The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Monday, June 30, 2008

New wines

Got a couple of new ones tonight. One, the Cartlidge and Brown 2006 Pinot Noir, is one of my favorites.

1. Cartlidge and Brown 2006 Pinot Noir; California; $16.00. Okay, so I broke my rule about giving a particular year. But I've had two different vintages of this wine, both excellent, but slightly different. The 2006 is a medium garnet color. The wine just jumps at your nose with a bouquet reminiscent of cherry pie right out of the oven along with notes of anise and spice. It's got a lot of sweet juicy fruit on the palate with a supple texture and smooth tanins that float in your mouth. A bit hard to find but I found a bottle and had my local grocer (that's right, my grocer!) stock it. Wow!

2. Martin Ray Santa Barbera County Pinot Noir (2006) $23.00. California. This is the parent winery to the Angeline Pinot that I reviewed earlier. It's a bit more in price but it's outstanding. A bit more brawn than the Cartlidge and Brown with a darker color, spicier bouquet, and a chewier feel in the mouth. Not as subtle. Great fruit with cherry, berry, plum, and pepper on the palate. Very nice.

3. Hirschbach and Sohne Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling Kabinett 2006. Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany; $10.00. Kabinetts are meant to be quafed on their own or with food, like a spicy curry. They are slightly sweet and very fragrant, almost perfumy. This is a nice one for just casual drinking while you read, work, or relax.

Three more for your cellar. Enjoy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Chardonnay's under $25.00

Tonight I'm going to recommend several chardonnays that I've enjoyed. Many of the chardonnays are quite pricey and those that aren't, usually aren't very good. But I've got a few favorites and I'm sure there are more. Here're my picks:

1. Franciscan Oakville Estates; California; ~$20.00. Very pleasant. Flavors of apples and pears, and a nice, (little bit dry) oak-y finish that comes across as simple and clean. Has an almost buttery richness to it.

2. Martin Ray Santa Cruz Mountains Reserve; California; ~$19.00. Similar to the Franciscan but not as buttery rich. A bit lighter.

3. Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay; New Zealand; $16.00. For those who don't like the oak flavor found in many chardonnays, this is a good one. Clean fruit with pear overtones. Nice finish.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Merlots under $25.00

For some reason, Merlots seem to be expensive. Oddly, I can find better deals on Cabernet Sauvignon. As a result, the four I'm going to recommend are all right on the edge of my price limit: $24-$25.00. Merlots are dark, rich, luscious, and fruity. Not generally a summer wine, but then I've never been a traditionalist. Here we go:

1. Whitehall Lane Merlot; California; $24.00. My favorite in this category. Very nice fruit with blackberry and cherry dominating. Dark, rich color, aromatic bouquet of blackberry, currants, and cherry. Nice tanins.

2. Franciscan; California; $24.00; Similar to the Whitehall Lane. In fact the whitehall Lane pretty much describes all of the wines I recommend in this category.

3. Franciscan Oakville Estates; California; $25.00. Same winery, different label.

4. Sterling Merlot (the one with the silver label); California; $25.00


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Zinfandels Under $25.00

My wife and I are big fans of zinfandels. In fact, I'd say it's her favorite wine. They are a bit darker and heavier than the Pinot's. Some of the best I've ever tasted are reviewed below in my "under $25.00" list.

1. Franciscan Oakville Estates; California; ~$22.00. This one has long been our favorite. Something about this winery just always yields great zins. It's dark red with lots of blackberry, current, and a hint of vanilla overtones. Bouquet is marvelous. It's sometimes hard to find but it's worth searching for.

2. Seven Deadly Zins, Michael-David Winery; California; $13-$16.00. Another of our favorites. Widely available...and I like the name.

3. Sin Zin, Alexander Winery; California; $19.00. Similar to the Seven Deadly Zins. Both are delicious and have catchy names.

Those are the favorites. Try one and enjoy!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Summer Red Wines under $25.00

Tonight I want to share some of my favorite summer red's for under $25.00. Summer often calls for light wines, my favorites of which are Pinot Noir's. Unfortunately, Pinot's can be some of the most expensive wines on the market. But here are four that I highly recommend and which are within my $25.00 price point. I know this sounds strange, but these go great with pizza, especially pizza cooked outside on a grill. Some may say it's sacrilegeous, but serve them slightly chilled.

1. Kim Crawford Pinot Noir; New Zealand; $16.00. Very nice bouquet, soft and smooth on the palate. Nice fruit with cherry overtones. One of my favorites.

2. Angeline Pinot Noir; California; $14.00. One of the best buys out there. Similar to the Kim Crawford.

3. Erath Pinot Noir; California; $19.00. Another good one. Taste is slightly stronger, seems higher in alcohol by the taste.

4. Rodney Strong Pinot Noir; California; $20.00. Outstanding wine. Very fruity, nice color and a strong bouquet tinged with rasberry. Clean finish. Nice

Since I'm talking summer wines, I though I'd put in one non-Pinot Noir. Just to show you I'm not a snob, one of the best wines I know of for summer quaffing comes in a box. Yes, you read that right, it's Vella White zinfandel, about $11.00 for a five liter box. Very luscious fruit, really good chilled for just sitting on the deck reading a book or watching your son mow the lawn.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Summer wines under $25.00

I love wine. Having been in executive management for over twenty years, I've had some good ones, usually on an expense account with business people. Anyone can find a good wine for a hundred bucks. In fact, if you pay a hundred bucks and it isn't good, you have a big problem.

The real challenge for me is to find really good wines for under $25.00. Ones that I serve and recommend to friends...and sometime horde for myself! So, in the coming days I will discuss some of my favorites and going forward, I'll add new ones as I find them. While I've found some of the best wines I've ever tasted for $25.00 to $50.00, that's a bit pricey. As you will see, I usually try to stay around $15.00. Unless it's absolutely critical, I'm not going to specify a particular year as these wines are very consistent and I get frustrated when I can't find a recommended year at the store.

So, since it's summertime and the livin' is easy, let's start with whites, Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings to be exact. Both types are light and refreshing, perfect for warm summer nights. The Sauvignon Blancs will be drier while the Rieslings are slightly sweet.

Sauvignon Blanc:
1. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc; New Zealand; about $16.00.
Chill it well. Make sure you use a large wine glass and fill it about one-third full. Swirl the wine and smell the bouquet. It explodes with peach, citrus, and grapefruit. The taste is refresshing with citrus overtones and a clean finish. My absolute favorite of the group.

2. Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc; California; about $20.00. Very clean, refreshing. Not quite as strong a bouquet as the Kim Crawford. Whitehall Lane is a very good vineyard, its Cabernets running $40.00 and more.

1. Snoqualmie Naked Riesling; Washington; $10.00. Excellent wine. I discovered this one while eating at Legal Seafoods in Boston. Slightly sweet, excellent finish. Yum!

2. Bridgeview Blue Moon Riesling; Oregon; $10.00. Incredible taste with distinct honey overtones. Great for just sipping on the porch, while you watch the sunset.

3. Chateau St. Michelle Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling; Washington; about $22.00. Dr. Loosen wines are famous in Germany. It's an Alsatian style Riesling, not as sweet as the first too. While I really like it, it's tough to pass up the other two given their price is half as much. But try it anyway. It's a true German style riesling.

Tomorrow, I hit some summer reds. Gotta go. My Snoqualmie Riesling is getting warm.

Bioweaponry II

Yesterday I mentioned I would discuss how bioweapons are created. To clarify, I will NOT tell you how to make them. Rather I will discuss what has been published in the literature and recount some of the testimony of people like Serguei Popov, who for nearly two decades developed genetically engineered biological weapons for the Soviet Union.

Bioweapons can be developed for a number of intents. The first thing that comes to mind for most people is the intent to kill. Certainly weaponized smallpox, Ebola, or Marburg viruses or bacteria like Bacillus anthrasis (anthrax) or Yersinia pestis (plague) can accomplish this. Ebola virus, in its worst form, has a mortality rate around 80%. One of the problems faced by bioweaponeers is protecting themselves against their creations. For example, variants of weaponized plague contain multiple antibiotic resistance genes to increase their virulence and make it tougher to control. But that can backfire on the researcher working with the bug. For a look into probably the most advanced bioweapons program ever developed, that of the former Soviet Union, I recommend you read Ken Alibek's book "Biohazard." The Soviets did have accidents that cost the lives of both their scientists and innocent citizens near the installations where the research was conducted.

However, in a war, you don't necessarily have to kill your opponent to win, just incapacitate him. For these purposes bacteria like Burkholderia mallei (glanders disease), Francisella tularensis (tularemia or rabbit fever) or even bacteria like Shigella (dysentary) or Vibrio cholera (cholera) are possible weapons. While each may cause death, more frequently they make you really sick. Of course, it's hard to fight or function if you've got massive diarrhea.

Just so you won't think I'm giving ideas to terrorists, all of this is published in literature which may be found in science journals and online.

A more difficult area for bioweaponry is in the area of agriculture. There are several pathogens which I won't discuss for a number of reasons, which could be used to destroy food supplies. This is attractive from the point of view that they won't harm the researcher. However, administering them in a widespread manner would be very difficult.

So, why should we care about this? In 2005 at a conference examining the threat of bioterrorism, may U.S. scientists complained about the amounts of money being channeled into developing means of detecting and controlling a possible bioterrorist attack. Milton Leitenberg, a man with experience in the area insisted terrorist groups like Al Qaeda would not be a source of bioterrorist attacks because the record showed that almost all bioweaponeering had been done by state governments and militaries. (Currently, I work in cancer research, so there's no conflict of interest here.)

However, I personally do not believe that to be true. Today, the techniques and materials necessary for creating dangerous organisms are commodity items. The whereabouts of the bioweapons created by the former Soviet Union have not been addressed adequately. All one would need are seed stocks. But you don't necessarily even need the organism. In 2002, Eckard Wimmer reported the chemical synthesis of the 7,000 base pair poliovirus genome and demonstrated that it was infectious. InJanuary of this year, researchers at the Venter Institute reported synthesis of a synthetic Mycoplasma genome and successfully transferred it into a different Mycoplasma. The synthsized genome was 582,970 base pairs in length. Meaning? Smallpox is one of the largest viruses known with a genome size of approximately 190,000 base pairs.

DNA synthesizers are available on E-bay as is most lab equipment.

While the goals of a State-funded program may be far-reaching and may never come close to the former Soviet Union, the goals of a terrorist group are much more limited. They don't need to think in terms of huge program because the point of a terrorist attack is not to wipe out a country but to create terror. If a few hundred people died of smallpox in New York city, I guarantee it would be significant. Witness the fact that a man, woman, or child who straps explosives to their bodies and blows up a bus or marketplace is trying for limited physical damage to the surroundings, but much broader psychological effects.

Enough! Ponder that. Next, something near and dear to my heart: Finding an excellent vintage wine for under $25.00!

Friday, June 13, 2008


During the years post-World War II through the fall of communism, the Soviet Union created and ran the most advanced biological warfare program that has ever existed. At its peak, they were producing tons of weaponized anthrax spores (highly drug resistant), smallpox virus, Marburg and Ebola viruses, Francisella tularensis, Burkholderia mallei, and a host of hybrid organisms. When Communism fell, a nagging question in my mind is what happened to these organisms? Even if the vast amounts were destroyed or eventually became non-viable, seed stocks could have been easily created and disseminated to a number of ex-Biopreparate scientists who, unable to get decent jobs in the new Russia, left for more profitable pursuits.

Although there is little danger of these organisms wiping out large portions of the population, they could be used on a limited basis and the resulting panic could be devastating. Recall what happened following the 911 anthrax scare.

Does the current Russian government maintain a biowarfare program? I have no idea. If they do, it is probably not on the former scale. But with molecular methods widespread these days, it's fairly easy to create a monster. I'll discuss some of the ways in which bugs are weaponized in future blogs. For now, think about it.