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Editor's Picks

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The Huntington, in San Marino, CA, obtained a grant from...
Website Editor | Feb 08, 2019
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This blog entry focuses on the Engelmann oak grove at Los...
Charles Snyers | Dec 15, 2018
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This blog post focuses on the day and a half we spent in...
Charles Snyers | Dec 02, 2018

Plant Focus

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Quercus douglasii is an endemic California oak tree, affectionately called “the blue oak”.

Wine, Whiskey, and Oaks

Diana Gardener has again forwarded some interesting news items related to oaks and their connection to the manufacture of wines and spirits. The link between oaks and wine is well known: oak staves make barrels that help age the wine and add to its flavors. But in Oregon there is also antagonism between oaks and wine, as oak woodlands are cleared to plant new vineyards. The Willamette Valley Oak Accord seeks to mitigate the threat to Quercus garryana habitat. Read more here:

Disappearing Act, Oregon Wine Press – by Michael Alberty

Willamette Valley Oak Accord
Keeler Estate in the Eola-Amity Hills American Viticultural Area has signed the Willamette Valley Oak Accord, assuring the community the Oregon white oaks on the property are protected. © Andrea Johnson

On the other coast of the United States, another white oak, Q. alba, is also under threat. The species is often used in barrel making and other industries and it has great ecological value. Is there a danger we may run out of the resource? The White Oak Initiative has been created to help landowners adapt forest management practices to sustainably grow and harvest white oak. Read the story here:

Notes of Oak, American Forests – by Christopher Horn

Wine barrels
While a large part of the barrel-making process is automated, people handle every piece of wood throughout the process. © Independent Stave Company

Bourbon whiskey, by law, is required to be aged in barrels of new charred oak. Kentucky’s warm climate means that prolonged aging results in astringent, woody flavors. A new venture is attempting to create storage conditions that may allow whiskey to be aged for longer, perhaps as much as 35 to 50 years. Read about it here:

A Gamble That Bourbon Can Grow Old Gracefully, New York Times – by Robert Simonson

Buffalo Trace
Mark Brown, chief executive of the Sazerac Company, which owns Buffalo Trace, using a mallet to remove the bung from a barrel in the company's new climate-controlled warehouse. © Buffalo Trace Distillery