Organic or Just Stinky?

So you want organic wine, hunh? Well, since the federal government definition of organic food still is in flux, the wine business can hardly be blamed for being wobbly on its definition too.

But there are three broad categories to consider in talking about organic wine. First, many vineyards in America and elsewhere are organic; that is to say, no pesticides or herbicides are used in the vineyards. Secondly, there are a few American wineries are organic in that they make “organic” wine. In the U.S. that means they don’t use any sulfur or other preservatives in their production practices.

But in Europe, there is another definition; “organic” identified wines CAN use sulfur. Why? Because you can dig sulfur right out of the ground. It’s not some laboratory chemical, and it’s been in use in wine for two thousand or so years.

Sulfur’s purpose is to bond with the oxygen in a bottle of wine before the oxygen can bond with the wine, and destroy the wine’s fruitiness. Most wines that have no sulfur added are not particularly stable, and they don’t seem to last very well in the cellar.

Of course, American wine buyers are familiar with the warning on the wine back labels, “CONTAINS SULFITES”. That warning got shoved down the wine industry’s collective throats a few decades back, ostensibly to protect severe asthmatics from a reaction to the miniscule amounts of sulfur in the bottle.

In truth, the ideologues who pushed the regulation were uninterested in protecting a tiny percentage of those with severe asthma. If they were concerned about asthmatics’ reactions to sulfur, they would have placed a similar but bigger warning sign over every salad bar in American. Salad bars typically have three to five times the amount of sulfur found in a bottle of wine. Indeed, America’s produce sections have more sulfur than that found in wine.

Those ideologues are just anti-alcohol. They hate it when somebody’s having fun. And they give organic a bad name in wine circles.

Organic wine production (as long as it allows some sulfur, say, 35 parts per million) is a very good thing. Organic grape production is a great thing. As wine buyers and purveyors, Winestores is very focused upon seeking wines from organic vineyards, or vineyards with sustainable practices, or even vineyards that are farmed bio-dynamically.

For those of us who have spent a great deal of our lives in the vineyards, it seems obvious that a living vineyard, devoid of chemicals and rich with natural flora and fauna, is a place that makes better wine, with more character, flavors and aromas.

Owen/Cox Dance Group

Okay, let’s start with the premise that I have no free time. NO FREAKING FREE TIME, whatsoever. So, when I take the time to go to a dance performance (and this is coming from a former modern dancer, however brief was my career) and I don’t know anything about any of the dancers, no reviews, nothing, well, something’s up.

What’s up? Brad Cox, one of Kansas City’s greatest assets, one of the more exciting young musicians in the da U. S. of A. (imho) is married to the woman who is dancing and choreographing, and Brad is playing, along with some of the most brilliant musicians I am lucky enough to know, and yeah I’m there. Okay?

But two nights in a row? Yeah, I did that. I saw the Owen/Cox Dance Group on Thursday night — dragging my wife, who is dragging her ass, she’s the mother of two teenagers, works and is grad school and, hell, she’s married to ME for chrissakes, so like she’s already done for the day, and I drag her out to this show.

The next night I bring my mom and my eldest daughter, just so someone can sit there next to me as I grin from ear to ear or nearly start sobbing midway through various dances.

Jennifer Owen has some wonderful things to show us. For one, she’s a wonderful dancer, as are many in her troupe of nine. For another, she is an inspired choreographer, at least at times, and every time she is at least intelligent and imaginative. How many dances have you seen that make you laugh? In a good way.

Brad and some of the brilliant musicians he is fortunate enough to assemble have offered me, without question, some of the most engaging musical moments I have experienced in the last decade.

And, at the risk of seeming to ignore other moments, there are two dances back to back to I must regard as simply diabolical. The first is terrifying: “When Jesus Wept”, a rather typical Brad Cox haunt comprised of two songs intertwined, threads woven together like the rope that forms the device of “Strange Fruit”, the heart-stopping Billie Holliday tale of torture and lynching.

Brad, as I said, has great musicians in tow. Nathan Granner and Valery Price handle “When Jesus Wept” with heart and soul. When Krystle Warren adds her warm, almost other-worldly voice to Strange Fruit in the midst of it all, and as Jerome Stigler demonstrates suffering and death, I defy any person with eyes and ears to save their own heart from bursting.

“When Jesus Wept” is followed by a solo, Jennifer dancing to another song with gospel roots, The River is Wide, and it seems that the song and dance will act to heal the wound exposed by the trauma preceding it. No such.

The song’s opening affirmation of love winds to its inevitable loss, the song and lights fading as love dies away. No solace here but plenty of truth. If art can rip away the curtains by which the quotidian hides reality, then these two dances are still changing the way I look around me days later.

Btw, to those annoying snobs who somehow believe that I’m speaking from a relative position, that is to say, that I’m saying these musicians are exciting for Kansas City, I’d look forward to a brief conversation about what is good and great around the world. I travel a lot and I see a lot of music and dance. This is the real shit, people.

Count yourselves unlucky to live elsewhere.