Raise your glasses!
This is a fun episode for our 21+ listeners. We welcome Todd White, CEO of Dry Farm Wines, to the podcast. Dry Farm Wines is known as a keto-friendly "biohacked" wine.
Todd is quite a biohacker himself, diving deep into a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting. We start off our conversation by first diving into the cognitive benefits of the ketogenic diet and Todd’s other biohacks, and then move on to the meat of the episode: Wine.
Let’s get real: Alcohol is a neurotoxin and is not great for performance.
Why would a self-proclaimed biohacker and health-conscious person like Todd make a company around it? What does he know about the dirty secrets and production loopholes of the wine industry? How can a wine become sugar-free? Host Geoffrey Woo and Todd explore all these topics and much more.
If you enjoy the episode and feel Dry Farm Wines is a product for you, visit https://www.dryfarmwines.com/hvmn. Through that link, Dry Farm Wines is kind enough to hook you up with a 1-penny bottle of wine along with your purchase.
Todd, welcome to our San Francisco headquarters.
I am super happy to be here. I spent the night in San Francisco last night, just a few blocks away. So I enjoyed a brisk walk here.
Yeah, it's a little bit foggy today. But at least you're missing a lot of like the big rain that was happening over the last couple of weeks.
I brought my dog so I was out in the rain this morning just a bit. It was misting, but it's cleared off now.
Yeah. So you have a very interesting background...serial entrepreneur, been in the real estate game. And then been quite a constant biohacker over the last, what? Decade or so?
Well, I would say I was a biohacker before it was called biohacking. So probably been active really, seriously focused for probably 15 years. Maybe a little bit longer, 16, 17 years.
So early 2000s?
And what instigated you to go on that journey?
I've always been a life-long learner and curious experimenter. I started experimenting with the Atkins Diet, actually, was sort of what led me down the path. Using it as a weight loss tool. Not fully understanding at that time, nor did anyone else really, about ketosis and the benefit of being ketotic. Although Atkins was the leader in the ketogenic diet. So at that time there was not really any methods to accurately or easily measure ketones other than urine sticks, which he recommended. And he talked about ketosis, but it just wasn't really a thing. So I started experimenting with it to manage weight loss.
So were you coming into it from a weight perspective?
I was initially.
I mean today you look quite trim and fit. So I'm just curious if-
Well, I've been fully ketotic for about five years now. So I'm very lean. Even I have a sweater and things on today, but I'm super lean and have been for many years now. But I have a body type that can struggle with pesky weight gain.
Okay, so early 2000s.
I'm carbohydrate intolerant.
Yeah, so I started experimenting. And then from there it became really quite serious about five or six years ago when I kind of went full in on a regular meditation practice, cold thermogenesis, ketogenic diet, regular fasting. So these protocols really got very, very serious about five years ago.
And what triggered that? So it sounded like initial exploration was around weight management. And it seemed like you got some value insight there. And then do you remember there was a trigger moment five years ago where it was like, "Okay, I want to spend even more time going down this rabbit hole."
I think it was really the cognitive benefits of two experiments. One, meditation and, two, the ketogenic diet. And when I say cognitive benefits, so initially I experimented with keto to lose weight. After the weight loss was successful or I reached a point where I just stabilized, didn't lose any more weight, then I really continued the protocol for cognitive benefits. And so I was seeing a really remarkable increase in things like short-term memory and energy and other benefits. Other cognitive benefits both with meditation as well as the ketogenic diet. And I've just maintained now, as we were discussing earlier, now I have sort of moved my focus from keto, which is just sort of a lifestyle, to a pretty meaningful fasting regimen.
Which I think is interesting. I think if you talked to folks in this broader community of low-carb or keto, I think it's split into two camps. One camp that started from a weight-management perspective coming into this community. And I would say the other half, which I think is more recent, is people looking for performance. And I would say that that's kind of my school of how I entered in the ketogenic, low-carb area where I've always been fairly lean. And I didn't look at this as a way to manage weight. It was like, "Okay, there's interesting data and anecdotes from a a performance perspective and the data seemed reasonable. Why does this even work?" So it sounded like we're coming at the same metabolic intervention from kind of two different starting places. But are very much seeking the same things now which is probably, I would imagine, relating to performance, longevity and the happy medium between those two.
When you say performance, for me I'm an athlete. There's certainly benefit to my athletic performance from a ketogenic lifestyle. But the real performance I'm interested in is cognition. And then, as you mention, not only longevity but managing the aging process. So we know, categorically, that both calorie restriction as well as ketogenic diet significantly reduces inflammation and significantly slows down or even reverses aging. I mean I can look at someone, even a young person, nearly everyone on my staff is keto. We're certainly low-carb. Most are keto and most are active in some kind of fasting protocol. But when they show up as a new hire and I watch them how they transform, even when they're young and even when they're already lean. And you see them go keto or adapt to a fasting program. You'll see a change in their facial structure that, again these are people who are lean, but you'll see a change in their facial structure where they're just losing inflammation. And when I look at photographs of myself, even six or eight years ago just before I became ketogenic, you can see just what I call kind of a melon-head. You know, you're just-
A little puffy, right?
Yeah, you're just puffy.
Yeah, I think I've noticed that in myself. I think just anecdotally and personally. You know, I've been somewhat lean.
But I think the body composition is much better in terms of much less adipose tissue around your abdominal areas. I think the face leans out a little bit. I know exactly what you're talking about.
So when I meet people, you know we're the official wine for 170 health and performance events around the United States. We have four this weekend. When I meet people at conferences and they tell me they're keto, I can look at them and know whether they're ketogenic or not. And many people who say they're keto, unfortunately, are not really keto. Either they're delusional or they just don't know. Or maybe they're selling or marketing some product that is in the ketogenic space and they claim to be ketogenic. But you can look at someone, you can look at their face, and tell whether they're keto.
Or you can smell out their breath, maybe?
Well, I don't get that close to them usually. But you can usually look at them and see.
Yeah. So it sounds like you really tapped into it from a subjective, cognitive space. Were you quantiative in terms of looking at finger-sticking in terms of blood? Were you doing lipid panels through vein draws? I mean, I obviously think a lot of value can be gained from the subjective, experiental benefits of being in a ketotic state or being in a fasted state. I'm curious, how much did you weigh from the experiential side. How much did you weigh from a quantitative, bio-marker side? Or both?
Both. I've been tracking my blood panels for probably, since 2008, 2007 or 2008 regularly. A couple of times a year. Experimented with, and still do from time to time, with pricking my finger for BHB. But I don't do it often. It's unpleasant, your fingers bruise over time. I don't do it often because I don't really need to, because I know I'm in ketosis. It's not really important to me to be in the contest of whether I'm at 1.2 millimolars or 2.8. Doing extended fasting, a five or seven-day fast, I will often measure ketones during that phase. One of the things I find interesting about the biomarker, measuring my ketones, is this relationship between how I feel and where my ketone levels are. And so I sometimes manage during an extended fast or if I'm experimenting with a food type. I can give you an example. While this is not by any means a healthy pursuit, I happen to like french fries.
I like french fries, too.
Now, the primary problem with them is the seed oils that they're usually fried in.
But if we look back ancestrally, and even back to "paleo," we were eating in-ground starches. Although they do have an effect carbohydrate intake and they can convert pretty quickly to blood glucose. So, if I want to experiment with something like french fries, then I will do food experiments to see what my tolerance is to stay in nutritional ketosis which I consider to be 1.0, 1 millimolar or higher.
Which is still pretty high.
And I feel my best between 1.2 and 2.2 millimolar.
Because I'm in kind of my peak performance. Once I get up in the high twos, three, four, five millimolar I find that the focus level, the cognitive response is so myopic. I get kind of in a tunnel state where flow-state becomes very, very intense and very narrow. I can't see things around me. And I don't really enjoy that, while I think it could have some temporary benefit if you were working on some specific project.
Right? It could have some temporary benefit, but I don't enjoy the day-in-and-day-out experience, that kind of tunneled, myopic view.
Right. It's also hard to sustain a 3.0 millimolar range as well, unless you're fasting.
I just don't enjoy the way it feels.
And so, as a biohacker, I oftentimes refer and default to the Proverb, "To feel is to understand." Because many of the practices that biohackers engage in, and this is certainly true particularly of nutrition, because we don't really have any control group studies on nutrition unless we want to jail people. There's not any ethical way to get really quality information there.
Yeah, it's all epidemiological.
Right. So oftentimes, when there's not data to support our practices, then we have to default to how we feel. Right? And to feel is to truly understand. And once we're in touch with our body and we understand what that feels like. Most people have no idea what it really feels like to feel great. Right? This human condition, it's just like even like wine as an example, which we might even talk about wine today.
Yeah. I mean, we will. Definitely.
But even with wine. When people drink conventional wines that they see in their store and the restaurant, they think that's just what wine makes them feel like. And they think that's what wine tastes like. That's actually not what real wine tastes like or makes you feel like. And so until you get away from this conditioning, same thing for most people who are eating the Standard American Diet, the SAD diet, they have no idea what it feels like to eat in a way that our body will respond in a favorable way. They just don't have any idea. I mean this neurotoxin that is sugar, it would be hard to imagine that sugar would be legal today.
Yeah. And one of the things that I found interesting is that there's been an increase in backlash or pushback from popular media against fasting or keto. I just talked to a reporter from "The Guardian" last week then an article came out about the extreme fasting of Silicon Valley or biohackers. And then I think I almost revert back to that point that there's also no data on the Standard American Diet, the Standard Western Diet, and how terrible that is. I mean the data point there is that everyone is getting diabetic and obese. And that's what I consider almost disordered eating as opposed to the default. If that's the default that is creating something terrible, you've got to let people experiment and see what works for them. And just critiquing people searching or experimenting themselves seems to be overly conservative at best or really harmful at worst.
Yeah, I mean I think the data points that we have on the Western diet, it's now pervasive throughout the world or most all of the world. But where with have instances of Western diet coming to places where they had ancestral diets and seeing that, where there was virtually no heart disease or no diabetes or very low rates of cancer. Right? And then we see this kind of spike and explosion in Western chronic diseases where the diet has been adapted. I think that's pretty clear.
Yeah, Gary Taubes, he was on our podcast and I think he explains it very well in his books.
But if we pull back and we experiment with things like elimination diets. Or everybody is different so there's not a prescription, there's not a dietary prescription for everyone. You know I think the curious learners and the people who want to self-experiment, the biohackers if you will, which is a pretty growing movement. I don't understand the press and the traditional media and the traditional medicine, their obsession with the dangers of the ketogenic diet. I just don't see any anecdotal evidence to support it at all. I travel to virtually every ketogenic conference in the United States and have a lot of experience with keto and a lot of experience seeing other people adapt it. I'm talking about like authentically adapt it. If you're not doing blood testing, I mean you can start off with the urine sticks, which is good and well, but if you are seriously committed to a ketogenic diet and ketogenic lifestyle then you're going to have some period of measurement.
And then the other thing is the sort of cycling in and out seems to be quite popular. But from my perspective, particularly as someone who's engage in regular fasting, until you become fat-adaptive which is a four-to-eight week process of pretty strict compliance. Until you become fat-adaptive and really retrain your body, I think being keto is quite uncomfortable.
The adaptation period is quite uncomfortable, but once you're there-
It can be. It can be. But once you adapt-
Then it's quite smooth.
You know then it's quite easy and it also makes fasting quite easy.
And people who try to fast who are not keto. I remember fasting a few times when I was younger and not being keto, it was quite unpleasant.
Yeah, that's the hangry-ness feeling. Or you're just angry or just lightheaded.
Just angry. In fact when I would cycle in and off of what was then the ketogenic diet my staff at the time, when I would cycle in and out of Atkins just using it to kind of ratchet back weight. So I'd go on Atkins for like a couple of weeks. You know, lose eight, 10 pounds then go back to standard diet. My staff, I would kind of have to warn them that I was going to be dieting because I would just be angry.
I want to circle back to one of your points around how you feel as a really good benchmark. I think that's the right way I think people should treat it. I think ideally you have all the metrics that quantify and justify how you're feeling. But I think people shouldn't be afraid to just realized, "Hey, I feel good or bad on this kind of intervention." And that should be your initial template. And I think if you really want to take it to the next level in terms of just realizing, "Hey, is this a little bit of a placebo effect or not?" Then I think adding the quantitative markers, I think, as you get more curious is important. But I think just from a broad perspective of how we take the movement from niche audiences and how we get this to everyone in the world eventually, hopefully. Allowing these different shades of how one could enter the community I think is probably productive.
Yeah, I would like to see a widespread adaption of ketogenic diet but I'm not sure that's going to happen. It's very difficult for people to comply, for whatever reason.
Well it's just that there's so much easy Standard Western Diet snacks everywhere, indoctrinated.
There is and there's also a social stigma associated for many, many people. This is not true for me, probably not true for you. Everyone I'm surrounded around, professionally and socially, is adaptive of biohacking or a healthier lifestyle. But for most people, particularly in their work environment, there's a tremendous amount of stigma associated with being different. And it's also very difficult. I remember when my last business, which is five or six years ago, it was in a more traditional office setting where there was the break room. And, while I wasn't keto at that time, I was certainly low carb and certainly sensitive to my sugar intake. But it was already somebody's birthday or vendors would bring donuts and bagels and orange juice for God's sakes. Right? Into the office setting. And so when you walk past these things, like somebody's birthday cake, and it's just super easy just to like take a little pinch. And people there were ridiculed for not participating in these-
A lot of peer pressure.
Right. So it's very difficult. And also for people with kids or with a spouse that's not compliant. I mean it's very, very difficult when these things are in your house. Ben Greenfield was at my house recently, we did his podcast outside. And he came in and he wanted something to eat before we recorded. I didn't have anything in the house to eat. I had one bag of pork rinds and a bag of almonds. But he just remarked, and I hadn't really thought about it, there's just nothing in my house to eat. And so I live alone and there's not food there. I rarely eat there and, if I do, I shop to eat. Right? And I certainly don't have any kind of snack-type products.
That's like kind of similar to me. Like kind of the only snack things I'll have is either cheese, pork rinds, almonds, nuts.
And then I know that when I have some holiday chocolates laying around, and it's like there, it makes it so much easier. Or you're just tempted to go towards it. So if you have just-
Yeah, I just don't have anything.
Options not there on the table.
So it wasn't really conscious, it's just the result of not buying anything. You know, it wasn't really planned. I just don't snack so I don't have any reason to have those things around.
So I want to get to your current protocol. So it sounds like you've really been experimenting for a bunch of different methods, interventions. Now what is Todd doing on a consistent basis now? What things that you tried in the past you thought were not validated, not interesting, over-hyped, kind of BS? What things have really stuck with you as something that you think are legitimate and something that has added a lot of value to your life?
The only thing I've changed that I think didn't make me feel optimal was I cut back saturated fat. I'm not here to argue its benefits or its inherent dangers. Just the way it made me feel. I was, early on in keto and for quite some time, I had a much higher intake of saturated fat. Today my fat intake is primarily olive oil and tallow and butter. Actually the tallow and the butter, obviously are-
Saturated, but I'm not taking in high amounts of saturated fat.
Okay, so are you cutting back on red meat as well?
I feel better not eating it.
I still eat it. I eat it on a regular basis. We could talk about my moral objections around it and the way animals are treated is morally, just incomprehensible. But, aside from that...
That's an interesting discussion where I think people never address is separately. I think there's definitely a moral question around eating other mammals. I think this should be our thought more to the health impact. I think people conflict it too. I think it's definitely interesting.
I'm still eating it, in spite of the incomprehensible moral conflict I find with the cruelty of the way these animals are treated. I still eat it anyway. I just feel better if I eat it less often.
An ideal diet for me, is plant and fish and a liberal dose of high quality olive oil. I eat a little bit of coconut oil, but I used to eat a lot more. I used to drink a lot of fats.
MCT oils or?
Coffee, fat and coffee I don't drink anymore. Primarily because I do 22 hour, 23 hour fasting daily. Except a little bit of coffee and green tea, I don't take in any other forms of anything in my body other than water primarily, green tea and occasionally, a cup of coffee.
But no fat during the day time.
Interesting. That's not trivial to take most of your fat from plant and fish. Are you eating a lot of avocados, nuts-
Those are gonna be your fat sources there.
Avocados and nuts both. A lot of fatty fish. A lot of olive oil.
I also stopped taking most supplements. I used to take this massive handful of some 20 or 30 supplements a day. I discontinued that four or five years ago. I actually found that I felt better not taking them. I felt like they were a toll. The processing of them just felt to be a toll on my body. Now I take NAD and some mineral supplements, but not taking this massive handful of this, that and the other.
That had accumulated over a number of years, but other than some really expensive urine, I just wasn't feeling that they were benefiting me. I just felt like the toll of processing on my body, when I quit taking them, I just felt like that processing toll was much lower.
Yeah, I agree. I think a lot of supplements are just a kitchen sink in there. If you want something specific, just get the something specific as opposed to having 30 things in your hand. I think that makes a lot of sense.
That's just my experience. Again, you experiment with different things. When I cut back, my fat intake with ketogenic diet, was just much higher. It's lower today than it was historically. I feel better not eating so much fat. Whether or not it's healthy or unhealthy, I'm not here to argue that point one way or the other, I think there's plenty of data to show that moderate to moderately high fat intake is perfectly healthy. It's just the way high intake of saturated fat was making me feel personally.
Right? So I basically, I get up and have a cup of green tea in the morning. The first thing I do, whether I'm in a hotel room as I was last night, or I'm at home, I make my bed to add order to the room and a sense of an early win. I really like the order that it creates within the room. I meditate for about 40 minutes.
Right in the morning?
Yeah, first thing in the morning. My staff then also meditates together when we meet at 10 am. We don't meet until 10. Everybody has, protecting their mornings. Then from 10 to 11, my staff also mediates together. Most of us, myself included, have an individual meditation practice. I meditate, usually about 7 o'clock in the morning. Between six and seven. I have a 40 minute session.
You meditate again with your staff between 10 and 11.
I do. I do. Then I begin with a cup of green tea and I fast. Occasionally I'll have a cup of coffee, not daily. Then I eat between six and seven at night. That generally includes a bottle of wine.
I want to get to the wine story because I think that's interesting. That's a pretty interesting schedule. Ketogenic diet plus regular OMAD one meal a day self-fasting. I want to just clarify for our listeners here, when Todd's talking about lowering his saturated fat intake, you're probably then boosting up mono and saturated fat in terms of nuts, more of vegetable. But it sounds like you are still avoiding a lot of the seed oils, right? Like the PUFAs.
Yeah, for sure. For sure. Except in the occasional indulgence of french fries, which I know are fried in unhealthy fats, but other than that, I don't eat them at all. I eat a lot of olive oil, I've always like the taste of high quality, fresh olive oil. It's just a...
Are you drinking it straight?
No, no, no, no. With vegetables or fish. I eat probably more akin to a Mediterranean diet, is sort of what. I love the Mediterranean, I love the food there, I love the diet. Grilled fish, grilled vegetables, roasted vegetables. Sauteed, olive oil, garlic, just very Mediterranean.
So, we've been talking around wine, and obviously that's a big part of what you do now. One of the initial questions coming to this space, is that obviously from a bio-hacker, performance perspective, ethanol alcohol is not great for performance.
No question about it.
I think that's maybe the elephant in the room. How do you reconcile that?
It's no elephant in the room for me. I will tell you that alcohol is a super dangerous neuro toxin. There is no evidence to support that enhances performance in any way. That being said, it does enhance one small area, which we'll talk about, which is creative expression and the access to being emotionally available. When we can increase our emotional availability to others, this is the reason people bond over alcohol, right? Many bromances are created around alcohol, right?
To the extent that it is valuable just for that one area, but then dosage matters. Dosage matters, quality matters. But the fact is, ethyl alcohol is a super dangerous neuro toxin that kills thousands of people every year and destroys the lives of tens of thousands of more. Alcohol is something that we have to be extremely careful with. It's always surprising to people to hear that the wine guy says, "Hey, alcohol's a super dangerous neuro toxin." The fact of the matter is, we have to be very careful with it. Which is why we only drink and sell low alcohol wines. Alcohol levels in wine have risen steadily over the last three decades. All wines, up until about 30 or 40 years ago, were in the similar alcohol range of 11 to 12 1/2%. Today, average American wines are tipping out almost at 15%.
Yeah, that was my guess, 13, 16% is pretty common.
15% statistically. We don't see any wine over 12 1/2%. Most of the wines I drink are between 10 and 11 1/2. The amount of alcohol contained in a wine also has a significant impact on how the wine tastes.
I don't really like alcohol at all. I just happened to love wine. For wine to taste like wine, it's got to have a certain amount of alcohol in it. The more alcohol you remove from the wine, the less it starts to taste like wine.
Turns into juice basically.
Right. Basically we sell wines between 6% and 12 1/2%. Once a wine gets below 9% in alcohol, it doesn't really start to taste like what you think of wine anymore. It starts to taste more like Kombucha or sort of a fresh, light, more watery type beverage. Typically, it tastes better at lower alcohol if it's chilled, doesn't matter what color it is, red or white. But the lower the alcohol, it's more of a summer type, more refreshing, it's not like a fine wine experience.
The wine industry loves alcohol, which is the reason that alcohol levels have risen steadily over the last few decades. As I said, reaching nearly 15% as an average. The wine industry loves alcohol for a few reasons. One, alcohol is addictive. Number two, it's what I call a domino drug. Just as the dominoes fall, the more alcohol you drink, the more you want to drink, right? Same thing, cocaine is a domino drug. Alcohol has this effect. The third reason is that it impairs our judgment. As the dose level gets higher, then our judgment is impaired, which causes us to drink even more.
Well the wine industry wants you to drink more and they want you to be addicted. That's the reason that alcohol levels are higher. There's one other reason. The higher alcohol is in a wine, the more bold the wine will taste and the more rich the wine will taste. For the typical dead American palette, they need a bolder, richer wine in order to satisfy them because their palette's been killed by processed foods and sugar. When you start eating a plant and fish based diet and you start getting away from any kind of reasonably clean diet, and you get away from processed foods and sugar, then how you taste food will change significantly. You'll have a restoration of your taste sensory. You don't any longer want bold, rich foods. In fact, just the opposite. You want a lighter, cleaner palette. Lower alcohol wines just taste fresher and cleaner and lighter.
I spent a lot of time talking about how dangerous it is. I spent a lot of time telling people, "Look, I'm a lifelong wine aficionado and I have a love affair and obsession with wines. I've been drinking wine since I was nine years old, I love wine. But the fact of the matter is, as a bio-hacker and somebody whose interested in anti-aging and whose interested in extending my health span, in addition to my lifespan, but I'm really more concerned with my health span. I want to stay healthier in both physically and cognitively as long as I can. I'm almost 60, right? It's really important to me to now think about the next 60 years and what that looks like. Cognitive performance and preservation is really, really important to me. Alcohol's very dangerous for your brain. I don't want to stop drinking. Maybe there's a case to be made that perhaps I'd be healthier if I didn't drink at all. That may be true. I'm not going to debate that narrative, but I'm not going to stop drinking. I love drinking wine. What I want to do is drink a healthier wine.
And a lower alcohol wine. And a sugar free wine. And a wine without additives. So let me share with you, one of the little known dark secrets of the wine industry. There are 76 additives approved by the FDA for the use of wine making and a list of some pretty nasty chemicals. You don't know about these additives because the wine industry has spent tens of millions of dollars in lobby money, with their friends in Washington DC to keep contents labeling off of wine. Wine is the only major food product without a contents label and that's not an accident. The wine industry regularly lobbies to keep these efforts down to put a contents label on them. The wine industry does not want you to know what's really in it.
Right. Even the carb content, it's always very interesting. Every other liquid, there's fat, protein...
There's no nutritional profile required and many wines contain sugar and a lot of sugar.
No, it's not added. In the wine industry, it's known as RS, or residual sugar. How sugar gets in wine is not added.
It's from the food itself.
It's from terminating the fermentation process before it completes fermentation. Here's how wine is made: the most common question that we get is, "How is wine sugar free? Isn't there sugar in grape juice?" Yes, it's teeming with sugar. How wine is made is that you press the juice from the berries and if you're making white wine, it's just free run juice. I'll just talk for a minute about how red wine becomes red and why red wines are generally thought to be healthier than white wines. Red wine gets its color from contact with the skins. So if you squeeze the juice from a red berry and juice from a white berry, both of them are clear. Red wine gets its color once the juice is pressed, the skins are added to the tank. That's also what gives red wine tannins, and it's also what gives red wine the significant increase in antioxidants and polyphenols and flavonoids. There are over 800 polyphenols in red wine, just over 200 in white wine. This is the reason red wine is thought to be healthier. The best known of the polyphenols is resveratrol. That being said, you squeeze the juice, you put it in a tank and it's full of sugar. Yeast either native or lab cultured, and we'll talk about this in a moment, yeast is activated in the grape juice and the yeast eats the sugar. The result of that is carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol. Now, here's how sugar gets in wine. If the winemaker does not allow the fermentation to complete, and a completed fermentation means that the yeast eats all of the available sugar, so then the wine is sugar free.
But what's happening in commercial wines is that the winemaker is introducing sulfur dioxide to the wine prior to the fermentation completing, leaving residual sugars behind in the wine. They do this for a number of reasons. Americans love sugar, they're addicted to sugar and sugar gives wine more mouth feel. It gives wine these long caramel-y finishes that people love. That's glycerol in wine. And sugar. It just gives it more mouth, body and more lusciousness. Even if you can't taste the sugar. Even as taste professionals, sometimes wine will contain sugar, we can't taste it. At a certain level, you'll be able to taste it. Like in sweet wines or dessert wines or ice wines or these late harvest types of wines, a natural, you can taste the sugar. In standard red wines, because the acid levels are quite high, you may not be able to detect sugar on the palette for probably up to 10 grams a liter, right? Commonly we'll test a wine at three or four or five grams per liter of sugar and not be able to taste it. We'll reject the wine from the lab test.
Our process is that we first taste all natural wines, meaning they're additive free, they're organically or bio-dynamically farmed, and they are fermented with wild native yeast. They're also un-irrigated, meaning they're dry farmed. These are our basic criteria. Then if we taste the wine and we like the aesthetic, we take a lab sample, we send the sample to a certified third party, independent enologist, who does a series of tests on the wine for us. Among the things we're looking for are sugar in the wine. There are many other things we're looking for, including alcohol. This is another little known fact with the wine industry and the US government. The alcohol stated on a bottle of wine is not required by law to be accurate. It's generally rounded down. So if it says 14% on the label, it can be as high as 15 1/2, and that's legal.
Interesting. It's just a minimum? No one is enforcing it or?
There's zero enforcement around it.
Often times, it's outside of even the a point and half, because nobody's enforcing that either.
Right? So often times, if you're drinking wine that says 14%, it's 16 or 16 1/2.
:You're doing good, third party certificates of analysis.
We have, what we call, the Dry Farms wine certification. That certification comes with lab tested quanitifications, right? In addition to farming quantifications, then we also have these lab tested quantifications. We're looking for pesticides, we're looking for mold, like mycotoxins, like Ochratoxin A.
We're looking for sugar, we're looking for alcohol. Because we're bio-hackers, this isn't marketing spin, we didn't create this business to go out and be super successful entrepreneurs, we created the business because I was looking for a healthier way to drink. We drink the same wines that we sell and we're super fanatic about our health and about bio-hacking. We're not only active in selling and evangelizing about healthy wines, but I and other members of the team also speak around the world on fasting, on meditation, on the ketogenic diet. We just presented last year in Amsterdam to the Quantified Self Conference on fasting and wine. And also just on fasting. We actually did a wine fast. Sort of some comic relief, we did a 3-day wine and water fast and reported the results of that, its impact on both blood glucose as well as, ketones.
There was a slight elevation in both on the wine only fast, but statistically, did not take us out of ketosis or have a statistical relevance in blood glucose, but just a slight elevation.
I remember seeing this old school paper, if you only had an alcohol-heavy diet, you actually kickstart ketosis even more, which is, I mean, because alcohol will shift the priority of your fueling reserve.
It's a substrate energy source. Once you start drinking alcohol, that's gonna be your primary energy source until the body expels it and processes it and you obviously discharge it through your urine eventually. Which is another reason, I don't drink during the day time, I don't recommend anybody does either. It's very common for people to have wine at lunch, I don't. I don't recommend it. It's gonna shut down fat burning, so if fat burning is your objective, you don't want to be drinking anything because fat burning is gonna shut down.
Anything exogenous is gonna help your internal fat burn, which makes sense.
I wanted to circle back to one point you made. Your wines are low sugar because you don't stop the yeast fermentation process through an additive like a sulfur dioxide. For avoidance or doubt of clarity, you essentially let the yeast run all the way through, basically ferment all the sugar and the essentially kill themselves because they run out of food and then you have a very low amount of residual sugar and you prove that with your third party analysis.
We do a lab test. We do not accept wines that exceed .9 tenth of 1%, so less than one gram per liter, which is statically sugar free at this serving level. Most of our wines are like, .2, .3 tenths of one point of one gram. So they're statistically sugar free, it's just barely measurable and it's not statistically important.
Commonly, for store bought wines, you will see sugar content from five to 50 grams per liter.
Very common, 10, 15, 20 grams per liter. To give you a perspective, Coca Cola is 32 grams per liter and wines categorically can range from zero, as in the case of our wines, up to 300 grams per liter for a dessert wine or an ice wine. Those wines are super, super sweet, they taste super, super sweet. But you can get these store bought wines quite commonly that contain 10, 15, 20 grams per liter, which is more sugar than I want to consume. One other point that we mentioned just briefly, I want to touch on, the difference between natural wines and conventional wines that you would see in your store. There are only about a thousand natural wine farmers in the world. The fermentation with wild, native yeast. So this is one of the hallmarks of what a natural wine is versus a conventional wine. Again, the differences are farming practices, so all natural wines are always organically or dynamically grown. In our case, they're also non-irrigated, less than one percent of all US vineyards are un-irrigated. Irrigation is largely a United States idea. Irrigation leads to higher yields and heavier fruit. Fruit's sold by the ton, and when you fill a grape berry with water, it weighs more. That's why you irrigate. Irrigation's illegal in most of Europe. We don't even sell domestic wines, or no wines made in the United States-
So how do you water the plants then, if it's not from irrigation?
They get water from rainfall and from breaking apart tiny pieces of soil, and rock, and mineral in search of minute amounts of moisture-
So they're not getting any water external from-
No, there's no external water at all. Grapevines have been living on the Earth for over 10,000 years, and they've never been irrigated. Grapevines weren't irrigated in the United States until 1973. Now, virtually everything is irrigated in the United States. I live in the wine country, there's virtually no dry farming up there, and if you drive up there you'll see irrigation hoses on every single vineyard.
When you say dry farm, you literally mean no external water.
Dry farming means no irrigation at all. No irrigation, natural rainfall-
Natural rainfall and humidity in the dirt.
Look, dry farming is more expensive, it's more difficult, and requires a lot more effort. So it also has a tremendous impact not only on the quality of the fruit, but also the health and the polyphenols inside the fruit. So irrigated fruit, which is diluted with water to cause it to weigh more, also dilutes the polyphenols in the fruit. So not only is it unhealthy for the planet, it's unhealthy for the vine, it's also less healthy for you drinking it. But back to the yeast. So on the skin of every grape in the world is native wild yeast. It collects on the skin, it looks like a whitish, kind of waxy surface on the grape, you can see it. That's yeast, and it's collected in the air. Natural wines are fermented with wild, native yeasts that are indigenous to every vineyard. Commercial wines, no. Commercial wines, or conventional wines, those that are not natural, are fermented with lab grown, genetically modified yeast. These lab cultured yeasts have a few distinct advantages for the wine maker. So they're very sturdy, they're modified to be sturdy and strong. Wild, native yeasts are very temperamental, they're very difficult to work with, and you can't make wine in very large quantities with a wild, native yeast. It's too unstable. It's also ... Wild, native yeast will die at higher alcohol levels.
These genetically modified, lab cultured yeast are designed to withstand high alcohol environments, it says so right on the package. Number three, they can be modified to have certain flavor profiles. Let's say that you're growing grapes in the Central Valley of California, but you want to make a wine that tastes like it's from Italy. Well, there's a yeast for that. So these are the reasons that these commercial yeasts are used almost exclusively. You could all but say 100% of conventional wines are always fermented with these genetically modified, lab cultured yeast. We don't know what that means for your health. We know that when you drink natural wines, for sure, you feel better. It's probably a combination, in our case, of lower alcohol, of non-irrigation, of no additives, of not high doses of sulfer dioxide, which is sulfites in wines. All wines, whether they have added sulfur or not, contain sulfites, all fermented foods have sulfites, they're a part of the fermentation process. When you get a bottle of wine from us, even though we're testing for sulfites to make sure they've not been added, there's sulfite in all wine. It's naturally occurring, but it'll be very, very low amounts. You'll see typically two to 10 parts per million of sulfites in naturally fermented wine without added sulfites. Sulfites can be as high as 75 parts per million without added sulfite. Anything over 75 parts has definitely been added.
And the rationale for adding sulfites would be ... what, flavor?
Greed. It's very simple. What sulfer dioxide does is sterilize the wine. The sulfer dioxide can be added by conventional wine makers at several points in the process. The first point where it can be added, or is usually added, is at the time of pressing they use sulfer dioxide to kill the native yeast. You can't have the native yeast and the commercial yeast present at the same time. So use sulfer dioxide-
It would be an inconsistent product, right?
You'll have a broken fermentation. So the first thing you do, you sterilize the wine, you kill all the available native yeast. Then you inoculate it with these genetically modified commercial yeast. That's the first time it's used. The second time it can be used, and is often used is to stop the fermentation process as we talked about earlier. To kill the commercial yeast leaving behind residual sugar. The third time is used and is used in the biggest dose is that bottling. The reason it's used at bottling is to sterilize the wine. There's a number of problems with this. When you sterilize the wine, or what we call kill the wine, or mummify it, so you can "Mcdonald-ize" it. So you create this consistent shelf product-
Sellable product, yep.
-that's very stable, that can withstand shipping irregularities, and can withstand sitting on shelves for very long periods of times in unstable environments, temperature swings. Sterilize the wine to kill any remaining bacteria in the wine. Natural wines are not sterilized. When you sterilize the wine, in a commercial wine, you end up with this very Mcdonald-like kind of shelf consistent product that's super, super stable. You've also killed all of the gut friendly bacteria that exists in wine. So Doctor David Perlmutter just wrote a recent post about the gut friendly bacterias that are in natural wines. He, among hundreds of other health leaders, endorse our wines for this reason, for the reasons I've described to you already. But in addition to inside natural wines are living bacteria. And when you sterilize wine, this is the other reason that natural wines taste better and are more interesting is that when you sterilize the wine with the sulfer dioxide, you're also killing the soul of the wine. You're killing this taste, this magic that is this living organism, these bacterias that are in natural wine. Which just tastes more interesting and tastes better. So you're killing what we call the soul of the wine. In addition to you're killing all this bacteria that makes the wine healthier. So that's where commercial wines see their biggest dose of sulfer dioxide. So sulfer can range in commercial wines from 75 to 100 parts, up to 350 parts per million is the legal limit. We will not accept a wine over 75 parts because you can be as high as 75 parts, naturally occurring. But most of the wines that we test, most of them are between five and 25 parts per million, most.
So that's interesting in terms of with the natural wine you have these living bacteria in there processing away, and obviously you hear on the news of these aged, 30 plus year wines that are thousands, tens of thousands of dollars per bottle. Curious how being a natural wine, how does that product age while you're in that shelf?
90 percent of wines are consumed within 24 hours of purchase. That's just a statistical fact.
Probably another 9.9% are consumed within a month of purchase. So this concept that people are aging wine is, for most people, not true. I don't know anybody in the health circle who ages wine. I do know some collectors, but those are kinda cult wines and become at times, investments. Our wines are quite affordable, we don't sell expensive wine. We don't sell wine that is meant to be aged in a cellar. Although natural wines will age fine for a number of years. But the wines we sell are meant to be consumed. They're fresh, they're alive, they're living. So we're not really selling a collectible. Our wines average $22.00 per bottle, which is quite affordable for a hand crafted fine wine experience. We're not selling a collectible thing, we're selling a ... We're in the health food business, we just happen to sell wine. The wine we sell, we want you to drink and enjoy. Talk for a minute about how alcohol can be an enhancement to your life, and can be an enhancement to performance, as I mentioned earlier, and only in this one area. That is in creative expression. So when we have low doses of alcohol we become a little bit more creative in our thought.
At least your less inhibited.
Right. We're less inhibited, we're less fearful. We're also more emotionally available. This is a really, really important thing. When we become more emotionally available then we spread, and collect, and generate more love. Our heart is open, we are just more available. So when we can create love ... I mean I believe that we are wired to love and be loved. So wine brings more love in our life. If I'm going to drink wine, I'm going to drink lower doses of alcohol, and I want to drink a wine that's healthier. But this creative expression ... And it rolls down that window of vulnerability just a little bit and makes us a little more accessible. Anytime we can be more vulnerable, we're gonna engender more trust with people. Trust is, from my perspective, the only real currency left in the world. Money's not a very valuable currency, trust is. We develop and engender more trust when we're more available. When we stop hiding and start showing up ... This is particularly important for men who need to find the confidence and self awareness to rip off that mask of masculinity that was glued onto them when they were children, with this expectation of being strong, and-
-stoic and the lion. When we can remove all this falseness that interrupted the innocence of our birthright, the innocence that we were born with ... We were born only fearing falling or loud noises. The rest of these things that we learn, this mask that we put on, when we can become more available this generates love, and trust, and connection with people. Wine is very helpful in that, as is any low dose of alcohol. But wine is just more magical in so many ways, particularly living wines, natural wines that have this kind of energy in the bottle, and you can taste it and feel it. It's just more uplifting, the buzz is more energized, but not as heavy. When I drink a commercial wine I feel like I've been slugged in the head with some kind of blunt object.
These living wines-
Definitely feel that when you take a shot of vodka or something.
I mean, alcohol is ... The reason that natural wines taste better with food, as well, alcohol is not friendly to food. I mean, we don't have a vodka with a salad. So alcohol doesn't taste good. So you've got to get this very low dose, and then it becomes a lot more food friendly.
Makes sense. It sounds like you're very quantified in terms of the health span equation. If you can get the emotional benefits from this wine, and you control the negative aspects of it by lowering all the additives and all the processed stuff in terms of why you wouldn't want too much ethanol in your life. Can you find this happy medium where you get the benefits of alcohol without the down side. Are you finding that match?
It's pretty low dose though. Here's the other thing. Even if you think about drinking, most people don't have a glass of wine, they have several. So it's really important, particularly if you're a regular wine drinker, it's really important to lower down the inherit amount of alcohol in the wine. Which is why it's really super important to drink low alcohol wines. Because I don't care whether it's 16% or 11%, you're not likely to have a glass, you're likely to have several. Again, because of this domino effect that alcohol has, the higher it is and the more likely you are to drink more. So we want to give you an experience that allows you to have more than a glass, that allows you to still maintain control over that domino effect, so that you can enjoy all of the positive benefits of drinking wine without any of the negative remnants.
Yeah, that makes sense. I want to circle back just a little bit on the entrepreneurial business side of things. It sounds like you went from realizing that it's early passion for wine, and then the existing wines did not meet your standard in terms of performance, or bio hacking, or your lifespan health span goals. Did you have a background in wine making? Did you have a background in wine country to go start executing on making this possible?
Lots of people who live in Napa Valley experiment with wine making at some point. I had made wine back in 2005, but it was just kind of a hobby project. I consider hobby wine, any time you make wine, you lose money doing it. It's just a hobby. I only made a single vintage, and didn't really even know much about it. Imported wine, wine making. But that didn't have anything to do with it. It's really my history with bio hacking. I had adapted a ketogenic diet, and as my nutrition got super dialed in, I found I couldn't drink commercial wines anymore, they're making me feel bad. I was having negative remnants from it, they were taking me out of ketosis from it, they were ... I just couldn't drink conventional wines anymore. Didn't like the way they tasted as my palette was changing. So I thought it was just the high alcohol. I initially, as I started to bio hack wine, as Dave Asbury says, the Dry Farm Wines is the fanatic bio hacker of wine. As we started to bio hack wine, it was like, I thought it was just high alcohol. I asked a friend of mine who I think is the smartest person in the wine business, I was like, "I want to make some low alcohol wine. How low can I get the alcohol and still have it taste like wine?" We talked about that and in the course of that conversation he said, "Have you tasted any of the low alcohol wines coming out of Europe?" I was like, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
I went down here in San Francisco to a kind of prestigious wine store here on 4th Street, called K & L. I go down to K & L, I walk in and I was like, "Could you show me some low alcohol wines?" The sales person looked at me like I have a third eye, 'cause I'm sure I'm the only person that ever went in the store asking for low alcohol wines. So in that process he's like, "You can turn it around." I didn't even know at that time that what was stated on the bottle wasn't required to be accurate, "But you can just look at the bottle and you'll have to choose." So I chose some. I bought like a case, and I took them home, nothing over 12 1/2% was where I decided the demarkation was. I took them home and I poured about 75% of it down the sink, it wasn't drinkable. I kind of did the same thing again, but I go to this organic market called BuyRite, who I didn't know at the time, but most of BuyRite's wines happen to be natural wines, they're organic. Not all organic wines are natural, but all natural wines are organic. But it just so happened most of theirs were natural. Whether that was intentional or just because they were all organic, I don't know. So I bought another case of these low alcohol wines. I took them home, and I discovered that there's this one importer from Paris who I'm liking all of their wines. Like, I like the taste, I like the aesthetic, and they're also low alcohol.
So I call 'em up. Turns out it's an American living in Paris. I learned from him that ... he tells me about natural wines. He's like, "All of our wines are natural." I was like, "Aren't all wines natural?" He said, "Well, no, they're not. Here are the quantification's that make a wine natural." So what I did next because I was ketogenic and super interested in sugar contents, and I knew you could test for sugar in a wine lab, I then took samples of the wines that I liked most, and I sent them to a lab. Then I started quantifying lab results with the aesthetic of wines that I liked, and started to find this kind of formula for quantifying wine. So that extent, my previous experience of living in Napa Valley, and also making wine, I knew ... I had used these anthologists labs before.
And this is still hobby mode? This is still just like, "I want-"
Oh, this is still experimental, this is just me trying to figure out how to drink. This is not a business.
This is hobby mode, yeah.
Then sharing it with some bio hacking friends of mine. This one friend in particular, who he and I drank quite a bit together. Who was an extreme bio hacker, and cyclist, and athlete, had started sharing these wines with him. He's also super foodie and interested in taste. I started sharing these wines with him, and he was like, "Wow, dude, this is amazing. Where can you buy these wines?" I was like, "Well, you can't." I mean you could, but you wouldn't know what they were. So from that it was like from there I contacted Dave Asbury of Bullet Proof and shortly thereafter decided to try to make it a business, and we became the only alcohol that he's ever really endorsed, and the only alcohol ever at the Bullet Proof conference and we became kinda the official wine of Bullet Proof. That was sort of the beginning, and after that I was a guest on his podcast. I've been a guest on hundreds, and telling the story of additives and why you should drink low alcohol. Why natural farming matters, and why irrigation is important. Trying to educate people on just how to have a healthier drinking experience.
Very cool. I've only had alcohol once so far until I was 19, and it was a couple glasses of wine. So I'll be interested to try yours and see how that goes. What are the big things on your roadmap in 2019 and beyond? Where do you see this going?
Our business continues to explode because you feel better, there's no negative remnants. So our wine business is extremely robust and continues to be explosive in its growth. But personally, as I mentioned to you before we started recording, I have recently began a experiment with fasting that I'm super excited about. So 2019, for me, is really the year of fasting experiments. My current experiment is that I'm not eating on Monday, Tuesday, until Wednesday night. So I'm doing a three day fast every week. Then I'll continue eating only once per day on the remaining days. But after this experiment I'm going to experiment with eating every other day. So this kind of my year of fasting experiments. Fasting has just been such a radical advancement in my wellness, and I think anti-aging for me, that I'm just really curious to explore what might be the optimal formula for me. I'm very excited about the current experiment, not eating between Sunday and Wednesday. So that's going to be most of my focus of-
I'm excited to see how that goes. I know that we have a special link out for our HVMN and Dry Farm Wines.
We do, we have a special offer for your audience. It's a penny bottle of wine. They can find that offer at https://dryfarmwines.com/hvmn.
Cool. All right, thanks, Todd. I'd love to follow the fasting journey and the wine journey. So appreciate you-
I'll catch up with you on fasting.
All right, yeah.
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