UC Food Blog
UC Cooperative Extension, Beckstoffer Vineyards and Duarte Nursery are launching the wine industry's most ambitious cabernet sauvignon rootstock and clone trial in the Red Hills of Lake County to give the varietal greater resilience to climate change.
Cabernet sauvignon is California's second top-selling varietal by volume, just behind chardonnay.
“We have been growing cabernet sauvignon since the 1970s, and we are very proud to be part of this trial, which will help improve cabernet sauvignon growing for years to come,” said Andy Beckstoffer, owner and CEO of Beckstoffer Vineyards, which is providing the land and labor for the project.
The industry-driven trial – “Climate-smart Solutions for Cabernet Sauvignon Production” – includes 3,600 vines with 10 cabernet sauvignon clones on 10 rootstocks.
“This trial will give us data that will help inform and improve growing practices for cabernet sauvignon across the state for the next two decades,” said the trial's lead researcher, S. Kaan Kurtural, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist at UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology and Oakville Experiment Station.
While the experimental vineyard is in Lake County at a property known as Amber Knolls, the data will be analyzed in Oakville.
The trial officially launched Aug. 15 in Kelseyville with a celebratory vine planting as Andy Beckstoffer and son David Beckstoffer planted the vine that also marked a milestone – the 1.5 millionth vine for Beckstoffer Vineyards Red Hills. Researchers, industry representatives and journalists gathered to celebrate what is affectionately known as “the mother of all cabernet trials.”
“Everything is wonderful in Lake County – for growing cabernet sauvignon and for doing research,” Andy Beckstoffer said, noting the Lake County region's ongoing support for farming.
Pedro Rubio, Beckstoffer Vineyards Red Hills general manager, said, “Lake County will definitely benefit, but the results from this trial will be very helpful for the whole industry.”
Designed to address resiliency in a changing climate, the trial will examine which combinations give the best results with a focus on drought tolerance and water-use efficiency as well as crop yield and grape quality.
“The idea behind the trial is to gain further insights into the interactive effects of rootstock selections crossed with cabernet clones and the impact of that on water relations and overall sustainability,” said Clint Nelson, ranch manager for Beckstoffer Vineyards Red Hills.
“The trial will give us an understanding of the synergistic relationship of clone and rootstock and what combination drives the best quality and production,” he said.
According to Nelson, the trial will look at canopy architecture, yield components, water relations, traditional fruit chemistries, secondary metabolites such as aroma, mouthfeel and color, as well as overall vine performance.
Duarte Nursery is providing all of the planting material for the trial.
“The diversity of rootstocks and clones chosen for this project includes some of the most modern cabernet sauvignon clones designed for high quality and for production,” said John Duarte, nursery president.
Duarte said the trial is employing a lot of cutting-edge technology and using some of the cleanest plant materials available to prevent grapevine viruses.
“Planting a vineyard with pristine nursery stock initially really extends the life of that vineyard,” Duarte said.
Viticulture has become more data-driven, and this trial will measure a staggering amount of data generated by the 100 or so rootstock-clone combinations over the approximately eight to 10 years of the trial's duration.
“Nothing of this scope has been attempted,” said UC Cooperative Extension specialist Kurtural, who acknowledged logistics as the biggest challenge with planning, data collection and timely analysis being at the forefront of his mind. “It keeps me up at night.”
Planning for the length of the project also is a concern. The vineyard will be planted this year and the first crop will be harvested in 2021. It will take at least six years to begin to see consistent results.
Kurtural said the project will provide research opportunities in academic and applied science for at least two students to complete work toward a doctoral degree in horticulture and agronomy.
Glenn McGourty, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor for Lake and Mendocino counties, is a research collaborator on the project.
“Lake County obviously has an important role to play in fine wine in the North Coast, particularly for cabernet sauvignon,” McGourty said. “And this trial really marks the importance of this location in terms of the commitment and the collaboration that we see here among both public and private sectors.”
About Beckstoffer Vineyards: Named “Napa's most powerful grape grower” by both the Wall Street Journal and Wine Spectator, Beckstoffer Vineyards was founded in 1970. Beckstoffer Vineyards is firmly rooted in the soil of Northern California's wine country, with Andy Beckstoffer playing an integral role in the evolution of the wine grape industry since 1970. Joined at the family-owned business by his son David in 1997, they share a common mission – to produce the highest quality grapes in Northern California that form the foundation for exceptional wines – and a combined passion for the land and viticulture expertise. Beckstoffer Vineyards first acquired land in the Red Hills in 1997, which after subsequent acquisitions, today totals nearly 2,000 planted acres across three blocks: Amber Knolls Vineyard, Crimson Ridge Vineyard, and Amber Mountain Vineyard.
About Duarte Nursery: Duarte Nursery, Inc. (DNI) is a family-owned and operated nursery and the largest permanent crops nursery in the United States.
Real progress has been made in tackling the epidemic of childhood obesity since the first California Childhood Obesity Conference was held 20 years ago, but there is more work to be done.
“Collectively, we have come so far,” UC Nutrition Policy Institute Director Lorrene Ritchie told an audience of 1,025 public health, nutrition education, research, and other professionals at the event in Anaheim in July 2019. NPI was one of six conference hosts.
In the last 20 years:
- Federal school meal standards have been revised so that the food children eat at school is healthier than the lunches they bring from home.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages are no longer available to students during the school day.
- Foods provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are healthier and give mothers incentive to breast feed their babies.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) education component is now linked to policy, systems and environmental changes.
- The Child and Adult Care Food Program now provides healthier meals and snacks to children in childcare centers and homes across the country.
The average quality of the diet of American children has improved, but the rate of childhood obesity in the United States is still too high.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.5% of U.S. children and adolescents 2 to 19 years old are obese – about 13.7 million youth in all. The rates trend higher in minority communities, with 25.8% of Latinx youth and 22% of African American youth obese. Obesity is also more prevalent among children in families with low incomes.
Obesity, which is defined in children as a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile of CDC growth charts, is associated with poorer mental health status, reduced quality of life, and increased prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.
The vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Glenda Humiston, pledged the organization's commitment to community health and wellbeing at the Childhood Obesity Conference. UC ANR is the umbrella organization of the Nutrition Policy Institute, UC CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Cooperative Extension, 4-H Youth Development, the UC Master Gardener Program and the California Naturalist Program, among others.
“Going forward, solutions to the obesity epidemic are multidisciplinary,” Humiston said. “NPI does world class work in conducting research to influence nutrition policy. We need to harness 4-H. Master Gardeners are increasingly focusing on edible gardens. CalNat is getting people out into nature. We are finding synergies in community wellness.”
Humiston has dedicated UC ANR resources to finding and implementing solutions to the obesity crisis.
“I'm looking forward to working with all of you – public and private organizations – to design a way to move forward,” she said.
The opening keynote presentation at the conference featured Patricia Crawford, NPI's Senior Director of Research emeritus, a pioneer in addressing the growing problem of childhood obesity during her long career. Beginning in the 1970s, she recognized that childhood obesity was on the rise and launched several studies to search for the causes and potential solutions.
In one study, Crawford followed a group of 9-year-old African American girls over a period of 10 years to determine why these youth were growing up heavier than other adolescents.
“Finally, we began to get some answers,” Crawford said. “We learned obesity wasn't the children's fault. They were living in environments that made the unhealthy choice cheaper and easier to find. It's so unfair for people who have fewer resources. Health disparities has to be the No. 1 thing we are working on to address chronic disease rates in this country.”
“The solution to obesity is prevention. It's cheaper and more effective than treatment,” Crawford continued. “Healthy food is a taste that is easy to acquire if it is not preempted by junk food.”
Crawford said she honed in on the best strategies for prevention by actively listening to people struggling to make healthy choices
“There is a chasm between research and community,” Crawford said. “We have to get people together from the research level and the policy level with folks on the ground. We need to learn from people.”
In low-income communities, corner markets and convenience stores abound, but residents still buy most of their groceries at supermarkets. Unfortunately, larger grocery stores are also pushing shoppers in the direction of unhealthy food.
“Chips are near the salad. Chips are at the checkout. About 25 times during a shopping trip, sugary drinks nudge, prompt, poke and cajole you to buy,” Wootan said. “If healthy choices are not available, reasonably priced and attractively presented and promoted, people will have a hard time eating well.”
Sridharshi Hewawitharana, data analyst with the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, opened the retail session with the food shopping experiences of SNAP-eligible consumers, which they shared in focus groups. (SNAP is the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps.) Hewawitharana also provided information from a survey of retail establishments and a literature review.
“SNAP participants want to eat healthfully, but report that it is too expensive,” she said.
For SNAP participants who want to shop in their own neighborhoods, price is a particularly high barrier. Prices of many produce items in convenience stores in low-income neighborhoods were more than double the county's average supermarket prices.
“It's so much more expensive if you want to get a good piece of fruit,” said a focus group participant. “I mean, this is California, a lot of them grow right here. We shouldn't have that issue buying fresh delicious fruit. But if you can't afford it, you do have issues.”
Participants said they used a variety of strategies to stretch their dollars and benefits, but often it still wasn't enough.
“When I get my food stamps, I try to stock up. Stock up on every meat, canned goods. Vegetables I know go bad within a couple of days, so I try to buy just for that week and save, but even at the end of the month, I'm out.”
Focus group participants also expressed stress and guilt for being unable to provide their children with an adequate amount of high quality food.
A team of NPI researchers conducted the healthy retail literature review. Hewawitharana said they identified promising ways to help SNAP participants make heathy choices when food shopping. Surprisingly, opening new supermarkets was found to be ineffective. Addressing food prices is the most effective strategy. Taxing unhealthy food discourages these purchases. Reducing the price of healthy foods by offering coupons or vouchers is the best way to motivate healthy supermarket choices.
“The low income populations are really struggling,” Hewawitharana said. “High housing costs in California makes it more difficult. This is causing them emotional and mental stress.”
Wootan suggested changing grocery store layouts and promotions to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Currently, food vendors – many who sell processed foods high in sugar, salt and fat – pay grocery stores for prime locations, including eye-level shelves and end caps.
“Grocery stores earn a lot of revenue by giving large food companies preferential treatment,” said Gail Woodward-Lopez, associate director of research at the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, who moderated the session. “A really big company can go in with a loss, but a small, local manufacturer cannot.”
The current condition of America's supermarkets leaves room for public health, consumer advocacy and government agencies to make substantive impacts.
“We need research,” Wootan said. “What does a profitable, healthy grocery store look like?”
As for implementing changes, other obstacles await.
“I don't think voluntary (changes) will work. We are working on policy,” Wootan said.
The store offers free fruit for children in the produce section and stocks no sodas in the checkout stands. In the cereal section, Raley's has changed the layout, giving prime shelf space to products with less sugar. Cereals with 25% or more of total calories from sugar are now on the bottom shelf.
“And we aren't stopping at the cereal aisle,” Waters said.
When Genoveva Islas was 12 years old, she was responsible for giving insulin injections to her diabetic tia, her aunt.
“Tia lost her toes, lost her leg, lost her life,” Islas said. “This is a very important fight.”
Islas is director of Cultiva La Salud in Fresno, which works to address poor nutrition and physical inactivity in the San Joaquin Valley. The fight Islas referred to is the “soda wars,” a battle to reduce the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) consumed by Americans. SSBs are the single most significant source of sugar in Americans' diets, amounting to nearly half of sugar intake. They have been unequivocally linked to increases in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, tooth decay and some cancers.
Islas talked about the tragic fate of her tia at the July 2019 California Obesity Conference in Anaheim, where 1,025 public health, nutrition, science and political leaders convened to share strategies for overcoming the childhood obesity crisis in the United States. She was part of a panel on taxing sugary drinks to reduce SSB consumption and fund community health programs.
“I'm here because I believe health is a right, not a luxury,” Islas said. “A soda tax is a fight for the community I love.”
“I say regressive is the incidence of diabetes in my community, the incidence of heart disease in my community,” Islas said. “The California Central Valley has the highest rates of drinking water violations. Bottled water is costly. People are choosing sugar-sweetened beverages when it is the most affordable choice for them.”
Money raised by the soda tax, Islas continued, could support water quality improvements and encourage the public to drink free and safe tap water.
California Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who has proposed soda tax legislation several times, was also on the soda tax panel.
“The soda industry has poured a huge amount of money toward lobbying in Sacramento against soda restriction laws,” he said.
Bloom suggested that soda tax proponents be clear about the implications of childhood obesity and associated diseases when working to implement soda tax laws.
“Words like ‘epidemic' and ‘crisis' are used so much, they start to lose their meaning,” Bloom said. “We have a lot of statistics on the science of sugary drinks, but we don't talk about the misery this visits upon people and families and communities – amputations, heart disease, cancer. We need to start telling those stories viscerally.”
Kenneth Hecht, director of policy at UC's Nutrition Policy Institute, moderated the panel discussion. He said that a soda tax is the most cost-effective intervention to reduce soda consumption. It has been implemented and studied in Berkeley, Calif., where voters in 2014 passed a local initiative to tax soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages 2 cents per ounce. Three years later, residents reported drinking 52 percent fewer servings of sugary drinks than they did before the tax was imposed.
“Soda taxes work,” said Kristine Madsen, director of the Berkeley Food Institute and professor at UC Berkeley School of Public Health, who evaluated the Berkeley soda tax and also spoke at the conference.
The bulk of Berkeley's soda tax revenue is dedicated to supporting nutrition education and gardening programs in schools and allocated to local organizations working to encourage healthier behaviors in Berkeley.
San Francisco, Oakland and Albany also passed soda taxes. Other communities were planning to put soda tax initiatives on the ballot, but were stymied by a preemptive strike waged by the soda industry. In June 2018, the California Legislature passed a bill to preempt any new local beverage or food taxes until 2031. According to Assemblymember Bloom, beverage companies spent millions to get an initiative on the ballot that would have prevented local communities from raising taxes without a two-thirds vote, up from 55% of the vote currently needed. They offered to drop the initiative if the California Legislature would impose a moratorium on local soda taxes.
Bloom called the preemption a “disgusting tactic.”
“We had to capitulate to that to protect our local governments,” Bloom said. “It was never a sprint to address soda tax, but now it's become a marathon.”
Public health activists were also outraged.
“If you have enough money, you can put anything on the ballot and use that to extort lawmakers to get what you want,” said Mark Pertschuk, director of Grassroots Change and a conference speaker. “This is a war on local democracy. We need to educate people on what preemption is.”
“It's the same as being tobacco free and drug free,” he said.
One public organization leading the way is UC San Francisco (UCSF), which employs 22,000 staff, academics and medical professionals. In 2015, all its campuses and buildings removed sugar-sweetened beverages from food service outlets and vending machines as part of its Healthy Beverage Initiative. Laura Schmidt, professor in the Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF, discussed the ban at the Childhood Obesity Conference.
“When you live in a saturated environment, where it's always in reach, that makes it difficult to say no,” Schmidt said. “We have to change the environment. All effective solutions follow the iron law of public health. If you reduce availability of harmful substances in the environment, you will reduce consumption.”
At the culmination of his Childhood Obesity Conference talk, Bloom announced the recent formation of Californians for Less Soda, a new coalition of public health and health equity advocates and health professionals aligned to decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in California through effective policies.
Gardening is fun…and it's an important activity. What we grow in school, home and community gardens can improve our health, and the health of our families and communities. What we grow can increase the resiliency of food systems in our communities. And what we grow, ultimately, can connect us more closely with the earth that sustains us. There are valuable lessons in gardening…too many to list here.
Even if you live in a small apartment, you can grow food. If you have a yard, you can grow quite a lot of food. View the transformation of a front yard in an urban area…from lawn to lush, productive food garden in only 60 days. You'll love the progression photos, and the simple explanation about how the garden came together.
Need more inspiration? Roger Doiron, founder of SeedMoney, talks about his (subversive) garden plot in this remarkable TedX talk. Roger created and led the social media campaign that called for a garden at the White House. This campaign ultimately led First Lady Michelle Obama to plant a vegetable garden at the White House. (And it may have also inspired the People's Garden at the USDA, which broke ground on Abraham Lincoln's birthday 10 years ago. Lincoln referred to the USDA as the “People's Department,” so it makes sense that the USDA would refer to its garden as the “People's Garden.”)
Need practical advice? The UC Master Gardener program has more than 5,000 certified volunteers ready to assist if you live in California. UC has also created a California Garden Web portal that provides a treasure trove of gardening resources for all parts of the state. It's not too early to begin planning your Fall garden, and you'll find information about that, too.
If you're interested in school gardens, read this brief history, written by UC ANR's UC Food Observer.