The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

Organic – wine not? October 18, 2009

 My husband and I love vino…particularly the red stuff. We are by no means wine experts. I tend to buy bottles with pretty labels and my hubby is all about the price imagesCA9B5IPJpoint. You get the picture. In honour of this blog and a lively Saturday night, I decided to delve into the world of organic wine with the help of our friends. Some of our pals are very knowledgeable about wine, and some choose other beverages to quench their thirst. I think our panel of 9 testers were a good representation of the different levels of wine drinkers out in the wine universe.


My reasons for trying organic wine are as follows:

  • Hmmm…great reason to have a party!
  • I am interested in avoiding toxic chemicals. Conventional wine and grape production heavily sprays with pesticides, herbicides, fumigants and chemicals. The fewer chemicals we ingest, the better off we are.
  • I would like to support renewable farming practices, conservation of soil, protection of ground water quality, healthy biologically active soil, and producers that emphasis environmental quality for future generations.
  • I am concerned about our consumption of sulphites. Organic certification means it must not contain sulphur dioxide. Health Canada lists sulphites as one of the nine most common food products causing severe adverse reactions. Organic wine still contains sulphites (as they are a natural occurrence in the fermentation process) but they contain significantly lower levels. red-wine-8-180[1]

Here is quick interpretation of terms on organic wine labels:


“100% Organic” means wine production is with 100% organically grown grapes with no sulphur dioxide added.

“Organic” wines contain a minimum of 95% organic grapes and may contain low levels of sulphur dioxide.

“Made with Organic Grapes” must have 70% organic grape content and could have sulphur dioxide added.

“Biodynamic” meets and typically exceeds organic farming standards and practices. Wine producers take planetary constellations and moon phases into account when working on the vines. Homeopathy practices fight pests and disease.


After tallying the results from our research (wink wink) here are my discoveries… red-wine-cancer[1]

  • Boy, we have super fun friends!
  • Organic wine is hard to find. There are few bottles, limited selection in the stores and it is even harder to find anything Canadian.
  • Organic wine comes in all price points. It can range from $12 a bottle to prices so high I could not pick up the bottles with the pretence to buy. Our nine bottles tested – yes nine! -ranged from $12 -$44.
  • 3 of the bottles sampled received comments like “disgusting”, “undrinkable” and other negative words I cannot repeat. (hamster pee) We all felt that the majority of wine sampled was disappointing and overpriced.
  • On a positive note, we agreed two wines were the overwhelming favourites: Santa Julia Organica Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($12) from Argentina and Navarrsotillo Noemus Joven 2007 from Spain. ($14) If you are interested in trying organic wine these are our (humble) suggestions for a good, reasonably priced starting place. We did try a Biodynamic wine that received positive reviews; however, after learning the large price tag, my husband fainted and we unanimously eliminated it from recommendation.

This is a growing and promising industry.  The health and environmental benefits are inspiring reasons to try new vintages.  I  am optimistic we will find some wonderful Canadian organic wines.  Please let me know if you find a gem.  In the meantime, Cheers! L’Chaim! Kampai! Cin Cin! & Salud!




Allergies & My Big Mistake September 25, 2009

Filed under: allergies,anaphylaxis,health,health warning,heath and safety,organic products — MindfulMerchant @ 8:20 am



clip_image001The first few weeks of school brings home so much information. New school policies, procedures, expectations and important days to remember. I get dizzy trying to stay organized and up to date with everything. This year our school offered communication through the school website as an alternative to newsletters. What a great way to reduce paper!


clip_image001[3]Our children have come home with important allergy information.  They both have friends with life threatening allergies in their classrooms. Every day they sit together in the same room and share “nutrition breaks”. Like other parents, I carefully pack lunches and read labels to make sure they are healthy and safe.  This weekend I made a startling discovery in our home.


clip_image001[5]We are slowly switching over soap, shampoo, conditioner and creams to organic, earth friendly products. My Cousin Sue came for a visit and she told me about her recent diagnosis with a life-threatening allergy to almonds. She informed me of this new development as I was about to sprinkle toasted almonds on our dinner!  Who knew you could develop that type of allergy at this stage in our life?! (after all we are 29 wink wink)   Something made me remember to check the new hand soap I had purchased for the spare bathroom. It had almond oil listed as one of the ingredients. Luckily, she had not used it yet – whew! Perhaps Susan would have checked the ingredients before using but I know a little child would not. 

I wanted to share this story because I worry that this might be a hidden danger in your home too. If you do buy organic soap, creams and beauty products please scrutinize the ingredients list if you are having friends or guests over with life threatening allergies. I am discovering that the majority of products I find contain tree nut or seed oils. While I have read that bathing in a product with the allergens is not a big risk to others with allergies it got me thinking about safety and cross contamination. 

Now I am going to be very careful about all the products we bring into our home.  This might sound extreme to some, but when it comes to the safety of our friends and loved ones…why take the chance?




It’s all about cake August 29, 2009

September means back to school in our home.  Every year my children have classmates with serious food allergies. Approximately 1-2 % of Canadians live with the risk of an anaphylactic reaction. More than 50 % of Canadians know someone with a life-threatening allergy. We have loved ones in our family and close friends with life threatening allergies, perhaps you do too. Keeping themchoccake_box[1] safe is a big concern.

I worry especially when entertaining in our home. Serving safe and delicious food takes thought and effort. I can only imagine how much courage it takes a parent to send a child with life-threatening allergies out in the world without being able to keep a close watch.  These families are counting on us to be vigilant, send safe lunches to school, read and re-read labels, and educate our children and ourselves on this issue.

Whether its allergies, intolerances or dietary restrictions, I try to serve food that is inclusive. It must be awful to feel different or odd at meal times, especially if you are a child. My friend Pam served us a homemade chocolate cake that was nut free, egg free and I-will-have-a-second-slice-please, delicious. It is easy to make and more importantly, everyone thought it was just a yummy “normal” cake. No weird, dry, odd taste to signify it is missing some common ingredients. I like to send this to school with the kids for class celebrations.

Perhaps baking is not your shtick. I get that. Here is another very good option. Cheery Brook Kitchens make yummy cake mixes that manufacture in a nut free/egg free/dairy free/peanut free facility.  They even make icing!  We use this mix as our special occasion cake for big family gatherings. I have yet to find a Canadian made mix that is comparable.  I will keep searching because some days…it is all about cake.

   Pam’s Cake

1 1/2 Cups Flour

1 C Sugar

1/3 C Cocoa

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

5 tbsp corn oil

1 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

1 C cold water

Process dry ingredients first, mix in the remaining ingredients. Pour into a greased 8” square baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a  350 oven.