The Birds and The Bees in The Zinfandel Trees: 2020 Harvest in Ventura Vineyards Old and New

Bruce Freeman picking Zinfandel in upper Ojai CA late August 2020.

“The birds and the bees know when the grapes are ripe,” says Clos des Amis winemaker Bruce Freeman.

It’s 9am on a warm late August morning, and we’re knee deep in thickly trunked Zinfandel wherein large dark clusters of grapes hide bees with a few yellow jackets for good measure. The birds are out too, mostly mourning doves cooing like a daytime owl and acorn woodpeckers making a ruckus.

I’ve asked a silly question: if we’d picked the week before, would the bees be so bad? Would they have taken so much fruit?

Wouldn’t matter, says Bruce.

When the brix is right, the bees know it and they’re right there too ready for the harvest. They snuggle their little fuzzy butts right in there, humping the seeds to get the juicy, seed pulp, leaving hollow hulls and seeds behind.

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Mark Your Calendars: Ojai Wine Festival 6/8 and VC Wine Trail Celebration 6/19

734907_10152416989915582_1910459839_nIf you missed out on last weekend’s LA Wine Fest or Ventura County’s fundraiser for Casa Pacifica, no worries, there are plenty more wine festivals as well as concerts, BBQs and many other events to come this June and throughout the summer!

Plan now to attend Sunday’s  28th annual Ojai Wine Festival and mark your calendars for the 7th annual Ventura County Wine Trail Celebration Thursday, June 19 from 5:30-8pm. Better yet, get your tickets now because as I reported here last year, it sells out–and here’s why!

First, coming up this Sunday June 8th from noon-4pm is the 28th Annual Ojai Wine Festival. Located  on the shores of Lake Casitas  Continue reading

Two SoCal Wine Festivals To Prowl This Weekend!

Wine Predator plans to prowl this weekend at two Southern California wine festivals this weekend: LA WineFest which runs  June 9 and 10, and the 26th Annual Ojai Wine Fest Sunday June 10 from 1-5pm on the shores of Lake Casitas near Ojai, CA. Continue reading

Greening Valentine’s Day with organic treats, homemade gifts & local, sustainable, organic, biodynamic wines of course!

Even though Valentine’s Day screams RED: red roses, red foil chocolates, red sweaters, red hearts, and RED ink in your checking account, GO GREEN and SAVE GREEN this year! Turn your Valenfree trade chocolatestine’s Day GREEN with some of these tips from LIVE Earth: Save a Little Love for the Planet on Valentine’s Day (photo by LA Green Girl). Wine Predator’s additional tips and commentary are in bold and italics.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching! February 14th is Saturday and you want to be prepared, but while you’re at it why not show some love for the planet too. It doesn’t take much to green your Valentine’s gifts and festivities. You will be surprised at how much love you can spread around the world. Here are some great tips you can use to show your loved one you care about them, and the planet.

1. So you’ll want a card to go with the wine. Buy valentine cards from local artists who make greeting cards out of recycled material.

artlifekissessm2Most art galleries feature a selection of cards by local artists: around here, I find my favorites at Farmer and the Cook in Meiners Oaks by a local cycling activist artist or at Buenaventura Art Gallery on Fir by the Post Office. Or download my kisses poem and send me a donation; you could also send your loved one a link to my Kisses poem (and show me a little link love too while you’re at it by linking to Kisses on your site!)

2. Make your own valentine cards with recycled items and things from nature such as dried flowers, satin ribbons, fabric hearts.

Try going to the beach or the snow and handwriting your message! Photo the message and send it to your loved one! Or print it out!

3. If you like to enjoy your wine by candlelight, use eco-friendly fragrance free candles. Beeswax or vegetable based candles that are biodegradable and smoke-free are a good choice.

Beeswax candles also clean and clear the air of pollutants and they smell wonderfully while they burn. I find mine at our local farmers markets; I keep them near sunlight so as they warm during the day, they exhale a rich sweet scent.

4. Choose wine or champagne that’s  organic, biodynamic, or sustainably produced. If there is a vineyard near,  buy from there. You will be supporting a local business, cutting down the use of packaging for shipping and probably saving some money too.

images-2Organic isn’t the only GREEN wine around–look for biodynamic wine or wines produced from sustainable vineyards, wineries and businesses.

One “green” red  I enjoyed recently over New Years weekend in Joshua Tree is RN13 Vin de pique-nique which indeed is perfect for a Valentine’s Day picnic! Made from 40% cabernet, 40% syrah, and 25% grenache (and sometimes mourverde)  grown organically in the south of France (Languedoc-Roussillon), the blend brings out the best of all three–it’s a spicy, silky,  full bodied,  full of fruit, full of fun!

I found the wine in Joshua Tree for $15 at a funky little cool cafe and shop on the corner across the street from the strip mall in Joshua Tree where you’ll find a thrift store and a natural foods market. We enjoyed it during a cloudy, wind whipped sunset in Joshua Tree and with a dinner of bolognese, salad, and stuffed portabellas. If you’re not in the neighborhood of Joshua Tree NP, try a Whole Foods Market.

The unusual way it’s bottled makes it easy to reuse as well! And each time you reuse the bottle, you will remember your special “picnic”!11ojai

Yesterday at a Santa Lucia Highland’s tasting in LA I tasted dozens of wonderful wines–mostly chardonnays like Bernardus full of character and pinots like Belle Glos with its lipstick red dripping cork seal and amazing nose plus a few intense syrahs like Wrath or Novy’s 2006. I also discovered Hahn’s sustainably grown wines. Unfortunately,  by the time I made it to their table, they were packing up. They did give me some seeds which they use as a cover crop and we will plant for Valentine’s Day!

You’d be surprised how many biodynamic, organic and sustainable wines that are being made in the US these days and beyond! Go here to learn about biodynamic wines from Quivira in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma.

You’d also be surprised at the number of wineries scattered across the country; I know I am! I’m lucky since in my backyard I have world-class wine and winemakers like Manfred Frankl of Sine Qua Non and the up and coming Michael Meagher at Vino V, and long-time local winemaking guru Adam Tolmach at Ojai producing wine from grapes typically sourced within 50 miles of my house.

5. For dessert, buy Organic or fair trade chocolates treats, (if you can buy from companies whose profits go to helping endangered species) or make your own chocolate treats with organic chocolates, nuts and fruits.

chocolate-strawberriesMaking your own customized chocolate treats like chocolate dipped strawberries with pecans really is easy! Finding organic strawberries this time of year is simple also since now is when they are really coming in season. While my favorites “Harry’s Berries” aren’t certified organic, the family follows sustainable and organic practices. You can find a recipe here.