Sep 302015


Tomorrow’s the Night in Houston: The Periwinkle Foundation Hosts Houston’s Premier Sommelier Competition and Wine Tasting

Iron Sommelier Presented by AutoSol® 

(Photos presented are from 2014 Iron Sommelier event)

WHAT: Houston’s finest sommeliers will be put to the test for the title of Iron Sommelier in the city’s premier wine competition and fundraiser benefiting The Periwinkle Foundation. Chairmen Sean Beck and John Clutterbuck invite guests to an evening showcasing the expertise of 14 sommeliers while guests mingle and taste hand-selected wines that showcase a theme selected by the sommelier. Each competitor will be rated on wine choice, presentation, creativity and knowledge of their wine selections.


DETAILS: On hand will be Jane-Paige B. D’Huyvetter – B&B Butchers & Restaurant; Rob Brandani – Brandani’s Restaurant & Wine Bar; Lindsay Thomas – Camerata at Paulie’s; Freddy Opperman – Carrabba’s Kirby; Nathan Smith – Dolce Vita; Sam Governale – Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar; Evan Turner – Helen Greek Food and Wine; Brittany Brown – The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa; Taylor Mundy – Hunky Dory & Bernadine’s (Treadsack Restaurant Group); Samantha Porter – Oporto Fooding House, Oporto Wine Cafe, and Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen; James Watkins – Pappas Bros. Steakhouse; Whitney Seng – River Oaks Country Club; Angie Chang – Sonoma Wine Bar & Restaurant; and Adele Corrigan – 13 Celsius Wine Bar


MORE DETAILS: An Auction, Wine Pull, Iron Sommelier Wine Case and Making A Mark® Children’s Art Sale will round out the evening of vino, entertainment and food. A special thank you to Periwinkle supporters and The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa.

WHERE: Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa, 111 North Post Oak Lane, Houston, TX 77024

WHEN: Iron Sommelier 2015 Presented by AutoSol® – October 1, 2015 at 6 p.m.

TICKETS: $150 ($175 day of event) for individual tickets  Check for availability or confirm at:


 Posted by at 10:38 am
Sep 042015

Pollinator on Grape Flowers – Not needed, is different from not welcome.

Standing at the Crossroads (Part III – What you can do) – Adaptive Variety Selection and the Uncertain Role of Imidacloprids in the future of Southern Grape Culture

By: R.L. Winters, Fairhaven Vineyards

Master Horticulturist/Ampelographer Fairhaven American Hybrid Research Foundation

[VT – Please welcome back VintageTexas guest blogger R.L. Winters in this third part of his three part blog on the impact of the use of imidacloprid pesticides our grape culture in Texas and the American Southland. Click here to read Part I – The MYSTERY or click here to read Part II – NO WAY HOME.

— — — — —


Grapes are regularly visited by three types of pollinators:

  • Solitary bees
  • Honey bees, and
  • Several species from the order Diptera (flies).

It is quite correct that most grape flowers are self-pollenating, a characteristic that is considered desirable in grape breeding in the development of cultivars for production for the last 3000 years. All of the prominent varietals are self-pollenating and are adequately fertilized by wind action and mechanical dispersal of pollen.

The roll that pollinators play is largely in facilitating the distribution of pollen and assuring better and more uniform pollination. Certain varieties of American hybrids are dependent on the assistance offered by these diligent visitors to the vineyard and are greatly enhanced by this boost.

Grape vines produce an abundance of both pollen and nectar. And, in understanding the behavior of pollinators, one must comprehend that they are opportunistic foragers. That is, they don’t visit any specific flowering plant with some intrinsic understanding of whether or not the species actually requires their assistance to produce fruit, they simply go about collecting pollen and consuming nectar. It’s what they do.

Don’t be fooled by the many myopic comments that are posted to various grower sites that state that “pollinators aren’t required for grapes”, so therefore, pollinators are to be generally disregarded. The fact remains that they are an integral part of the annual cycle in the vineyard and have a vital (ancient) role in all aspects of grapevine ecology, including the preservation and hybridization of native grape species in the various ecotomes across the Western Hemisphere.

This issue, eventually, is reduced to its common denominator…

Pierces Disease, and how to combat its devastating effects. Imidacloprid has offered a workable, even if somewhat ungainly alternative to watching vines shrivel up and die.




As far back as the post civil war era, Thomas V. Munson observed that while European grapes died by the thousands, the native grapes in the New World were largely unaffected by the rigors of the Texas climate, and at the same time were immune to a mysterious disease that was then called “Grape Vine Decline” (Pierce’s Disease).


T.V. Munson – The Grape Man of Texas

Munson narrowed his focus on crossing inside this group of native vines to improve the varieties and enhance the juice quality. In this astounding group of hybrids, he handed us many selections that demonstrate nearly complete tolerance of Pierces, while still maintaining extraordinary juice qualities. By simple observation, he had crossed the intellectual rubicon that has continued to escape modern viticulture in the Pierces prone areas, in its headlong plunge to be something it may have never been meant to be.

At the core of the issue is varietal selection, and the misguided belief that, in order to compete, Texas must produce grapes and wine that meet the lofty standards set by the California wine business. Somehow they can’t be (truly) Texan, but rather they must be Texaforinan!

To a degree, some Texas vineyards have approached that level of quality. But most of those production areas are located well outside of the “Pierces Belt” (east of I-35 and just above or south of I-10) and are graced with dryer, generally cooler conditions than the rest of the state. Which leaves the balance of the growers (majority of the state and the rest of the south) struggling with cultivars that will never fully succeed in their growing areas, and present nothing short of a maintenance nightmare.


Munson Grape Varieties – Many are Pierce’s disease resistant.

The various appellations in Europe don’t seem to have much trouble letting better adapted varieties represent the culture, history and dominant production of their respective regions. Maybe it has somehow escaped me, but I just haven’t noticed any hand wringing by the folks in the Ribera del Duero wine region of Spain because they can’t grow Cabernet just like the growers of Bordeaux! You think they’ve said…

“Darn that Tempranillo….if we just could grow Cabernet we would be just as good as those guys!”

In our society, noted for its abbreviated historical knowledge (social ADA), its little wonder that few growers are aware that American varieties such as Lomanto, Extra, and Hussman were once the prize red wine grapes of the South in the years leading up to the Volstead Act. With the death of Thomas Munson, the wealth of knowledge, and the source for the vines disappeared. A legacy forgotten, placed on the dusty shelves of history.

We have set unrealistic standards for grape culture that has seen a million year old bacteria outwit us at every turn (they aren’t very smart…which makes us seem even dumber).

Rather than accepting that that American Hybrids may offer an answer to the problem of grape culture for most of the south, and afford us a way toward a unique regional group of cultivars, we have, instead, chosen a path to chemical oblivion and are taking the pollinators with it.

We have, unwittingly, become part of a process that undermines the universal basis of food production through the use of imidacloprids, in the name of forcing poorly adapted, physiologically deficient varieties (Vinifera) into production, we have lost our sense of reason.


The Bad and the Ugly – Homeowner neonicotinoid products


  1. Terminate the use of the nitro-group form of imidacloprid and switch to the less toxic cyano-group. These newer, safer (for bees) form of imidacloprid is sold under commercial names such as Assail, and Tristar
  2. Mitigate imidacloprid contamination of the soil and ground water by switching to foliar application only.
  3. Reduce cross contamination of native wild flowers by eliminating flowering weed growth in the vineyard
  4. Avoid co-mixing imidacloprid with other insecticides until current research clarifies the effects.
  5. IMPORTANT: Do not apply products while pollinators are present. Allow sufficient time prior to daylight exposure for spray material volatilization to complete and spray drift to settle.
  6. IMPORTANT: Plan for a future where imidacloprid is either removed from the market or becomes highly restricted by developing alternative spray routines.
  7. Modify existing vineyard programs to increase Sharpshooter monitoring with the aim of maintaining control by contact application of non-neonicotinoid products.
  8. Plant adapted grape varieties that are either tolerant or resistant to Pierces Disease.
  9. Lobby your congressman to immediately force the EPA to suspend label approval for homeowner use of neonicotinoid products.
  10. Lobby your congressman to immediately force the EPA to suspend label approval for the use of all nitro-group neonicotinoid products.

Written by;

R.L. Winters

Master Horticulturist/Ampelographer

Fairhaven American Research Foundation


 Posted by at 9:44 am
Sep 032015


The Wine Society of Texas Announces Scholarship Grant Program Awards totaling $7,000 for assistance in wine and winery education, internship or field study in Texas, and research work as it pertains to grape growing.

The Wine Society of Texas (WST), a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization, announced that it is awarding grants totaling $7,000 in support of four individuals from around the State in 2015.

This scholarship assistance program is consistent with the founding ideas of WST and its continued mission to enhance the appreciation of wines, foster the knowledge of oenology and viticulture, support charitable activities, and educate wine consumers throughout the State of Texas. The funding for the WST Scholarship Grant Program is provided from charitable donations, local WST Chapter fund raising events, and annual statewide wine events and competitions.

Following is a summary of this year’s award recipients:

$3,000 James F. Whitley Founder’s Grant is awarded to Brent Pape. Mr. Pape is pursuing a Master of Science in Agricultural Education at Texas Tech University, Lubbock with an emphasis on viticulture extension/education. Mr. Pape was a 2014 Russell D Kane grant winner.

$2,000 Russell D. Kane Grant is awarded to Albre Abi Brown. Ms. Brown is currently doing graduate study research in the Plant Pathology and Microbiology Department at Texas A&M, concentrating on fungal trunk diseases that affect grapevines.

$1,500 Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo Grant is awarded to Demi Matar. Ms. Matar is currently pursuing a Winemaking certificate at Texas Tech in Fredericksburg while working at one of Texas finest wineries in Fredericksburg.

$500 Grant is awarded to Helena Cheng. Ms. Cheng is currently pursuing a certificate from the Texas Wine School, after having obtained WSET Level 3 certificate in London in 2014.

This is the eleventh year that the WST has provided grant assistance through the Scholarship Grant Program providing over $47,000 in total. “The Wine Society is pleased to continue its long tradition of providing meaningful scholarships to worthy individuals. This is our way of “going local” to support Texas talent and invest in the future of Texas wine.” said Ms. Shirley Choate, State President of the WST.

For more information about the scholarship program or the WST please visit the website at or contact WST by phone (713-705-8574).

The Wine Society of Texas (, headquartered in Midland, Texas, was started in 1996 and received its 501(c) 3 non-profit status in 1999. It has over 150 members in three chapters around the State of Texas. The WST mission is: to

  • Enhance the appreciation of wine, especially Texas wines
  • Educate the experienced as well as the beginning wine taster
  • Promote the wine makers, and grape growers
  • Foster the knowledge of oenology and viticulture
  • Help in charitable activities throughout the state of Texas
  • Promote the responsible consumption of wine.

The WST organizes events that promote appreciation of wine through education in a comfortable social setting with the aim of building an educated and responsible wine culture in Texas. The WST is focused on the consumers of wine in the State of Texas, providing consumer feedback to wineries, and is actively working with organizations and wineries in the State on various education programs.

 Posted by at 1:30 pm
Aug 302015




 By: R.L. Winters, Fairhaven Vineyards

Master Horticulturist/Ampelographer Fairhaven American Hybrid Research Foundation

[VT – Please welcome back VintageTexas guest blogger R.L. Winters in this three part blog on the impact of the use of imidacloprid pesticides our grape culture in Texas and the American Southland. Click here to read Part I – The MYSTERY. Click here to read Part III – WHAT YOU CAN DO.


In the case of sublethal imidacloprid dosing, the pollinators aren’t killed directly, but absorb or transfer enough of the chemical to the brood to produce toxicity that overlaps into successive generations. In the process of unraveling this paradox, it has become clear that the neonicotinoid was being transferred back to the colony in the form of contaminated pollen. The pollen is then consumed and or conveyed to the developing larvae. As the larvae matured, the ingested tainted pollen delivers the sub-lethal dose that would manifest itself by damaging the foragers neurons to the degree that their ability to master the vital, million-year-old skills of colony behavior, was severely damaged.

As is detailed in the report published by Ecotoxicology 2012 May 21(4) 973-992; “Bees trained to forage on artificial feeders, Bortolotti et al. (2003) noticed that a 500 meter distance between the hive and the feeding area resulted in no foragers at the hive/feeding area up to 24 hours after treatment when foragers were fed with imidacloprid at 500 and 1,000 μg l−1. The latter authors also found that a lower concentration (100 μg l−1 imidacloprid) caused a delay in the returning time (to hive or feeding area) of the foragers”.


At the core of the mystery of the disappearance, the explanation seems to be a macabre set of symptoms that include the inability to navigate correctly.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:56 am
Aug 292015

Honey Bee doing its thing. Will we have them for long?



 By: R.L. Winters, Fairhaven Vineyards

Master Horticulturist/Ampelographer Fairhaven American Hybrid Research Foundation

[VT – Please welcome back VintageTexas guest blogger R.L. Winters in this three part blog on the impact of the use of imidacloprid pesticides our grape culture in Texas and the American Southland.] Click here for Part II, click here for Part III.

— — — — —


In the late winter of 2005 Florida beekeeper Bill Rhodes was busy working his usual day’s tasks, the drudgery of preparing hundreds of his bee colonies for shipment to the vast almond groves of California, where they would facilitating the production of an important national crop. He noticed an unusual behavior while conducting regular maintenance of the hives…

The bees responded to the routine splitting of the hives by refusing to occupy the split sections! Something he hadn’t seen before in decades of experience working with these tiny denizens of nature.

Once the broods arrived in California, Rhodes went out to inspect the hives, marking them and returning within the week to check again. “The hive would look entirely different,” Rhodes said. “It was like something just had them by the throat and was just pulling the strength from them. We had no idea what it was.” Of the sixteen semi-loads of pollinators Rhodes had shipped to the location only two were serviceable. The rest had perished.

Backtracking to where the brood had been previously contracted, led Rhodes back to a fruit farming operation in South Dakota. The farm was located immediately adjacent to vast acres of sunflowers that were literally dripping with imidacloprid.

What this simple, thoughtful, beekeeper had identified was later to become known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Overnight, Rhodes had become the unwilling Paul Revere of the basis of world crop production, shouting a warning that would circle the globe!


Honey bees approaching a sunflower


Imidacloprid is a type of neonicotinoid insecticide that was first registered for use in the United States in 1994. The chemical compound, a synthetic form of nicotine, was originally approved for use in ornamentals, and turf application to control sucking or chewing insects. The product is marketed under many different trade names: Alias, Merit, Gaucho, Provado, Montana, Nuprid, Marathon, Adonis, Macho, and Dominion.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 9:01 am
Aug 252015

Morning Grape Harvest at Brennan Vineyards (from Brennan Vineyards)

It’s A Fine Wine Harvest in Texas This Year – Could be the Biggest!

Early in the year, I kept getting inquiries from friends and associates in the wine business asking about the impact of the rainy spring weather in the Texas hill country. I’d just say, “So far, what I’m hearing is good”, but really not knowing what the long-term results were going to be when harvest time came around.

Then, at the end of May, in just a few weeks, many Texas vineyards (particularly those in central Texas) where inundated with a foot or two of rain in multiple doses that came fast, hard and furious. There were even groups of wine tourists talking shelter during tornado warnings in subterranean cellars of wineries along Route 290 near Fredericksburg.

The net result of all this was, it was hard for some vineyards to keep up with their spraying and the development of significant fungal disease pressure. However, according to a recent (and optimistic) Texas Fine Wine news release, “disciplined vineyard management practices aided canopy development and kept the vineyards across the state healthy and productive.”

From personal discussions, it appears that some Texas vineyards were hurt, and hurt badly, but the net result across the state is that the 2015 is turning out to be a very good year for grape production.

“We are beyond thrilled to see a quality harvest of Viognier and Nero d’Avola, which we have been without in 2013 and 2014,” said Pat Brennan, owner of Brennan Vineyards (Comanche, TX).  “Overall, the fruit is looking beautiful and 2015 looks to be a very promising vintage.” From the recent social media photo-blasts by Brennan Vineyards Rebecca Connelly and Todd Webster, Pat Brennan’s winemaker, the bins are filling up with ripe, luscious grapes and harvesting is going at a breakneck pace.


Morning harvest at Brennan Vineyards (photo from Brennan Vineyards)

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:25 am
Aug 132015

Wall-to-wall attendance at 2015 TEXSOM

Four Takeaways from 2015 TEXSOM

Looking back to my first Texsom in 2008, I’ve attended a majority of the TEXSOM conferences over its past eleven years. As I recall, the first one I attended barely broke an attendance of around 200 people. The vast majority were local sommeliers (barely enough to fill a hotel ballroom). They were bolstered by a moderate-sized group of wine aficionados who attended the TEXSOM grand tasting. But, one thing’s been clear during this time, the driver for this event has been the vision of TEXSOM founders and Master Sommeliers James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks to create a unique event for career-minded beverage professionals.

This year’s TEXSOM  (held August 8-10) was a “grown-up” version of James’s and Drew’s early conferences now having six simultaneous breakout sessions each morning and afternoon over the two-day period. This year, it brought to the Four Seasons Resort Dallas (Las Colinas) over 1000 attendees including nearly a third of all Certified Master Sommeliers residing in the United States.

The reality of TEXSOM is that there is really no other wine and beverage educational event operating at the same caliber. Its attributes includes:

  • Extensive guided tastings and panel presentations lead by MS, MW and international wine luminaries
  • Sommeliers, wine professionals and volunteers in attendance now come from over 18 states.
  • The 11th annual Best Sommelier competition has now expanded beyond Texas to include surrounding states with (I presume) expansion in sight to reach all of America’s coasts.
  • Associated educational courses and certification examinations from both the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas and the UK-based Wine & Spirits Education Trust.

I have four major takeaways from the 2015 TEXSOM that I want to share with you.


Trimbach Retrospective Tasting led by Jean Trimbach

#1 – As a Taster, I Have the Opportunity to Learn from the World’s Best

It was an honor to sit, taste and learn from the best and most knowledgeable professionals in the beverage industry. This year my personal track was: Continue reading »

 Posted by at 3:12 pm
Aug 112015

Nathan Fausti 2015 TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition Winner

FLASH: Nathan Fausti of Olive & June Named 2015 Best Sommelier at Texsom

2015 (11th Annual) TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition Presented by Texas Monthly

TEXSOM co-founders and Master Sommeliers Drew Hendricks and James Tidwell last night announced at the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas Grand Tasting that Nathan Fausti of Olive & June in Austin, Texas, is the 2015 TEXSOM Best Sommelier. The 2015 TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition, presented by Texas Monthly, takes place during TEXSOM, the most prominent and influential wine education conference in the United States, held annually at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas.

Fausti topped a strong field of 23 other competitors in a rigorous three-part wine examination involving service, blind tasting and theory. An elite panel of Master Sommelier and Master of Wine judges named Fausti the 2015 TEXSOM Best Sommelier at a ceremony on Monday evening.  The competition is a key part of TEXSOM. To participate, candidates must be a current resident of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, or Texas and must not have passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced Sommelier Examination. Previously, only Texas sommeliers were allowed to apply for the competition.

In addition to being honored with the title “2015 TEXSOM Best Sommelier,” Fausti received a scholarship of $2,500 from the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation to be used for a Court of Master Sommeliers certification program. David Donalson of Goody Goody Liquor in Dallas, Texas was the second runner up and will receive a $1,500 scholarship, and the 3rd place winner Luis La Torre of Spec’s Fine Wines in Dallas, Texas will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

Nathan Fausti is the 11th winner of the TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition to be honored with the TEXSOM T.V. Munson Trophy. The trophy is named after Thomas Volney Munson (1843–1913) often called the “Grape Man of Texas”. He was a horticulturalist and grape hybridizer who collected, categorized and bred Native American grapes. Munson’s greatest achievement to the world of wine was providing the French and European vineyards with phylloxera-resistant root stock from wild Texas grapes. This allowed vineyards across Europe to recover from the devastating blight of the 1800s. France later presented Munson the Chevalier du Merite Agricole of the French Legion of Honor.

Nathan, congrats!


2015 TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition Organizers & Winner, Nathan Fausti (center)


Founded in 2005, TEXSOM was started by Master Sommeliers James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks to help promote professional wine service standards, outline paths for further wine education and certification, and raise public awareness about the professional standards and certifications for sommeliers. Today, the conference draws a total of 1,000 attendees, of whom 700 are sommeliers, retailers and wine buyers.

 Posted by at 2:04 pm
Aug 052015

Tasting with John Rivenburgh and Bob Young, Bending Branch Winery

Bending Branch Winery: Where Bob and John Bring a “Dash of Flash” to the Wine Tasting: New Wine Releases

After driving past the cool waters of the Guadalupe River and arriving at Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Bending Branch owner and winemaker Bob Young chauffeured us to the winery building. He used his new and nearly “street legal” electric shuttle car. In the cool of Bending Branch Winery, three flights of wines were set up for us to taste.

Quite surprising to me was, while Bending Branch Winery made their reputation on dark red Tannat wines, we were four wines into the tasting and all of the limited release 2014 wines tasted in the first flight were whites: Estate Cuvee Blanc white blend; Roussanne, Hoover Valley Vineyard; Viognier, Riven Rock Vineyard; and, Single Barrel Blanc, Hall Ranch Vineyards.

Bending Branch viticulturist and winemaker John Rivenburgh explained, “While out with some of my hill country winemaking buddies, they joked with me…‘John, you’re getting really good making red wines. Too bad you can’t make white wines.’ I wanted to show them, I really could do whites, too.”


John Rivenburgh peeking between the bottles.

While I’m sure this was said in jest, their estate vineyard combined with a good 2014 vintage and new sources of hill country grapes complied so that John and Bob could have some really fine whites to show:

  • 2014 Cuvee Blanc is all stainless steel fermented from their estate grown, organic grapes: approximately 60% Picpoul Blanc, 20% Roussanne and 20% Vermentino. It’s a palate pleaser yielding Picpoul’s crisp acidity and lemon-orange citrus notes carried with Roussanne’s classic smooth silky mouthfeel.
  • 2014 Roussanne, Hoover Valley Vineyard is 100% varietal. This Chardonnay lover’s Texas white wine is made with a 50-50 blend of stainless and oak aged Roussanne with a touch of lees left in during aging in oak. My notes say, “great body, richness and depth of flavor, but bringing a crisp finish where lemon citrus and tea notes prevail.” It is the first Texas version of Bending Branch’s “Comfortage” (a twist on the Rhone Valley appellation name – Hermitage) that in prior years was made from California fruit.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 2:29 pm
Jul 072015

Jennifer Beckmann at Kuhlman Cellars

Kuhlman Cellars: For Love of Vina Vita and the Re-creation of a First Kiss

On a busy Fall afternoon, while rushing back to my cottage on the hill at the end of a long drive, I was encouraged by Jennifer Beckmann to stop by the newly opened Kuhlman Cellars. After stopping-in to a take a peek, I’ll admit to being far too distracted by many things that day. But, the winery did leave impressions of unpretentious yet fine food/wine pairings and the aromatics of new pine paneling. It also gave me the urge to return, which is something that I was just recently able to do.

Driving up to the winery on Route 290, I saw the future hopes of owners Chris and Jennifer Cobb in Kuhlman Cellars’ newly planted estate vineyard populated with mostly Mediterranean-style grapes. Present were Marsanne, Roussanne, Carignan and Mourvèdre. These are all sun-loving varieties, that have been known for centuries to express their terroir (their vineyard environment including the soil, topography, and climate).


Kuhlman Cellars and Estate Vineyard

In the winery, greeted again by the ever-smiling Jennifer Beckmann, I was invited to savor the Kuhlman concept of Vina Vita (or Wine Life). This time it came at a slower pace allowing me to enjoy bites of food and matching sips of wine (five bites and five wines, perfectly paired) in a guided tasting. It was a personal wine and food journey of sorts with Jennifer as my guide. Continue reading »

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 Posted by at 7:21 pm