RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: November 2012

Hit or Miss

Two days ago, my chiropractor friend, Diana, who recently started the Paleo diet, said, “I think wine is sometimes bothering me with a gluten reaction.  But it is only sometimes.”  Of course that started the whole wheat paste in oak barrel production discussion from my first wine blog entry.  What I didn’t discuss in that entry was the “hit or miss” syndrome in wine drinking or tasting, which furthers the confusion and controversy on the topic.

After MUCH original research, i.e. wine tasting, hours on the phone with coopers in Napa Valley, and talking to the actual wine makers in many, many boutique wineries throughout California, I discovered several things from the wine makers and coopers:

  1. Huge bulk wineries usually cannot afford to age their wines in oak barrels.  They use the more economical stainless steel tanks to age wine.  Thus, wineries like Gallo can claim that their wines are gluten free, which they are if aged in stainless steel.
  2. Some quirky boutique wineries reuse their barrels over and over, thoroughly cleaning all residue out of the barrels each time.  Chances are these wines are gluten free.  The wine maker at Kirigin Winery told me that he had not bought a new barrel in 17 years.  He could pretty much guarantee that there would not be one molecule of gluten in any of his wines after 17 years of cleaning and recleaning, and I believe that is probably true
  3. Some wineries filter their wines to such a degree before bottling that the gluten molecule, which is rather large, gets filtered out, usually making these wines safe for gluten intolerants.   Sycamore Creek Winery in Gilroy sterile filters all of the wine under their new Flagship Reserve label.  I have never had a reaction to sterile filtered wines.  Yeah!   Plus, I will be talking about the filtration process in length in my next wine blog entry.
  4. Some of the coopers, who merely use the wheat paste to glue the ends to the staves, would like to claim the wines made in these barrels are gluten free because they thoroughly rinse the insides of the barrels before sending them to the wineries.  Theoretically, the chance of getting a random wheat molecule that did not get eliminated during the rinsing process would be nil.  Yes, I have had reactions to wine made in these barrels, so this is a less than perfect method for removing the wheat molecules.
  5. Coopers from other countries may not use this wheat paste practice, maybe making foreign wines okay.  I talked to a friend yesterday, who just got back from a two week trip to the Mendoza wine region in Argentina.  After talking to an extremely well informed sommelier at one of the wineries, she thought the Malbec and all the the wines from that winery might be safe.  The sommelier assured her that she had watched the wine barrel making process, and there was no wheat paste or powder used.  As soon as I get the name of this winery,  I am going to Bev Mo to find it.  I like to test a potentially iffy wine on a Saturday night when I have nothing important planned on Sunday, in case a hidden gluten takes me out on Sunday.  My daughter, another Celiac impaired, has had some good luck with red wines from Bordeau and Italy.

YES, with all these variables in any given oak-aged wine, drinking wine and having a reaction is a Hit or Miss proposition.  That explains why the reactions or non reactions to oak-aged wines are exactly that…Hit or Miss.  It’s a confusing proposition at best.

How I have dealt with it is to not drink oak-aged wine, unless I have talked to the wine maker about filtration and the source and use of their barrels.  Short of being able to talk to the wine maker, not the wine pourer at a tasting room (who may or may not know anything substantial about the actual wine making operation at the winery), I forego.  It is sad, but safe.

My go-to varietals:

                Unoaked Chardonay

                Sauvignon Blanc  –  a few are aged in oak barrels, so you need to talk to the wine maker if possible or take your chances

                Pinot Grigio

                Riesling – preferably dry

                Champagne and Sparkling Wines

 

Reds…

                Sycamore Creek Vineyard’s Flagship Label

                Kirigin Winerytheoretically ok, but have not tested them yet on my own digestive tract

                Gallo

                A Sniff and Two Sips – our backyard grown and made Merlot and Cab.

Diana update… she stuck to Sauvignon Blanc last weekend and had no cramping. Today’s entry is dedicated to you, Diana.

As an aside, 98% of these busy winemakers and coopers in Napa and the less famous wine regions all over California (Anderson Valley, San Luis Obispo, South Bay Area Counties like Santa Cruz and Santa Clara, Hollister, and the Folsom, Sierra Nevada Foothill areas, etc.) were unbelievably generous with their time and genuine interest in helping me explore this issue with them.  I found it remarkable how open and patient they were with my inquiries, because who am I, a random person asking in depth and detailed questions for my own interest and personal health. I was especially stunned that the actual coopers in Napa Valley, supplying some of the most famous wineries in the world would not only get on the phone, but willingly detail the barrel making process with me.  I can only assume that the gluten issue has become so well publicized in the last five years that they were interested in talking and thinking through the issues with a wine lover trying to weave her way through the landmine of a GF lifestyle.

Thank you to each and every one of you in the industry, who have helped me learn so much!

 

Advertisements

Gluten free German meat rubs

Last night we got to taste the first batch of Opa Helmut’s Rub recipe for German Bratwurst ever made in the US by his granddaughter, Astrid, a friend of ours.  After eating ourselves silly, I need to tell you those sausages were the best sausages of any kind that I have ever tasted, and we have travelled and eaten Bratwurst in Germany.  Never before have I tasted such freshness and clarity.  With no nitrates and no curing, the sausages did not have that “I’m-going-to–last-forever quality that I don’t like in cured meats. Thus, the fresh, pure taste.  I could actually distinguish the ground pork (with no bits of bone or cartilage) etc., mixed with the spices and herbs.  Outstanding!

Of course, Astrid used her family’s secret Bratwurst spice rub, of the Thuringer style Bratwurst, which you will be able to buy soon, along with her other outstanding spice rub mixes, on the website www.opahelmutsrub.com.  Her meat rubs have been a wild hit here in the South Bay Area.  I highly recommend them, not only because they are Gluten Free and MSG free, but are made without weird, unpronounceable ingredients, simply the pure herbs and spices.  What a gift Astrid is giving the United States by sharing her family’s exclusive meat rubs with us.  The best of the German butcher/craftsman has come to America.  Lucky us!

Again, go to www.opahelmutsrub.com to try these amazing, exclusive Gluten Free and MSG free spice rubs.

History Lives On

Just when you get used to the limitations of the living gluten free;

just when you realize that in the grand scheme of your life, the dietary limitations are a small thing, especially in the face of millions who can’t see, hear, walk, think clearly;

just when you figure out which parental bloodline the Celiac disease came from;

just when you  release the irrational guilt of being the DNA carrier that passed the disease to your daughter,

you find out her 17 month old son has the genetic marker for Celiac disease.

History lives on.

Honestly, every time the gene I carry gets transferred through my family, I literally feel like a horse has just kicked me, hard, in the stomach.  The angst and sorrow I felt as the one who caused and would continue to cause my daughter extra hardship in her life lived in me like a continual flagellating whip for months. Because of this disease, I watched her lose nine inches of her colon in a desperate last ditch surgery to find out why she was so sick and in so much pain.   (No mother wants to hear the word MASS from the surgeon after a surgery has taken twice as long as he estimated.)  Then, I watched her go through a horrific two year recovery process of not being able to eat much followed by a scary I-am-starving weight loss.  Guilt, guilt, guilt.  Gradually, as she recovered and regained not only weight, but her normal happy disposition and an ability to handle the gluten free diet and lifestyle with a sense of ease, I let go of my guilt.  I finally realized that no family gene structure is perfect.

“Hey, we all have genes, right?” to put it more glibly.

Now, this.  My grandson, a tiny, laughter-filled, run-around-the-house-screaming-with-delight-over-just-about-everything innocent has this disease overlaid on his journey through life.  It saddens me.

And yet…the world is much more aware of gluten in foods and the environment than 15 years ago when I was diagnosed.  The grocery stores carry more GF products than ever before.  Most restaurants have gluten free  options, if not a whole gluten free menu.  The government has recognized gluten as an official food allergen.  Food labeling will reflect this new status.  So…this delightful little boy is coming into a world where it is much easier to navigate through a gluten free lifestyle. Plus, when he comes to visit Grandma, he will be entering a no gluten zone, a worry-free environment.  Everyone, gluten free or not, gets gluten free food here.

I make it my pledge, here and now, to help and support his GF journey in any way I am capable.

Entry is dedicated to my youngest daughter.