Interesting Fact

Duckhorn sues Duck Commander

Duckhorn Vineyards, which sells $100 bottles of wine, has filed a lawsuit against Duck Commander Wines, the $9.99 drink associated with the clan from Duck Dynastyaccording to

The premier Napa Valley wine producer claims the cheap wine sold at Wal-Mart is confusing buyers who purchase the Duck Commander brand of wine thinking it’s associated with Duckhorn Vineyards. Plus, Duckhorn Vineyards is upset that Duck Commander has taken over when one searches “duck and wine” online, among other issues.

Duck Dynasty, a reality TV show I’ve never understood why people enjoy watching, follows the lives of the Robertson family who made tons of money off their company that sells duck hunting equipment. The show helped launch the Duck Dynasty family, and their Duck Commander brand, to stardom.

This isn’t the first time Duckhorn Vineyards has sued over the use of the name duck on a wine label. In the early 2000s, Duckhorn Vineyards sued Duck Walk Vineyards, a Long Island winery, according to the New York Times.

Duck Commander isn’t worried about the latest suit:

Duck Commander scoffs at the lawsuit … claiming that Duckhorn has no monopoly on the word “duck.”  They cite other duck patents, such as Long Duck, Duck Shack, Ugly Duckling, and Duck Duck Goose.  But our favorites … Orthoducks and Ducklebery Grunt!

Read more:


Red wine and chocolate chip cookies

The New Yorker recently published a thorough history of the chocolate chip cookie and according to the author, the American delicacies pair well with milk, coffee and tea, but also red wine and whiskey!


Thanks Creative Commons. You’re the best!


I have had red wine and chocolate chip cookies and can vouch for the tasty partnership. I wouldn’t recommend dipping though. Unlike milk, which tastes even more delicious as the cookie crumbles sink to the bottom of the glass making for a mushy shot at the end, tis not the case with wine. Best stick to taking a bite of one and then a sip of the other.

More about the chocolate chip cookie’s history:

Ruth Wakefield, who ran the popular Toll House restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts, with her husband, Kenneth, from 1930 to 1967, brought the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie into being in the late nineteen-thirties. The recipe, which has been tweaked over the ensuing decades, made its first appearance in print in the 1938 edition of Wakefield’s “Tried and True” cookbook. Created as an accompaniment to ice cream, the chocolate-chip cookie quickly became so celebrated that Marjorie Husted (a.k.a. Betty Crocker) featured it on her radio program. On March 20, 1939, Wakefield gave Nestlé the right to use her cookie recipe and the Toll House name. In a bargain that rivals Peter Minuit’s purchase of Manhattan, the price was a dollar—a dollar that Wakefield later said she never received (though she was reportedly given free chocolate for life and was also paid by Nestlé for work as a consultant).

To read the article in its entirety, visit

Bicycle wine rack? Yes, please. #Christmas

I have a lot of friends who bike, and yes I still live in Los Angeles. Many of those peddling amigos also like wine.

In comes the bicycle wine rack!


Courtesy of oopsmark/

It’s an ingenious invention from Etsy creator oopsmark, who focuses on tools for urban living. The olive-oil treated leather rack fits a 1-inch bike frame, but there’s an adjustable one if you’re looking to outfit a bigger frame. The handmade item is about $28 on Etsy and ships from Montreal. It’s sure to make you or your giftee the talk of the next Wolfpack Hustle or CicLAvia after-party.

What’s the most expensive wine?

I was thinking the other day about how much would be too much to pay for a bottle of wine.

Then I saw that 12 bottles of Romanee-Conti sold for $474,000–or $39,500 each– over the weekend. That was the most any case of wine has sold for at a Christie’s auction, according to Bloomberg.


The case of 35-year-old Burgundy wine out-sold the last record-breaker: a $345,000 bid for a case of wine, at the Hong Kong auction.

The Burgundy is from the same winery that was in the spotlight in October after news broke of an international counterfeiting ring selling fake versions of the French wines.


I can’t imagine bidding as much on a case of wine as the Chinese buyer at the auction–which I’m not surprised about given the location as well as China’s increasing thirst for fancy wine. China buys 6% of the world’s Burgundy, an increase from 1% in 2007, according to I think the most I’ve ever spent for a bottle of wine was $40, and that was at a restaurant, splitting the bottle between four diners.

Obviously, I’m no high-roller, but even if I was, would I spend nearly a half a million dollars on a case of wine, even if that wine was from one of the top wineries in the world, made in 1978 and tasted so good it “should be censored?”

According to Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Wine, the wine is “wild,” “incredible” and is reminiscent of a “glorious raw black truffles bouquet.”

Still, I don’t think I could ever spend that much money on wine, but that choice has more to do with my values, than my love for wine.

I believe you can be a wine lover, even a wine expert, without dropping a boatload of cash at an international auction.

What’s the maximum you’d spend on wine? How much is too much?

No hangover wines: Do they really exist?

The Daily Beast posted a story this week that claims to have found the holy grail: wine that won’t give you a hangover.

The writer, Jordan Salcito of Momofuku, talks about drinking three bottles of wine at dinner with a friend and waking up the next morning without feeling icky. In fact, both diners felt so great one dominated at a tennis match the next morning and the other at a spin class.

I know what it’s like to exercise the morning after a couple bottles of wine and for me, it’s hard enough to get out of bed, let alone actually move my body around to burn calories. I kind of look like #hangovercat.



Salcito says that his secret is natural wines, ones “made from ripe grapes and not much else.”

With that in mind, I decided to ask a nutritionist why that would be the case.

Roger Clemens, an adjunct professor of Pharmacology & Pharmaceutical Science at University of Southern California and a nutrition expert, said there is no scientific evidence to back up the claim that there will be a difference in hangover impact if you grab a bottle of natural wine rather than a conventional one.

None of the elements of conventional wine Salcito mentions in his article–supplementary sugar,sulfur dioxide, nitrogen, tartaric and malic acid, oak essence, etc–has been directly linked to hangovers, Clemens said, adding:

Hangovers, other than over indulgence, reflect the body’s response to excess alcohol (the liver is rate-limiting in alcohol metabolism) and possibly minor compounds often referred to as congeners. Congeners are natural products of fermentation and distillation. Even those who study the pathology of alcohol hangover suggest that other factors may subject vulnerable individuals to hangovers. Some of those factors include degree of hydration, immune status, health status, genetics and ultimately, individual variations.

Now, Salcito admits that his belief is based on anecdotes and not science and he warns not all natural wines are just dandy:

While natural wines have a host of merits, some can be a game of Russian Roulette if you aren’t familiar with labels. The term, which is nebulous and unregulated, can apply to any wine made without very few winery manipulations.  Some wines that fall under the natural wine umbrella are lambasted for trying to pawn off technically flawed wines. Some of them have the tannic composition of splintering plywood, and others have the aromatic make-up of fermenting dill pickles, nail polish remover, and unwashed feet.  Plenty of wines seem to get a free-pass on wine lists and retail shelves simply because they are “natural.” But like all wines, some are good, some are bad, and some are truly extraordinary.

So what did Salcito drink that magical night that led to a magical morning sans hangover? Eric Pfifferling’s l’Anglore Tavel rosé and two others of similar style. He also recommends:

  • Stella di Campalto, Tuscany, Italy
  • Arnot-Roberts, Sonoma, CA
  • Van Volxem, Mosel, Germany

Check out the article for more about natural wines and other recommendations. Buyer beware, though, most of those recommendations will cost you a pretty penny. I checked for prices and most are over $30.

Wine 101: Spit!

When I asked Jonathon Alsop, founder of Boston Wine School, what’s the first thing you teach new students, I was surprised by his response.

The first lesson in Wine 101 is how to spit, he said.

How to spit!?

Not what kind of grape makes what color wine or why some wines taste like tropical fruit and other wines are smoky. Nope.

That's Jonathon Alsop grinning because he's got wine in his grasp. (Courtesy: Boston Wine School)

That’s Jonathon Alsop grinning because he’s got wine in his grasp. (Courtesy: Boston Wine School)

I asked him to explain more, and this is what he said: Spit happens.

His reasoning: when you’re drinking wine at dinner, you swallow it, but when you’re learning to taste wine you don’t.

“Spitting out the wine you just tasted is the first step in getting ready to taste another wine.  Swallowing the wine you just tasted is the first step in getting hammered,” said Alsop, author of The Wine Lover’s Devotional: 365 Days of Knowledge, Advice & Lore for the Ardent Aficionado.

Jonathon Alsop operates the Boston Wine School, but also frequently writes about wine. (Courtesy: Boston Wine School)

Jonathon Alsop operates the Boston Wine School, but also frequently writes about wine. (Courtesy: Boston Wine School)

I’ve been wine-tasting many times and I don’t think I ever spit out my wine. I’ve definitely dumped a glass and grabbed a handful of oyster crackers to scrub away a bad taste, but spitting in front of someone who just poured me a glass, I couldn’t imagine myself doing that. But maybe I should start.

“If you went to a wine festival and just drank wine, you’d probably taste a couple of different wines at first, but eventually, as you grew immobile, you’d only be drinking wines you could stagger to,” Alsop said. “By having good spit discipline, you can keep your wits about you and taste 100 wines, and even remember a lot of them.”

At the Boston Wine School, they take alliteration seriously. Here are his seven steps for tasting wine:  See. Sniff. Swirl. Smell. Sip. Swish. Spit.

Alsop said he teaches in a “100% snob-free zone” where any level of wino can learn.

If you were going to take a Wine 101 class, what would you want to learn? If you had to teach a Wine 101 class, what would be the first thing you taught? I’m really curious. Tell me in the comments!

Myth buster: Cork trees aren’t endangered; Wine Caps v. Corks

Ever been at a dinner party where the host uncorks a bottle of wine, shows off the plastic cork and remarks that more wineries are moving away from real corks because the trees they come from are endangered? Well, that’s bullshit.

Yep, that's Dwight from The Office.

Yep, that’s Dwight from The Office.

Not only does cork bark renew itself after harvesting, the less cork is used, demand drops, driving down price and leaving cork forests at risk of being converted or abandoned. That would impact the livelihoods of the people who cut the cork for stoppers and the endangered animals that live in the forests, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The reasons wineries use screw caps or synthetic corks are price and taste impact, said Peggy Evans, executive director of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, who, by the way, had never heard of this cork shortage myth.

Not often, but on occasion, cork can cause a musty smell and off-taste to wine by contaminating it with a certain molecule known as TCA. It’s ingeniously called getting “corked” and winemakers don’t like it. Neither does this lady:



Screw caps, and even some corks blended with synthetic materials, are cheaper. Also, cork, which is a breathable enclosure, lets wine age over time, while not so much with screw caps that are air tight.

As for why wineries pick one over the other: Evans said presentation and tradition play a role. Many feel that the elegance of cork translates to higher priced wines and screw caps are only acceptable for less premium products. But, that’s a perception the industry is trying to overcome, Evans said.

Me being artsy.

Me being artsy.

Researchers at UC Davis are currently comparing corks and caps and studying the impact they each have on wine taste.

“I think there are lovers and haters on both sides of both fences,” Evans said. “Many makers of higher-end wines are making the switch. We’ll see how it goes.”

Doukenie Winery: Wine Science!

Beer, beer, beer. The social life of a geologist is filled with it. It’s glugged after a day studying rocks, after seminars and there was even a beer made specifically for a geological conference.

Leanne Wiberg, a geologist and @craterlady on Twitter, was long swirling in this beer vortex until about 10 years ago when some geologists began sipping wine.

“I’m sure this is partly because of the relative worldwide upturn in wine drinking across the board,” Leanne said in a Q&A with “But still, geologists are uniquely qualified to ponder and enjoy speculating about how any particular wine reflects the characteristics of the vineyard, which is planted in soil derived from the rocks below the vines.”


Leanne enjoying a glass of wine. (Courtesy: Leanne Wiberg)

While geologists “can channel rocks through wine,” not so with beer, which has ingredients–hops, water, etc– that are not location specific, she said.

So when Leanne was working as a naturalist in Loudoun County, Va. she met a winemaker who asked her to apply her geological skills at a local winery on the weekends.

Now Leanne hosts tours highlighting the nexus between science and winemaking at Doukenie Winery in Purcellville, Va. and she took some time after attending the Virginia Wine Summit to share with me why winemakers are nerds, the origins of Rkatsitelli grapes and wine tour patrons’ fascination with maps.

Leanne with some of her many maps (Courtesy: Leanne Wiberg)

Leanne with some of her many maps (Courtesy: Leanne Wiberg)

WFTW: How can one apply science to winemaking?

LEANNE: Winemakers are the classiest nerds and geeks you’ll ever meet. Technology and science is intrinsic to all vinification and vineyard management. Initially a site for any vineyard has to be selected. Considerations must be made: macro climate, elevation, topography, slope, solar aspect, and rock and soil types (geology) and former land use. Then the specific grape varietals have to be selected for the vineyard, based on these site selected. After that, the game plans about how to best care for the specific grapes in the vineyard and about when to harvest them must be done – all with the same mindful assessments that any successful farmer makes (yes farmers are scientists).

The process of winemaking itself involves countless subjective judgements and objective measurements, all leading to irreversible decisions about how to proceed with fermentations and subsequent treatments (natural or commercial yeast, American or French Oak, malo-lactic conversion or not, addition of powdered tannins or not).

As well, the process of bottling in itself is a technical minefield (bag-in-a-box systems or conventional bottles, natural or synthetic corks).

The tools used by a viniculturist (winemaker) and viticulturist (grape grower) are the same as those used by a farmer, chemist, chef, microbiologist, plant geneticist, geologist, and geographer.

WFTW: What do people on your tours at Doukenie Winery find the most surprising?

LEANNE: The tours don’t just discuss wines made at the winery. Rather, they present an overview of the entire Virginia wine industry, based on my eight years experience in it.

In a very general sense, they are surprised to discover that Virginia wines overall taste as good as they do. As well, considering wines made at the winery where I work, many tour takers comment that varieties they generally avoided can taste more appealing when they are made using the traditional techniques used by winemakers from Burgundy (Doukenie’s winemaker trained in winemaking schools in Beaune and Macon in Burgundy, France). This winemaking style is not common in Virginia. Only one other winery in the state employs a winemaker trained in Burgundy – King Family Vineyards.

Second, they are impressed by how non-traditional some of the wines are. Stereotypes based on wines originating in Europe and California are broken regularly in Loudoun County, especially. Unconventional blends appear because Virginia, as a nascent winemaking site, has not become entrenched in any particular style. For example, Tarara’s 2010 Honah Lee wine blends viognier, petit manseng, and rousanne – all grapes that might be new to Virginia wine. As well, they are surprised to learn that French-American hybrid wine grapes are on the radar of more and more local drinkers. Purposeful genetic crosses have been undertaken by breeders to produce wine grapes with increased disease resistance and climate suitability. For example, Desert Rose Winery is growing grapes called Crimson Cabernet. These grapes are a genetic cross between Norton (a grape hybrid itself growing well in the USA) with Cabernet Sauvignon (originally a European grape). Other hybrids include traminette, vidal blanc, chambourcin, and chardonel.

Leanne showing off some grapes. (Courtesy: Leanne Wiberg)

Leanne showing off some grapes. (Courtesy: Leanne Wiberg)

Because it is my “new” favorite white wine grape, my tour takers learn about Rkatsiteli – a grape originally from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Soviet Georgia which is making a fine showing in a small niche market locally….

They are fascinated by the maps I use, which feature the geology, topography, and hydrology of the estate at Doukenie….

Tour info:

The tours include a vineyard circuit, a barrel room visit, and a guided “techno-tasting” involving six wines with an emphasis on interpreting how the vineyard setting and the specific winemaking practices influence the taste of each wine. It’s free for wine club members and $15 for non-members. Find out more at

And if you’re wondering, Leanne’s favorite wines, other than Rkatsiteli, are Doukenie’s Petit Verdot, Merlot and Alsatian-style Riesling.

Wine in a can? Wine in paper bottles? What’s up with that?

For those of us who went to college in the past 10 years, we’ve had our fair share of wine in a box. Who can forget slap the bag? 

But wine in paper bottles and wine in cans? These are new and intriguing entries to the U.S. wine market.

First, the paper bottle:

It’s made by a U.K company called GreenBottle and the eco-friendly company’s first U.S. partner is California-based Truett-Hurst. Inside this interesting container will be Paperboy, a 2012 red blend from Paso Robles. What’s in the blend doesn’t seem to be portrayed on the bottle, but it does clock in at 14.5% alcohol and it’s coming to a Safeway stores soon. The paper bottle has already been used by Kingsland Wines on the other side of the pond. That winery used the label Thirsty Earth for its paper bottle wines, which included a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and an Australian Shiraz.



Much like boxed wines, paper bottles are lined with a plastic bladder to hold the liquid. According to Fox News, you can put it in ice for up to three hours without the paper disintegrating. I feel like I need to test this out myself before believing that one. I don’t know how much it will cost, but once I figure that out, I’ll update.

Now, the can:

An Oregon winery has canned Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris in 8 ounce containers! Union Wine Co., which cans the wine under the label Underwood, wanted to reverse the craft beer trend, where beer has been elevated out of Miller and Bud territory and into the world of tastings and fancy glasses, much like wine.

Photo: Union Wine Co.

Photo: Union Wine Co.

“We wanted to come up with a product that embodied our company’s philosophy of making great craft wine minus all the fuss,” Ryan Harms, owner of Union Wine Co., told Fast Company.“There is a ‘winification’ of beer trend going on and Union Wine Co. is at the forefront of a new trend, the ‘beerification’ of wine.”

It’s about taking the snobbery out of wine and making it more accessible, which seems to be the trend du jour. The cans even feature the Twitter hashtag #pinkiesdown.

They’ll be available next year; $5 for an 8-ounce can.

Old Vine Zinfandel vs. Zinfandel

If I was blindfolded and you put an Old Vine Zinfandel in front of me and a non-Old Vine Zinfandel, I probably couldn’t tell the difference.

So I started asking around: what separates the two, flavor-wise?


I had this Zin in my wine collection

Ondine Chattan, winemaker at XYZin Wines told me Old Vine Zinfandels tend to brighten the characteristics of the Zinfandel grape: producing a jammy and spicy wine. They’re “typically full-bodied, spicy, fruit-driven and accented by oak with robust alcohol,” she said.

Chris Smith, winemaking director of Bogle Winery, said Old Vine Zinfandels can have a superior quality of taste because the older grapevines are, the less vigor they have, which means they produce fewer grapes. Fewer grapes=more flavor.

“The Sex Appeal of Old Vine Zinfandel can be distilled down to smaller yields and more intensity of flavor. In general but not always true,” he pointed out.

There are different types of Zinfandel grapes and some old vines can’t be duplicated elsewhere, Chris said, leading to a unique wine taste.

So that’s that on the flavor profiles, but how old is old?

It depends who you ask. There’s no regulatory definition of “old vine.”

A winemaker can slap an old vine label on their bottles, even if their vines are only five years old and be “breaking no laws,” Chris said. Conversely, a winemaker with 100-year-old vines doesn’t have to define her Zinfandel as old vine on the bottle.

“So a consumer may frequently be drinking wines from Old Vines without any indication or may enjoy a wine from a blend of younger and older vines,” Ondine remarked adding that some consider 25-year-old vines old.

Ondine Chattan; credit

Ondine Chattan; credit

Not Chris. For him, more than 40 is old.

While other grape vines make it to around 25 years old with quality reducing as they age, Zinfandels have longer lifespans and increasing quality. One hundred year old Zinfandel vines are few and far between, but 60 to 70-year-old ones are common, Chris said.

Chris Smith; credit

Chris Smith; credit

If you want to get overwhelmed by Zinfandel info, check out this resource guide by Zinfandel Advocates & Producers.