By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
I know that many of you
would have preferred this week’s WNY Refresh cover story extolled the health
benefits of beer, cake or pizza.
I know this because these
are three of the things most subjects of our What are you eating? column tell
me are the foods and beverage they find hardest to resist.
You’re going to have to
settle on red wine – though some nutritionists might argue for protein shakes,
veggie juices and no-fat chocolate milk.
The blend of alcohol and
other compounds in red wine – when consumed in moderation – lower your risk for
heart disease, stroke and many inflammatory diseases, a growing number of
Some bent on doubling down
on the health benefits of wine are even greater sticklers than most of us.
They’re willing to pay more
for organic varieties, and even more for the cleanest of all: biodynamic wines.
Those interested in the
latter will want to check out Tawes Winery on the “Beamsville Bench,” the
stretch of the Niagara Escarpment outside St. Catharines,
Ont. that is one of many lakeside wine regions along the Great
It’s a winery for those
concerned about how both their foods and wines are produced.
“We’re finding a trend up
here in southern Ontario
that people want to know exactly where their wines are coming from,” said Ken
Hernder, senior wine consultant at Tawes.
The winery has gone
biodynamic in several of its eight vineyards. In a holistic approach, no
pesticides or herbicides are used in those vineyards. Insects have been
introduced to control unwelcome pests, while horses, lambs, ducks and chickens
help keep the weeds in check and fertilize the soil.
“The vineyard has everything
it needs,” Hernder told me earlier this week. “It is it’s own ecosystem.”
The costs for wine from
these vineyards generally are higher, but that’s because the grape yields are
lower and it takes years to bring a single vineyard into biodynamic
certification, Hernder said. It also might never happen if nearby vineyards
don’t operate to the same exacting standards.
But the vines become
healthier, more resistant to pests and easier to control.
“This results in a bit more
light energy in the glass, a cleaner, crisper flavor,” Hernder said.
For those who think any old
grape, or wine, will do, he compared them to children:
“If you feed your kids Coke
and Twinkees, yeah they’re going to grow up but they’re not going to be the healthiest
Those who might want
to shell out less than $30 for a bottle of wine – that would be me – can be reasonably
assured of a healthy wine if it’s made from red European vinifera grapes, in
Here are some ideas for your
Bill Mahoney said he would
pick Cannonau di Sardegna Costera, a blended red grown in Sardinia Italy. A bottle
sells for $13.99 at Premier Wine & Spirits on Transit Road in Amherst, said Mahoney, the wine manager. Wine
experts recommend it as a table wine good with beef and sharp cheeses.
Kurt Guba, cellar master and
sommelier for Freedom Run Winery in Cambria,
urged thinner skinned European grape varietals, including pinot noir and Gamay.
He also recommends a Beaujolais on your
Thanksgiving table, but not necessarily the nouveau, or new wine, which comes
out the third Thursday in November, just a few weeks after the grapes have been
harvested, giving it a fruitier flavor. Guba suggests a bottle that has had
more time to age.
But mostly, he suggested
folks pick something grown closer to home.
“New York State pinot noir,
I’m all about, even cab franc,” said Guba, who also teaches winemaking and
sensory evaluations at the Niagara County Community College Culinary Institute
in Niagara Falls. “They’re underappreciated and underexplored. You look at
these lighter weight reds, if they had an Italian label on them, people would
be totally accepting of them.”
These reds, he said, are great with meals.