Monday, October 08, 2018

One year later.

This morning, as the sun rose from behind Napa's eastern hills, I was greeted with the same charred vista that has greeted me for the past 364 days.  A year after the fires that ravaged Wine Country, what was once a solid ridge line of trees and vegetation across from Vinoland is still a blackened, skeletal-shadow of the verdant skyline it once was.  The ridge will eventually green-up again, it is just going to take a while.   

Monday, October 01, 2018

Happy 11th Birthday V2!

I can't believe it, Vinodog 2 turns 11 years old today.  Again, I ask, how did that happen?  Tempus fugit, etc.
After a decade of silly birthday hats, I seem to have exhausted the options available to me in the local shops, so I'm recycling a hat this year.  I hope V2 doesn't mind.  Actually, I know she doesn't.  My little fluffy-bundle of fun is more interested in toys, treats, walkies and, the aforementioned, fun.
Happy birthday V2!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Who are you calling Stinkwort?

I thought I'd end the month with a weed.  Why not?  Meet, the diminutive-flowered, stinkwort (Dittrichia graveolens).  A native of the Mediterranean, I have noticed that stinkwort has, over the past few years, become more and more common in the valley.  Maybe I just hadn't noticed before, but now stinkwort seems to be everywhere.  And this time of year is their bloom period, so they could have been making seeds as I type.  I said, could have.
Stinkwort is a little stinky (like camphor) and sticky, not really a weed that one would want around.  (I did read, though, that stinkwort has a claim to fame: it was once traditionally used to treat lice in chickens on the island of Crete.)  Mainly found along roadsides, stinkwort had decided a disturbed area of Vinoland was just the place to take up residence.  That was until I came along with a shovel.  The mature plant can be quite large, so it took me two different days (getting a nasty blister each time), but now the stinkwort is no more.  The weed in the photograph is a neighbour's stinkwort.  The neighbours are on their own.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A mechanical-mess.

This past week saw the harvest of a neighbourhood Chardonnay vineyard (one half of the vineyard was harvested just last night).  It's about time something got picked around here; it has been such a cool growing season.
I noticed this year that the trunks of the vines got rather beaten up by the whole process.  The harvester looked like a brand spanking new model from Pellenc, a French company.  Perhaps there are just some teething troubles with working with new technology.  Mechanical-harvesting is the way of the future, so I just hope the vines can survive the abuse.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Secondly, Syrah.

I was out and about with my handy dandy refractometer again today, sugar-sampling Vinoland's Syrah grapes.  The fruit looks fantastic, but it isn't ready for harvest yet.  I got a reading of 21 °Brix, and seeing as we don't harvest until the grapes are close to 25 °Brix, we have a bit of a way to go still.  Acidity is lovely, however there's still a little green component in the flavour.  I think it's going to be a good Syrah season.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Through the refractometer window.

Today was the first sugar-sampling of the season.  Using my trusty refractometer, to ascertain the level of sugar in a small sample of Pinot grigio juice, I got a reading of 23.2 °Brix.  A good start, but the flavours aren't quite there yet.
My handheld refractometer is a very useful instrument to have around, it helps makes my job easy.  A large proportion of the soluble solids in grape juice are sugars and it is the ripeness of the fruit (the percentage Brix) that I am trying to determine.  (Fructose and glucose are the main sugars in grape juice, combining as the disaccharide, sucrose.)  The sweeter the juice, the more it will bend the light that passes through it (refraction).  It is the angle of the light, the refractive index, that when viewed through the eyepiece of the refractometer, gives the level, or measurement, of sugar (i.e., grams of sugar per 100 grams of juice) in the sample.  See, easy peasy.  I'll leave the harder part to Vinomaker; determining the acid content and pH.
It is almost harvest time.  I predict I have a busy month ahead of me.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The ruler of Vinoland.

If I'm not careful, I may become the victim of a viticultural-insurrection.  The majority of Vinoland's grapevines look like they are on track to yield their biggest crop ever this season, however, the Syrah vines look like they are vying for domination of the entire vineyard.  Whilst there are lots of average-sized clusters in the Syrah block, the vast majority are simply massive (the photograph doesn't do the largeness of the front cluster justice).  I'll probably be sleeping with one eye open until it's time to harvest the Syrah and put paid to their Machiavellian-maturation.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Behind the bunker.

Neither pink nor blue, this dainty little flower seems to be just surviving in one particular part of Vinoland's Pinot grigio block.  Tall annual willowherb, Epilobium brachycarpum, isn't usually as delicate as are the specimens I frequently pass as I am working in the vineyard.  I'm sure the extremely dry environment that these willowherbs find themselves in explains their lack of vigour.  It was hard to get a photograph of this delicately stemmed flower in today's breezy conditions.
When I hear, or see, any mention of willowherb, it instantly reminds me of being little.  Rosebay willowherb, Chamaenerion angustifolium (a sister genera to Epilobium), was probably one of the very first weeds that I identified all by myself.  (I had to take myself up to the local library in those days.).  There was always a single, rather tall example of this weed, with its fluffy seeds, to be found thriving behind the coal bunker of my childhood home.  Willowherb always evokes fond memories for me.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The story of wine-history.

In some respects, Vintage: The Story of Wine is the companion book to the masterful 1989 Hugh Johnson television series, Vintage: A History of Wine and it is what I am currently reading.
I just love the way Hugh Johnson writes, I really do.  Hugh's inimitable style of wine-writing (once again, I can hear him narrating this book in my head), is simply a joy to read; it is articulate, conversational, learned, eloquent and fun.  Mr. Johnson's writing is, dare I say it, intoxicating.  I don't think there will ever be another wine-writer as good as Hugh.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Welcome to Vinoland.

I nearly trod on this little fellow this afternoon whilst I was out promenading with Vinodog 2.  Midstride, just as I was about to put my toe down, he darted under the front of my big, cumbersome vineyard-boot-shod foot.  Whoa!  Then, when I bent down to see if Master Sceloporous occidentalis was alright, he didn't display any signs of life.  So, very carefully, I carried the tiny lizard all the way back to Vinoland.
Vinoland's newest addition, to its native western fence lizard population, has now took up residence in the space between two old pieces of concrete and, thankfully, is quite active darting hither and thither.  I hope he likes his new home.  And I hope that all of Vinoland's other lizards like him.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Happy 10th Blogiversary to me!

Vinsanity has reached double digits.  It's true, today marks a full 10 years since I started waffling on about nothing in particular - with a little bit of viticulture thrown in.  I had no idea that I had so much to ramble on about, but apparently I do.  This is my 1391st post, whoo hoo!
Thank you to the two peeps who regularly comment on Vinsanity (you know who you are), your contribution to my humble blog is much appreciated.  Discuss...
Roll on year 11!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Just because 10...

...I love dogs - love, love, love, love, love - they're great.  And baby dogs are simply unbeatable.  Happiness, indeed, is a warm puppy.
Meet Shasta, one of a litter of five Entlebucher Sennenhund puppies, who is one calendar month old today.  All boys, Shasta and his littermates are named after mountains in North America; Rainier, Denali, Teton and Lassen complete the quintet.  Cuteness overload.
I love dogs.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Napa Valley Wine Library Association.

Today, I represented TWWIAGE at the 56th annual Napa Valley Wine Library Association (NVWLA) tasting.  Held in the Grove at Silverado Resort & Spa, this years theme was 'Designated Vineyard Wines of Napa Valley.'  It was a fun afternoon. 
The NVWLA is an organisation dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of information regarding all things wine; oenology, viticulture and wine lore, particularly as it pertains to the Napa Valley.  Membership of the NVWLA is in part responsible for maintaining and curating a "collection of popular, technical, rare, and current wine-related materials," which are a valuable resource for the "historian, vintner, writer, designer, wine buff and more."  Hmmm, I'm  wondering if I paid the George and Elsie Wood Public Library, in St. Helena, where the collection is housed, a visit would it improve my writing.  (That would probably take a miracle, not just a visit to a library.)
A well attended event, approximately seventy wineries were gathered together in the Grove pouring wines from specific vineyards throughout all of Napa's 16 American Viticultural Areas.  I had managed to procure a guest ticket for Vinomaker and, although I was the only one who was technically working, it was his job to bring me any interesting wines he thought I might like.  Which he did.  Good man!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Shake it off.

Today marks the 4th anniversary of the 6.0 earthquake that shook the Napa Valley to its core.  I'm still mourning the loss of the magnum of Havens, 2001 Syrah that I had been saving for a special dinner with friends.  I know Vinoland was lucky to get away with very little damage, just three bottles of wine in total broke, but still I find myself almost shedding a tear over spilt wine.  Sigh.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Square peg in a Walmart hole.

You say clothespins, I say clothes pegs, but I have no idea what they call the wooden things one uses to fasten laundry to a washing line on Mars.  Although I should because, apparently, I am now a Walmartian (that is, according to Vinomaker).  Sheesh!
I started to install the bird netting on the Pinot Grigio vines this past Sunday.  Halfway through this particularly tedious job, I noticed that I was getting low on the amount of clothes pegs I had left and guesstimated that I wouldn't be able to finish that day.  It wasn't until today that I had a chance to got out and buy more pegs.  But could I find any?  No.  And that's how I ended up at Walmart.  Double sheesh.