Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Get back...

...to where I once belonged, Part 6.  Yes, later today, I'm off home to Blighty once more.  I love Liverpool and it will always be home to me.
Liverpool is a city teeming with history.  From being granted a royal charter by King John in 1207, lots of well known people have hailed from this maritime city (not just The Beatles, and me) and tons of interesting stuff has happened there.  Thriving docklands which created great wealth (historically bananas and sheep were big business), led Liverpool to be known as the Second City of the Empire.   Liverpool can boast that it had the first United States Consul anywhere in the world, most definitely an indicator of the city's status and importance.  And it was also home to James Greig's cooperage.
This old photograph (on a postcard) of the J. Grieg, Cooper & General Cask Dealer is dispalyed in the Merseyside Museum of Labour History.  I haven't been able to find out much information about Mr. Greig's business other than the tidbit of information on the back of the postcard.  Apparently the photograph was taken in about 1900 and the cooperage was located at 23 Virgil Street (off Scotland Road, north of the city centre).  I think this photograph is wonderful, and not just because it has barrels in it, look at the character on the faces of those men.  I'm amusing myself with the idea that I may still recognise any one them on the street in Liverpool, only now in the faces of their descendents.  Not all Liverpudlians have left this much beloved city as I have.
Get back JoJo!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grappa anyone?

The 2014 harvest and the 2014 harvest-party season are well and truly over.  And last night I celebrated harvest's end with my co-workers at TWWIAGE.  I work with some great people and it's always nice to spend quality party-time with them.  For many of the production staff it was the first Saturday that they hadn't had to work since mid-September, so they really let their hair down.  And I mean they really let their hair down: the theme of the party was Woodstock so lots of bad, long, shaggy wigs abounded. 
Today, Vinomaker and I pressed off three different batches of Cabernet sauvignon.  It was a rather painless process this year, but still by the end of the day I was coloured purple from head to toe.  Quite psychedelic. 
Seeing all the skins reminds me that Vinomaker's friend, Sky King, usually pesters us to make a grappa from the pomace.  Too much trouble I say and it couldn't really be legally called grappa if produced in the USA.  What would I call it?  No matter, it's not going to happen.  Besides, I'm not a grappa drinker anyway.  The only grappa that I have ever thought half decent was one I purchased in a small caffé in Rome, just over the Ponte Sant'Angelo, which was made from Pinot Nero.  I digress.  Harvest is done.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Blighty calling?

I have photographed vineyards.  I have photographed red telephone boxes.  But I have never photographed a red telephone box in a vineyard.  Evidently, one of my Commenwealth brethren to the north has beaten me to it.  Drat! 
I'm sure Phil Luckett (a native of Nottingham), of Luckett Vineyards in Nova Scotia, is a lovely chap who makes lovely wines.  Apparently, Mr. Luckett has an arrangement with the Canadian telephone company to allow for toll free calls to anywhere in North America: 1-800-VINO?  Probably not.
I feel a phone call coming on.
Photo credit: George Medovoy

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Penultimate Party.

Actually, I have one and a bit more harvest parties to attend before the harvest season is over.  But the harvest festivity that I attended today is, perhaps, for me the ultimate harvest party.  I love the harvest party the vineyard workers throw for all of the staff at TWWIAGE.  Best Mexican food, EVER!
A couple of wines, other than TWWIAGE's, showed up with guests whom also have Oakville vineyards. My absolute favourite was the Gargiulo Vineyards, 2011 Money Road Ranch Merlot (Oakville AVA).  A beautiful wine that could almost make me forget about ever drinking any Cabernet Sauvignon ever again.  But then again, Gargiulo do a great job with all of their wines. Yummy.
Many thanks to the TWWIAGE vineyard boys.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

All done for 2014.

So that's it, Vinoland's 2014 harvest is over!
Fruit looked great, not that much bird or bee damage and the odd rain event that we have had, over the past few weeks, didn't really cause any mould problems either.  Weather was fantastic for a harvest day (even a tad on the toasty side), workers were affable and the harvest after-party enchiladas were yummy.  Once again, good friends, good wine, good food.  And to quote TWWIAGE's very own Marketing Queen, "...harvest.  Always makes me remember why I love living here."  Couldn't have put it better myself.
Of course, I think the fruitless vines look a little forlorn now, but that's just anthropomorphic me.  Now I'm looking forward to the 2015 growing season.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The stripper.

The harvest season is quickly coming to a close, so there is very little unpicked fruit left to be seen hanging around the Napa Valley.  TWWIAGE picked and processed their last fruit of 2014 on Tuesday.  In Vinoland only the Cabernet sauvignon is still hanging, but that's about to change come this Saturday.
As of today, the numbers on the Cabernet sauvignon were °Brix 25.8, pH 3.52 and TA 8.0, but since the decision to pick has already been made the numbers are sort of irrelevant.  The weather has turned quite autumnal and the vines have noticeably started to shut down.  I spent most of today pulling leaves, stripping the shoots of all basal leaves to help facilitate a quick and clean harvest.  And that's what I will be doing tomorrow also.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Rutherford AVA.

Right above the Oakville AVA (the AVA in which I work), is the Rutherford AVA.  Named after Thomas Rutherford who, upon marrying George C. Yount's daughter, was given 1,000 acres of land from his new father-in-law as a wedding present, Rutherford is/was the home of at least two of Napa's most historic wineries - Beaulieu Vineyard and Inglenook (whilst under the ownership of the visionary John Daniel Jr., not Francis Ford Coppola).  Nowadays, the AVA is the home of many renowned wineries e.g., Caymus Vineyards, Frog's Leap Winery, Mumm Cuvee Napa and, for all the wrong reasons, the nightmarish, to me at least, Raymond Vineyards.
Rutherford is perhaps best known for its soil, in fact the soil even has a society named after it: the aptly named Rutherford Dust Society.  André Tchelistcheff, who is credited with introducing modern winemaking practices to the Napa Valley (whilst at Beaulieu), said, "It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet."  Hmmm, I think the folks in the other AVAs would likely disagree.  The fact is, the entire Napa Valley is unique due to the diversity of the soils found here.  I personally can't really claim that I have ever tasted dust in any Rutherford wine I have tried, but I'll continue to experiment.  It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.
Five down, eleven to go.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The skinny on Grenache.

The ton of Grenache that Vinomaker was promised did not materialise.  Vinomaker was a little disappointed, but it means we are done drinking Grenache, at least for the time being.
The Skinner, 2010, Eighteen Sixty-One (El Dorado AVA) was quite a delightful wine (really a GSM with a little Cunoise thrown in).  With oodles of dark berry, raspberry and cedar-spiciness, Eighteen Sixty-One was not a particularly cheap wine, at around $27.00, but it was worth it.
The cheapest wine, at $11.49, in this little gargle was the Famille Chaudière, 2012, Le Paradou (Côtes du Ventoux AOC).  Le Paradou was great value for money and very easy on the palate, loved it.
And, now, the also-rans;
Calavera, 2011, Dalton Vineyard (Sierra Foothills AVA) $26.00.
Wow!  This wine would cure the most severe case of gingivitis, as in it would remove all gum tissue leaving the drinker with just their calavera!
Elizabeth Spencer, 2012, Special Cuvée (Mendocino AVA) $21.49.
Not bad, but certainly not great.
Yangarra, 2012, Old Vine (McLaren Vale) $24.49.
The label notes say this wine shows "elegance".  They've got to be kidding me, drinking this wine was like being hit in the mouth by a Mack truck.
Dashe, 2012, Les Enfants Terribles (Dry Creek Valley AVA) $22.49.
And terrible it was.  'Nough said.
In conclusion, I'd have to say that my little investigative experiment with Grenache didn't teach me much, except that Grenache does come in a lot of different styles from a lot of different places.  And that's the skinny on Grenache.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

OMG!

Orange muscat grapes, that is.
Vinomaker and I picked our Orange muscat (OM) today.  Well, what was left of it.  Looking almost like something that had escaped from my compost bin, Vinomaker had deliberately delayed harvesting the OM in the hopes of making a late harvest wine.  OM clusters are rather loose which generally reduces environmental favourablitly for Botrytis cinerea infection (unlike Pinot grigio clusters which are tight and thus susceptible to infection), so instead, dessication, as the result of an extended hang time, was the plan.  Coming in at 34.5 °Brix there is certainly plenty of sugar for Vinomaker to work with.
Although the fruit was quite unprepossessing, (OM never looks pretty as the grapes have a tendency to crack and amber as they ripen), the aromatics of orange skin and honeysuckle as we processed the fruit was absolutely delightful.  No wonder honey bees are attracted to this grape variety.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Industrious Bee.

Erm, the industrious honey bees are eating my Cabernet sauvignon grapes.  I can't really blame them because the grapes are very sweet.  However, the bees should be wincing due to the high acidity - if only I could see their squinting, little eyes.
The numbers are in; °Brix 24.2, pH 3.38 and TA 8.75.  Sugars have been driven up due to nearly a week of mid to high 90s temperatures.  Time to water.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy birthday to my little Vinodog.

Yes, it's V2's birthday, she turns 7 today.  She started her day off with some extra peanut butter cookies and a couple of new stuffed toys.  Hopefully, as a birthday treat, I'll have time to take her for a walk down at the Napa River when I get home from work.
V2's a great little dog, full of personality.  It's been a little strange for me just having one dog around since the passing of V1, but my little mongrel has more than filled up the poochie-void in Vinoland with her boundless energy.  And she's gotten used to me plonking weird things on her head.
Happy birthday V2.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vitis californica.

I once said I wouldn't "clamber through a thicket" to get a closer look at Vitis californica: I lied.  This morning I did indeed find myself fighting through some riparian habitat to get a closer look at California's wild grape.  This rather sizable vine is growing on the western bank of the Napa River, just at the point where the Oakville Crossroad passes over the watercourse.
The vines become quite visible this time of year as the leaves begin to turn yellow.  There is a wonderful specimen, teeming with grape clusters, quite close to where I live that has climbed 12 - 15 feet up through a very accommodating tree.  However, the vine is on the side of an extremely busy road and there is no possible way that I could safely get out of the car to photograph it.  So I had to be content with this Oakville vine.  But because this vine was more accessible, I was actually able to taste a wild, California grape for the first time ever.  Yummy!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A tale of two Syrahs.

Vinoland's Syrah is harvested, whoo hoo!  Fruit looked lovely, acid and sugar a little low, but the colour coming out of the berries was already a deep, deep purple.  The day went very smoothly and the gathering of friends afterwards was a lot of fun.
To wash down the harvest chili I had prepared (with cornbread, two ways), there were a few interesting wines; a delightful Elyse, 2011 Nero Misto (California); a J Gregory, 2011 Celebration Cabernet Sauvignon (Coombsville AVA); and, lastly, a Lucas Vineyards, 2012 Syrah (Finger Lakes AVA).
The Elyse wine was lovely, very soft and round, made from "a unique selection of wonderful lesser known black grapes" (so says the back label).
The J Gregory was a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a relatively new producer, but the grapes were sourced from a very good friend's vineyard, here in Coombsville.  The wine was a little green, but it 's still very young and will perhaps age quite elegantly.
The Lucas Vineyards Syrah came with a former co-worker who had worked three harvests at this winery in Cayuga Lake, New York.  A fairly inoffensive wine, I was however struck with how little pigmentation there was in this wine compared to a Syrah grown in Napa.  This Syrah looked more like a Pinot noir.  The white pepper component in this wine did work well with the chili though. 
An interesting mix of wines.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Fox.

I'm still tasting my way through a gargle of Grenaches.  Tonight's offering was a tasty little white wine - a Renard, 2012 Grenache blanc (Lodi AVA).  I loved this wine (it's all gone).  I had a 2013 Vermentino from the same producer last week and loved that too.  I also love the blurb on the back label:
"In making our Grenache Blanc, we've selected only fruit with the greatest concentration of flavours.  The nose suggests crisp dill apple, minerally mandarin, and blah, blah, blah...Isn't wine indescribably fun?  Just enjoy it!"
It's like I wrote it myself, except for the Oxford comma.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dirty rotten scoundrels.

This time last week there were some rotten little scoundrels hanging around, up to no good, in the Pinot grigio block.
The above photograph of a cluster of grapes infected with Botrytis cinerea isn't that great (I could have fetched a better lens from the house, but I didn't).  However, the proficiency of the dessicating ability of this dastardly, necrotrophic organism is evident in the way in which it has sucked the living daylights out of the lower half of this cluster (the top half of the cluster looked perfectly normal).
Most of the infected clusters were discarded, but it's possible that some made it into the mix.  No biggie.