Ithacork will rise again!

Hey gang,
I’ve been hiatus for a couple weeks now, and it’s high time I explained myself.

I am in the process of converting this site into a new-and-improved

Over the holiday season I will be setting up the new site (which provides SO much more freedom as far as templates/plugins, etc.) with a whole new look, and a whole new content schedule for more reliable wine reviews, science content, and more!

There’s nothing at as of now, so… don’t go there yet.

I will likely leave this site up as a placeholder for a while to direct traffic that way.

This move has been made possible by the fine folks at Palate Press: The Online Wine Magazine. I have made some monthly contributions over there and have even been roped into some editing. Look for some new science content there from me in the next week or so.

Also, I have still been contributing on a bi-weekly basis to The New York Cork Report, so check that out as well.

In the meantime, I will still be on twitter, blabbing about wine and other assorted stuff.

Thank you, readers, for supporting this site and giving me the impetus to make this next big step.

Published in: on 30 November 2009 at 1:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

The soul of Witte

Brewery Ommegang Witte

ommegang witte

Style: Belgian-style Wheat Ale with Traditional Spices
Color (light, amber, or dark): Light
ABV: 5.1%
Price Point: $7.50/750 mL bottle
Closure: Cork with cage. The yeast sediment in the bottom is a clue that this bottle’s carbonation comes from a fermentation in the bottle, thus the need for the extra pressure protection of the champagne-style cork and cage.

Technical notes: From the website: “Witte is brewed with malted and unmalted wheat, barley malt, a light hops addition and spiced with sweet orange peel and coriander. Though adding a slice of citrus fruit is common while enjoying a wheat or Wiess [sic] beer, we feel that Witte’s gentle spicing and slight tartness renders the fruit superfluous.”

Hedonic notes: Pours with a lot of long-lasting foam. (Some people think that the foaminess of a beer is indicative of its quality. I’m not so sure, but that’s fodder for another post.) Smells of a little orange at first, giving way to some spicy, phenolic, medicinal tones and finally some plain old grain/malt. On the palate, tart, with lemon peel and tongue-numbing clove*. Very refreshing and light. After a long while, some curry appears on the finish. Likely a great summer beer (whoops, it’s definitely fall. Maybe this should have been on sale!) I agree with the brewery’s assessment that a slice of orange or lemon would be a bit much.

Rating: corkcorkhalfcorknocorknocork 2.5 out of 5 corks . It’s OK.

Ithacork breaks into the world of beer (finally!). I don’t know how it took this long! The Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown makes some quality Belgian-style beers. I’m not sure of their nationwide distribution, but around here, beers like Hennepin, Rare Vos, and Three Philosophers are ubiquitous. Cooperstown is a little over 2 hours east-northeast of Ithaca (and on the way to Boston). Maybe I will stop by the brewery on my next trip with Sarah out to Plymouth.

One way that beer brewing is different from winemaking is that brewers have a seeming ability to throw all kinds of fruit, spices, or other stuff (coffee, pumpkin, jalapeño, etc.) into their product and still have it be called beer. However, spice aromas and flavors in beer don’t always come from the spice rack, the mysterious East, or the sandworms from Dune. In the case of most Belgian brews, the yeast can add a spicy character as well. The molecule I’m talking about here is 4-vinylguaiacol (4-VG). It’s one aroma component of cloves, (the major one is eugenol, found as a lignin degradation product in oaked wines, but not common in beer) and if you are old, you may have smelled it at the dentist’s office (clove oil has a slight analgesic effect, so it’s used as a numbing agent).


4-vinylguaiacol. Descriptors: clove-like, smoky, curry

Brewers are generally very protective of their yeast strains, and many breweries propagate their yeasts from previous batches. In this case, only certain strains of yeast (called Pof+, or “phenolic off-flavor” positive) have the ability (activity of the enzyme Pad1) to synthesize 4-VG and its counterpart 4-vinylphenol (medicinal/Band-aid) from hydroxycinnamic acid precursors. 4-VP and 4-VG are also the aroma precursors of {Brettanomyces} aroma compounds 4-ethylphenol and 4-ethylguaiacol in wines. (Van Beneden et al., “Formation of 4-vinyl and 4-ethyl derivatives from hydroxycinnamic acids: Occurrence of volatile phenolic flavour compounds in beer and distribution of Pad1-activity among brewing yeasts”, Food Chemistry, 2007).

Basically, Belgian witbiers and German hefeweizens have this clove aroma because of the strains of yeast that are traditionally used to ferment them. PS: The difference between a witbier and a weizen? Witbiers are often made with unmalted wheat, while weizens are made with malted wheat.

Published in: on 4 November 2009 at 5:07 am  Comments (1)  
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Hybrid genetics

Picture 14

The pedigree of Noiret, a recently released Cornell wine grape.

An article I wrote for the New York Cork Report is generating some interesting debate. Seems like there are strong opinions on both sides about hybrids. Essentially, the location of a gene contributing to color synthesis in hybrid grapes is located near the gene responsible for the “foxy” (Welch’s grape juice) aroma of labrusca-derived hybrids. Thus, a simple screen for diglycosylated anthocyanin could be a screen for potential foxiness in these grapes, enabling breeders to monitor and control this “grapey-grape” trait, which some consumers find off-putting. Check it out here.

Published in: on 1 November 2009 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Far above Cayuga wine

Lucas Vineyards Cayuga White 2008


Appellation: Finger Lakes
Grape: Cayuga White
ABV: 11%
RS: 2.4% (wow, it’s been a while since I reviewed a non-dry wine, eh?)
Price Point: $9
Closure: Extruded synthetic (boo! If you’re going synthetic, then I much prefer molded to extruded, aesthetically speaking)

Technical Notes: Machine-harvested, crushed and destemmed. 19 {Brix} and {chaptalized} to 20, and fermented dry. Total acidity 10.1 g/L, pH 3.0. Filtered and cold-stabilized. Back-sweetened before bottling. (Thanks to winemaker Jeff Houck for the info. Follow him on twitter @LucasWineTalk)

Hedonic Notes: A tutti-frutti nose comes up, with grapefruit, apple, and canteloupe. On the palate, electric acidity is balanced by considerable residual sugar (aside: I always write tasting notes before I receive the technical info), with a loooong finish of mashed banana and a slight metallic note that may just be the tingling of the acidity on my tounge. Like licking the lid of a jar of baby food, or maybe a battery. A hint, just a hint, of labrusca creeps in on the finish, but it’s certainly not a dominant characteristic.

Rating: corkcorkcorknocorknocork 3 out of 5 corks for a pretty good easy drinker.

Science! Grape Profile: Cayuga White

Listen up. Cayuga White is THE MOST IMPORTANT HYBRID in the Finger Lakes.
Cayuga White was released by Cornell in 1972 and has been the most successful hybrid wine grape Cornell has released (The others are Noiret, Corot Noir, Valvin Muscat, Melody, Horizon, Chardonel, GR7 (Geneva Red 7), and Traminette, along with a host of table grapes.) It is a cross between Seyval blanc (a French-American hybrid) and Schuyler (Zinfandel x Ontario). Many wineries sell it as a varietal wine, and it performs pretty well around here. It ripens reliably and provides interesting, fruity aromas with very little labrusca foxy aroma. You’ll find it all over the Finger Lakes, on its own and blended with other aromatic whites like Riesling, and in dry or semi-dry styles. Sometimes “cotton candy” is used as an aroma descriptor. Anecdotally, Cayuga White’s labrusca overtones increase with increasing ripeness. Perhaps the enzyme that synthesizes the foxy aroma compound methyl anthranilate increases with ripening time. That enzyme only been recently discovered, and looking at the expression vs. time data (Wang and DeLuca, “The biosynthesis and regulation of biosynthesis of Concord grape fruit esters, including ‘foxy’ methylanthranilate”, The Plant Journal, 2005, linked above), it seems that expression of this enzyme increases with ripening as well, so that makes sense.

Published in: on 29 October 2009 at 6:54 pm  Comments (3)  
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The opposite of Sagan

This woman is an optometrist.

Assumedly, this woman has been through 13 years of education up to high school and 4 years of college, including a year each of chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, higher math, and physics.

This woman has been to optometry school for 4 years and certified to practice optometry.

Assumedly, patients come to her office in the interest of vision health, vision correction, and early detection and prevention of eye diseases. They entrust their ability to see to her.



How did this happen?

If you understood this the first time, go back and listen to it again.

PS: Does this remind you of any descriptions you may have heard about wine?

Discovered on Pharyngula, a worthwhile science/evolution defending blog.

Published in: on 27 October 2009 at 8:28 pm  Comments (6)