• French native Christophe Baron of Washington's Cayuse Vineyards says he set out to capture some of the past when he planned for horse-powered vineyards at his certified biodynamic winery in Walla Walla. He was inspired by his grandfather, the vigneron at Baron-Albert in Champagne, France, who used horses in his vineyards up until 1957. As for actually procuring the animals, Baron took the high-tech route, going online to buy his two draft horses, named Zeppo and Red, from a farm in central Oregon. This is the horses' first harvest season, and Baron has already found that the vineyard is the perfect place for horses since, between the rows, "the only direction is straight ahead." Baron says it's just the first step he's taking to add working farm animals to the property, in order to fulfill the polyculture mandate of the biodynamic philosophy. Cows with horns are next, says Baron, perhaps so that he may bury a manure-filled cow horn in the vineyard during the fall equinox to increase the soil and vine health, another aspect of the biodynamic approach.
A dog day afternoon at California's Kunde Estate winery.
• In other animals-in-the-vineyard news, Kunde Estate winery in Kenwood, Calif., played host to one of its occasional Eco Dog Hikes, a fund-raiser for local animal charities, last Saturday. Fourth-generation wine grower Jeff Kunde led 60 people and 40 dogs on the three-mile hike through the winery's 1,850-acre estate vineyards and fields, a dog-friendly version of Kunde's monthly eco-hikes. Highlights included a tour of the ruins of the Dunfillan Winery, built by California winery pioneer James Drummond in the 1880s and featured in the recent film Bottle Shock. Said Kunde, "When we got to the lake at the end of the trail, we invited everybody to turn their dogs loose. Everyone loved it, and everyone was filthy." What's in it for the dogs? Aside from an unexpected swim in the lake, there was a water-tasting bar, featuring beef-, chicken- and bacon-flavored selections. Two-legged participants were treated to a picnic lunch which included Kunde Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. Proceeds from the hike went to non-profit Canine Companions and the Sonoma County Humane Society, and two dogs brought along by the Humane Society got an especially happy surprise when they were adopted by hike participants.
• Wine bottles are rarely picked up for recycling in Japan. In fact, in one area of Tokyo, the bottles are literally left in the streets, according to a recent report in Japan's Daily Yomiyuri. In the city's Itabashi Ward, the streets are paved with 4-inch by 8-inch by 2.5-inch glass blocks made from crushed wine bottles and sand, in an attempt to bring down rising temperatures in the urban area while keeping used bottles out of the city's waste stream. The semi-permeable blocks fill up with water from rainfall, and some residents even help the process along by actually watering the streets. As the water evaporates, the resultant vapor lowers the temperature on the street. Japan currently recycles beer and sake bottles, but not wine bottles, whose varying strengths make them more difficult to recycle. The experiment seems to be working, and although the special glass bricks are more expensive to manufacture and maintain than the commercially-available blocks used in other parts of the city, Unfiltered hopes that the benefit of cooler temperatures will encourage the Japanese to drink more wine.
• If two's a trend, then prisoners all across Europe should be getting ready to take their place in the wine industry. A few months ago, Unfiltered reported on Fortezza Medicea, the high-security Tuscan prison that opens its doors to the public for periodic dinners, featuring local wines, as part of its inmate job-training program. Now, according to a recent Reuters article, there is a Portuguese prison where inmates are actually making wine—and not of the illicit orange juice-based variety. The Pinheiro da Cruz prison in southern Portugal employs some of its prisoners, who earn 2.20 euros per day, to work in its onsite vineyard. Even prisoners serving lengthy sentences are allowed to work largely unsupervised, armed with real vineyard tools—quite an upgrade from plastic knives. Winemaking at the prison started in the 1950s as manual labor for the inmates, but the program has evolved into a reward system for the best-behaved prisoners. The prison produces nearly 2,800 cases of red wine and about 550 cases of white wine annually, which generates about 100,000 euros of income for the prison. And, like any good job, working in the vineyard has its perks: The inmates get to sample an occasional glass of the wine they've helped to make.
BBC personality Zoe Bell, celebrating in front of headquarters during happier times.
• Is there anything more feel-good in tough times than a chilled glass of Champagne? Well, unfortunately, workers at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) wouldn't know. The national broadcaster has banned the purchase of bubbly because of the current economic crisis. According to a statement released by the BBC, in 2007, staff claimed a total of £48,000 (over $78,000) in Champagne expenses, with an additional £200,000 (more than $325,000) just for Christmas parties. "We have to consider very carefully whether expenditure is appropriate in light of the financial pressures we are facing," explains the report. "We need to scrutinize everything we do and work hard to release any savings to ensure we are delivering best value to our audiences." While Unfiltered certainly understands the need to make sacrifices in these lean times, we'd like to suggest that the BBC investigate cava or prosecco as lower-cost alternatives that will still put some sparkle in their employees' holiday celebrations, and make up the difference by requiring employees to use both sides of their copier paper, or eliminating paperclips.