Monday, August 31, 2020

Drunk on Petrology - Coal Mine Tempranillo

The next up on the Drunk on Geology series is Coal Mine Tempranillo from the Coal Mine Vineyards.

Coal is a type of sedimentary rock that has a very high organic content. It is made up of prehistoric plant material that has slowly been compressed over time forming thin layers ranging from millimetres to several tens of meters thick. The large amount of plant material typically occurred in prehistoric swamps. Over time the plant material died and accumulated in the water. There was so much dead plant material in the water that there wasn't enough oxygen to cause plant decay, leaving the plant material behind to eventually be covered up by sediment as the swamp was slowly transformed into a different environment (i.e. beach, floodplain, lagoon, etc.).  

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Drunk on Volcanology - Black Butte Porter

The next up in our Drunk on Geology series is Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewer, out of Bend, OR.

If we look at just the name of beer, "Black Butte", the geological definition of the term "butte" is an isolated, steep-sides, tower of rock with a flat top. The definition is remarkably similar to a mesa, which is generally the same except for scale. A butte is typically taller than it is wide, while a mesa is a shorter, wider feature. 

However, the name "Black Butte" in this instance refers to a specific mountain located within the Cascade volcanic arc of Oregon. Black Butte itself is a stratovolcano, a type of volcano that is built up over time from the repeated volcanic eruptions of ash, lava, and cinders. Stratovolcanoes are the most common type of volcano located within the Cascade range.   

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Drunk on Mineralogy - Amethystos

The next up on the Drunk on Geology series is Amethystos from the Domaine Costa Lazaridi Winery in Adriani, Drama, Greece.

And yes, in case you were wondering, "amethystos" is the Greek translation of the mineral amethyst.
Our puppy Oreo, back when she was a puppy, wanting to get in on the photography action.

Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz, which is one of the most common minerals on Earth, primarily due to its simple structure and chemical formula, SiO2. Quartz also has an extremely high hardness, 7 on Mohs hardness scale, meaning that it doesn't scratch very easily and therefore does not break down easily. 

As the rocks on Earth are slowly eroded over time, most of the other minerals will break down into clay while quartz grains will generally just gets smaller and smaller. The result is that most beach sand is composed of quartz that has a slight hematite (rust) stain to it to give the sand grains their slight yellowish color. Although quartz is a simple mineral, it can come in a variety of colors depending on what type of impurities are present in the crystal structure; pure quartz crystal is clear, milky quartz is white, smoky quartz is grey, amethyst is purple quartz, citrine is yellow quartz, rose quartz is pink, as well as some other colors and varieties. Quartz does not have any cleavage, meaning that when it breaks it doesn't form along perfect surfaces. Instead as the quartz crystals grow, individual mineral molecules of quartz are added to the outside of the crystal from water rich in dissolved SiO2 or mineral melt (liquid rock like lava or magma).

The purple in amethyst comes from the integration of trace amounts of iron into the crystal structure as the mineral crystal is forming. After crystallization, gamma rays produced from radioactive materials in the host rock irradiate the iron to produce the purple color. 

Amethyst from Uruguay. Image from

To get a smidge more technical, quartz will often contain some trace amounts of iron ( ~10 to 100's ppm of iron). Some of the iron will be where the silicon (Si) sits and some located interstitially, where there aren't normally atoms. The iron that is sitting in for Si is usually in the +3 valence state, however gamma radiation from local radioactivity can knock out an electron making it a +4 Fe. The Fe+4 in the lattice absorbs certain wavelengths of light creating the purple color of amethyst.

But why amethyst? I can see the purple color reminding people of grapes and some varieties of wine, but is there something more? Turns out there is:

The Greek word "amethystos" can actually be translated as "not drunken" or "not intoxicated". This is because the ancient Greeks believed that amethyst crystals themselves prevented people from getting drunk. This is also the reason many Greeks made wine goblets carved out of amethyst crystals.

One of the earliest records that we have of this is the poem by Asclepiades of Samos (born 320 BCE) Windflowers of Asklepiades:
"Drunkenness am I - a gem worked by a subtle hand. I am graven in amethyst, and the subject and the stone are ill-sorted.But I am the precious property of Kleopatra, and on the finger of a Queen even "drunkenness" should be sober.* 
(*a play on words since amethyst means not drunkenness)" 
Another early example is an epigram by Plato the Younger found in The Greek Anthology:
"The stone is an Amethyst; but I, the tippler Bacchus, say- 'Let it either persuade me to be sober; or let it learn to get drunk."

One last example from Asclepiades also in The Greek Anthology:
"I am Drunkenness, the carving of a clever hand; but I am carved upon an Amethyst. Now the stone is alien to the art. But I am the holy possession of Cleopatra. For on the hand of a queen it behoves even a goddess, when drunk, to become sober."
Text from the back of the bottle:
"Produced from the noble white variety of Sauvignon Blanc, this dry white wine has a brilliant green-yellow color and complex bouquet. Its smoky hue and the aromas of wood, nuts and vanilla are a perfect match for the fragrance of the grape. This full-bodied, rich, well-balanced wine has a highly aromatic finish. Served at 54° F, it perfectly complements smoked salmon, fatty fish and shellfish."
Glamour shot.

So there you go; amethyst is the patron mineral of the wine lovers. 


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Drunk on Mineralogy - Black Opal

The next up on the Drunk on Geology series is Black Opal. Black Opal is a wine from Australia made by the Bronco Wine Company

To start off, what is opal? 

The chemical composition of opal is a hydrous silicon dioxide (SiO2.nH2O). Silica, SiO2, is more commonly known as quartz, and is one of the most common minerals on the planet. Opal then could be considered the hydrated form of quartz, however the water ends up making the properties of opal very different from quartz. Although quartz itself can come in a variety of colors (i.e. white, pink, purple, grey, clear), the colors within a crystal of quartz are usually pretty consistent. Opal on the other hand can often come in a wide range of colors, anything in the rainbow and beyond really, all within a single sample. And while quartz is often found in crystals, opal is amorphous, meaning it has no crystal structure. Also, since opal can have varying amounts of water (the "n" in the chemical formula), this actually makes is a mineraloid, and not a true mineral (minerals have a set chemical formula). Another primary property of opal is that it has a hardness on the Mohs Hardness Scale of 5.5 to 6, making it much softer than most gemstones (quartz is a 7). 

Text from the back of the bottle:
"Black Opal is a collection of contemporary wines names after the alluring black opal gem found only in Australia. The Cabernet Sauvignon is packed with ripe black cherry characters and a smooth, soft taste - a benchmark wine, Aussie style."

Opal forms from the seasonal rains that drench dry grounds in desert regions. The rain soaks into the ground surface, carrying with it dissolved silica. After the water evaporates, the water imbued silica is left behind, forming opal. There are two types of opal, common and precious. Common opal doesn't have a wide array of fantastical colors and typically can be confused for quartz or chalcedony. The precious type of opal is very different though, with a wide array of colors within a single specimen. Due to the formation of opal, it is often formed as sub-microscopic spheres that are stacked in a grid-like pattern. These spheres bend the light creating the array of colors, known as "play-of-color". The size of the spheres directly relates to the colors that you can see. 

An Australian black opal from Lightning Ridge. Image from Geoscience Australia

There are many different types of opal depending on the play-of-color that you can see. 

  • White or light opal has a play-of-color against a white or light grey background. 
  • Black opal has a play-of-color against a black background. 
  • Fire opal has a body color of brown, yellow, orange, or red and doesn't typically show a play-of-color. 
  • Boulder opals have fragments of surrounding ironstone, which become imbued within the gem
  • Crystal opal has a play-of-color against a clear background, making the colors most striking.
A black opal.Image from Opal Galaxy.

So what is a Black Opal? Apparently it is "the rarest and most valuable type of opal." Is it a darker greenish opal variety with black and golds flecks. Black opal often contains a rainbow type iridescence, making it a very pretty gemstone. One of the world renowned locations for black opal is Lightning Ridge in New South Wales, Australia, which have sold for up to $10,000 per carat. And although black opals are most commonly from Australia, unlike what the bottle says, black opals have been found in other locations, most notably Ethiopia.


Sunday, August 23, 2020

Drunk on Petrology - Jip Jip Rocks

The next up on the Drunk on Geology series is Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz from the Jip Jip Rocks Winery in Padthaway, Australia. 

 Text from the back of the bottle:
"The Jip Jip Rocks are a striking outcrop of 350 million year old pink-red granite in the heart of the Padthaway region, which are sacred in traditional Aboriginal beliefs. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Drunk on Mineralogy - The Logo

  The next Drunk on Geology category I am ready to announce is:

Drunk on Mineralogy

Mineralogy is the study of minerals and I thought what better use of minerals in drinks than the salt on the rim of a margarita glass. And any geologist could tell you that salt is a mineral, the mineral halite. When halite is examined up close, you can see that the pieces always break off in cubic chunks, called cubic cleavage. And if you were able to look even closer, the mineral structure would also be cubic with alternating sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl) atoms.

Halite (salt) from the Solno Salt Mine in Poland. Image from Spirifer Minerals.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Drunk on Petrology - Las Rocas

The next up on the Drunk on Geology series is Las Rocas wines (specifically Garnacha in this post) by the Las Rocas Winery

Las Rocas literally translates to "The Rocks" in Spanish. So it is a fitting inclusion to Drunk on Geology.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Drunk on Petrology - Obsidian Stout

The next up on the Drunk on Geology series is the Obsidian Stout from Deschutes Brewery out of Bend, OR.

Obsidian is a shiny, very smooth, and (often) black igneous rock. It forms from the extremely quick cooling of lava, where no crystals have time to grow. This creates a glassy structure, where edges are able to sharpened to be sharper than a razor blade. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Drunk on Petrology - Mönchhof Mosel Slate Riesling

The next up on the Drunk on Geology series is the Mosel Slate Riesling wine from the nchhof winery, which is from the Mosel region of Germany.

The Mosel Slates are comprised of two main slate deposits, Ürziger Würzgarten and Erdener Treppchen. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Drunk on Petrology - The Logo

 The next Drunk on Geology category I am ready to announce is:

Drunk on Petrology

Petrology is the study of rocks, and so with this Petrology logo I wanted to highlight a ternary, rock identification diagram such as the one below for different sedimentary rocks, but using beer, wine, and liquor as the three endpoints.