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The Days of Crimson And Clover ~ Or, do organic wines really taste better?

The 1960s, 70s, and early 80s were very good to and for me. I deliberately sacrificed a lot of materialism, for which the universe delivered copious hours to study and practice many subjects of great personal interest:

  • nutrition and gardening organically
  • buying my organic foods in a “health food store” (the only place to get organic foods in the beginning… health food being the operative words)
  • ornithology, Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and horticulture
  • spirituality through Buddhism, yoga, and Transcendental Meditation
  • the world of mushrooming (what’s poisonous and what’s not)
  • raising children as a nursing mother (Katie Sunshine, Melanie Rainbow, and Lyla Lynn… Lyla is a derivative of the flower “lily,” so I didn’t lose it with the third child)
  • practicing ecology to save the world
  • creating elaborate bead work and selling it all at craft fairs and head shops
  • Crocheting baskets with sisal and jute, and selling those, too
  • loving life large

On this blog, I occasionally allude to being an old hippie, because I enjoyed many of the freedoms, and it still pops up as relevant with some – if not all – of today’s issues.

No, I didn’t live in a commune; although, I thought about it a lot. To be in the epicenter of that sociological movement gave me many interesting perspectives that are now some of the most brilliant threads in my tapestry.

I was recently reminded that I’m such a product of my past, that this intro is necessary; because, I otherwise have no leg to stand on as being informed with organics. I have no degree, but I have a long history of experiential learnings with organics; although, I’ve never had the interest to make it an issue.

Why? Because it’s just me on auto pilot. It’s like the functions of my body that happen, just because some unknown energy keeps my heart beating, my lungs functioning, and somehow my food gets digested. It’s just is what it is. It’s no big deal.

Or… is it a big deal?

Perhaps it needs to be one…

It is easy being green, Kermie!

I was recently having lunch with a wine grape grower. We were talking about his organic wine brands, and I made the comment that organic foods just taste better. Simple enough statement for me; but he asked, “Are they?” I’ve never been challenged before with that one. I just knew it from things that I’ve been eating… Like, what comes out of my garden versus things I buy in the store. There’s no comparison… and there’s no chemical flavors that have been absorbed by the roots to become part of the food. And, yes, I’ve tasted chemicals in the past when I’ve purchased something because “organic” wasn’t available at the time, and I had a craving.

I once read that if you find bugs in your food, it means that it’s great food. The reasoning is, if it’s good enough for the bugs, it’s good enough for you. If it’s spayed with pesticides, bugs won’t be present. That’s now one of my rules of thumb, when organics might not be available. I look for bugs in my lettuce ;^)

I answered this grower with, “Yeah, of course. My body’s my temple, and I’m only going to put the best of everything inside of me. I don’t do fast food. While Alice Waters was busy inventing slow food for consumers on the west coast, I was on the east coast inventing the same for my family. My sister Merry gave me a wok, and that’s when I began to run. I only eat really wholesome foods, most especially organic, because they taste so good, besides being good for me.”

There, I worked it out, but now I want to work it out a bit more, for the sake of organic grapes.

For me, paying a bit more for organics now is worth the price. The little bit more that I pay forward today means that I’ll not have to pay thousands in the future with medical expenses. My father scoffed at me when I talked about this to him; and yet, by my age, he only had two more years to live. His fourth and final coronary, after two stokes in between those heart attacks, did him in. To date, and I always knock on wood, I’ve not had any of these medical emergencies, and I share his DNA.


What was really fascinating to me about this business man, who has farmed only organically since the 1970s, is that he only does it because he and his family believe strongly in being good stewards of the land. He feels the need to protect the environment as much as possible, because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not until recently that coming out about being green has ever been an issue. He’s mostly been growing and selling, and just giving people the most pure fruit that he’s able to, because he has a conscience.

Could my generation have just given our children this consciousness and it’s simply playing itself out… and I got to witness it with someone else’s child?

Here are a couple of  important question to consider:

  1. Why has he been staying in the business of selling grapes for so long?
  2. Could it possibly be because when his fruit is being compared to others as samples, his grapes just taste better, beating out the competition with a similar price point?


I asked my sister Merry Matukonis to give me a paragraph about why organic foods taste so much better than those processed with a myriad of chemicals. Merry’s been a registered nurse for over 30 years, with the majority of her nursing experience in cardiovascular, surgical, and gastroenterology nursing. Merry says that she got tired of helping people to die; so she switched her gears, and is now helping people to live. She has her own practice for wellness in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania called Optimal Wellness Center, and writes for My Women’s Journal.

A typical subject matter would be Nutritional Counseling, Prevention — Detoxification. Her interest in nutrition also had her graduate from the New York Restaurant School, and had a catering company for years called Savory Table in Lewiston, Maine. She’s an associate member of the International Foundation for Nutrition and Health and certified as a Clinician in Whole Foods Nutrition. I’d say that neither of us do things lightly… What I can only say as a lay person, Merry can say as one whose entire life has been devoted to helping others…

Originally those patients exited with no plan. Today, Merry’s clients are existing with a better plan along their way…

Merry Matukonis: The reason that foods taste so much better when they’re organic is because they actually have nutrients in them. The soil has organic compost in it to provide those nutrients and minerals. The plant then absorbs all that it needs, in order to grow.

If a person is 50 years old or older, organic foods taste the way they did when you were a child. So many young Americans today don’t really know what really wholesome foods taste like.

An organic tomato 50 years ago had approximately 40 mg of whole vitamin C in it. Today, that same tomato, when mass produced, has approximately 5 mg. It’s a difficult challenge to stay healthy today if people are consuming processed, devitalized, mass produced foods.

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12 Responses to “The Days of Crimson And Clover ~ Or, do organic wines really taste better?”

  1. lynn says:

    here we are again…..on the same page…..for years it would appear. And I have one thing to add. Sometimes I find myself getting cranky with people who ask whether organic or biodynamic foods (or wines) actually TASTE better. In a sense, I am thinking “who cares?”!!! Doesn’t the fact that you may be preserving the land and the planet for future generations (or even for US) mean more than the matter of taste? It does to me….and you know I love my palate like a baby. When a fine editor once stated clearly to me that he had no intention of giving any press to biodynamic wines until or unless it could be proven conclusively that the wines were “superior” in flavor to conventionally produced wines…..I couldn’t help but think he had missed the whole point.

  2. Jo Diaz says:


    It’s interesting… I’m thinking that he hasn’t eaten anything but organic food, so the real question should have been, “Does non-organic food not taste as good?” The gentleman’s integrity as a steward of the land is so strong, that I think he’s far from the fast food crowd thinking, whom I’d expect to ask this question unknowingly. Growing things since the 70s with organic practices, the best is just ingrained in his makeup. I think that’s why I immediately liked him immensely.

    It’s the general public, in love with fast food and not really understanding real gastronomic pleasures that I would expect this question to be coming from…

    I was just talking about this with Katie. Think about this… My compost comes from vegetables and fruits that didn’t make it into my body. Those fruits and veggie still have their chemical compounds for flavor. They go back to the earth, and it’s those components that become part of the earth, giving nitrogen to the next plant, versus chemical, synthetic nitrogen for plant growth. Which plant is going to taste better; the synthetic one, or the one with other plant material? From my standpoint, more flavor = more flavor…

    Another one… free range chicken eggs, or eggs from a chicken in a plant.

    When I did a radio interview with a Maine chicken farmer, he disclosed the conditions in a nearby plant: it was a six tier system, the cages were placed on a slight tilt so the eggs would be easily harvested, the lights are on 24/7, and the neighbors from above are pooping on you and your belongings (in this case, it’s the eggs = salmonella). Live like that for a month, and then tell me how you feel. How’s your health, and if I were to eat you, how would you taste over tasting someone else who have been running freely for the same month. Stress enters not only our muscles, but it enters animals bodies, too, wreaking the same stress havoc. We are what we eat: animal, vegetable, and mineral.

    I’ll take organic any day. Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided doctors for so long. Just thinking…

  3. lynn says:

    yer preachin’ to the choir, sister….as I am sure you know. And I happen to like chickens. Seems like a very dirty trick. Thanks for addressing some of these issues so clearly.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Yes, I know we’re in the same choir. That’s why we’re such good pals. We’ve got a lot to sing about.

    I love free range chickens, too. It’s the only way to enjoy any meat; that which isn’t stressed.

    If it’s not so graphic, then it’s seen as okay. When I learned this about chickens in chicken coops, I was almost ill. I can’t eat this kind of meat… I am what I eat, and i DON’T want that kind of stress.

    If just one person gets it, it was worth the time it took to type it.

  5. Brett says:

    Jo has there ever been a Blind, Organic vs. Non-Organic, taste test with experts?
    Don’t you think that all farmers would farm organically if there was not a cost difference involved?

  6. Jo Diaz says:


    I would dare say, no… there’s not been a comparative. It’s a great idea, though.

    Yes, I think that most farmers would farm organically, if there wasn’t a cost difference. Unfortunately, it costs more to farm organically. This is mainly due to chemical fertilizers super sizing vegetables… This gives the farmer a lot more tonnage, which leads to a larger profit.

    Another reason would be more waste occurs quicker, when preservatives aren’t used. Farmers have to find a quicker to market system.

    I’m sure organic farmers can weigh in with a lot more reason. Anyone else want to weigh in?

  7. Growing organically is a lot more labor-intensive and expensive (in the short run) than conventionally grown produce. I am sure taste tests have been done in some of the schools with gardens. A tomato is a perfect food to try for yourself. I remember decades ago buying some organic tomatoes off a truck and the taste was magnificent. My son was shocked at how good these were – and how much they cost.

    That said, not all organic wines or wines made from organic grapes taste better than conventional. I was part of an organic wine tasting group and we were very disappointed how bad some of the organic wines were. Organic wines, those made essentially without added sulfites, are a different breed of wine and I, like a lot of folks, don’t buy them because of the bad reputation from the past. But those made with organically grown grapes can be fantastic, as can biodynamically grown. So its both the ingredients and the ‘cook’ that influence the end product.

    I wish all farming was done organically, for as you mention, it’s not just for the taste but for the future of this planet. The good news in the wine industry, more and more vineyards are growing organic. Check out the list in the back of Wine’s Hidden Beauty – hundreds of US wineries as of 2009, and more world-wide.

  8. Jo Diaz says:


    Have you ever photographed the difference between an organic tomato and one that’s grown without organic treatment?

    If anyone can prove the structural differences under a microscope, it’s you. I’d love to see how that one would look.

    My microscopic images of wine are r-e-a-l-l-y amazing… the four shapes that affect flavor, etc.

    What a great story that one would be.

    Thanks for weighing in.

  9. Jenna A says:

    Jo would you be kind enough to send me the microscope images? Very interested to see them! Thank you so much.


  10. Jo Diaz says:


    Sondra has just released a new book, one that’s taken her years to develop, called “Wine’s Hidden Beauty.”

    I wrote about her last fall. You’ll have a quick glimpse here, and you’ll have more ideas from her own Website, Called Bioscapes of Wine: http://wine-blog.org/index.php/2009/09/21/bioscapes-of-wine-prepare-to-be-amazed-by-the-art-in-wine/

    Sondra’s site. http://www.sondrabarrett.com/

  11. Heart Health says:

    I always appreciate organic foods. I don’t care about the taste as long as it’s healthy. 🙂

  12. Jo Diaz says:

    You’re lucky. I have a very fussy palate, so I also have to care about the flavors, since I appreciate and have so few options.

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