Business or Pleasure: Spotting Escorts or Real Ladies

“Find the real ladies in the midst of escorts”


We understand that sometimes it’s a little difficult to figure out which ladies on online hookup sites are actually escorts, and which ones are actually real. Even if you’re using the best sites to get laid, there’s still a chance that you might run into an escort or three, and that means that you’re just always going to have to be careful about who you talk to. Fortunately, we’ve been around the block, and we really know how to tell an escort apart from someone that’s actually real. Sites like SocialSex.com might be amazingly clean when it comes to a lack of escort scams, but there are a lot of others out there that aren’t as great, and that means that you’re just going to have to be careful.

Check Out Her Pictures

“You can tell a lot from her profile pictures”


As far as we’ve ever seen, escorts are the ones with professional, tailored pictures that really are quite sexual. They’re posting up these kinds of pictures to really drag men into their profiles and usually, link them to their own personal websites with more information about them. While this isn’t always the case, we usually find ourselves dealing with more escorts with these professional pictures than not…and that means that you’re going to have to be careful whenever you see a picture like this. Escorts also usually have pictures that are watermarked, and they might seem somewhat photo-shopped. This means that there are a lot of edits, and that the watermark is from the company that they work for, or from the photographer that took the picture. These are some of the biggest warning sites of all, because in general, real, dateable women on these websites aren’t going to have anything close to these kinds of pictures. You’ve been around enough by now that you know what a real woman’s picture looks like. They’re usually selfies, pictures taken with friends, or pictures on vacation. We can’t say that they’re never going to have a professional picture up on their profile, but if they do, we doubt they’re going to be in scantily clad lingerie. This is why we usually just start with the profile picture on the best sites to get laid, and go from there when it comes to figuring out whether or not a woman is real or not. It’s a great first indicator, and it tells us a lot about the woman we’re trying to get with.

Profile Content

“Read her profile thoroughly”


In general, escorts aren’t really going to go into their interests or hobbies. They aren’t going to sit around and try to talk about what they’re really into, because they know that men aren’t going to contact them for that sort of thing. They might just use their profiles to list one link that points to their own personal website, actually, and that means that you’re going to have to click that to find anything about them…which, honestly, is usually just more about the kinds of sex that they’re into. This isn’t always the case, but in general, we’ve found that escorts put very little work into their profiles. They might post their physical statistics, and maybe a few flippant little hobbies to try and throw you off, but that’s about it. They aren’t interested in that, and they don’t see any reason to chat about that sort of thing, especially if they’re trying to get in at the door at SocialSex.com. Yes, even the best sites to get laid have to deal with this! Real women, on the other hand, usually put a lot of work into their profiles. They take the time to talk about what they’re into, what they do for a living, and again, that’s something that escorts aren’t going to talk about. What they do for a living is sleep with guys, and obviously, a real woman isn’t going to put that on her profile. She’s going to actually address her job, or maybe even the fact that she’s going to school as opposed to leaving her employment and schooling mysteriously blank like a lot of escorts would. This is a common thing we see, so keep an eye out for that sort of thing when you’re browsing. You really want to see a profile that’s full to bursting with all kinds of information. While that might not always be the case, most people that are serious about actually hooking up online will try to tell a good deal about themselves, and that means that for the most part, your real online hookup will chat a good deal about the kinds of things she enjoys in hopes of finding a man that also can enjoy those sorts of things with her.

Links, Any Links

“Don’t click on any link”


The profile of an escort is going to have links. It’s not going to be covered in them, but it’s going to have links all the same. These usually will go to her personal website where she has contact services that will help you ‘meet up’ with her, and almost always, these will include prices that you will need to pay her. When it comes to hooking up, this is obviously not what you want to deal with. You don’t want to pay a woman to have sex with you; you want to have sex with someone that’s really into it, and really into you as well. Real women aren’t going to have this sort of thing. At most, they will have a link to their Twitter or Facebook or something similar. This is the kind of thing that you need to keep an eye out for. The more ‘normal’ these women seem to be, the better. In general, you aren’t going to find a woman that’s 100% the girl next door type on these sites, and that’s obviously not what you’re looking for all the time. We’re just saying that you don’t want someone that’s oversexed, linking to pornography, or linking to a site where you can pay them for ‘favors.’ No real woman on any hookup site is going to have things like that going on with their profile. It goes without saying, but you should never, ever click these kinds of links. That’s not going to help you out when it comes to getting laid, and there’s a good chance that it’s going to give you a virus or at the very least, a ton of spam mail. Never try to contact an escort, because it’s just not going to do anything for you…and remember, escorts are actually illegal. You don’t want to end up getting arrested just because you want sex. You need to visit a legit site to get laid. Visit getlaidsitereviews.ca and read SocialSex.com review to make your final decision In general, dealing with escorts is pesky, but not the end of the world. It’s all a matter of knowing what to look for when it comes to avoiding them online, and that’s something that you’ll definitely end up getting used to as time goes on. We’ve been around the block with online dating sites, so we can spot an escort from a mile away. With that in mind, just try to keep your eyes peeled, and you’ll be that much better off when it comes to using dating sites. No matter what, be careful, and good luck.

5 Signs to Tell You’re Ready for a Serious Relationship

You’re dating and you’re having the best time of your life. A surprise visit, a fancy night at a restaurant, or a talk over wine and candles – they all seem sweet, but what will you be ready when he’s ready to go serious with you?

Most people who are recovering from a relationship will probably have a hard time committing again. Don’t worry; we’ve arranged 5 signs that will tell you if you’re ready for a serious relationship.

  1. You’re confident and happy being alone

Learning to be happy alone, free from insecurities, means being comfortable in your own skin. When you’re single, you’re giving yourself all the time you need, and that’s good. It gives you time to discover things about yourself you didn’t know and to appreciate yourself without having someone else to please. You love yourself – and you should. Always love yourself before loving others.

  1. You’re selfless and not prideful

Never be selfish, because if you are – relationships just don’t work for you. Selfish people engage in relationships because they’re after their own happiness and sadly with time, it fades. When things don’t go very well, selfish people just disappear. Also, never be prideful – we bring others down if we are. Strip yourself of these bad traits before entering a relationship.

5 Signs You're Ready To Propose

5 Signs You’re Ready To Propose

  1. You’re done searching for it

It’s true when they say the person who’s most ready to love is someone who’s done pursuing relationships. People in constant pursuit of relationships usually set standards and can’t seem to find their match – this is a very bad practice. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean needing someone, it’s being with someone you unconditionally love and enjoy spending your time with.

  1. You’ve recovered from a past relationship

No other sign gives more sense than having recovered from a past flame. Whether it was a bad relationship, or an okay one – you always have to give yourself time to heal. Never rush into a relationship if you haven’t moved on and this doesn’t need an explaining. Rebound relationships may stop the pain, but will only make the healing go at a slower pace. Give healing a time, because it is very rewarding once you’ve moved on and you’re not afraid anymore.

13 signs you’re ready to move in together

13 signs you’re ready to move in together

  1. You’re smiling more now

You don’t let the bad and the good things of life bring you overboard. Having a stable mood is very crucial when entering relationships. If you’re smiling more than judging yourself – you know you’ve accepted yourself unconditionally. That in turn says you’re ready to accept and love someone unconditionally.

So have you noticed these signs yet? Yes? Then you’re ready! Oh, and one more thing – find what makes you happy and share it with him. Take responsibility for the decisions you make. In turn, this will help your relationship grow. Good luck!

What to Do When Your Phone Gets Stolen

Wireless devices, specifically smartphones, have become primary targets of robbers. Smartphones are pretty expensive and they may also contain personal information that robbers can use to their advantage. Losing your phone can be very devastating especially that most of your life depends on it. Then again, you can’t dwell on what’s already happened. You should instead focus on the consequences of losing your phone. More importantly, you have to protect yourself as well as your personal information found in your mobile device.

How to stay away from theft

You have to check your surroundings before taking out your phone. If you feel that it’s an unsafe location, keep your phone or use it discreetly. If you’re in a public place, don’t leave your device anywhere. If you leave it inside the car, make sure it’s hidden.

It is also important for you to know the make and model of your device as well as its serial number and unique ID number. You may have to give this to the police in case you lose your phone. Finally, know what you can do if your mobile device is stolen. Will you get a replacement? If you don’t think the policy is good enough, you may get device insurance.

What to do when your cell phone or tablet is missing?

What to do when your cell phone or tablet is missing?

How to protect data that is on your phone

It is best to establish a password so that thieves can’t access it. It’s very important to restrict access so your personal info will not be stolen and you won’t have unwanted charges that will balloon your bill.

You can also put your alternative phone number or email address on the display in case someone can find your device and would want to return it to you. Just make sure that sensitive info is not found on the display.

What Happens When Your Phone Is Lost Or Stolen

What Happens When Your Phone Is Lost Or Stolen

Always be careful with the info you store in your phone. There are apps that may permit access to robbers, leading to identity theft. Also, make use of anti-theft software.

What to do if your phone gets stolen

Try to locate your phone with the use of a GPS locator that’s on your anti-theft software. Lock your device remotely just to be safe. Your anti-theft software also allows you to get rid of sensitive info so make sure to take advantage of it. You can even activate the alarm by using the software.

Don’t hang around. Call your carrier right away and tell them about the loss. You don’t want to incur huge charges because the thief is using your phone. Your carrier may also disable your phone and even block access to your phone if you can provide them with the serial number.

Never forget to head to the police. Provide information on what happened. You may also need to present a police report to your carrier for proper documentation. If it’s not possible to lock your device, change all passwords right away. This goes for your email, social networking accounts, and banking accounts.

A stolen phone can be a big headache, but a stolen identity is definitely worse. So be careful when using your mobile phone and always take the necessary steps so that you’re far from the prying eyes of robbers.

High Impact VS Low Impact Exercises: Which Is Right for You?

All of us want to have healthy and fit bodies. As much as we’d like to achieve our goals the next day, we still have to work hard for it. What if you don’t have too much time to spare? If time is limited, then you have to pick a routine that works for you. You should be able to get the most out of it without wasting your time. One thing you need to consider is whether you should go with low impact or high impact workouts. Which is best for you?

What’s the difference between the two?

Low impact workouts refer to movements where a foot stays on the ground all the time and only one leaves the ground at a certain time. Examples are walking and aerobics that don’t include jumping. High impact workouts, on the other hand, require both feet to leave the ground simultaneously. Examples are jumping jacks, jumping rope, and running.

What are the advantages of low impact workouts?

Low impact workouts won’t tire your muscles and joints too much. This means that there’s a lesser chance that you’re going to strain your muscles or injure your joints. However, when it comes to building your bone mass, low impact workouts are not as effective as high impact workouts.

Low Impact vs. High Impact Exercises: Which is Right for You?

Low Impact vs. High Impact Exercises: Which is Right for You?

High impact workouts can make you burn a lot of calories in no time. You’ll be sweating really quickly. Since your heart is going to pump faster, you won’t be spending so much time doing the exercises just to enjoy its benefits.

Which one is best for you?

Beginners go best with low impact workouts. If your muscles have already adjusted, you may opt for high impact workouts. People with arthritis and other joint problems are also advised to do low impact exercises. If you’re overweight, it’s best to go with low impact workouts too. The best time to start doing high impact exercises is when your body is prepared for it. If low impact routines become so easy to do, it’s time to move up. You have to increase your intensity in order to gain more from your workout. There’s no better way to do that than to head to high impact routines.

5 Low-Impact Exercises that Blast Calories

5 Low-Impact Exercises that Blast Calories

Although these two workouts are different, they are still beneficial to your body. It all comes down to how well you perform the routines and how much you effort you put in. Before you start to exercise, make sure to talk with your doctor first. It’s important that your body is indeed ready for low impact workouts and most especially for high impact routines. When your body is already conditioned, you can always mix the two routines and enjoy more variety. With hard work and determination, any of the two will surely give good results.

Know How To Cut Down Car Insurance Bills In 5 Ways

Car insurance helps a lot of vehicle owners especially at times of mishaps. It saves you the big amount you have to spend on damages and repairs. But don’t you know that car insurance rates are based on the average insurance claims each type of car and model has? If you’re driving that has a higher car stolen rate, typically you would also pay a higher amount for car insurance. So if you want to keep your car insurance low, check these out.

1. Shop around for cars with low insurance rate. Since how much you pay for an insurance depends on what car you drive, it is better to buy a car that is not costly on maintenance and of course on insurance. Cars like convertibles attract higher insurance cost because they are easy to be stolen, have a higher performance and of course much more expensive than the other cars. Convertibles are also accident-prone among teenagers so better stay away with these kinds of wheels.
5 Ways To Reduce Your Car Insurance Premium

5 Ways To Reduce Your Car Insurance Premium

  1. Insure multiple cars and drivers. Most insurance companies offer discounts in bulk. So it is ideal that you insure cars in your household and the drivers that are using it at the same time. Ask your insurance agent for a quote on the discount they have on multiple cars and drivers. Make sure you qualify to them. Some other companies also give discounts to insurance holders if you maintain good relationship with them and follow their policies obediently.

  2. Look for the lowest quotes in your area. There are enough insurance firms nowadays to choose from. All you have to do is a little research on what company provides the lowest possible rates on the kind of car you have. And basically, it is very much of a hassle to switch insurance company so all you have to do is bargain with your current insurer if they can beat that price.

Five ways to lower the cost of car ownership!

Five ways to lower the cost of car ownership!

  1. Mileage. The logic is plain simple. Drive less to pay less. One of the basis of the rates for your car insurance is how many miles do you drive each day with your car. Most companies would give 50% discount for those who drive fewer miles but the deal is they would put a monitor that tracks the miles that you drive, how fast and whether it is often day or night.

  2. Know the policy. Take time to read before signing. Study the policies and learn exactly what you’re paying for. If hesitant over one thing, ask. You are also paying for customer service so make the most of it. It is better to know everything that your money goes into so that you can assess on how to lower the cost.

Lowering on how much you pay on car insurance is a big payoff to your savings. You must only learn to pay attention in everything that is plain laid in front of you. The benefits are all on you since there are plenty of insurance firms that are competing against each other. Use that it at your advantage.

Possible Reasons Your Ad Campaigns are Ineffective on Google AdWords

Internet has provided one of the best platforms for various people and business units to promote and market their goods and services to reach their potential clients. The main objective in online marketing is for these people and organizations to eventually sell their products and services, just like it is in any other type of trade. Investing in Google AdWords program on the internet offers one of the best options for marketing your enterprise online. It can immensely help your business grow faster.

However, using Google AdWords can only be viable when correctly executed. You can be surprised that you have really devoted your time and resources to advertise on this program but your Ad campaigns still fail to get the desired traffic. Here are some of the reasons your Ad campaigns could be failing to work on Google AdWords.

You are using unrelated keywords

Using keywords that do not typify your business is definite way of ensuring that your Ad campaigns do not work on Google AdWords. This basically implies that your Ads will not attract a huge number of searches since the keywords do not match the business. This reduces the traffic that views your Ad campaign making it unable to work.

Your Google AdWords is handled by the wrong source

You could be the one handling your Google AdWords management or you have hired someone to do it for you. It does not matter if the handler is not conversant enough in terms of getting the rankings and click through rates that you desire your Ad campaign to have. This aspect makes your Ad campaign to fail desolately and will not work on the Google AdWords until you find or become a professional in this field.

Persisting on using non- converting Ads

This is when you realize that you have several discrete Ad campaigns yet only a few or none of them are making the definite conversion but still continue using them. This only consumes your energy and resources because the signs are clear that they cannot work therefore, the best approach in this case is to concentrate on molding the few that make the conversion and eliminate those that are not performing.

Online Marketing: The Modern Day Advertising

Online Marketing: The Modern Day Advertising

Failure to do a research Ad

Google AdWords is a program that needs thorough research on what is going to thrive well online and what is going to fail. If your Ad campaign is not effective on Google AdWords, chances are that you gambled with the Ads without clearly assessing and ensuring that they are highly optimized, attracts immense attention and backed by real tested results.

The Ad content is of low quality

When the contents in your Ad campaign do not communicate effectively to the potential buyers, it will not work on the Google AdWords program. This is because it tends to piss off the readers due to varied reasons such as misinformation, grammatical and spelling errors or maybe the information is stale.

Winning Results with Google Ad Words

Winning Results with Google Ad Words

I believe this has given you an idea of the reasons your Ad campaigns are not working on Google AdWords program and it will help you rectify the problem.

Alice Feiring and Credibility Have Parted Company

Ahh, Alice.

It’s been a few years since Alice Feiring and I first met at the Healdsburg Wine Library where she read from her book, The Battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization.

Though I walked away from our encounter convinced she was misguided and hypocritical in her criticism of California wine (California Wines? Down the Drain), I found her to be “charming and sweet” and noted that “her writing is undeniably good”.

Since then she’s written a new book (that’s her Amazon code in the link – consider buying a copy to support the author!). It’s all about natural, naked wines and the producers who make them. I think it’s a good book, with a good heart.

I’m slightly embarrassed to note that she chose to use our years-old encounter as a way to open her narrative. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I end up wearing quite the black hat.

Here’s a snip:

“In the rear I recognized Patrick and his wife, Genevieve, from the blogger circuit. Friendly faces! They waved, and I waved back. Next to them was a serious, dark-haird man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Robert Parker’s Bitch.” He looked more as if he were there for a lynching than a book reading.”

She goes on to reveal that this dour figure is in fact me, your humble author, at the time a vintner awaiting my first harvest. She relates that I asked her if she regretted writing the op-ed. She said no (unsurprising) for the reason that “it got people talking” (very surprising). Then, in a clever turn, she not-so-subtly accuses me of sexist bullying – basically picking on the girl. Hello left field!

Now, to be candid, I’m fine with this portrayal. It’s spot on.

Well, almost. First, and most importantly, there is the undeniable fact that I’m rarely serious. Just ask Twitter.

Also, usually my wife does the bullying. But Alice claims to want a conversation with people whose wine she has universally panned. Well, when one says those types of things, I think a convo is well worth having – with a boy (Parker – see below and video) or a girl (my dear Alice). Let’s parley!

Then there’s the important fact that I wasn’t wearing the Parker’s Bitch shirt that night. In fact I’ve only rarely worn it in public. Once for this video with Tina Caputo of Vineyard and Winery Management (where I now write an ongoing column entitled Gear), and then later that day when I visited the CIA and tasted 2005 Bordeaux with Robert Parker (he did not comment, others chuckled).

Oh, also: I’m blonde-ish. Dishwater blonde I think it’s called. Because my head is the color of filthy water. But whatevs.

The real question: what to make of all the factual errors?

One is tempted to just chalk it all up to the haze of time. I was in a video wearing the shirt after all. Things could get muddled. Details fade, like photos of the vineyards at Domain Leroy left too long on a South-facing sill. After a while all that’s left is the visceral, emotional memory of what must have been discomfiting moment in the life of Alice. Perhaps she just misremembered.

Yeah, unfortunately, not the case in this instance. In fact, she emailed me on April 13th of this year to fact check(!) things:

Subject: question for you

Hello Josh,

Hope all is well with you.
I am this second going over the final edits for my new book and you make a
cameo appearance in it.
But just rereading my material, I’ve written you were wearing that t-shirt,
Robert Parker’s Bitch that evening.
Could you confirm? Or at least say it was probably and if I include that
detail it won’t be problematic for you?
I can’t imagine where else I’d get it from but at this point 2008 seems
like ancient history.

Thanks very much,

Alice

My response was as follows:

Hi Alice,

Not sure about the particular circumstances of the meeting to which you are referring, but I certainly wore it on a video that made the rounds about that time. http://vimeo.com/3519159

Hope this helps!

Josh

And her final email on the matter read thusly:

It would have been to the reading I gave at the Library. It’s such a funny detail I am hoping it’s true. And it probably is….and as you’re telling me it could have been true, let’s leave it at that. I open the first chapter with that book tour and some of the reactions to that LAT editorial I wrote, so you’re cameo is when you put me on the spot about it, wearing that t-shirt, and then after the event when I asked Kevin H. who you were, and he told me and also told me you were a nice guy. It fits into the chapter well. So, there you go. Hope you don’t mind.

–Alice

Now, what does this all prove really? Does it speak to some greater issue with Alice’s credibility? Does it discount her portrayal of me somehow as “serious and angry” and itching for a lynching? Does it cast doubt on the verity of other aspects of her narrative?

Who can say, really?

Seriously though. What I can say is that I stand behind my original assessment of her answer to my question regarding her op-ed in the LA Times.

Over-the-top pronunciations that all (or nearly all) California wines are crap are the 100% new oak and 16% ABV of wine writing. Fudging facts are the velcorin, and misrepresenting events are the enzymes.

Alice and I happen to agree on wine styles, where we disagree is where we put the emphasis.

It all comes down to credibility; for winemakers sure, but also for authors and critics. If our wines in CA are inauthentic swill, Alice Feiring’s Mega Purple prose is as spoofulated as a magnum of [yellow tail] Shiraz.

I want my wine writing as naked as my wine. Or at the very least with pasties and a thong.

Natural Wine and Cowardly Wineries

Natural Wine

Remy Charest has a wonderful piece on Natural Wine over at Palate Press. A must read for some much needed balance on the issue of what is and is not “natural”.

My take: Making a wine without sulfur is crazy if you want consistency in your product. I’m not speaking of vintage to vintage consistency, I’m talking about bottle to bottle consistency from the same vintage. For those who make wine without sulfur and do it well, more power to them.

Where I have a problem is when reviewers and importers deign to instruct producers on how wine should be made. Just as there are no atheists in the foxhole, there are no real non-interventionest winemakers when you are staring down the barrel of a lost vintage. Happily this is a fact that Remy’s article makes perfectly clear.

My suggestion to those writers who feel that any wine not produced in a “natural” way is worthy only of a flush down the nearest latrine, is to take the time to verify that the wines you enjoy are actually as natural as the producers claim. That means testing them at a lab for, at the very least, free SO2. If you were a curious writer you could do more. It would be incredibly useful if natural wine advocates were able to properly ascertain where the nuances they enjoy emanate from.

Perhaps elevated amounts of volitile acidity are what you find enjoyable. Or, maybe, it’s the sometimes sweet and fruity aroma of ethyl acetate. Some folks might like a little red apple and sherry mixed in with their juice in the form of acetaldehyde. Perhaps it’s a mixture of all of the above and more; a wild cocktail of wine bug aromas.

A little independent testing would reveal what it is specifically about the natural wines they drink and recommend that they find so appealing. Because, and this is my real point, the only difference between a wine made with the addition of SO2 and one without is the elevated presence of various compounds that, in high enough concentrations, are considered wine faults.

Cowardly Wineries

Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington has decided to “stay neutral” on the controversial free market wine proposition I-1100 up for a vote in 2 weeks in Oregon. They happen to be the largest member of the Washington Wine Insititue, which is against the initiative for incomprehensible reasons. Incomprehensible, that is, based on their statements. Here’s their basic position:

If all the laws are crossed out,” Leonard said, “that would allow retailers to force wineries to pay for the best shelf space and for advertising and promotional materials. That will tip the scales against small wineries.”

Wineries currently face these same pressures via proxy from wholesalers. Producers are simply one relationship removed from doing anything about it. And that’s if they can even land a spot in a wholesaler’s catalogue. And that’s assuming that the wholesaler does anything at all to try and sell their wine.

My take: The only reason a winery would come out against a free and open market for wine is if they are cowards afraid to compete based on the talent of their people or the strength of their brand. If you are large, your relative strengths are going no where. Conversely, if you are a small producer in WA and I-1100 passed, your ability to make a dent in the market through your own efforts is limited only by your marketing ingenuity and brand equity.

The folks afraid to play the incentive game with all the cards on the table are dross that should be swept aside so that room for real entrepreneurs will emerge. Protectionism breeds incompetence, laziness, and cowardice. Harsh, but true.

Sadly I-1100 is polling at less than 50%, so it appears the meek will live to cower another day.

Cooking Keller’s Under Pressure Pt. 2 – Hen Egg

First off, my apologies for the issues with email updates, RSS and the site these past few days. My old host, mediatemple, was hacked and malware was injected into my blog. I’m now happily at Page.ly and thanks to Josh Strebel’s tireless customer service efforts I’m back up and clear of bugs.

Soft-Boiled Hen Egg with Green Asparagus, Créme Fraîche Aux Fines Herbs, and Butter-Fried Croutons.

I decided that I would start this project of mine, cooking through Thomas Keller’s fantastic Under Pressure, with a simple recipe.

Simple and Keller? It’s all relative I guess.

Take the croutons for this dish, for instance. There are basically three components to the meal: 1. A créme fraîche sauce 2. the egg, and 3. Croutons. Simple.

But making the croutons requires baking a brioche, and that takes a bit of time and effort. Well, more than a bit. First you have to let the dough rest for three hours, fold out the bubbles and then you have to let it rest overnight. Then you bake it, leave it out for another day to dry, and then cut into cubes and fry them in butter. For croutons. Yay, effort!

Working on Technique

The results were fantastic though. And really that’s what’s so much fun about sous vide cooking combined with Keller. Sous vide allows the home cook to know ahead of time that their proteins and veggies (where applicable) will be cooked perfectly. With that little detail out of the way, you can concentrate instead on technique, on perfecting the craft of cooking that is usually lost in the hustle and bustle of making sure that the centerpiece of a dish is cooked properly.

Check out the yolk on this egg, for instance:

There was zero skill involved in getting the egg perfect, other than knowing how to tune my sous vide controller to keep a tight temp range. You just drop the egg in the water bath, set the temp, and 45 minutes to an hour later you have a perfect egg. Genius. I predict that in the very near future sous vide water baths will be standard issue in most kitchens.

One note on the temp called for by Keller however. He says to cook the egg at 62.5 C (144.5 F) to achieve an egg where “the white is quivering and velvety and the yolk is neither runny nor hard, but rather soft, creamy, and bright colored”. 144.5 simply does not produce an egg with those characteristics. I thought perhaps my controller wasn’t calibrated correctly, but after reviewing Doug Baldwin’s egg photos I realized that 144.5 wasn’t hot enough to properly congeal the egg yolk (see photo below).

I settled on 147 F to get the texture described in the text.

The other technique used in this recipe is what Keller calls “big pot blanching”. It’s similar to standard blanching with a couple twists, and Keller provides an excellent description of “the why” in this technique.

First Keller recommends a big pot so that when the veggies are added they don’t bring the temp below boiling. The enzymes that dull the color of green vegetables are active only at temps below boiling, so keeping the temprature constant ensures a bright green color.

Keller also recommends using a ton of salt – 190 grams per 4 liters of water (a digital scale is a necessity when cooking Keller). He claims this helps prevent pigments in the asparagus from leeching out, and the brackish water also seasons them as they cook.

Dunk the asparagus in ice water (must be over half ice) and the cooked tips will be good for up to a day. Good times.

Pinot Pairing

While the recipe I chose to start out with was relatively simple, pairing eggs and asparagus with a pinot was a bit more difficult. I think a fantastic rose of pinot like the Rose de Diel from Scholssgut Diel in the Nahe would be a killer pairing, but I didn’t have any on hand. With that pairing in mind I decided to pour some Gloria Ferrer blanc de noir sparkling. The combo was rockin’. The egg was smooth and custardy, the asparagus were slightly crisp and tender and well seasoned, and the slightly sour, slightly sweet creme and herbs sauce balanced everything out perfectly.

Mrs. Pinotblogger ate everything I gave her, so I think she approved too. It was a great little Wednesday meal – even if my prep for it began the prior Saturday. Damn you Keller!

Keller’s Under Pressure, With Pinot Pt.1

I believe pinot can pair with anything. So many styles – light to heavy – and so many aromas – gamey to floral – make it endlessly adaptable. In this upcoming blog series I’m going to put my belief to the test. Can pinot pair with poached egg and asparagus? How about calf heart? Compressed watermelon “tartar” with mango yolk? Stick around and find out.

But that’s not even the best of it!

At this point almost all foodies have likely seen Julie and Julia. The backstory, how the latter Julia cooked through Julia Child’s famous cookbook and blogged about it during the process, is well known. I’m going to do the same thing with Under Pressure by Thomas Keller.

I freely admit this exercise of mine is derivative. Someone has even cooked through Keller’s French Laundry cookbook, which many said would be impossible for a home cook. While this may not be new ground, it is fertile. Particularly for new-ish techniques like sous vide.

My interest in Keller’s Under Pressure stems from an extreme interest in Sous Vide, a type of cooking that uses controlled temperature water baths and vacuum sealed bags. I first stumbled across folks talking about the method in an eGullet thread. When Joan Roca’s book Sous Vide was translated into English around 2006 or 2007 I hunted it down and purchased it. Back then however, due to the laboratory quality of the equipment involved, it was a couple grand at least to get in the game.

Just under 2 years ago Keller and Michael Ruhlman came out with an update to The French Laundry Cookbook that showcased how Keller had incorporated sous vide techniques into many (most?) of his dishes (update: according to this interview with Saveur, Keller puts the percentage at 15-20%). It’s an incredible book; a master class in cooking. Still, the equipment costs and trade offs involved in using cheaper tools kept me from diving in.

When I Googled around about a month ago to check out the state of the scene I found everything had changed. There are now multiple vendors producing tools that make sous vide easy and relatively affordable. One of the most frequent posters on the eGullet thread, Douglas Baldwin, a grad student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, recently published a book of home recipes for Sous Vide cooking (And Baldwin’s primer on the method as well as safety guidelines is still among the most frequently read pieces of literature on sous vide on the net).

Before I begin cooking Keller, I’ll outline the best and most cost effective tools currently available.

Temperature Controlled Water Baths

The first item you’ll need, and the most important, is a PID temperature controller. In simple terms, the PID controller is able to do 2 things: ramp down the heat applied when a water bath approaches a set temperature (the P and I in PID), and respond appropriately with heat when a cold piece of food is added to the water (D). Taken together, these features allow a water bath to be kept in very precise ranges, which is very important for sous vide cooking.

PolyScience

When Sous Vide first started being used by folks in the pre-packaged meals industry, the tool of choice for cooking at precise temps was an immersion circulator like the ones made by PolyScience. Link.

Basically you sit one of these in a container (most Chefs use Cambro and Carlisle brand polycarbonate tanks), set a temp, plop in a bag of food and let it do its thing. It is the most precise tool on the market (it was designed for lab work) and is easy to use. PolyScience circulators are excellent tools, and I would one day love to own one, but at $1000.00 I just can’t justify the spend.

Sous Vide Supreme

Last year Eades Appliances introduced the Sous Vide Supreme, an all-in-one tank and controller that is plug and play. As a self contained housing it looks nicer on the counter.

At $450 it is half the cost of the PolyScience. A pretty good deal, but still not cheap. When you consider that you are stuck using just the 10L tank that comes as part of the unit itself, you are sacrificing plug and play convenience and looks for adaptability. Plus you are paying a premium for it.

Sous Vide Magic

The Sous Vide Magic has been around for quite a while, but the 4th generation version of the controller is by far the best. The manufacturer claims it can keep a bath at a set temp within a range of .1 degree C. In my experience such precision requires a bit if calibration, but it is attainable (you need a data logger and a temperature probe to properly calibrate each tank you plan on using).

Frank at Fresh Meal Solutions, the creator of the SV Magic, has done one thing amazingly well: he has kept the price of the controller reasonable. At $160.00 it is by far the best value. It is also extensible. You are not locked into a specific tank size, as I’ll show below.

This is the controller I ended up purchasing.

Water Tanks

A water tank can be anything from a plastic deli meat holder to a 5 gallon stock pot. The only limiting factor is if the PID controller is hard wired into a unit. Such is the case with the SV Supreme.

Rice cookers are often used as tanks because they have built in heating elements. I’m using a standard stock pot. The downside is that I have to calibrate the SV Magic for this particular pot, and any other pot I choose to use. The upside is I can use any size pot, up to 24 liters or so.

Heater

Fresh meal solutions sells a heating coupled with an air stone that you attach to an air pump to make sure the water is evenly heated.

I went with a cheaper alternative: I purchased a bucket heater off Amazon and used an Air Pump I had left over from an old aquarium and ran tubes down through this stainless steel plate (which also gives you a spot to put the SV Magic temp probe).

Vacuum Chamber or Sealer

By far the most expensive item when getting set up to do Sous Vide is a vacuum chamber. With a vacuum chamber you can seal items along with their marinade, you can compress watermelon and other fruits to create interesting new textures, and sealing a package that is entirely a liquid poses no problem.

The price for a vacuum chamber runs in the multiple thousands of dollars, so most home cooks use a Food Saver or the equivalent. You can get the latest model, a nice stainless steel upright version, for $134 plus shipping on newegg.com.

The work-around to using a vacuum sealer that can’t accommodate marinades and liquids is to use zip lock bags. You put the liquid or protein and marinade in a bowl of water and submerge it until you’ve forced out all the air, then seal it up. It works just about as well as the chamber method.

Conclusion

There are numerous ways to skin the sous vide equipment cat at the moment. There are also multiple price points to consider. What you get for your money is typically not better quality, however. Instead what you get is ease of use. If you aren’t the sort who likes fooling around with probes and settings, the SV Supreme is probably your best bet.

But for those like me that like to tweak and are willing to trade a little ease of use for extensibility and lower cost, the SV Magic can’t be beat.

Next time: I cook some food and drink some pinot!

The Perfect Cheese For Pinot Noir

Matos St. George cheese. But I repeat myself. Matos only makes one cheese, so that’s like saying Petrus Merlot blend. Semi-firm, nutty, creamy, heaven.

And getting to Matos Cheese Factory is as much of an experience as eating it. Words don’t do it justice. The long driveway past the vines and the cows. The alarm that goes off as you enter the back door. The rows and rows of cheese wheels aging just past the front counter. So I made a video.

The only thing I can’t reproduce for you is the amazing smell of the aging cheese and, of course, the incredible taste. For that you’ll have to visit for yourself:

Matos Cheese

3669 Llano Rd

Santa Rosa CA 95407

Why I Quit Facebook, And Why Wineries Should As Well

Ah, Facebook.

In 2008 in Wine: A Global Business (Second Edition), I wrote the following about Facebook:

Currently wineries are having a difficult time determining how best to take advantage of this communications channel. It may well be that the best way to leverage social networks and the vast amounts of data contained in them will be in interpreting, rather than influencing, consumer preferences.”

That was 2 years ago. In the period since, Facebook has tried to address the problem that wineries and other businesses were facing. Namely, “How do we use Facebook to sell stuff?”

Facebook’s answer, in December 2009, was the following: “We will give you unfettered access to folks’ public and private information.”

While this doesn’t specifically answer the question of how to use people’s private information to sell them things, it does answer the question of what business Facebook is in, and how they plan to monetize their user base. Moreover, it makes crystal clear the types of tactics businesses will be required to engage in to try and leverage the “vast amounts of data.” With this out in the open, it is now incumbent on wineries and brands to decide if they want to engage with Facebook on these terms.

The answer for all wine brands, indeed all business who value the trust and loyalty they have cultivated in their customer base, must be a resounding “No.”

To see why, you don’t have to go much farther than the recent New York Times info-graphic visualizing the ways in which Facebook has made it nearly impossible for users to secure their private information from complete strangers and businesses. Incredibly, their privacy policy has quintupled in size in the past 6 years and is now longer then the U.S. Constitution.

The danger for wine brands in continuing to use Facebook as a sales and marketing channel are legion, but perhaps the most compelling reason is relationships.

Direct to consumer

Direct to consumer is now vital for the health and survival of even medium to large wine brands. This direct relationship is based on trust. While most users might not know it yet, Facebook is quickly taking on water. It is a sinking ship. Key influencers are deleting their accounts and the media, which loves to tear down that which it has built up, is quickly jumping on the bandwagon and beginning to dig in earnest.

Very soon it will become exceedingly clear that allowing random strangers, businesses, criminals and perverts to see photos of you that have been uploaded by “friends” without your consent, and who have then “tagged” you in them for anyone to find is a gross invasion of privacy. Indeed, there is only one set of people who stand to suffer more than Facebook after their ham-fisted and greedy attempt to monetize a service they don’t have the courage to charge access for: Companies.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line: Even if you never plan to advertise or otherwise leverage Facebook’s “social graph,” You do not want your brand tainted, even by association, by the sh*tstorm that is engulfing Facebook.

(You’ve heard about the movie, right?)

Many wineries and wine brands have been reluctant to embrace social media because they didn’t see the benefit. In short, they were risk averse.

I say unto you now, there can be no doubt that the risks of maintaining a presence on, and thus providing a tacit endorsement of, Facebook far outweigh any benefits you can possibly think to imagine. Act accordingly.

You can delete your Facebook account here: http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account .

Green Wine Journalism: Flacid, Alarmist, Inane.

John Williams of Frog’s Leap was recently profiled in the Atlantic, a relatively respected journal of our times. John is a fantastic winemaker, and he lives his green ethos like no one else in Napa, and perhaps in the entire industry.

Yet even he finds himself getting annoyed by the questions from Atlantic environmental-advocate-cum-journalist Mark Hertsgaard.

…[D]espite his environmental fervor, Williams dismisses questions about preparing Frog’s Leap for the impacts of climate change. “We have no idea what effects global warming will have on the conditions that affect Napa Valley wines, so to prepare for those changes seems to me to be whistling past the cemetery,” he says, a note of irritation in his voice. “All I know is, there are things I can do to stop, or at least slow down, global warming, and those are things I should do.”

This, surely, is not the pull quote Hertsgaard was looking for when he pitched his editor at Atlantic on a trip to Napa for a story confirming the dire consequences of global warming for “every business on earth.”

Still, Hertsgaard, in need of fodder to pimp his new book and thoroughly committed to his viewpoint after 20 years of global warming activism, soldiers on.

If you can get past the head-slappingly obvious title and the breathtakingly cliche use of “the Roman” bon mot in vino veritas, you will be rewarded with…Armageddon. Natch. Remember, there is a book to be sold.

We begin:

the ski industry — which appears doomed in its current form — is more visibly targeted by the hot, erratic weather that lies in store over the next 50 years. In France, the rise in temperatures may render the Champagne region too hot to produce fine champagne. The same is true for the legendary reds of Châteauneuf du Pape, where the stony white soil’s ability to retain heat, once considered a virtue, may now become a curse. The world’s other major wine-producing regions — California, Italy, Spain, Australia — are also at risk.

Too hot to produce fine Champagne? We grow some delicious pinot for sparkling wines in the Russian River, where the climate is hotter than Champagne. It goes into Gloria Ferrer’s high end Brut Rose. Delicious, fine stuff.

CdP cursed? The warmer it gets, the higher the points. 100 points, bro! I’ll take some of that curse please.

Hertsgaard even acknowledges that during the Medieval warm period the folks in England were making sparkling wines (don’t call it Champagne, Mark). He is also implicitly acknowledging that the current warming is not at all unprecedented in the history of wine growing, which is quite an admission.

Does he not realize that “recent trends” are not statistically significantly warmer? Or that, depending on where you pick your start date, there has been a recent global cooling trend?

Details, details.

The truth is that CO2 is good for plants. The truth is that warmer temps are good for both plants and humans. Every major leap in both agriculture and human culture has coincided with some form of global warming. Indeed, it is much preferable to be warm than to be too cold.

And the truth is winegrowers and winemakers know it. Consider this quote from the article:

Pancho Campo, the founder and president of the Wine Academy of Spain, says “They are getting almost perfect ripeness every year now for Tempranillo. This makes the winemakers say, ‘Who cares about climate change? We are getting perfect vintages.’ The same thing has happened in Bordeaux. It is very difficult to tell someone, ‘This is only going to be the case for another few years.’”

Winemakers know. They know! These are boom times for wine quality, and it is undeniable.

Still, folks like Pancho Campo feel the need to piss on the parade by declaring the party will soon end. Only the case for another few years? Based on what evidence? The recent cooling trend? Or the climate models that don’t account for solar cycles, ocean oscillations, clouds, and water vapor?

No one I know of denies that there is warming. Not one AGW skeptic, not even the frothing right-wing nut jobs.

What is in violent dispute among researchers, however, is the cause of the warming (some combination of anthropogenic and natural causes) and whether or not the current warming is unprecedented.

Moreover, even assuming there is a cause for alarm, doomsday deadlines for adaptation and change have come and gone repeatedly. Based on the climate models we are already too far gone to make an impactful change on CO2 emissions.

Thankfully, research shows that CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere trails global warming, not the other way around. You read that right: warming occurs first, CO2 increases second.

And yet:

White wine may well disappear from some regions. Climate-sensitive reds such as pinot noir are also in trouble. It’s not too late for winemakers to save themselves through adaptation. But it’s disconcerting to see so much dawdling in an industry with so much incentive to act. If winemakers aren’t motivated to adapt to climate change, what businesses will be?

What incentive to act, precisely? At our vineyard we’ve gone through 3 consecutive years with losses due to late season frost. The land we purchased up north in anticipation of future warming years ago is un-plantable due to the chilly conditions. Temp logs show no warming. In fact they show cooling. I welcome warming.

Every incentive is to welcome warming. We’re talking easier growing periods, higher yields where appropriate, riper fruit, higher scores, more sales.

This isn’t rocket surgery. And consider the alternative.

Going green did make the renovation cost 30 percent more, Lageder says

Going green, in this context, is madness. In this economy there is no money to spend on speculative hand waving. Conserving resources is a laudable goal (the recycling, responsible water use, less reliance on fossil fuels), but investing in wind turbines and huge solar arrays simply isn’t feasible economically. I do not have 30%. I don’t know anyone who does right now.

“Most of us are not very good at recognizing our risks until we are hit by them,” explains Chris West, the director of the UK government’s Climate Impact Program. “People who run companies are no different.” Before joining UKCIP in 1999, West had spent most of his career working to protect endangered species. Now, the species he is trying to save is his own

*Sad trombone*

Who is this Chris West? Dear Lord, the man is daft. And a bureaucrat. But I repeat myself. Business owners make their money based on risk!

Entrepreneurs are paid because they actively seek out risk where others fear to tread. They capture economic surplus based on risk. They are paid when their risky activities succeed.

Sheer pablum, and a fitting end to a flacid and inane bit of environmental journalism.

Winegrowing and Baseball – Rotobase

Wine and baseball are intertwined in the best of ways. Both the growing season and the playing season overlap almost perfectly. Pitchers and catchers report in February, foreshadowing the beginning of spring training. In the vineyard we prune and train our vines in February in anticipation of spring.

Play begins in earnest in April, and hope is in the heart of every fan for the possibilities of a great season. Bud break and initial vine growth occur with the crack of the first bat.

Early season injuries can devastate a team (~cough~ Jose Reyes ~cough~) just as easily as early season frost can decimate a vineyard.

In September and October the seasons wind down and the harvest and playoffs begin amid frantic activity and excitement. A winner is crowned as baby wines are barreled down for the winter.

And when it’s all over and the last leaves fall from the vine, we’re eager to sit down, reflect on the past season and begin looking forward to the new.

I love baseball.

Each year, in the quiet period after crush has ended and before the work of growing begins anew, I take a few weeks to work on a project that both interests me and expands my skill set. 4 years ago, along with my family, I decided to start building a winery. Last year I wrote a desktop database client and a companion iPhone app for the winery (BTW, here’re my thoughts on the recently announced iPad).

This year my mind turned to baseball. For my wine geek friends who aren’t into baseball ( but should be) you can click away now. It’s about to become a baseball stat geekatorium up in here.

Basically I said to myself, “self, you’ve always wanted your own baseball stats database, and a pretty way to access it. You also need to get a deeper understanding of mySQL and php for projects like Help a Winery Out. Why not do that for your yearly project?” To which I replied, “hell yeah.”

There are so many incredible resources out there for the baseball fan with some technical chops, it’s breathtaking. Retrosheet, for instance, is a complete record of every play made in every game stretching back to the 50s, and they are adding more historical data each year. And it’s completely free. Truly remarkable.

So I downloaded the sucker and got to work building a cool way to interface it.

Now, dear reader, if you count yourself as one of those baseball purists who don’t sugar the whole fantasy baseball thing, you may want to click away at this point as well. That should leave under ten interested readers. Excellent! You are my peeps.

Here’s what I built. It’s called Rotobase. Like Fangraphs but for fantasy baseball nuts.

I think I do these projects now as a reaction to being unable to complete my winery project. I feel a very pressing need to complete *something* and “ship” it each year, even if it isn’t a bottle of wine.

Happily next year will be different. Bottles of wine will finally ship. Which makes me wonder if my desire to do these projects will ship with them.

For now I’ll be competing in the NFBC Auction (nationwide high stakes league) in Vegas in March and using this tool to aid me in my research.

Wish me luck!

Fair use is made of cropped copy of a photo appearing on Uncork for a Cause

Charlie Palmer Pigs & Pinot – Customer Service EPIC FAIL

Charlie Palmer’s annual Pigs & Pinot event is a well regarded and, if this year is any indication, well attended event. Which is why it is both surprising and completely unacceptable to receive the following email:

Dear Candace,

We are very sad to bring this news to you today. Demand for Pigs & Pinot this year was incredibly high, so high in fact, that our technology server was not equipped to handle the volume of ticket purchases made on the website yesterday at 12PM. This resulted in six times the amount of tickets allocated for online purchases to actually process prior to the system showing ‘sold out’. Furthermore, the system failed to process credit card transactions because of this overload and consequently you were not charged for your tickets.

We regretfully inform you that your ticket purchase was processed after all of the Pigs & Pinot tickets were sold out. We’ve racked our brains on how to accommodate all of the extra ticket holders, but unfortunately there just isn’t enough event space to accommodate everyone this year. What this means is that we have to cancel your order for Pigs and Pinot 2010. Due to the processing error, your credit card was not charged, so no charges will appear on your credit card statement.

We understand what a disappointment this is and would like to offer you the first option to purchase two tickets for Pigs & Pinot 2011 when they become available later this year.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience or disappointment this may have caused (we’re just as sad and disheartened as you are, trust us) and are available to take any questions or comments by phone at 707-431-2800.

There has been such an outpouring of support for Pigs & Pinot this year which we are incredibly grateful for as we continue our efforts to raise valuable funds for Share Our Strength, while highlighting exceptional local Sonoma County wine producers.

Regretfully,
The Pigs & Pinot team

My wife purchased tickets at the stroke of noon and received confirmation no less than a minute after the tix went on sale. We find it hard to believe we were somewhere in the back of the pack given the timing.

More likely is that they had no way of discerning who attempted to purchase what when. Technical difficulties tend to come in bunches. Ticket assignment was, apparently, completely arbitrary.

Moreover, the offer to purchase tickets for next year has to be one of the worst customer service moves they could have taken given the circumstances. This makes no one happy, is completely crass (locking in lost revenue a year in advance) and the math doesn’t even add up. If you have 6 times more demand than tickets this year, how can you possibly offer an early sale to everyone who was passed over? Silly and false.

I for one won’t be taking Charlie up on the offer.

A superior solution would be to simply add a scaled down tasting event to the schedule to accommodate the folks who were arbitrarily excluded through no fault of their own.

In a down economy, to experience demand like this is a terrific honor. You should do everything in your power to nurture it.

Instead, it’s more of the same from an industry that is utterly tone deaf when faced with success. The answer is not to enhance exclusivity, it is to do everything possible to be inclusive.

You won’t be getting a second chance with the majority of these folks, and this year’s success will likely not be replicated due to this abysmal customer service.

As an industry we can do better. Much better.

Climate Change and Wine Growing: One Farmer’s Opinion

A couple items in the news and the on the blogs prompted this post. First was the recent discussion by Jeff over at Good Grape about Tom Johnson’s (author of Louisville Juice) contention that wine bloggers don’t link to each other.

One of the reasons for this, Jeff says, is because of the dearth of meta stories that are news-driven and thus have universal effect and interest. I think he’s right.

Two other stories this morning also prodded me to post. One is this story on CNN talking about winemakers fighting climate change.

Another is this recent post on Palate Press discussing where to plant a vineyard in 2099 due to effects of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

EDIT: Another one from today (12/8): French wineries join Greenpeace.

Bottom line – it looks like we have a universal, news driven wine story, and so I thought I’d provide some perspective from a farmer/winemaker in the Russian River Valley.

Global Warming and Wine Grape Growing.

First, some context. I believe that the earth has been warming over the past century. I think this is pretty well established. The question is: why has it warmed? Also, I am not going to take a stand on the global policy implications of warming. I’ll leave that to the politicians.

In terms of the wine industry, the relevant questions are: how will the warming affect grape growing, and will the the warming be detrimental or will it have a positive impact? In making these determinations, it is also very useful to have an opinion as to whether the rise in temps is due to CO2 “forcing”, or if warming is a cyclical thing and should be regarded as temporary.

How Will Warming Affect Wine Grape Growing?

The short answer is: we don’t know. The reason we don’t know is because the climate isn’t homogenous, and warming on a global scale may or may not adversely impact viticulture on a meso scale.

In 2007 I wrote about UC Davis Climatologist Richard Snyder’s work studying Napa temps.

I wrote the following as a conclusion (click through to see slides and a link to a news article on his talk):

What’s interesting is that the single biggest danger global warming poses for wine growers is that the incidence of these extreme weather events will increase, not that average temps will increase. San Pablo Bay protects Napa Valley from overheating quite well, and as temps increase Dr. Snyder predicted that fog due to evaporation from the bay will increase and stretch farther up the valley, insulating the grapes.

And given the fact that it is in nighttime temps that we are seeing the real effect of the temperature increase, what we have is a recipe for better grape growing conditions. Since grapes can continue to ripen at night when temperatures are relatively warm, global warming – paradoxically – might be just the thing to help out growers losing tonnage late in the season because phenological ripeness hasn’t kept pace with sugar accumulation.

It’s tempting to speculate that other maritime winegrowing regions might react in a similar way, but more studies for each region would need to be undertaken. The truth is we just don’t know.

Indeed, we simply have no evidence to suspect any sort of universal calamity to befall grape growers due to an increase in global average temperatures, and this needs to be noted in any discussion about wine and global warming.

Global Warming’s Cause: Man, Nature or a bit of Both?

Why does it matter what the cause is, if most people agree there is warming?

The answer is: if it’s man made, it will continue. If it’s an artifact of natural cycles, it will likely reverse course in the future. In one future the climate never cools. In the other the climate behaves like a sine wave, with global temps rising and falling with a relatively flat trend line.

In practice, a winegrower’s stance on the issue has profound implications.

As one example, I was sent this link to a Decanter story about Hugh Ryman of Chateau de la Jaubertie in Bergerac pulling out his Merlot vines due to warming. His actions are predicated on his belief that the warming will either continue, or that current temps will stabilize as the new normal.

This is not a cheap endeavor on his part, and pulling old vines is always a cringe-inducing affair. In the Russian River and Sonoma, the lack of many old vines is frequently lamented, even though they were replaced with the best of intentions at the time, in the name of progress.

There are of course consequences to inaction as well. If your wine quality is suffering for whatever reason, change is usually required. Grafting over to new varieties is typical in the New World, for instance, when the whims of the market change.

For those with skin in the game, it behooves us all to take a hard look at the science behind the cause of the warming and determine how big a bet we want to place on the accuracy of any prediction where climate is concerned.

My Current Opinion, Subject to Change

Until just very recently, I was a firm believer in AGW. We have purchased extremely marginal land up north and began vineyard planning and collecting temperature data in anticipation of future warming. In the face of what I saw as overwhelming consensus on AGW, our family put our money where the science told us to.

I’m now a skeptic.

In general, viticulturists and vineyard developers are used to and comfortable with trusting science and the researchers producing it. Science is a good bet. Sometimes it works out (phylloxera) and sometimes it doesn’t (UC Davis in the 70′s advised most folks to plant on the valley floor in Alexander Valley if they wanted the best quality). But we’ve never had reason to doubt that the researchers were only after the truth and had out best interests at heart.

I don’t have that same confidence anymore for the top-tier scientists in Climate Modeling. And I don’t think I’m alone.

Why? In a recent editorial in Nature, the evidence for AGW is characterized as the following:

Denialists often maintain that these changes are just a symptom of natural climate variability. But when climate modellers test this assertion by running their simulations with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide held fixed, the results bear little resemblance to the observed warming. The strong implication is that increased greenhouse-gas emissions have played an important part in recent warming, meaning that curbing the world’s voracious appetite for carbon is essential.

If the leaked CRU emails show anything, it is that the public was wrong to confer to scientists a level of deference that is utterly unmatched in any other professional endeavor. They are as petty as everyone else, and the sausage-making behind the scenes is ugly indeed.

Programming code and comments from the leaked archive indicate that data massaging was taking place. It is not clear if this code was used to produce published results, but it was present, uncommented, in a finished version of an influential temperature reconstruction.

Regardless though, the fact that such manipulative code exists is reason enough to demand a full and transparent accounting of how the models provide the predictions they do.

The extent to which the raw data and metadata used to build temperature reconstructions was destroyed is incredibly worrisome as well. It means that replication will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, and replication is at the heart of the scientific method.

Ultimately the above is important because, as the Nature editorial points out, the evidence for AGW rests on the inability of the climate models to account for warming without CO2 “forcing” and its attendant feedbacks (cloud cover, water vapor etc.) which are not well understood. The models are validated with past data, and are an accumulation of much good science. However the models are a product of a complicated set of assumptions, not observations, and can’t account for the lack of warming in the past decade. In fact, the warming in last decade is below even the most optimistic predictions the models made back in 1999.

Indeed NCAR scientist Kevin Trenberth (now famously) wrote

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”

Looking at all this, I’m forced to confront the uncomfortable idea that I can no longer credulously accept the notion of AGW. It may well be that man is the cause of the recent warming, but we are not ready to grub up any vineyards, buy any more property, or do much of anything else based on the evidence at hand.

Let me be clear, the above is not evidence that AGW isn’t occurring. It is simply a wake up call. Appeals to authority are no longer (and should never have been) acceptable as explanations.

Unfortunately for the climate scientists, the predictions of warming they provide us are entirely predicated on us trusting them and the closed-source climate models they create.

So, I’m a skeptic. It is a noble intellectual position, and I won’t let ad hominim cries of “denialist” sway me.

What will sway me? A clear accounting of the issues raised by the leaked data and emails, complete and transparent reconstructions of key paleoclimatic data, and public disclosure of all code used to predict future climate change. In short, good science.

My mind is open to whatever may come.

UPDATE: A very good discussion of the problems with AGW by Joe D’Aelo

Still Blogging The Birth of a Winery, Four Years Later

A little over 4 years ago (November 18th 2005 to be exact) I wrote the following:

Welcome to pintoblogger.com, a blog I’ve created to outline the long and painful processes involved in starting and building a family winery in the Russian River Valley.

I’ll be honest, just typing the words above was daunting. I have no illusions that the project will be either quick or painless, but, as they say, nothing worth doing ever is. How bad can things really get when you’ve got the opportunity to build something you are truly passionate about anyway? I guess we’ll find out!

Maybe I’ll look back on this blog three years from now shocked at my own naivety. Maybe I’ll be a shattered man, broken on the rocks of eno-commerce. Or maybe we’ll have made some great, distinctive wine we’ll be proud to call our own. Either way it shakes out, it should be interesting to read.

Well it’s been over three years and I still don’t have any wine to sell (though I have plenty to drink). The length of gestation of this project hasn’t come as any surprise to me, as my initial post shows, but I have been at times perplexed and disappointed at the twists and turns the saga has taken.

In 2007 we were to crush at Vinify which, if it had actually occurred (botched compliance paperwork by our consultant torpedoed the deal), would have meant that our inaugural release would have been this year. This was disappointing at the time, but in hindsight perhaps it was a blessing. Clearly 2009 was not a good year to spring a new luxury Pinot on the market.

In 2008, licking our wounds, we decided that we would start construction on our winery ahead of launching the brand in the marketplace. It was a bold move, but the numbers panned out even at very small production levels (we happen to have some good construction industry connections). While our banker was skeptical, he seemed to be willing to move forward based on both a strong marketing and business plan and some really novel ideas about how to get the wine into the hands of consumers. Indeed, my current biz plan still calls for a completely revolutionary way of looking at tasting rooms. I’m very excited to put it into action.

But then the great crash happened, banks became saddled with illiquid debt, became horrifically risk averse, and we became less attractive as a result of our own financial issues. Yuk.

So, back to square one. Custom crush. Pragmatic, but constraining. Such is life.

Luckily I’m being assisted by a good friend and will have a small amount of wine coming to market next year.

Through the entire roller-coaster ride, this blog and the folks I’ve met through it (and via Twitter) have been a constant source of encouragement. Pinotblogger has opened many doors for me both professionally and personally, I’ve contributed to textbooks on wine marketing, speak regularly at universities, was approached by a literary agent (Candace Bushnell’s no less) about turning our story into a book, and our mailing list is approaching 1700 people. Good times.

I regret not one day. Not one. It’s been quite a ride, and I can’t wait to see how the first act of this play ends. Even if it takes another four years!

Thanks for reading, for your continued support, and for joining me on the journey. I’ve got mad love for you.

Photo by farleyj

Sniff Taints With Me for 2 Straight Days At UC Davis

Honestly, ask yourself: have you sniffed taint recently? I mean really sniffed taint? Rigorously. Methodically. Intensively.

Do you know how to rectify your taint after you’ve sniffed it? Are you certain?

Did you know that not all taints are foul smelling? Some folks think some taints smell pleasant. It really depends on the person.

There is so much to learn about taints, in fact, that UC Davis has put together a 2-day taint symposium. There you can go and sniff taints – uninterrupted – with your peers. It’s really quite exciting.

I’ll be going. Will I perchance see you there as well dear reader? I hope I do!

Here’s the full itinerary of taints:

Wine production is all about flavor: getting it in the vineyard, enhancing it during processing, retaining it in the bottle and marketing it to the consumer. We are pleased to announce the creation of a new series of programs focused on all aspects of flavor development called “Wine Flavor 101”. Our goal is to expand the knowledge and recognition of wine flavor attributes, the specific impact compounds and their interactions and the mechanisms by which flavor can be manipulated or modified. A combination of commercial wines, spiked wines and wines deliberately made using different processing techniques will all be featured in the sensory recognition portion of these programs. The programs for December, 2009 include:

Wine Flavor 101A: Identifying and Reducing Flavor Negatives: Dec. 7, 2009 This seminar will include both lectures and sensory evaluation of these taint characters: 1) Green characters from the vineyard 2) Sulfur taints 3) Brettanomyces taints and 4) winery taints: the musty family. Each lecture will go into the nature of each of the taints and what can be done to avoid them, or recify them, if necessary. Following the lecture, attendees will be tasting wines that have either been spiked with the offensive compounds and/or research or commercial wines that clearly display the taint characters.

Wine Flavor 101B: Identifying and Reducing Flavor Negatives: Dec. 8, 2009 The second seminar in this series will cover the following taint characters in both lecture and sensory evaluation formats: 1) Oxidative taints 2) Lactic taints 3) Rose and floral taints and 4) Earthy and smoky taints

TO REGISTER FOR ONE OR BOTH SESSIONS, GO TO: http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=4278

MAP: The Wine Flavor 101A & B will be held in the Activities and Recreation Center on the UCDavis campus, on LaRue Road, just off Russell Blvd. Map and directions can be found at the ARC site here: http://campusrecreation.ucdavis.edu/cms/internal.aspx?uid=0ebe886d-4128-4f81-8922-66301b508950

THE PROGRAM

Wine Flavor 101A: Identifying and Reducing Flavor Negatives: Dec. 7, 2009
8:00-9:00: Registration, Coffee and Welcome: David Block
9:00-9:30: Overview of Wine Taints for this Session: Linda Bisson
9:30-10:15: Green Characters from the Vineyard: Susan Ebeler
10:30-11:15: Sensory Evaluation of Green-Taint Characters: Susan Ebeler
11:15-12:00: The Sulfur Taints: Linda Bisson
12:00-1:00: LUNCH
1:00-1:30: Sensory Evaluation of Sulfur-Taint Characters: Linda Bisson
1:30-2:15: The Brettanomyces Taints: Lucy Joseph
2:30-3:00: Recognizing Brett Taints: Lucy Joseph, Linda Bisson
3:00-3:30: Winery Taints: The Musty Family: Paula Mara
3:45-4:15: Sensory Evaluation of “Musties”: Paula Mara, Linda Bisson
4:15-4:30: Discussion/Questions: Linda Bisson

Wine Flavor 101B: Identifying and Reducing Flavor Negatives: Dec. 8, 2009
8:00-9:00: Registration, Coffee and Welcome: David Block
9:00-9:45: Overview of Wine Taints for this Session: Linda Bisson
9:45-10:30: Oxidative Taints: Linda Bisson
10:45-11:15: Sensory Evaluation of Oxidative-Taint Aromas: Linda Bisson
11:15-12:00: The Lactic Taints: Lucy Joseph
12:00-1:00: LUNCH
1:00-1:30: Sensory Evaluation of Lactic Taint Aromas: Lucy Joseph, Linda Bisson
1:30-2:15: Rose and Floral Taints: Linda Bisson
2:30-3:00: Sensory Evaluation of Floral-Taint Aromas: Linda Bisson
3:00-3:30: Earthy and Smoky Taints: Linda Bisson
3:45-4:15: Sensory Evaluation of Earthy and Smoky Taints: Linda Bisson
4:15-4:30: Discussion/Questions: Linda Bisson

If you have any questions, please either email me at klbogart@ucdavis.edu or call me at 530-754-9876.

And here’s the link to register. Cost is $400.00 for both taint-filled days.