Sunday, December 09, 2018

A Christmas dear.

Today, I had intended to festoon and bedeck Vinoland in copious amounts of Christmas finery.  But, alas, the fairy lights on my pre-lit, artificial Christmas tree decided not to light.  I really hate when that happens.  (Aforementioned tree is now in the garbage.)
So, to infuse some Christmas cheer back into my unilluminated-mood, I decided to decorate Vinodog 2 instead.  Isn't she a little dear?  I feel better already.  Ho, ho, ho! 

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Advent wine.

The first Sunday in Advent called for something a little celebratory in the wine department: enter this lovely little Spanish Albariño.  The Xión, 2016 Albariño (Rías Baixas DO) was just the thing for a crisp and chilly December day.  An intensely massive nose of tutti frutti-peachiness led into a superbly balanced, medium weight wine redolent with more stone fruit and tropical yumminess.  A lovely tipple.  Besides, who, in their right mind, could resist a label that looks like it is adorned with Christmas deccies and stylised snowflakes?  Not me.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

A spot of tea.

It's December 1st, my Advent calendar is up, the first window is opened and I'm feeling pretty festive (even though it's very early in the season).  I'm sitting in a cozy chair enjoying a mug of Earl Grey tea with a baked doughnut (yes, baked, it's really nothing more than a ring-shaped cake).  And I'm contemplating some Yuletide list-making; a to-do list, a to-eat list and, of course, a to-drink list.  Cheers to that!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Yesterday's wine.

I had two wonderful wines with Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. 
A 2017 H&M Hofer, Grüner Veltliner (Weinviertal DAC), paired perfectly with my roast turkey and herby potatoes.  This crisp white wine even with the notoriously-difficult-to-pair brussels sprouts, sautéed with pancetta and onions, that are Vinomaker's favourite.  Delicious. 
For dessert, a traditional pumpkin pie with whipped cream, I imbibed in a 2007 Errazuriz, Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc (Casablanca Valley DO).  Again, delicious.  I gave thanks that my taste buds were having such a good time.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Why did the chicken cross the crush pad?

To get to the Cabernet sauvignon, duh!
Harvest 2018 is officially over in Vinoland.  This afternoon, I assisted Vinomaker with the pressing-off of our Cabernet sauvignon (CS), but before we could proceed we had to shoo a neighbour's chicken away from the press, pump, etc.  Miss Henny Penny may have simply been being  inquisitive about the whole process, but she was still in the way. 
The CS looks, smells and tastes great.  I had missed the CS harvest because I was in England, so it was important for me to participate in this final step.  The fruit came in on October 27th, its vital statistics were; 26 °Brix, a pH of 3.5 and TA at 7.2. 
Harvest 2018 is done and dusted, whoo hoo!  No chickens were harmed in the making of this wine.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Nouveau vin.

It's here, the third Thursday in November, Beaujolais Nouveau Day (BND).  Whoo hoo!  Often lost amidst the Thanksgiving brouhaha, there are 5 Thursdays in November this year (like in 2012), so BND has a Thursday all to itself this year.
The marketing spectacle that is BND happens to be one of my earliest vino-memories.  The race to get the first bottles of Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc across the English Channel, a.k.a. La Manche, to Blighty's Nouveau enthusiasts, always made it on to the national news broadcasts.  The challenge usually took the form of differing forms of transportation all earnestly employed in the conveyance of the new vintage, as tout de suite as possible.  I seem to remember that one year a Mini and a Citroën 2CV, both laden with cases of Beaujolais, competed for the distinction of being the first to arrive on Albion's shores.  Unfortunately, I can't remember who the victor was.
And why shouldn't the villagers of Beaujolais enjoy their vin de primeur as early as they wish?  The modern day contrivance of a red wine languishing in an expensive Limousin oak barrel, for perhaps 2 years and upwards, in some respects is just a fashion.  However, the average consumer now expects, nay demands, oak characteristics in wine.  I could happily drink Vinoland's 2018 Syrah, that was pressed off last Sunday, now - it is simply an unoaked wine.  Beaujolais Nouveau is a fun, inexpensive wine with no pretensions of being anything other than that.  I love it, I even respect it, as it takes almost the same amount of effort to farm, harvest and vint the Gamay grapes as any other red wine varietal.  It is a celebration in a glass.
So how was the wine?  I could only find one Beaujolais in Napa (BevMo), ideally I would have liked to compare at least two.  The Georges Duboeuf, 2018 Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau (AOC Beaujolais) was delightful.  On the nose, a heady whiff of defrosted-strawberries, cherry, bubble gum and pear drop (Isoamyl acetate) gave way to a subtle blue-floral element.  A more than acceptable amount of grape tannins gave the wine a nice mouthfeel, even if the finish was a little abrupt.  At $11.99 this new-wine was a marvelous midweek tipple.  À votre santé!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The seed deed.

I was back at it today, doing a good deed in assisting Vinomaker with the pressing-off of a fermentor of our 2018 Syrah.  Vinomaker is always experimenting with different yeasts and this particular batch of Syrah was fermented with the aid of ICV D21™.  Vintage 2018 gave Vinomaker a lot of juice to work with, so he has had an opportunity to use and evaluate a couple of new yeasts.
D21 is one of Vinomaker's favourite yeasts to employ.  Isolated from vineyards in Pic Saint-Loup Languedoc, by the Institut Coopéaratif du Vin, D21 is known for maintaining a fresh acidity and floral and fruity volatile compounds, whilst also delivering a robust mid-palate tannin structure.  At the same time, D21 is adept at banishing those horrible, unpalatable stewed/jammy characteristics often found in warm climate wines. 
The 2018 Syrah is already tasting very nice, oodles of black cherry and spice, even before it has had the distinct pleasure of being introduced to the seasoned, Monsieur Chêne Français.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Golden hour.

I arrived back in California yesterday afternoon descending into SFO through a thick, ugly, brown pall of smoke courtesy of the Camp Fire (Paradise, CA).  Sigh, California is afire again, so nothing really changed in the fortnight that I was away.  Oh, hang on a minute, Vinoland's Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested in my absence, October 27th to be exact, I was sad to miss that.  And most of the leaves have fallen from the white grape varieties: the colour of the now chlorophyll-free leaves accentuated by the perpetual golden hour-like light quality that goes hand in hand with an out of control conflagration.  As a consequence, things do look a little different out in the vineyard.
I had an interesting wine on my flight back to America (on United Airlines - Swiss Airlines, inexplicably, cancelled my flight to Zurich with extremely short notice and I was rerouted through Heathrow.  Hmmph, so much for Swiss efficiency).  The wine, a 2017 Mac Andrews, The Haven Chardonnay-Viognier,  NSW Australia, was quite lovely (for an in-flight wine).  Crisp, appley, honeysuckle loveliness, in fact.  I can't find any information on this wine online, so I can only assume that it is exclusively bottled for United.  What I, in my little geeky way, found interesting about this wine was that it came in a full 750 ml plastic bottle (with screw cap).  Of course, I am very familiar with the small plastic bottles that airline-wine routinely comes in (187 ml), but I'd never seen wine, on a flight, being poured from a plastic 750 ml (in first class, they have glass).  So, I asked the male flight attendant if I could possibly have an empty bottle to take with me.  "No," was the prompt reply, "We recycle them."  Even when I promised I'd make sure it was recycled in a responsible manner I was still denied.  Alrighty then!

Monday, November 05, 2018

A rocket ride.

It is Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night) here in Blighty.  I see lots of fire, fireworks, goodies and wine in my very near future.
The Wanted Zin, a 2017 "Italian Zinfandel aged in American oak," is Thud's choice of wine for this evening's festivities.  Vinified from grapes sourced from Puglia (the 'heel' of Italy's 'boot'), The Wanted Zin is produced by Orion Wines (a company based in Lavis, Trentino), whose business plan is to "produce the best and most interesting wines possible at fair prices."  What is there not to like about that?  Sounds good to me.
The back label exhorts the imbiber to, "Be daring and let this wine take you for a ride."  Seems like I may be in for a bit of a vinous-voyage with this one.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Pizza, beer and wine.

Thud's pizza oven gets awfully hot.  I risked life and limb to get this photograph, as it was super, super toasty.  And that high heat is the reason that the pizzas are ready to eat after just 90 seconds of cooking.  Simply fabulous.  Copious amounts of Peroni aided Thud and his culinary-accomplice, Monkey, in the making of a dozen pizzas, mostly with all different toppings.  I polished off a bottle (well, not the entire bottle) of Amalaya, Blanco De Corte, 2016 Torrontés-Riesling (Calchaquí Valley, Argentina) with my pizza-dinner.  The wine paired well with most of the pizzas, but not the Thai Chicken one.  But that's OK, there were plenty of other pizzas that did pair with this Argentine-quaffing wine.  Yum.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Get back... where I once belonged, Part 13.
Yup, I'm on my way back to Blighty this evening, I'm excited.
Apparently, it is 'British Spirits and Sparkling Wine Week' in the U.S.A., it is a shame I'll miss some of it.  I received a nice email (from Shari Mesulam, I don't know her) that informed me that October 22nd to 28th is a celebratory week of campaigning by the British government (you'd think they'd have more important stuff to do), as part of their 'Food is GREAT' showcase.  In the email, I learned that "whisky is the largest food and drink global export for the United Kingdom, and the United States is the largest export market for both British Gin and English Sparkling Wine."  I could find neither aforementioned tipples in the pantry, so I had to make do with an old bottle of Vinomaker's Drambuie.  It's the spirit that counts, titter, titter.  So I'm going to export myself over to Blighty and hopefully do some catching up with the English bubbles bit.
Get back JoJo!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Just a quick Cab drive away.

The Cabernet sauvignon (CS) fruit looks good this year, but it's not the best I've ever seen it.  (That distinction belongs to the 2010 crop.)  The CS fruit definitely doesn't look as good as the Pinot grigio, or the Syrah.  A quick sugar reading today showed that the CS is at 24° Brix.  The weather has cooled down considerably, and even though there is warmer than average temperatures forecast for this weekend, the fruit is as mature as it is going to get.  It's time to get the CS in.  Taxi!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Syrah shuffle.

It usually gets a little bit hectic around here as harvest time approaches.  This year seems to be a little more chaotic than usual.  Vinomaker and I had to put our heads together and come up with a date for our Syrah harvest.  And today was the day.  All went smoothly, the weather was perfect and the harvest celebration afterwards was a lot of fun.
The Syrah fruit looked gorgeous and tasted great too.  The yield, as I suspected, was greater than average - about 30% more.  The Syrah's numbers are: 24° Brix, a pH of 3.58 and TA at 7.2.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


This morning was Pinot grigio harvest day in Vinoland.  The fruit looked beautiful and the numbers came in at 27° Brix, a pH of 3.55 and TA at 6.75 - all in a good range.
The 2018 fruit may be in Vinomaker's capable hands now, but I am already thinking ahead to next year and some critical vineyard operations that will ensure a 2019 harvest.  Pruning, of course, is next up, but there is also a bit of replanting to be done.
Alas, there is evidence of Pierce's Disease (PD) in some vines (nine, one right after the other, in one row and at least one vine in the row above them).  The PD symptoms first appeared last year, but this year they are more definitely pronounced; foliar scorching, irregular bark maturity and raisining of the fruit, or, (as demonstrated in the above photograph) miniature clusters (a mere 2.4 inches).
Oh well, it'll give me something to do next spring.

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.