Winery Seeks to Replicate High-end Wines in a Lab

Marisa Kendall wrote . . . . . . .

The founders of Ava Winery spend their days turning water into wine.

They aren’t miracle workers. They’re chemists with one goal — to reverse engineer the perfect bottle of wine, in a lab, without grapes.

By freeing their wine from the confines of the grape harvest, Ava’s founders say they’re creating a more environmentally sustainable, predictable and cost-effective beverage. It’s the same logic a growing number of food-tech companies already embrace — from Memphis Meats making lab-grown chicken, to Clara Foods making animal-free egg whites — as some experts worry about the toll farming and livestock take on the Earth.

Perhaps most importantly, Ava’s founders swear the majority of people who taste their wine side-by-side with a traditional variety can’t tell which one is synthetic and which is made from fermented grapes.

“The product we end up with is chemically identical to wine,” co-founder Alec Lee said. “It’s indistinguishable at a molecular level.”

The idea for Ava Winery was born when co-founder Mardonn Chua, a chemist and wine enthusiast, caught a glimpse of, but couldn’t taste, a bottle of 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay — a rare and world-renowned wine that can sell for more than $10,000 per bottle. In true Silicon Valley fashion, he decided he could recreate that wine — and others — and make them accessible to all wine lovers.

Instead of a winery full of musky-smelling wooden wine barrels that overlooks a Napa vineyard, Ava runs a lab in an industrial corner of San Francisco’s Dog Patch neighborhood, a stone’s throw from WineWorks winery and Triple Voodoo Brewery. There, the startup’s team of chemists use a technique called chromatography to analyze samples of traditional wine — they force small amounts of wine through a device that separates it into its molecular components. Using software to analyze those resulting molecules, the scientists then come up with their own recipe to recreate the original wine.

They start with a base of water and high-proof alcohol distilled from corn, and then add molecules for flavor and aroma such as tartaric acid (a sour flavor), sotolon (notes of maple syrup and caramel) or grindstaff pyrazine (an earthy flavor and bell-pepper-like smell).

I visited Ava recently to try its test tube wine, and brought along Mary Orlin, this news organization’s food and wine writer, who is also a Sommelier. As soon as the wine was uncorked — we were trying a replica of a Moscato d’Asti, a sparkling, white dessert wine — the conference room we were sitting in was flooded with the smell of tropical fruit.

It looked like white wine — it was pale gold in color, and a tiny stream of bubbles snaked up through the glass. I took a sip. It tasted like wine — albeit very sweet wine, which I usually avoid. But it was refreshing, with strong peach and banana flavors, and I had no trouble downing my glass.

Orlin was intrigued by the concept of test-tube wine. But as far as she’s concerned, Ava hasn’t mastered it yet.

“It had very much a synthetic flavor to me,” she said after the tasting. “It tasted like banana bubble gum.”

She suggested plopping an ice cube in the glass and sipping it outside on a hot day — a sentiment I agreed with.

The wine we tasted had been bottled the day before, but that recipe has gone through hundreds of iterations over the past year and a half. Originally intended to be a chardonnay, it came out tasting more like moscato, so the founders said “let’s just run with it,” Lee recalled.

But their very first attempt, due to what the founders called a “miscalculation,” was less than delicious.

“It tasted like jelly beans,” said Chua. “Not in a good way.”

The problem was that the founders had eliminated some of the naturally occurring compounds that produce off-flavors in wine as part of the fermentation process. It turned out that even though those flavors aren’t considered desirable, the compounds they’re associated with are still important to the overall experience of the wine, Lee said.

That didn’t surprise Deborah Parker Wong, global wine editor for SOMM Journal and an expert in the science behind wine. No one yet has succeeded in perfectly mapping wine’s immensely complex molecular structure, which is the first step to recreating it, she said.

“I don’t see it happening in my lifetime,” she said.

While Wong is fascinated by what Ava is doing — she hasn’t tasted the product — she’s not willing to call it “wine.”

“It’s never going to hold a candle to wine for me,” she said.

The Ava founders admit they haven’t perfected their technology or their recipes yet — they’re not ready to try re-creating that 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay — but they’re still experimenting. In addition to their moscato, they’re working on two types of dry red wines, and one dry white, which they say are “very close” to being ready. And they’re working on getting approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to sell their products — though they may not be legally allowed to label them as “wine.”

Meanwhile, Ava’s wine is better for the planet, Lee says. It takes between 300 and 1,000 liters of water to make one liter of wine using California grapes, he said, but it takes just five to 10 liters of water to make a liter of wine using corn alcohol. And, unlike 100 percent of the traditional wine Ava tested in its lab, test-tube wine contains no pesticides.

The Ava founders see their work as part of a broader movement — helping society make what they see as an inevitable shift toward synthetic food.

“Our vision for what 500 years from now looks like is: all food is made in this way,” Lee said. “The food we make on Mars when Elon Musk takes us there will be made in this way. We’re not going to grow grapes on Mars.”

Source : The Mercury News


Seafood Soup with Tomato and Fennel


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup finely diced fennel
1/2 cup finely diced celery
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 (48-oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups water
1 cup white wine, divided
large pinch saffron
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp kosher salt
2-1/2 lbs fresh mussels in the shell
1 lb peeled large shrimp
1 lb fresh halibut, cut into large pieces
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
2 tbsp finely chopped chives


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the garlic, fennel, celery and onion and saute for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with their juices, 4 cups water. 1/2 cup white wine, saffron, thyme and kosher salt. Simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, steam mussels in the remaining 1/2 cup wine just until they open. Cool slightly, remove the mussels from the shells and strain the steaming liquid.
  4. During the last 5 minutes of cooking the tomato saffron broth, add the mussels, steaming liquid, shrimp and halibut. Stir in zest. Sprinkle with chives and serve with baguette crisps.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Style at Home Magazine

In Pictures: Snoopy Character Food

Difference between Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Christine Hammond wrote . . . . . .

OCPD and OCDIt is amazing the difference one word can make. Add the word “Personality” to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and it changes the definition and classification. There are some similarities such as obsessive and compulsive traits, thoughts and actions. However the underlying disorder is extremely different.

Here is the DSM-V definition of both:

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is classified as a type of personality disorder:

A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  • Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost
  • Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met)
  • Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)
  • Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)
  • Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value
  • Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things
  • Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes
  • Shows significant rigidity and stubbornness

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is classified as a type of obsessive compulsive related disorder:

Presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both:

Obsessions are defined by:

  • Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.
  • The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action.

Compulsions are defined by:

  • Repetitive behaviors (hand washing) or mental acts (counting) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.
  • The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress, or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent, or are clearly excessive.
  • The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming or cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

The similarities are:

  • Both can create significant relational issues and make it difficult to interact with others.
  • Both have intense, obsessive, and racing thoughts that are difficult to manage or prevent.
  • Both develop internal rules to be strictly followed in an effort to reduce stress or anxiety.
  • Both do compulsive behaviors to self-sooth such as hording or excessive cleaning.
  • Both have extremely high expectations of self to the point of requiring perfectionism.
  • Both can have “meltdowns” if a compulsion is not followed or their image is tarnished.

The big differences are:

  • OCPD can be seen in every environment and is pervasive whereas OCD is usually isolated to a few specific things or locations.
  • OCD is a learned behavior usually done as a way of coping with extreme stress whereas OCPD is part biological and part environmental beginning in early childhood and continuing through out adulthood.
  • A person may change OCD behaviors as they age whereas OCPD behaviors cannot be changed without significant effort and therapy.
  • OCD behaviors can cause significant impairment at work whereas OCPD behaviors are usually praised at work because of their strong devotion to it.
  • OCD behaviors are frequently done out of fear to avoid an undesirable outcome whereas OCPD behaviors are done out of fear of not living up to internal perfectionist expectations.
  • By outward appearance alone, it is difficult to identify an OCD person whereas OCPD persons are usually extremely well groomed, dress impeccably, and are very aware of the perfectionist image they portray.
  • OCD people know their behaviors or fears tend to be irrational whereas OCPD people believe their thinking is more correct than others and have a difficult time accepting the idea that their reasoning might be inaccurate.

The good news about both disorders is that they tend to do very well with therapy and the prognosis can be quite good.

Source: PsychCentral

‘Fat But Fit’ a Myth?

No amount of extra weight is good for your heart, no matter how fit you are by other measures, new British research shows.

“Our findings suggest that if a patient is overweight or obese, all efforts should be made to help them get back to a healthy weight, regardless of other factors,” said study co-author Camille Lassale, from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health.

“Even if their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol appear within the normal range, excess weight is still a risk factor,” Lassale said in a university news release. In fact, the increased risk of developing heart disease was more than 25 percent, the study found.

The study used statistics about the health of people in 10 European countries. Researchers focused on weight and signs of heart disease, when blood vessels become clogged.

The authors looked at more than 7,600 people who had cardiovascular events such as death from heart attack, and compared them to 10,000 people who didn’t have heart problems.

After adjusting their figures so they wouldn’t be thrown off by other lifestyle factors, the researchers found that people with three or more heart risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or large waist sizes (more than 37 inches for men and 31 inches for women) were more than twice as likely to have heart disease, regardless of whether their weight was normal or above normal.

But those who were considered overweight yet healthy were still 26 percent more likely to develop heart disease than their normal-weight peers. Those considered healthy but obese had a 28 percent higher risk, the study found.

The findings, which don’t prove that extra weight causes heart risks to rise, were published Aug. 14 in the European Heart Journal.

“I think there is no longer this concept of healthy obese,” said study co-author Ioanna Tzoulaki, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the university.

“If anything, our study shows that people with excess weight who might be classed as ‘healthy’ haven’t yet developed an unhealthy metabolic profile. That comes later in the timeline, then they have an event, such as a heart attack,” she said.

Source: HealthDay

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