Archive for September, 2010

Tour de Fat – Beer and Bikes in San Francisco

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Tour de Fat San Francisco 2010

Tour de Fat San Francisco 2010

Wanted to post for Eco Monday but had too much beer and biking over the recent weekend for us to stick to our schedule. Fortunately, the Tour de Fat stuck to its (or is it their) schedule.

In all honesty, a few of us made but we completely missed the festive ride but we did make it in time to celebrate the beer and bike happenings in Golden Gate Park. Let it be known that happiness reined not just because Mother Nature cooperated with a balmy 85 degrees and the cold New Belgium beer poured freely but because the stages where Mucca Pazza (like the Stanford marching band on acid or steroids) and other performed came via solar energy. The festival pretty much marks on off the grid show which makes the merriment even more merry.

On this day, bikes ruled. It might have seemed odd for some to see a young lady go up on stage an sign way the pink slip to her Toyota Corolla for for a spanking new bike courtesy of New Belgium. Some may think that isn’t a fair trade when the lady mentioned how she only drove her car in order to avoid parking tickets, we think that she may have gotten the better end of the deal.

If more festivals had this smarts to play off the grid and promoting sustainable transportation then we would all be happy to purchase just one more beer.

Photo courtesy SFbike

Radius Sticks To Its Locally Inspired Theme

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

radiusWhen people talked about locally grown or produced they usually mean within 200 miles or so. That’s normally about how far we expand our blog radius. The radius of where things come from marks not only the name of this French California inspired café and restaurant but also the philosophy behind Radius.

This SoMa based café and restaurant doesn’t just plaster the name up as a marketing gimmick but the owners stand behind their idea. Their food, wine and even the building elements that make up the interior generally comes from within 200 miles.

Most people will point to their Tamales Bay oysters, Ritual coffee, Pt. Reyes Blue – Cow Girl cheese and Anchor Steam beer but we find the repurposed church pews (from a San Jose church) used for table seating and the reused display cabinets deliciously appealing. The owners sourced practically all of the furniture, fixtures and equipment from other places. All of the reclaimed wood from the floors to the tables gives the café and restaurant an invitingly warm feel.

Radius maintains an advantage of its location. The restaurant can and does source wine from Napa and Sonoma, seafood from just up the coast and organic veggies from the plethora of farmers markets. But the trick would be to open a Radius in say Des Moines. Sure, keeping within the radius to manage the Green building element would be doable but sourcing a food and drinks menu such as the one here in SoMa would present a sizable challenge. Hopefully, others will be inspired by the Radius philosophy and rise to the challenge of making things work from a local scale rather than from a globalized, generic world view.

DeLoach Biodynamic Wines (and Fresh Eggs)

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Mixing Pot for Biodynamic Brew

Mixing Pot for Biodynamic Brew

Just down the road from Inman, we made our way in DeLoach, a far larger operation then any of the small vineyards that we visited. However, large doesn’t mean that they don’t have sustainability in mind. DeLoach garnered organic status in 2008 and has upped the ante to biodynamic since 2009.

Like a true biodynamic vineyard, they grow and raise other crops, which they either donate to local food banks or during harvest season they feed the entire harvest crew three times a week.  Nice to see their social justice spreads to their workers and the community.

We could feel a buzz around the many acres. Normally, bees and the biodynamic honey symbolize two reasons why this vineyard appears so alive. However, the bees took a sojourn during our visit but the chickens made up for it. They use chickens to fertilize, and we got lucky enough to sample the über fresh pastured eggs (no cages for these chickens), which made the most delish poached eggs.

While most people relaxed in the tasting room, we got excited to see their biomass tank which acts like a giant bug jug where dirty water passes through a massive membrane then the water gets transported and irrigated into the fields. The biomass system cost about $1.2 million saves thousands of gallons of water each year but it will take many years for that system to pay for itself. In other words, DeLoach took the cost to be part of their long-term vision. Maybe not the most cost effective vision but a more sustainable one, which gets high marks from us.

Speaking of marks, we did sample some of the wines in their private tasting room that contains cabinets made from old wine vats and denim jeans insulation. But we didn’t just sit in the tasting room staring at the inside  insulation. We sampled a slew of wines with some of our faves being the  2006 Porter Bass Vineyard (Chardonnay), Pinot Noir 2007 Maboroshi Vineyard, and a tasty Zinfandel 2007 Forgotten Vines (which we didn’t easily forget).

The sustainability here doesn’t just come from the biodynamic cow horns and membrane that get stirred up in the preparations and the fervent vortex but the fact that DeLoach aims to create community, support workers and donate to organizations for others who may not be as fortunate.

The fact that DeLoach subscribes to the People, Planet, Profit mantra gets our vortex excited to visit again soon to see what other greenings they have going on but to sip some wine (and get a few eggs as well.)

Inman Winery – Pinot, Green and an Old Barn

Friday, September 10th, 2010
Inman Pinot on Terrazzo Countertop

Inman Pinot on Terrazzo Countertop

When someone puts more emphasis on their practices and product rather than their marketing then that might cause one to ponder. Such was the case when we almost passed by Inman Family Wines on our sustainable wine journey. They basically have no signage and they certainly don’t have a big banner (like some other businesses) stating “We’re Green.” Instead owner Kathleen Inman speaks softly and carries a big green stick. In other words – Green deeds not words.

Although Kathleen’s Inman has been selling wine and receiving accolades for over 10 years, she only recently opened her tasting room in July. But like the rest of her operation she thinks about the big picture, as she took the effort to repurpose an old redwood barn into the tasting room and production facility. Although it would certainly qualify for LEED (maybe Gold) status she wisely decided to use the $60,000 or so that it would cost to get LEED certified on things that actually make a difference.

The tasting room utilizes wood from the barn as doors and panels, Nearly all of the steel used to make the primary frame of the building came from post consumer and post industrial recycled materials (old cars), the countertops are either made from Terrazzo (repurposed wine bottles), and the remaining countertops (not quite completed) will be from a composite concrete with high percentage of fly ash. The roof boasts a full array of solar panels (enough to power 98% of the winery), and we wondered around back to check out the water reclamation biomass system, which costs a few hundred grand and will save over 54,600 gallons of water per year with the ability to save even more.

We even liked the story of a local contractor who offered to pave a black tarmac over her decomposed granite parking lot but she told him that they prefer to minimize the heat-island effect. She didn’t really say that to him but we just embellished the story a bit.

Lot’s of people talk big when it comes to Green this and sustainable that but she puts her philosophy (and her bank account) in action. Her farming practices come as close to organic and biodynamic (although she has not received certification yet) and probably exceed most of the standards. We nibbled on the grapes right off the vine (don’t try that at a conventional farm) before even sampling her well respected 2008 Pinot Gris , 2008 Endless Crush Rose, and three Pinot Noirs all 2007 – the Thorn Ridge Ranch, the OGV Estate (Olivet Grange Vineyard, which is the organically farmed vineyard surrounding the winery) and the Russian River.

Most winemakers have wine running through their veins but Katherine Inman has big carafe of Green mixed in as well. She believes in making great wine but doing it the right way. We clink glasses to that philosophy. Cheers.

Small Vines Wines – High Denisty and Sustainable Wine Thinking

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
Small Vines Wines vineyard

Small Vines Wines vineyard

We took a few days off to hit the wine country, no not Napa or Sonoma but rather the Russian River Valley. Keeping with our true nature, we explored and tasted our way through some of the more progressive thinking sustainable wineries in the region. We’ll start small and work our way up.

Small would mean Small Vines Wines. Like most others in the region vigneron Paul Sloan creates Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Small Vines grows on several small acre plots situated in Sebastopol and the vineyard that we visited takes up only about an acre but Sloan makes the most of his space. They use high density planting which seems to make sense but not many wineries use. Like high density Green building, doesn’t it seem logical to grow more grapes on less land? Why doesn’t everyone use this traditional technique used successfully for ages in Burgundy France? Because high density does not equal tractors, so mechanization doesn’t fit in the density style, thus the method (often like organic growing or biodynamic growing) remains labor intensive and more costly.

The high-density grapes need less compost because more nutrients can be found in the roots. More nutrients and less compost don’t just equal more sustainability but better wine quality as well. We sipped some pinot noir and chardonnay to be sure while Sloan mentioned how he views wine as a living entity and as an expression of place.

Unlike many wineries, we completely get how Sloan considers the whole picture when producing wines. Small Vines only produces a limited number of cases each year because if the operation gets too large Sloan said, “You lose your ability to be in tune with the whole system.” People often don’t understand or often abuse the term “sustainability” but considering the whole picture and caring about the Earth can’t be too far from what the meaning truly represents.

Photo by Valerie Summers