Archive for January, 2015

Camelina Oil

January 19th, 2015

Camelina oil

I am a big advocate for and user of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I seem to use it on nearly everything. However there are many other oils out there in the marketplace. One that I would point out to you that is still flying slightly under the radar is Camelina Oil. It is an old oilseed that originated in Northern Europe and can be traced back to the Bronze Age for use as a culinary oil. I have been using a Saskatchewan based group of farmers called Three Farmers ( Camelina Oil especially for grilling, sautéing, roasting, deep frying, and stir frying as it is so useful with its high 475F smoke point. I also like their Roasted Onion & Basil version with garlic for salads, marinades and dips. It is a cold pressed non-GMO product with an earthy nutty character containing fats plus Omega 3, Omega 6, Omega 9, and Vitamin E. In fact they claim the ratio of these fatty acids is as important as their nutritional value and that Camelina Oil has a better ratio of these than the other oils including – olive, flax, hemp, grape seed and coconut. It claims to be naturally gluten-free without artificial additives, preservatives, colours, and trans fatty acids. This natural sustainable product comes with a best before date together with a searchable traceability number on the bottle label back to the farmer who sourced it and the field in which it was grown. For more background information go to this website. Have you tried this oil? Check out the retail availability of this product on line or at a store near you.

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A look back at Falcon Crest

January 16th, 2015

A look back at Falcon Crest tv show

By Joseph Temple

If you enjoyed watching prime-time soap operas as much as you loved drinking wine back in the 1980s, then Friday night was definitely your night!  That’s because right after J.R. Ewing’s scheming on CBS, viewers could uncork their favorite bottle, sit back and be transported to Tuscany Valley (i.e. Napa Valley) where a world of sex, blackmail and deceit would unfold at the Falcon Crest Winery.

A Top 20 show for several seasons, fans couldn’t get enough of the constant infighting between the Channing’s and Gioberti’s, two related families battling for control of their Northern California vino-empire.  Dubbed “Dallas with grapes” by TV critics, the picturesque scenery of a Victorian era hilltop mansion surrounded by palm trees and bountiful vineyards proved to be a great hook in attracting viewers.  Within a short time, Falcon Crest was able to create its own legion of devout followers who tuned in every week to watch Angela Channing, a ruthless matriarch fight tooth and nail against her nephew Chase Gioberti (and later Richard Channing, the illegitimate son of both families) for power over the winery and their related businesses.

In reality, the stunning home that people saw in the opening credits was Spring Mountain Vineyard, purchased by vintner Mike Robbins in the 1970s.  The surrounding area, near St. Helena could trace its commercial winemaking roots back to the late 19th century when Charles Lemme and the Beringers planted the first vines. More than a hundred years later, the region has gone on to be a recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA) and a keystone of the world famous Napa Valley.   And with the Judgment of Paris shocking the wine world in 1976, there probably wasn’t a better backdrop than Spring Mountain for a salacious soap that quickly gained a worldwide audience.

Although the ownership has since changed hands and its new proprietors are quick to downplay any connection to the show, there is no doubt that during this soap opera’s heyday, Spring Mountain was one of the hottest pieces of real estate north of San Francisco.  Author James Conaway in his book Napa: The Story of an American Eden writes,

“Sometimes Robbins had trouble getting into his own driveway.  He put signs saying the house and some of the grounds were off limits, but the tourists wandered around anyway, looking at his olive trees and at the pool beyond the box hedges, peering through the windows.”

Cashing in on the show’s popularity, Robbins eventually introduced a separate label named after the program, which tourists eager to bring home a souvenir bought in droves.  However, when the show ended in the spring of 1990, all of this hyper commercialism would leave a bad taste in the palate of Robbins, who decided to sell his estate two years later.

But almost twenty-five years after the show’s cancellation, there is no escaping the enormous footprints left by Jane Wyman, Robert Foxworth and the rest of this all-star cast.  “I’ve been trying to figure out why this looks so familiar,” said one visitor to author Rick Kushman during his tour of Spring Mountain Vineyard for the book A Moveable Thirst: Tales and Tastes from a Season in Wine Country.

“Wasn’t this where they made Falcon Crest?”

What are your thoughts on this great slice of 80s television nostalgia?  Did it help or hurt the wine industry in general?

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Ask Sid: Letting wine breathe?

January 14th, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

What's the best way to let wine breathe?
By Daryn Nakhuda (originally posted to Flickr as Delicious Cabernet) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: Any new tips on letting a wine breathe?

Answer: Still just to open the bottle and expose the wine to air. However, not much surface area is aerated and exposed to oxygen unless you pour it into a glass or better still a decanter. Seems to becoming more important than ever recently with more reductive wines out there and wines spending longer periods under screw cap closures. Many of these wines definitely need breathing to open up and show their best as of course do most young tannic reds. A key question is for how long. Best to experiment. Lots of new tools on the market to help you speed the process up. I just received a gift I am playing with called a Wine Breather Carafe (search on a Danish design made in Turkey that claims to add 10 times more oxygen in just 2 minutes. They also say that “aerating white wine has the same taste-improving advantages as aerating red wine” and that it is “perfect for all young wines up to 10 years old.” Check it out.

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January 12th, 2015


I am a big fan of avocado. So healthy with all those good tasty high in monounsaturated fats. So versatile too for use in salads, sandwiches, sauces and guacamole recipes. I prefer mine with only some sweet onion, a little garlic, lime or lemon juice, and ripe heirloom tomatoes when available in season. Sure many of you also want hot peppers or chiles or even cilantro added. Do you have a great guacamole recipe you would share?

Recently have participated in several avocado tastings. Most of us are familiar with the popular Hass variety smaller with the rougher pebbly shell that darkens quite black as it ripens. Also tried some from Mexico (more pear shaped smooth skinned with a smaller seed), Florida, Guatemala, Hawaii (nutty Sharwil larger rounder with a harder shell that remains green even when ripe & a butter variety as well) and even some useful puree from Chile. All uniquely delicious and like bananas they continue to ripen to consuming perfection at room temperature after being picked as mature on the trees. Note that avocado oil is being used more now.

Didn’t realize there are 1000s of varieties. Fun to seek out different varieties you might prefer just like with apples. See the University of California at Riverside Agriculture & Natural Resources website for more information.  Also check out for some of the excellent Hawaiian examples worth seeking out to try.

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Wine & 5 Forgettable Presidents

January 9th, 2015

lesser known presidents and wine

By Joseph Temple

Mention wine and the U.S. presidency in the same sentence and many oenophiles will respond with the name Thomas Jefferson.  Given his well-documented passion for viticulture and a huge scandal surrounding several counterfeit bottles that falsely bared his initials, its easy to see why Jefferson is such an important figure in the history of American wine.

But what about some other presidents – you know, the ones you’ll never see on the dollar bills?  For this week’s entry, have a look at some interesting anecdotes from five lesser-known chief executives of the nineteenth century and how this libation played a peculiar role in their administrations.

wine becomes Martin Van Buren's double edged sword
1. Martin Van Buren –
Wine becomes his double edged sword

Spending four years as Andrew Jackson’s vice president before his own election to the top spot, Martin Van Buren developed a taste for the finer things in life while living in Washington D.C.  One of those things was wine, spending nearly twice on this drink than what he paid in taxes.  “I want about fifteen or twenty gallons of table-wine,” he wrote to one of his subordinates. “Say prime Siciliy, Madeira, or some other pleasant, but light and low wine to drink with dinner.”

Unfortunately, Van Buren’s interest in wine also played a significant role in his downfall during the election of 1840.  As the United States struggled through a terrible recession following the Panic of 1837, his Whig opponent, William Henry Harrison successfully painted the president as an out-of-touch elitist. Despite this commander-in-chief’s humble beginnings in Upstate New York as “Old Kinderhook,” the charges stuck in part because of Van Buren’s known interest in wine – an aristocratic drink during a time when America was mostly an agrarian society that consumed whiskey and hard cider.  By using the facts that his opponent loved champagne and had a French chef, Harrison easily defeated Van Buren in the Electoral College with a political strategy that lives on to this day.

Pints are very inconvenient for James Buchanan
2. James Buchanan – Pints are very inconvenient

From the North, but sympathetic to the South, President James Buchanan is often criticized for supporting policies that caused the Civil War.  For this reason, Buchanan usually ends up near the bottom of historical rankings of Presidents of the United States.  But as historian Mark Will-Weber writes, “In vivid contrast to Buchanan’s marks as a leader, “Old Buck” warrants straight A’s when it comes to his ability to handle alcohol.”

Much like Thomas Jefferson, Buchanan served abroad as a diplomat and later as secretary of state, giving him the opportunity to sample some of Europe’s finest wines.  And after returning home to America, this life-long bachelor definitely knew how to throw a party, purchasing nearly three hundred bottles of wine and 150 bottles of champagne for just one event.  Later as president, Buchanan carried on this alcohol-fueled tradition, complaining once about the small size of bubbly that was sent to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  “Pints are very inconvenient in this house,” Buchanan wrote.  “As the article is not used in such small quantities.”

Lemonade Lucy and President Hayes
3. Rutherford B. Hayes –
Mostly dry with the rare wet spot

After winning the presidency, but losing the popular vote, President Rutherford B. Hayes came into office in 1877 owing a lot of favors.  One such group that was looking for a return on their investment was the temperance movement, still fifty years away from seeing their policies come to fruition.  Agreeing with their sentiments, Hayes pledged to set an example as president, banning alcohol from all White House functions.  And supporting him 100% was his wife, Lucy Hayes, nicknamed Lemonade Lucy for her staunch support of prohibition.

But when the sons of Czar Alexander II arrived at the Executive Mansion for an official visit, Hayes’s Secretary of State begged his boss to lift the ban, fearing that Americans would be viewed as uncultured for not serving wine with dinner.  Acquiescing, the president’s decision that night would cause a rift between him and his dry supporters after they found out about this act of treason.

One last glass of port for President Garfield
4. James Garfield – One last glass of Port

James Garfield has the distinction of being one of only four presidents to die in office as a result of an assassination.  The only difference is that most historians and scientists now believe Garfield could have survived if only his doctors didn’t use such unsanitary methods, resulting in the spread of the infection and his untimely death nearly two months after being shot.

An interesting anecdote is that two days before assassin Charles Guiteau shot the president, Garfield wrote to his wife asking her to bring some port to their vacation home in New Jersey.  “For two nights I have taken a glass of port wine and conclude that it is one reason that I have slept better,” wrote Garfield who rarely drank and supported temperance.  “… If you can bring me a little more that you can trust as pure port, I think it may be of advantage to me.”

lobbying president arthur with rare wine
5. Chester A. Arthur – Lobbying with Wine

Thrust into the number one spot after Garfield’s death, President Chester A. Arthur was known to enjoy all the luxuries associated with the Gilded Age.  He loved eating at the famous Delmonico’s restaurant in lower Manhattan and while in office, Arthur would hire a prominent New York chef to work in the White House kitchen where pomp and circumstance became the new norm.  “President Arthur has far surpassed all his predecessors in the matter of entertaining at the White House,” wrote one newspaper.  And of course, what would a fabulous meal be without an excellent vintage?

Knowing Arthur’s weakness for fine wines, one lobbyist understood that the best way to get in good with the product of Tammany Hall machine style politics was to shower him with liquid gifts.  One present in particular was a collection of Madeira.  Only these bottles allegedly came from South Carolina’s Charleston Jockey Club, where wealthy southerners fearing General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” hid their best and rarest bottles from Yankee destruction.  Not a bad way to get in the good graces of an oenophile president!


Dehler, Gregory. Martin Van Buren: Chester Alan Arthur: The Life of a Gilded Age Politician and President. New York: Nova Science Publishers Inc., 2006.
Irelan, John. History of the Life, Administration and Times of Martin Van Buren. Chicago: Fairbanks and Palmer Publishing Co., 1887.
Kamp, David. The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation. New York: Broadway Books, 2006.
McCullough, Noah. The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia. New York: Random House, 2006.
O’Brien, Daniel. How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2014.
Widmer, Ted. Martin Van Buren: The American Presidents Series: The 8th President, 1837-1841. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2005.
Will-Weber, Mark. Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking. Washington DC: Regnery History, 2014.

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