Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gov'mint Warnin'

Are you aware that the Government Warning: in bold and larger than 2mm on US wine bottles is illegal on wines sold in Europe? Why? Well, Europe has a 'truth in labeling' requirement. No opinions or false statements can be placed on European wine labels.

What you say? The US Gov'mint is always right. Well, not in this case. Let's examine the Gov'mint warnin'.

ACCORDING TO THE SURGEON GENERAL:' at 2mm or larger pint all in caps making it less readable, states that this is not scientific fact or evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. It is one person's opinion. And to top it off, I don't think that person is either a surgeon or a general. What war did they fight in? Would General Petraeus qualify? Who do they cut up in their spare time? Would you let them operate on you?

'WOMEN SHOULD NOT DRINK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES DURING PREGNANCY BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF BIRTH DEFECTS." I knew there was an explanation for the French. Just kidding. Fetal alcohol syndrome is caused by massive ingestion of alcohol - usually vodka - by brain-dead whores who ingest more than a bottle a day. I do not recommend drinking while pregnant, but unless you want your kid to turn our French, it doesn't seem to make that much difference if you drink in moderation - and why wouldn't you only drink in moderation ALL THE TIME.

Here is a test. Read the following list of words:


Okay, so you might be sober enough to catch the last word.

"CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IMPAIRS YOUR ABILTY TO DRIVE A CAR OR OPERATE MACHINERY." I definitely don't drive after I think I have imbibed a little too much, but I have been known to try to operate MacHinery and he doesn't work as well as he does when sober. So my best advice is to get her drunk and stay somewhat sober so you can still operate MacHinery.

"AND MAY CAUSE HEALTH PROBLEMS." And may not. Wine drinkers are healthier than T-totallers. They are also smarter, but that may be a confusing demographic. Wine is an historic beverage and has basically lead to civilization. Look at places where wine is not regularly consumed like Kentucky and Saudi Arabia.

I'll bet you never thought you would see those two places in the same sentence!

Now do you know why I am grumpy?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Website Designers Suck

About once a week, someone wants to make Bonair Winery famous by redesigning our website. I admit it, I do our web design and I am not a professional web designer - if there is such a thing. It's the age old problem of people thinking wineries have money to burn and they really don't know the business.

Do you want to become the next (name omitted famous Walla winery)? We just designed their website and you can be as famous as they are if we design your website. Hasn't (name omitted famous Walla winery) been famous since before the internet? Isn't Bonairwine.com one of the oldest winery websites on the internet? Anyway, I looked up (name omitted famous Walla winery) website to get some ideas. On my DSL connection, granted, not the fastest in the world, but not dial up either, it takes a full minute to load a curtain going up on a window. Then, I get to click to enter the site. Most of my visitors tracked by Google Analytics only spend about a minute on the site - the maximum attention span of the average American idiot. Why would I want an intro that lasts longer than a person's attention span?

Do you want your site to be in the top ten on Google search? Tell me, what key word are you talking about? I am already number one for 'Bonair Winery.' If you are so good, if you have eleven winery clients, whose site becomes number 11? They can't all be in the top ten.

Do you want to sell more wine on the internet? Well, I can ship to Washington, Minnesota, Alaska, and Florida. Why would I want to invest in a lot of money in generating more business which is illegal to sell to? How dumb is that?

Do you want more people to attend your events? Well, no, our events are by invitation only, so changing the website doesn't change who gets invited. In fact, if they really did their research, they would find our events page refers you to http://rattlesnakehills.com/events.htm which lists all the events in the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail.

What do I want my website to do? Not a whole lot. It is there for people who know us and have questions like, when are we open, what wines are available, and yes, if you live in our selected few states, you can order on line. If you are new, it has a map and directions - ones that actually work, not like Tom Tom which routes you to a dead end. It is easy to update, because I have the programs to do it. I can add pictures, change pictures, and rewrite text. Websites are for conveying information, not for entertainment. Go to You Tube for that. The quicker they answer a question, the better they work.

So, don't try to sell me something you don't know about. That makes me grumpy. The wine industry is not a cash cow ready to be milked.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

US Bottle Manufacturers Try to Go out of Business - and Will Probably Succeed

Enron took a cue from the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973. During this trumped-up crisis, oil became scarce and prices soared. Oil companies made a killing because oil consumption in the US actually rose during the 'embargo.' There never was a real shortage of oil, just the perception created by the oil companies and President Nixon. The saying, "Oil crisis means higher prices," became common vernacular.

During the California Energy Crisis of 2000 and 2001, Enron took the lesson from the oil embargo of 1973 and closed down a lot of generating plants for 'maintenance.' This phony crisis created a shortage of electricity and as we know, "Energy crisis means higher prices." Enron made a killing - for a while.

Not to be outdone, in 2006 the glass bottle manufacturers of the United States decided they wanted a bigger cut of the rising world of sky-high wine prices, so they shut down half the furnaces in the US for phony 'maintenance.' After all, "Bottle crisis means higher prices." Wineries were required to preorder their glass one year in advance to be assured of deliveries. Wineries received monthly notices to buy now because the surcharge on the surcharges was going up next month. The glass companies made a killing -for a while.

This seemed a good strategy at the time. Remember, US corporations have no long-term vision. They are into short-term profits only. Chinese glass at the time was clunky, not very round, and the corks sometimes didn't fit. Canada was in on the scheme and Mexico couldn't produce enough glass to meet demand. We were able to get Mexican glass that year.

In the US, it takes ten years to build a factory. Five years to fight the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and the Democratic Party. Five more years fighting local petty bureaucrats for permits and building code design. So, the only new glass plant in the US, Cameron Family Glass, failed.

In China, things are different. Drive down a boulevard in Shenzhen on Monday and you will see a vacant lot. Drive by on Tuesday, and you will see heavy equipment. Drive by on Wednesday, and you will see cranes erecting a building. Drive by on Friday and you will see people working at the brand-new state-of-the-art bottle factory. No bullshit environmental impact studies or NIMBY neighbors.

Because they tried to stick it to us, I have no loyalty to American bottle manufacturers - most of whom are French-owned anyway. Our next shipment of bottles will be all Chinese. We save $2 per case. On cases that sell for $56, that $2 goes in my pocket. They are nice looking bottles with a slight punt - much nicer than the flat-bottom overpriced low-end US bottles. We have run Chinese glass on our line for other wineries and it works fine. US industries take note: the Chinese don't try to sell shoddy products at inflated prices for short-term gain. Their goal is to create world-class products at low prices and eat your lunch.

I think American bottle manufacturers deserve to go out of business because of their greed, just like greedy wineries that charged exorbitant prices for wine deserve to go bankrupt. Enron got what it deserved. Unfortunately, BP, Chevron, and Exxon* are still screwing us and they aren't even using petroleum jelly. (Okay, so they are using lubricant to screw the Gulf Coast, but that is different.)

And you wonder why I am grumpy.

*Exxon is a combination of Esso (the original name) and Nixxon, as a thank you to the president for the oil crisis and obscene profits.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Organic Farming Involves a lot of BS

It's Sunday. I know it is Sunday because my neighbor is spraying his organic nectarines. Organic farming requires weekly spraying. I'm not sure what he is spraying. It might be sulfur, oil, or copper sulfate. Copper sulfate is extremely toxic to fish and animals, but since it can be mined from the earth, it is an organic pesticide. Buy it at Whole Paycheck market.

City people think of organic as braless hippie chicks in long dresses and their bastard children picking bugs off the vines. Who hasn't picked tomato worms from their backyard tomato vines? Well, modern organic agriculture is big business and the 640 acre organic block sits next to the 640 acre convention block. My neighbor had a good thing going. He is a good farmer and puts out a quality product, but last year the largest grower in the state came on the market with 1100 acres of organic nectarines. The market went caput. Organic farming is no longer for hippies living off the land - or small farmers trying to find a niche market. Organic farming is big agribusiness. I suggest you read The Omnivores Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.

I think conventional farming is safer. Remember the parents who bought their child organic apple juice because it was safer? The child died from e. coli that came from the manure spread on the organic orchard. Synthetic fertilizers don't pose that hazard. My fear is that when I buy conventional lettuce I might be getting organic, because when the organic market is saturated, organic produce is simply diverted into the lower priced conventional market. Maybe we need a 'certified safe conventional' label.

We don't use copper sulfate on our vineyard because it will eventually poison the soil, but if our vineyard were classified organic, we would be spraying Bordeaux mixture which contains copper sulfate. Sulfur also changes the pH of the soil. Our soil is alkaline which limits the vegetal growth of the vines. Using sulfur over long periods of time in large amounts will acidify the soil and act as a fertilizer to the grapes, lowering the wine quality in return.

Pesticides got a bad name back in the 1950's when DDT (synthetic) and lead arsenate (organic) were used without regard to the environment. Today, in the Yakima Valley we suffer from poisoned soils from apple orchards that would have been classified as organic because they used lead arsenate as a primary pesticide. These heavy metals are poorly water soluble and are persistent in the soil for years. Just because it comes from the earth, doesn't mean it is safe. Mother nature, by nature, is very toxic. A list of all organic chemicals can be found here. I find it interesting that synthetic chemicals are organic and organic chemicals are inorganic. Go figure.

I calculate that it would take three times the diesel to farm our grapes organically. First there is mechanical weeding under the vines. One tractor can do about 1-2 acres a day. We have 35 acres, so one tractor would be dedicated to weed control, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Synthetic chemicals have a spray interval of 14 to 21 days and are sprayed at rates of ounces per acre. Organic chemicals have a spray interval of 7 days and are sprayed a rates of pounds per acre. Using this much diesel is not earth-friendly. Sustainable farming involves making the most earth-friendly choices by balancing all factors.

Hence, we farm sustainable, but not organically.