Working the 'Crush' in Napa

It's my busiest harvest yet...

In September and October, grape harvests come in – called the "crush." These new grapes will soon be turned into wine. And in a few weeks or months, wineries start putting them in barrels.

I love spending fall in California. My drive between Napa and Sonoma is filled with tractors and trucks hauling tons of grapes and barrels. The great weather and changing leaves make it a beautiful time of year.

But this year, I'm busier with the crush than I've ever been. I'm picking grapes, barreling, and bottling. I'm also moving from an older winery space to a new one.


And this year, for the first time, I'm bringing in a merlot harvest. I'm mimicking it after old, famous merlots. I'm hoping I'll end up with a bold and fruity merlot.

This is also a great time of year to stock up on wine.

To make room, wineries must release the old vintages from the barrels before the new harvest is in. That means bottling old wine and selling it quickly. To make room for new inventory, retailers mark down overstocked wines. You'll find great deals in almost every price range and quality.

Right now, we're already seeing 15%-20% discounts on reds at our local liquor store in Baltimore.

With bad weather in next week's forecast, we're rushing to get cabernet grapes off the vine. So let's get to this week's Q&A...

Q: Another technique that I have used for years to reduce Rx costs is for drugs which come in tablet form, ask the doctor to prescribe a pill in twice the intended dosage and use a pill cutter to cut each pill in half. The effect is generally to cut the cost by 50%. – J.C.

A: Pill splitting as J.C. does it is a common practice. It's simply taking a pill that's double your usual dosage and splitting it in half. The main reason to split pills is to reduce health care costs. The cost of a 90-day supply of 5mg pills is often the same as the cost of a 90-day supply of 10mg pills.

But be careful – not all pills can or should be split. Likewise, cutting an extended-release pill will damage the coating and release the drugs into your system all at once. Any sort of capsule type pill cannot be split because the contents will spill out as well.

And not all pills split the same. Some are powdery, making them difficult to split exactly, and you may lose some of the dosage. Unscored pills (ones without a mark in the middle) can be hard to split because you may not accurately determine the middle of the pills. Other pills are hard, scored, and easy to split. If you decide to split pills, buy a pill splitter. You can buy one for less than $10 at a drugstore, and it makes splitting easy and even.

Q: According to all I've read, eating honey is no better than sugar when it comes to glycemic action. They both have the same effect, which is to raise glucose levels in the same way that all grains do. I have found the best way to lose weight and stay healthy is to eliminate as many carbs as possible from my diet. You do not need them to live, and the health benefits, at least for me, have been profound.

Perhaps you all know something I do not, and would love to hear your take. – F.S.

A: If you remember in our piece about artificial sugar, researchers found that even the so-called "natural and healthy" sugars like honey cause the same reaction and changes as high-fructose corn syrup and white sugars... A study from the Journal of Nutrition showed how similarly our bodies respond to these sugar substitutes.

Here's our problem though: They didn't use raw honey. Instead, they used commercially available honey (the stuff sold at your local grocery store). This stuff is pasteurized, overprocessed, and not natural. In fact, it may even contain high-fructose corn syrup.

So you're right, honey in some ways mimics sugar when it comes to glycemic action. However, real, raw honey is all-natural, unlike the heavily refined white sugar. Honey is packed with antioxidants, and other studies have shown it can help control blood-sugar levels. Honey also contains fewer calories than white sugar. And we've all heard that adding honey to your tea can help soothe a sore throat.

If you want all the benefits of honey, look for raw or minimally processed honey. High heat used in the pasteurization process can eliminate the antioxidants.

Q: I was told that eating celery, asparagus, or other low glycemic vegetables at about the same time as sugary foods can offset the blood sugar spikes which result from eating problematic carbohydrates. The mechanism relates to the fact that these vegetables are digested over a lengthy period of time.

Do you believe that this would be helpful to those of us who are chocoholics?

If you accept this idea as probable, approximately how many celery stalks should be eaten per ice cream cone or piece of chocolate cake?

Thank you very much for considering these questions which sound like attempts at humor but are as serious as the fact that people clearly can become addicted to sugar. – Anonymous

A: If we could eat celery to offset eating cake, my whole childhood would have been much different.

That said, there is some truth to eating soluble fiber (like you'd find in celery or other veggies) as a way to help control blood sugar.

One study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that people on a high-fiber diet (50 grams of fiber per day – the equivalent of 11 apples) had a 10% lower level of sugar in their blood compared with those on a moderate-fiber diet (24 grams a day – the equivalent of about five-and-a half apples).

Joslin Diabetes Center, the leading source for diabetes research, adds that soluble fiber is what helps keep blood glucose under control. Foods like oatmeal, beans, and vegetables are great sources of fiber.

And a paper from the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that eating soluble fiber helped lower postprandial (after-meal) blood-sugar spikes. We've also written about something else that helps fight after-meal blood sugar... walking.

The problem is, that's a lot of fiber to consume in order to fight blood sugar. To get the best control, eat plenty of fresh vegetables, oats, and beans and then go for walks after meals.

What financial or health myths have you heard recently? Tell us about them... [email protected].

What We're Reading...

  • Something different: A new study claims that this is the longest humans can live. (This makes me think of the prediction that "no one will ever want a computer in their house.")

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
Sonoma, California
October 7, 2016