Monday, August 28, 2006

The Omnivore's Dilemma

This is a great book! I'm not quite finished (I have about 1/5 left to read), but already know this is a book I'll be recommending to everyone I talk to... The book is a highly readible, interesting and thought-provoking look at food and why we eat what we do.

I heard the author interviewed on KUOW's Weekday a few months ago and got my interest piqued then. (You can listen to the audio here). That was followed by a Steph's positive comments (and decision to seek out grass-fed and grass-finished meat instead of eating regular feedlot meat). I thought "Anything that could convince Steph change her meat eating habits must be good".

Do take a look at the review on Amazon by Erik Marcus - he raises some good points and criticisms of Pollan's book. The main thing I wondered about while reading the chapters on Polyface Farms was "Where's the accounting for how much water it takes to run this place?" Pollans makes it sound as if the farm is a completely self-sufficient system: grass grows and converts sunlight to food, is eaten by cows, chickens move in to the pasture a few days later, break open the cowpats and eats bugs and parasites, fertilize the grass with their droppings, lay great eggs which get sold, finally get slaughtered, and their byproducts re-fertilize the soil. Pigs break up other waste and make manure from woodchips, etc... This idyllic composting circle-of-life sounds great, but I don't see it working as a role-model for farming throughout the country or the world.

The philosphy of Polyface is something to at least think about and maybe strive for, taking local conditions and limitations into account. Other ideas from Polyface make sense to me, such as opening up abbatoirs and slaughter houses to the public so they can see what goes on and how well the animals are treated as they are killed and processed. (Apparently there is one slaughter-house in the US with glass walls precisely to facilitate this...) How many people would bother to go look though?

I've already queued up a related book: "The way we eat: why our food choices matter"

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Stomhoek tasting party pics

So, I've finally put some pictures of the tasting party up online:

Stormhoek Tasting Party Group Photo

Stormhoek Wine

The Spread


Focusing more on the wines than I did in this previous post, I was pleasantly surprised with the Stormhoek wines. Being free, it's hard to know how they did in terms of bang for the buck, but in terms of taste, they were all very pleasant, easy-drinking, and tasy.

My favourite white was the Sauvignon Blanc - light, crisp and slightly grassy with a hint of melon. Others preferred the Pinot Grigio, which was had hints of citus and minerals. The Pinot Grigio seemed a little "thin" to me...
The Pinotage was really nice - smooth, fine tannins and very fruit-forward. Usually Pinotage is a little harsh (I've only drunk it young), spicy and can be a little "green", although usually in a good way! (Yes, I think it's possible for red wine to be "green" in a good way). The pinotage was almost too fruit-forward for my liking - it became less regognizable as pinotage and tended towards the fruity merlots that abound. Still, I'd happily drink this over most cheap merlots and shirazes.

Overall, I'd give the Stormhoek wines scores in the upper-80's, and definitely buy them if they're in the $10-15 price range. Now to see how much they actually do retail for!

City Cellars wine store

Last Friday I had some time to kill between dropping my mom off at the airport and meeting friends for dinner. I headed into Seattle, and had the fun experience of being passed on the I-5 by one of the Blue Angels taking off from Boeing Field, right next to the highway!

I headed up to Wallingford to explore Bottleworks (a great beer store specializing in Belgian beer), but realized that I'd never been to the wine shop next door. So, I popped in to City Cellars instead, and had a great time. They have regular wine-tastings on Friday (for a small fee), so I was able to try three wines and chat to the owners. They're really friendly and the place had a nice vibe... They also have a "sale" section with 100 wines $10 and under. This selection in general is amazing - they had some South African wines I've not seen elsewhere, and some interesting NZ and Ausie wines, as well as the expected selection of American, French and Italian wines. Defintely worth checking out!

Of course, I picked up some wine:
  • 2004 Markowitsch Pinot Noir. This is the first Pinot Noir I've come across from Austria, and is supposedly more like cooler climate (NZ) Pinot Noir which I love.
  • 2004 Fairvalley Pinotage, from South Africa. A really cheap ($9) Pinotage. I'm interested to see how this compares to the Stormhoek Pinotage I had recently.
  • 2001 Vidal Estate Pinot Noir, from New Zealand's South Island. Another NZ Pinot Noir to try...

I'll let you know how these are after I've tried them :)

Friday, August 04, 2006

An interesting article on French wine and consumers, and international tastings over the years

I found this article today: French Wine Producers and Consumers (
While I haven't had time to read it and digest it fully, it looked interesting enough to post. I was talking about the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting with friends last weekend during our tasting party, and the article covers that event (plus others):

But some may say this is natural. Isn't French wine the best in the world? Knowledgeable people haven't believed this myth since the Paris Wine Tasting in 1976, at which time French wines were pitted against California wines, in that tasting, a California red took first place and California Chardonnays won first, third and fourth place in the white wine category. And many other countries around the world similarly produce award-winning wines as well. (Details of the Paris Wine Tasting in 1976 are found below.)
Automaker Henry Ford is reputed to have said that customers could buy any color Ford car they wanted so long as it was black. The attitude of French wine producers similarly seems to be "if we don't produce it, you don't need it." Unfortunately, it's the innocent French consumer who is deprived of choice.

Wikipedia has entries on the '76 and 30th anniverary tasting this year.