Feature 1: Divine crush

Products made from grape remains lessen carbon footprint of wine industry

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New flavors from The Republic of Tea to be 'grape'ful for.

by Tanya Henry

Given Marin County’s reputation for being ahead of the curve when it comes to matters of sustainability, it’s not surprising that several local food manufacturers are creating food and beverage items that utilize the by product of a billion dollar industry.

According to the Wine Institute, an advocacy and public policy association for California wine, more than 200 million cases of wine were shipped in the U.S in 2013, with an estimated value of $231 billion. Of the 615,000 acres of wine grapes grown in California, more than 500,000 are grown right here in the premium Sonoma and Napa Valley wine regions. The California Department of Agriculture includes wine in the top three exports after almonds and dairy, with a staggering $5.6 billion in sales.

During the fall months in wine country when “crush” is in full swing, truckloads of pomace, or the stems, seeds and grape skins pressed dry of their juice are a common sight on the roads. Along with the millions of cases of wines produced, come pounds of waste. For every two bottles of wine created, one bottle of byproduct is left over. Though many wineries practice composting, some sell the pomace to distilleries for grappa, a brandy of Italian origin. Others feed it to their own livestock—but most often it is simply thrown away.

“We are helping diminish the carbon footprint of the wine industry, one delicious Crush Bar at a time,” says Karen Schuler Hill who began making her line of energy bars from gluten-free grapeseed flours in 2011. Hill’s Tiburon-based company, D’Vine Crush, features a line of four fruit and nut bars. She explains that each flavor is created to mirror the notes of a particular wine varietal. By utilizing flours made from grape seeds and skins from specific varietals, and complementing each flavor with carefully selected nuts and fruits, she showcases these well-known and loved wine flavors. For example, her Corkscrew Cherry Pinot includes cherries, currants and strawberries, along with grapeseed flour produced from Pinot grapes; likewise Toasted Barrel Chardonnay features flour made from chardonnay grapeseeds with the addition of pineapple and caramel to help elicit vanilla and buttery notes. Hill’s handmade bars, and a recently launched line of Crush Crumbles made for topping yogurt and ice cream, are naturally gluten-free and made with locally sourced ingredients. Learn where to find these tasty wine-flavored treats at dvinecrush.com.

Another local company that aims to make use of the copious grape waste at wineries is The Republic of Tea. This enterprising Novato-based tea company partnered with WholeVine, an organization committed to generating new uses for vineyard byproducts, and together they rolled out their new line of Sonoma teas made from wine grape skins. In April, the beverage company debuted four “tea” flavors—chardonnay, rosé, cabernet and zinfandel. However, somewhat confusingly, none of the pretty round tins of six large tea bags have a single tea leaf between them—only grape skins, fruit bits and flavorings. Three of the four flavors are intended to be served as iced tea, and are uniquely ideal for warm-weather sipping. Pineapples and peaches augment the chardonnay iced tea, oranges and currants are infused in the cabernet version and a summery rosé (my favorite) offers up notes of apple and strawberries. The only flavor meant to be enjoyed hot is the mulled zinfandel flavor that boasts hints of hazelnut, chocolate and gingerbread. Look for these inventive teas in local Marin stores and on their website at republicoftea.com.

Finally, husband-and-wife team Valentin and Nanette Humer, purveyors of Salute Santé! grapeseed oils and flours in Napa are true pioneers in the field. For 20 years the couple has been spreading the gospel of the health benefits of their pure grapeseed oil and its high antioxidant levels, exceptional finishing properties and high smoke point. Considered a “secret” ingredient by some celebrity chefs, herb-infused oils have been added to the mix by the couple, and include organic basil, chili, lemon, roasted garlic and rosemary. All of the oils are produced with the company’s proprietary pressing machine that compresses the grape seeds while leaving behind long strands of the residual secondary byproduct. This is then collected and ingeniously milled into flour, thus creating both an oil and flour from the discarded seeds. And as if that isn’t impressive enough, both products are quite tasty. The infused oils boast the essence of the added herbs and the flour has a toothsome quality to it that makes it a good choice for cookies and breads. To find out more about these grapeseed delectables, visit grapeseedoil.com.

With more and more awareness around our food systems, it’s encouraging to know that there are forward-thinking, resourceful companies like these. Transforming something as unappetizing as grape stems, seeds and skins into chewy bars, delicate oils and refreshing teas seems nothing short of a miracle to me. So, the next time we enjoy a glass of wine, let’s toast these enterprising folks who are literally making delicious food and drink—from wine. Cheers!

Share your hunger pains with Tanya at thenry@pacificsun.com.

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