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It Takes Two

It Takes Two

 

All of us have heard about the health benefits of wine. The antioxidants present in wine, particularly in red wine, have been linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and a glass or two per night is a common suggestion for those looking to lower their bad cholesterol. If you want a refresher, check out my article here!

It turns out, though, that just drinking a glass or two of Pinot Noir each night is not enough. In a new study by the European Society of Cardiology, people who drank wine 5 nights a week had their cholesterol levels tracked over the course of a year. The trial, entitled “In Vino, Veritas,” looked at both men and women, who were divided into two groups; half the participants drank a pinot noir and the other half drank a chardonnay-pinot noir (white) blend. Both wines came from the same vintage and the same region of the Czech Republic. Participants kept a log of their wine and alcohol consumption, medication use, and exercise habits.

This study is extraordinary for a couple reasons. First of all, Professor Milos Taborsky, the lead researcher on the project, was looking for a rise in HDL cholesterol, which is “the main indication of a protective effect against cardiovascular disease.” However, at the end of the year the HDL cholesterol level s were not markedly different from the participants’ beginning stats. This points to the conclusion that neither red nor white wine contributes to the prevention of heart disease. LDL cholesterol was lower in both the red and white groups at one year, while the total cholesterol level was lower for the red wine drinkers only. So while Professor Taborsky concluded that neither red nor white wine “had any impact on study participants as a whole,” consuming either type of wine does appear to have a beneficial effect on the drinker’s cholesterol levels.

This is the first randomized study that attempts to look at the comparative benefits of red wine vs. white wine on cardiovascular health. By controlling the vintage, varietal, and appellation of the wines drunk by the participants, we are able to compare the risks and benefits of the wines in real-life circumstances, rather than posit theories based on our understanding of what should happen. The traditional view of red wine as a healthier option than white wine must be reevaluated in light of these findings.

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Fall Back in Love with Red Wine

Tis the season for red wine!Autumn is coming again, even if it still feels like the heat will never subside here in the Bay Area! With the endless Back to School and Labor Day sales, we're all getting ready for the leaves to change, the wind to pick up, and the cold-weather clothes to come out of storage.

As I look forward to the brisk days of fall (even as I get sunburnt while wearing shorts and tank tops to walk the dog), my taste in wine shifts away from the crisp white and rose that kept me refreshed through the dry summer days and I get excited to break out those full and complex reds that pair perfectly with fall breezes and autumn dinner parties.

For early fall pairing, you have several routes to take. Football season and weekend cookouts need the bold fruit and spice of Livermore, Lodi, and Paso Robles Zin, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. Red blends are always welcome, too! They don't have to be anything fancy, since you don't generally keep crystal stemware next to your outdoor grill. Just get something that has a big enough body and tannic grip to stand up to the smoky flavors of the burgers, sausages, and ribs with which the wines are served. Daytime wines are all about power.

 

For the cooler evenings, focus on grapes that show more finesse.

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The Earthquake in Napa

I feel fortunate that no one I know was injured in the Napa earthquake on Sunday morning, and I want to express my sympathy for all those affected, whether through property damage or physical injury.  I am grateful that there have been no reported fatalities, and while I know we will be dealing with the fallout of the earthquake for a long time, I am glad that the damage to the city of Napa is reparable. Those who were injured in the quake are, I’m sure, in everyone’s thoughts and prayers for a quick and complete recovery. As we continue to hear accounts and see photos of the damage to historic buildings, tumbled barrels, and lakes of wine and broken bottles, it is easy to get caught up in the drama of speculating how the wine business will be affected by the earthquake, but that can wait until later.

For now, let’s focus on being thankful for the quick response to the disaster; the measures that were already in place to protect the people, the history, and the wine of the region; the planning that is already taking place to move forward from this event and prevent such havoc in the future; and our collective ability to help the area recover. In light of the earthquake, I suggest purchasing a bottle of Napa-made wine and toasting to their recovery. Reach out to your friends and family in Napa and see if you can lend a hand to help put everything to rights. If you’re in the Bay Area and are able, look for opportunities to volunteer to clear the damage.

This earthquake came at a bad time (and is there a good time for earthquakes?) with the harvest season and a tough drought upon us, but we can give it a positive outcome. Help the region repair and renew itself, help those who were affected by the earthquake, and help continue celebrating the beautiful, historic, and ever-stronger Napa Valley.

If you wish to volunteer or donate to help Napa recover, please visit http://www.redcross.org/.

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Only One Favorite?

One of the wines I will always name: Domaine Carneros La Reve

When someone first hears that I work in the wine business, one of their first questions is, “What’s your favorite wine?”

I hate that question. It’s friendly and indicates that the person is interested in letting me nerd-out for a few minutes about something I love, but it’s way too difficult to answer succinctly!

I’ve found that most people who are able to answer that question with a single sentence fall into two categories; they have either only just started getting into wine and haven’t tasted many different bottles, or they are Master Sommeliers or Masters of Wine and have tasted just about every different wine available, and have done so in a professional capacity that allows them to select the (subjectively) best wine.

I am not quite at that level, nor will I be for years. I’m working towards tasting every wine ever, but that’s a marathon, not a sprint. Also, I have too many opportunities to taste wine outside of a professional tasting, and that means that my opinion of the wine is colored by the experience in which I drink it.

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Wine and Cheese Party Dos and Don'ts

Whether you’re a guest at a friend’s event or planning your own, there are a few tricks to pulling off a successful wine and cheese party:

Don’t skimp on the cheese!

     Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a subtle art picking out the proper cheeses to serve at a wine-and-cheese party. Just make sure you have at least three different options; one soft (like an aged triple-cream brie), one medium (Like Manchego or chevre), and one hard (like parmigiano reggiano). You’re going to have a range of different wines to taste, so don’t worry too much about which wines pair best with which cheeses. Let your guests experiment!

      It’s also helpful to have labels for the cheese you pick, in case attendees are not a fan of bleu cheese or goat cheese. Though in either of these cases, these people are not your friends. Bleu cheese and goat cheese are delicious, and perfect for wine-pairing.

      Also, keep plenty of cheese-knives ready! Disposable plastic knives and forks are not helpful when trying to grab a reasonable portion off a wedge of cheddar. Dinner knives are better, just as long as the blades are sharp and strong enough to handle the hardest of the cheese you have selected.

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