Ryan Collins
 
September 24, 2011 | Ryan Collins

Macro, Meso and Microclimates

The first viticulture book I read was written by an Australian named John Gladstone, Viticulture and Environment. It goes into depth defining climate, what influences climate, climatic indices and their relative effect on viticulture. The book also compares climates from wine growing regions from around the world. He does a fantastic job of defining climate by spatial scale.

Why does this matter?  In any given vintage there is talk about the macroclimate but the day-to-day considerations and efforts to farm the best quality fruit deal with the meso and microclimates.  The meso and microclimates dictate how each site is farmed, taking into consideration the climactic characteristics that make each site unique.
There are three spatial scales that are generally recognized: Macro, Meso and Mircroclimates.

Macroclimate
The macroclimate broadly defines the climate of a region. Most of the time this describes the general climate pattern from a recording station. Its scale is from tens of miles to hundreds of miles. Examples of macro climates are the Willamette Valley (figure 1), the Rogue Valley and Eastern Oregon.

Mesoclimate
Mesoclimate is described as the climate of a site as influenced by elevation, aspect, slope or distances from large bodies of water. Its scale extends from tens of yards to miles depending on the consistency in topography. Mesoclimate is often referred to as Topoclimate for it’s the topographic influence on a site’s climate (figure 2).

Microclimate
Microclimate is the smallest scale of climate. Its scale is from tens of yards to millimeters. Examples include conditions behind windbreaks, near trees (figure 3), around the vine canopy and inside the canopy.  Humans manipulate vine canopy microclimate with trellis systems, shoot positioning, leaf and lateral removal (figure 4). Manipulating canopy microclimate alters disease pressure, fruit composition and fruitfulness of shoots.

Time Posted: Sep 24, 2011 at 9:53 AM
REX HILL
 
September 14, 2011 | REX HILL

Men are routinely stupid: why white wine gets the Heisman

He Said...
- Mike Willison

Men are, most assuredly, pretty ridiculous. We make bold statements, wild protestations, and haughty, puffed-up pectoral peacockings when challenged, yet willow into teary puddles of emotional melancholy over the slide of our fantasy baseball team in the daily standings. We believe that we are being watched. We think that everyone cares what we are up to and that there is some greater good we are upholding by our actions. For whatever reason, the behaviors of men, so we believe, are responsible for the reputation of Man.

Someone that knows more about anthropology than I will probably confirm this right away, but I believe that if you were to compare men and women to wild animals, the men would be pretty close to the genuine article; Maybe even un-evolved or dis-evolved. Our nature as hunter-gatherers remains somewhat unchanged in spite of the world advancing around us. Men have a need to look as if we have caught our food and drink in a trap made out household items and semi-precious poisonous gems we dug up in the back yard. We are dirty and have gilded and horned helmets. We throw the javelin. Our drinking pinkies have been forced up through a series of cruel and unusual experiments that have been foisted upon us by the publishers of Harper's Bazaar and makers of cream colored paper. We tape our pinkies down or have them broken in ritual ceremonies. The color of blood satisfies us, and our drink must be a reflection of this.

Maybe more important than even all of this is that we brutish men like to be right all of the time about everything. With wine, we are only comfortable remembering a small number of things about a minute couple of things only, and everything else is sissy juice. Big red wines look like blood and are obvious, chewy, imposing and good with steak when consumed young, and I am comfortable saying things like, "Cab" at restaurants without the emasculating Sommelier saying something like, "it's called MOO-ler TER-gow." Wild animals.

 

She Said...
- Carrie Kalscheuer

The evolution of the American palate has much to do with gender. Alcohol, in particular, has some very deep social roots. As soon as alcohol becomes a part of the picture, whether you were a law-abiding 21 years old before your first drink, or a teenage heathen like me, there's no denying the immediate division between the sexes and their choice of beverage. I, and all of my J-Crew-clad girlfriends, drank lemonade-flavored wine coolers. My boyfriend on the other hand, drank beer and whiskey. Neither of his choices was made because he liked the taste.

It’s sort of an early trial-by-fire for the palate. Things we would probably ease into naturally (like going from tea to coffee or from cheddar to Roquefort) are thrust upon men earlier, setting the stage for rougher, heartier alcohol preferences, and making a man’s journey into the wine world a bit backwards. Women, on the other hand, tend to start with the sweeter styles, move into light white territory, then ease into the big, burly Shirazes of Australia.

Although the impetus is the same, the reasons that men shy away from white wines becomes two-pronged: whites are more closely associated with what women drink (oh no!), and their manly palates are used to the harder stuff.  And it is unfortunate- nay, frustrating- as some of the best wines in the world are white. Riesling, for example (which, to further drive home the point is often done in a sweet style) is largely considered to be the most noble of the noble grapes.

Theories aside, the persistence of the white wine stigma is annoying. Trust me, men- your attractiveness is not determined by the color of the wine in your glass. If you are drinking wine, I view you as cultured, sophisticated. And if you are drinking white wine, I view you as self-assured, unfazed by ridiculous social norms and ultimately, sexy.

Time Posted: Sep 14, 2011 at 10:40 AM
REX HILL
 
September 7, 2011 | REX HILL

Food & Wine Pairing Is For Jerks, Right?

He Said...
- Mike Willison

One of the reasons that a great cheeseburger is so wonderful has to do with balance. The fat of the cheese, meat, and mayonnaise is offset by the tang of vinegar from pickles, ketchup and mustard, and salt from the seasoning. Other ingredients provide textural complements like crunchy lettuce or snappy tomatoes, while bacon sways the balance again with fat and salt and is often paired with something spicy like chipotle. While there are many ways to ruin a perfectly good cheeseburger (the indignity of medium-well and beyond, for example) I find that the choice of bread and how it is handled can make or break the entire deal. Soggy, too crusty, sweet and aromatic, or worst yet, absent. The bun is both the Achilles heel and the keystone in a well-balanced burger.

Making a good burger isn't all that challenging. Making a great burger has its difficulties but, as in many things, a little sustained initiative and practice should produce the desired results. So it is with pairing food and wine. It isn’t magic but rather it addresses the same constructs as does making a proper cheeseburger; most notably balance. If I am faced with a butter-poached lobster, what it is lacking is the vibrancy of acid. Squeeze a lemon on it, or enjoy a racy glass of Pinot Gris to begin to understand how the balance works.

Imagine a gloppy bowl of cheese dip. Now imagine how it turns your mouth into a slow-motion astronaut walking on planet mud puppy. Ask yourself, "What am I going to do about this viscous glob of deliciousness in order to prepare my palate for another heaping chipful?" Perhaps you will consider the brisk, cleansing sizzle of a carbonated beverage. The more sophisticated palate might apply the same principle to a delicious beer or a sparkling wine. It works because it creates a balance between the goo of the fat and the zoinks of the fizz. Wine is really just food, full of all of the same elements and more, that make the balancing act of cooking and eating so compelling, fun, and surprising.

Culinary genius is spawned of centuries of trial and error using the simplest ingredients in myriad ways, many of which were pretty lousy, like Spam or Chipped Beef. One need only to look at how many French dishes are basically scrambled eggs gone wrong to realize that the good ones stick around. So try a plump white wine with an arugula salad or black olives with marshmallows and see what comes of it.

 

She Said...
- Carrie Kalscheuer

Why does it have to be so technical? That's a lot to remember when standing in the supermarket aisle. Personally, it is an easy task- all I need to know is what I'm in the mood for. Who cares if I want red wine with fish? I've had many an enjoyable Syrah with salads. Sure, choosing one’s dinner and accompanying wine based on whim or mood might not create rare transcendent moments of taste bud bliss, but it needs to be said that one’s personal tastes are just that – personal.

Food and wine pairing isn't for jerks, it's just not something that needs to be so dang complicated.

Time Posted: Sep 7, 2011 at 10:41 AM
Bill Hatcher
 
September 6, 2011 | Bill Hatcher

Failure by Committee

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.”  A marketing organization with which I am familiar recently averred this maxim in its search for a new director.

After the departure of the organization’s first director, a search sub-committee of some nine people was formed to hire a successor.  That successor lasted seven months.  With no coherent marketing plan in place and the organization in disarray, the board recognized the need to bring in an expert who had built similar organizations and who could develop a comprehensive marketing plan.  Logically, the assignment would extend to hiring a director who could execute that plan.

However, rather than relying on his expertise, the board reconvened another nine-person committee, made up of competing business and regional interests.  Such partiality cannot help but become a Petri dish for breeding political self-interest.

Rather than permit a single individual, no matter how capable, to determine the outcome for all, success was sacrificed to control.  Ironically, of course, with such attenuated power, no individual or bloc ever achieves control.  As a result, the “winning” candidate is something of a chameleon, able to adapt to the prevailing environment.  This yes man succeeds by offending no one and, in turn, accomplishes nothing beyond political survival as competing interests strain against one another rather than vectoring toward common purpose.

This is perhaps the most virulent strain of committee bacteria.  More prevalent is the low-level infection that spreads through an organization and gradually vitiates resource and innovation.  Individual initiative is subsumed to institutional inertia, sacrificing accountability and responsibility along with enterprise and creativity.

A to Z has 42 full-time staff.  We have a safety committee of six people which meets once a month and a facilities committee of four which meets bi-weekly to walk the winery to discuss maintenance and capital issues.  There is a monthly all staff gathering and maybe half a dozen other regularly scheduled meetings.  Otherwise, people get together on an ad hoc basis as needed.

Committees directed at tangible issues such as safety and facility conditions can be useful as multiple eyes may see hazards or maintenance problems that one set of eyes might overlook.  However, when perpetual committees are formed to address the qualitative considerations of the business such as marketing, sales strategy, product design or manufacturing specifications, discussions inevitably become diffused in the repetitive humdrum, resulting in a loss of focus and expertise.

Companies that keep committees in particular, and meetings in general, to a minimum have a much better chance of creating and maintaining a culture of initiative and ownership of responsibility.  Entrepreneurial businesses rely on “skunk works” or loosely structured groups to think innovatively about the business.  That innovative impulse not only makes creative problem solving the norm of the organization but also engenders inherent objectivity.  Finally, organizations that rely on committee decision-making tend to be more bloated as that decision process is drawn out by the urge to consensus while those with a culture of results-driven autonomy are more streamlined and hence, relatively more profitable.  Besides, they are more fun places to work.

Time Posted: Sep 6, 2011 at 2:30 PM