Archive - July 2012

Review Quivira Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2011


When I first started drinking wine, I fell head over heels for Sauv Blanc. Lately, I’ve been tasting a lot of disappointing sb’s. They are either too acidic, only have citrus flavors, or are plain boring.

Quivira cut into my bad streak and gave me something to be thrilled about.

It would have been a strong contender for my list of top whites for summer if I had received it in time.

Why did I love this bottle? It has beautiful complexity. It’s closer in style to a Sancerre than it is to a New World Sauvignon Blanc.  The wine had varietally correct notes: pineapple, lime, and orange. There was even a touch (and by this I mean the slightest touch of grassiness). What really put me over the edge on this wine was the mouth feel. The wine had the viscosity and silkiness of a wine aged in oak, yet it tasted like 100% stainless steel.

This is their first vintage and the winery hit it out of the park. I can’t wait for future vintages.

Highly Recommended

Techhie Stuff:

100% Sauvignon Blanc
Dry Creek, Sonoma Appellation
13.5% Alcohol
Stainless steel
4200 cases made
Approximate Retail Price $15

Review Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay 2010


Imagine my surprise as I took my first delicious sip of the 2010 vintage of Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay from NORTH CAROLINA. Yup, North Carolina is making good wine. I was blown away. Wine maker Sharon Fenchak created a Chardonnay that is both approachable and complex. I’d gladly serve this wine to any of my friends and colleagues.

As soon as my nose hit the glass, there was a gentle caramel scent that told me the wine must have some oak to it. On the mouth, there was creme brulee, contrasted by a bright lovely acidity and citrus fruit that prompted the mouth to swallow.

If the rest of North Carolina follows what Biltmore is doing, California may have some very healthy competition.  Especially when you consider that this chardy retails for a mere $15.


Tecchie Info:

100% Chardonnay
82% North Carolina, 18% California
13.9% Alcohol
6-8 months of French and American oak
Approximate Retail Price $15

Organic Milk Wars


Larry Hansen was dairy operations manager for milk quality and supply at Horizon Organic for four years before taking a similar job at Organic Valley, a dairy farmer cooperative that is the second largest supplier in the US.

Now the nation’s two biggest suppliers of organic milk are involved in a lawsuit. Horizon’s lawsuit alleges a breach of contract and the misappropriation of confidential information and trade secrets.

Horizon Organic, owned by Dean Foods, the biggest supplier of organic milk in the U.S., claims that Hansen had access to its supplier list, which it keeps confidential, as well as sales demand projections, which it also closely guards.

Hansen negotiated contracts with farmers and possessed highly confidential business information on operating margins, supply needs, and Horizon’s national database of suppliers.

Horizon says that because of the sensitive information he was privy to, Hansen had to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

“Horizon claims that the employee, who has been working in the dairy industry for years, must be prevented from working for any competitor in any capacity and that simply hiring the employee was misconduct,” Organic Valley spokeswoman Elizabeth Horton said.

“Quite a few farms shipping milk for their Horizon label, over the last couple of years, have jumped ship and joined the CROPP Co-op [Organic Valley],” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute.

Kastel claims when there was a milk surplus in 2009, Dean Foods was accused of using strong-arm tactics against their Horizon farmers, forcing a number out of business, and forcing many to renegotiate their contracts with more advantageous terms.

Kastel added that the CROPP Cooperative, owned by family farmers, treated their suppliers better during the period of oversupply.

According to the USDA, sales of organic milk slowed during the recession, but during the first four months of 2012, sales increased by 5.7 percent from a year earlier.

The trade publication Dairy Star claims Horizon, a part of WhiteWave Foods owned by the $13-billion dairy giant Dean Foods, had sales of about $2 billion in 2011, and has a 35 percent to 40 percent share of the market.

Organic Valley had sales of about $700 million last year.

“We chose to take legal action because neither Larry Hansen nor his new employer, Organic Valley, would otherwise talk to us after repeated attempts,” Luana Hancock, a WhiteWave spokeswoman said.

“Their absolute unwillingness to enter into any substantive dialogue is puzzling, as we have worked amicably with Organic Valley on various organic issues over the years.”

“Maybe one reason Horizon is being so aggressive is that organic milk is in short supply right now,” says Kastel, co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute.

Kastel suggests market share will be determined by who has the milk, and that this lawsuit is just a way for Horizon to intimidate the smaller company.

Two Companies Dominate Organic Milk Market

“Since these two companies dominate the market, if a farmer isn’t shipping to one, he’s most likely shipping to the other,” Kastel said.

According to the USDA’s National Dairy Retail’s July 2012 Report, the average price of a gallon of organic milk was $4.98, compared to $2.94 for conventional milk.

The cost of organic grain and hay to feed the cows has increased. “The margins are very constrained,” says Kastel. Which means that fewer farmers are converting their dairies to organic, a process that can take around three years.

Cornucopia claims CROPP/Organic Valley family farmers, who once supplied 100% of the milk for Horizon label in the early 1990s, have regularly lost market share to Horizon after the company shifted their purchasing to giant factory farms.

Dean/Horizon has added family-scale dairies around the country while continuing to invest in large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) producing organic milk.

“This lawsuit is certainly indicative of no love being lost between Dean Foods and the co-op that controls the Organic Valley brand,” according to Kastel.

“As the marketplace has now tightened, and organic milk has been in shorter supply, Dean obviously feels insecure about holding onto their patrons.”

Kastel claims just 48 farms, supplying 35% of the milk supply for their Horizon label, is “emblematic of Dean Foods’ reliance on supersized dairies for their organic milk supply.”

Kastel added that nationwide, it is thought that the average size organic dairy farm milks approximately 60-90 cows.

The Anatomy Of A Cupcake (Infographic)


Everyone loves cupcakes. I mean, who doesn’t? The classic treats can be so delectable when presented in such a creative way. Cupcakes must be one of the most popular food items that everyone has a craving. There’s just something about their tiny figure, that soft dough, and the sweetness that entangles with the warm felling that touches your tongue, such a heaven in every bite.

Thank heavens for this Infographic we have today! Very pretty graphics that show the entire anatomy of out beloved little ones.


Why Obamacare Will Make YOU Pay More When Dining Out


McDonald’s CFO Peter Bensen said complying with the Affordable Care Act will cost as much as $420 million annually.

As a result, in 2014 when the new law goes fully into effect, it’s possible McDonald’s menu prices will be raised to cover the health costs.

And higher menu prices to offset healthcare expenses won’t be just confined to McDonald’s.

Smart Money’s Jen Wieczner says analysts project that businesses with a large number of hourly wage workers, who traditionally had minimal or no health insurance — from fast food joints to retailers — may have to adopt a similar strategy.

“I would expect prices at McDonald’s to go up,” says Les Funtleyder, who manages a health care fund at Poliwogg, a hedge and venture capital firm.

Wieczner claims some analysts believe companies may use health care as an excuse to raise prices, even if the added costs don’t warrant the increase.

Peter Saleh, a restaurant analyst at Telsey Advisory Group, expects sit-down diners at restaurants like The Olive Garden, owned by Darden Restaurants, and The Cheesecake Factory, which own a greater proportion of their locations than some fast food chains, to eventually pay at least 2% more to eat there.

But Saleh says it’s too soon to know how the companies will cope with the new mandates: “A lot of them at this point aren’t willing to give us estimates about it.”

Although company executives have been publicly discreet, they’re discussing ways they can compensate for increased health-care costs in meetings with investment strategists.

Wieczner notes that Nicholas Oleson, a financial planner with the Philadelphia Group, says his large corporate clients have suggested raising prices up to 3 percent while their employees pay up to 7 percent more in insurance premiums.

Funtleyder, a health care fund manager, says it’s in consumers’ best interest for companies to keep their wage workers insured because they typically represent the young, healthy portion of the insurance market, and thus, their premiums subsidize the cost of care throughout the system.

“If you have to pay more for your happy meal, you might have to pay less elsewhere,” Funtleyder says.

As the WSJ’s Lousie Radnofsky notes, the majority of Americans under age 65 who have health insurance get it through an employer, and the question remains how many companies will continue to offer coverage after major changes take place beginning in 2014.

According to a study by consulting company Deloitte, approximately one in ten employers in the US plans to drop health coverage for workers in the next few years as the bulk of the federal health-care law begins, and more indicated they may do so over time.

Another consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, said they found 30% of employers say they would “definitely or probably” stop offering health insurance after 2014.

Radnofsky adds that around one in three companies said they could decide to stop offering health coverage if they find that the law requires them to provide more generous benefits than they do at the moment.

“If a tax on high-cost plans takes effect in 2018 as scheduled; or if they conclude that the cost of penalties for not providing insurance could be less expensive than paying for benefits.”

Regardless of your position on Obamacare, of this you can be sure: whatever additional corporate costs associated with the new health-care law will, in one way or another, be passed on to us collectively as consumers.