who search out local produce, and then enjoy their meal with a French wine that has travled more than 4,000 miles.  

In future posts, I hope to dig a little deeper into ways I can reduce the impact my wine consumption has on the environment. In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to start making an occasional trip up to North Carolina to stock up on some local wine.

I’d really rather save the gas and spend my money at home, but you got to do what you got to do. As a wise frog once said, “It ain’t easy bein' green.”

Just for fun, here's a sample of how far some of the wines in my collection might have traveled:

Southeastern Australia - 10,197 miles

Buenos Aires, Argentina - 4,923 miles

Paris, France - 4,226 miles

Madrid, Spain - 4,148 miles

Twisted Oak Winery, Vallecito, California - 2,645 miles

Horton Vineyards, Gordonsville, Virginia - 422 miles

Westbend Vineyards, Lewisville, North Carolina - 175 miles