• It's like Young Einstein successfully split the Tasmanian beer atom all over again. OK, even for those who don't get the vague movie reference which depicted the young genius discovering how to use chemistry to put bubbles back into beer, wine-and-health buffs will be pleased with the recent news that a million-dollar project to scientifically up the level of resveratrol in Spanish red wine has now been declared a success. Researchers working with nine wineries in Rioja say they are going to target the U.S. and U.K. markets after increasing the level of the red-wine polyphenol and potential “miracle drug” in Tempranillo-based wine to 25.6 milligrams per liter, "an increase of 79 percent over the previous highest level of 14.3 mg/L found in a Hungarian wine," a press release declares. (Despite that this past January, Wine Spectator interviewed Australian alcohol alchemist Philip Norrie, who claims to have recorded levels of resveratrol at the 100 mg/L mark in his own experiments.) The bad news is that the Rioja wines aren’t available yet, as the first bottlings made public will come from the 2009 vintage. Once available, Unfiltered promises to perform much needed due diligence and taste each wine several times to determine which has more antioxidant oomph.
From left, Bay-Area quality control CEO Bruce Wolfe, Rubicon Estate's Larry Stone, Piña Vineyard Management owner Davie Piña and Frog's Leap owner John Williams don silly salmon hats for a great cause.
• What do a bunch of guys wearing goofy salmon hats have in common (besides the goofy hats)? On July 14, members of several state agencies and the Rutherford Dust Society donned hats bedecked with fake salmon to break ground on the long-anticipated Napa River Restoration Project. The project has been seven years in the planning and is described as a pioneering partnership between private landowners along the Napa River and county, federal and state agencies. The project is aimed at righting the wrongs done to the river and its watershed by 150 years of human habitation. According to U.C. Berkeley-trained geomorphologist Lisa Micheli, “Early European settlers brought in livestock, heavily grazed the watersheds and compacted the soils. Then they began in-stream mining, pulling sand and gravel out of the river to build roads. They dredged the mouth of the river for navigation purposes and harvested trees along the stream bed.” The project to restore the river habitat to its natural state will cost an estimated $7 million to $8 million and take several years to complete. The Rutherford Dust Society’s project, endorsed by its board of directors in 2002, will restore a portion of the river that runs through the Oakville and Rutherford AVAs. The project will entail replanting the riverbank with native trees, installing fish ladders to make another 65 miles of watershed available to native salmon and trout, removing sediment pollution sources and stabilizing banks.
• The scientists at Cornell University's Nanofabrication Laboratory specialize in small. How small? They once built a guitar the size of a human blood cell out of crystalline silicon, complete with strings 100 atoms wide. (No word on how they tuned it to open G.) So when Alan Lakso, a horticultural science professor who specializes in grapes and apples, wanted a way to better measure water stress in vines, he knew who to call. Measuring water stress is key for growing wine grapes: Too much water leads to too much foliage and dilute grapes; too little can shut down a vine. Many vintners currently use sensors in their vineyard dirt to track soil moisture. It took 15 years, but the nanofabricators have developed a prototype—a 4-inch-diameter silicon wafer with about 100 microsensors that can be embedded inside a vine (think Fantastic Voyage, but without Raquel Welch). While an actual product is several years away, the developers believe they may eventually be able to measure other nutrients. Unfiltered is curious whether this little invention may someday be able to settle the debate over whether wines of terroir really are soaking up all that unique limestone and schist.
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