Monday, February 08, 2016

Happy Lunar New Year!

Who on earth would argue with the profound observations that are oft contained within the American fortune cookie?  Not me.  Besides, I think this crunchy-prognostication is spot on.
I would love to be home right now, being festive and enjoying big plates of braised chicken feet and char siu cheong fun with my sister-in-law. One slightly stale fortune cookie is no substitute for a butt load (technical term) of delicious dim sum.
Gung hei fat choi to you all!

Friday, February 05, 2016

Pruning 2016.

The planets aligned for me today; the weather was beautifully sunny, I managed to get my errands finished earlier than expected and I had a couple of hours with no other pressing demands upon my time.  So, without further ado, I started to prune the Orange Muscat vines. It felt good to be out in the vineyard.  Vinoland's 2016 pruning season has begun.  It is a later start to pruning for me than last year, but better late than never.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fungus fun.

We have been having an awful lot of rain lately, so, consequently, there is an abundance of fungi, moulds and lichens growing in and around Vinoland: everywhere is so verdant right now. However, now and again something other than the colour green catches my eye.
This fun-coloured fungus, commonly known as cobalt crust (Terana caerulea), or blue velvet on a stick, is currently flourishing on much of the split oak logs in Vinoland's woodpile.  This photograph doesn't really do the vividness of the hue of this fungus justice, it is even more striking to the naked eye.
Whilst the thriving local flora is keeping me amused (because, after all, it is fun to look at), I am patiently (sort of) waiting for the rainy season to end so that I can start pruning the grapevines.  I don't want o be out in the vineyard, pruning away, and have some opportunistic organism begin to grow on me. Yesterday was gorgeous, sunny and 65°F and would've been perfect to start pruning, but, alas, I was in work.  I know that finer weather is just around the corner.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A rainy January.

Not one drop of rain fell in Napa the entire month of January 2015, but that hasn't been the case this year.  January 2016 is more than making up for the lack of rain last year.  Just because California needs rain it doesn't mean I have to like it, and I don't.  Sigh.  And neither does Vinodog 2.  I generally find that rain cramps one's style; whether that style is wanting to start pruning grapevines, or, simply, wanting to go for walkies.
Undeterred by the inclement weather, V2 and I decided to brave the wind and the rain and take ourselves over to Alston Park for a brisk walk. We both got really wet, and muddy.  And it wasn't that brisk as it took a little extra time to circumnavigate all the streamlets coming out of the hills and vineyards.
There is a little bit of pruning going on here and there around the valley, but not much.  Of all the vineyards around Alston Park, over on the west side of the valley, only one small section of one vineyard has been pre-pruned.  It is early days yet, the pruning-season is only just beginning, but the long range weather forecast is for extended periods of rainy weather.  V2 and I are hoping the meteorologists are wrong.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Capping it off.

I don't know how he does it, but once again Vinomaker brought a wine up from the cellar, to have with dinner recently, that he hadn't the foggiest idea as to how the wine came to be in Vinoland in the first place. Vinomaker is a veritable international-wine-man of mystery, I tell ya!
Unlike other times, when Vinomaker will pour a glass of mystery wine for me to taste blind, this time he handed me a corkscrew and had me open the wine instead.  However, the bottle didn't have a cork closure, or even a screw cap. Nope, to open this bottle of wine I had to turn the corkscrew around 180° and use the bottle-opener end.  How exciting, something fun and unusual, the wine bottle had a crown cap closure.  But wait, not only did the bottle have an unorthodox closure, but the bottle, a sort of wine/beer bottle hybrid, was a full litre in volume.  Whoo hoo!  I was being entertained so much by the packaging that I didn't even look to see what the wine was, other than it was a white.
The wine turned out to be Austrian in origin: a H&M Hofer, 2013 Grüner Veltliner (Weinviertal DAC).  What a great quaffing wine; tart, refreshing, appley, citrusy, with a tiny hint of herbaceousness, this Grüner Veltliner was just delightful.  I don't care how this wine made its way to Vinoland, I just know I want more to appear.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rain stopped play.

Today was the day that the new Oakville Crossroad bridge, the bridge that makes it possible to reach Highway 29 from the Silverado Trail, was supposed to be completed.  I say supposed because, (like anything to do with government it seems), the bridge is not yet finished.  Shocker! Closed due to a small 4.1 earthquake that occurred on May 21st of last year, this was the first time I had driven up close to the bridge since the day before the temblor struck.  So, for the past 8 months, if I had had the sudden urge to treat myself to a latte, or a $15.00 bar of chocolate, I would have had had to endure an almost 17 mile round trip instead of the usual 3 miles.
Citing rainy weather (damn you, El Niño), the Napa County Public Works Department has said it needs several consecutive dry days so that it can finish striping the lanes, etc.  The new opening day, for the $5.2 million bridge, has yet to be announced.  Sigh.
I am thinking, perhaps, that if a few English workies had been on this particular construction project that the Oakville Crossroad bridge would have been finished on time.  If the English continually had to wait for rainy weather to be absent for several days on end we'd never get anything built.  Thud recently finished building this Gothic cottage.  There was no playing around, Thud built his bothy come rain or shine.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Morning in the Winery: 3.

This morning, Vinomaker and I attended the 3rd annual Morning in the Winery (MITW), an event sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners and meant specifically for locals.  This year there were six wineries to choose from; Leaf and Vine, Starmont Winery & Vineyards, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, ZD Wines, Frank Family Vineyards and Laura Michael Wines.  I chose Starmont simply because it was closest to home.  Actually, in all honesty, Leaf and Vine is probably fractionally closer to Vinoland, but I have been wanting to visit Starmont for a while.  So Starmont, located on the very edge of the Los Carneros AVA, it was.
Winemaker Jeff Crawford was our host for a tour of the facility which is a certified Napa Green Winery (and he went on about the winery's greenness extensively).  But he also spoke a little bit about viticulture, winemaking and the history of Starmont itself.  Starmont is owned by the Schlatter family who also own Merryvale Vineyards.  Whilst touring, I got to taste a Chardonnay and Pinot noir, not surprising as those two grape varieties are widely grown in the Carneros.  After the tour was over, Vinomaker and I wandered into the tasting room where they were letting visitors taste a Starmont, 2012 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  Not an outstanding Napa Cabernet, but outstanding because its retail price was a paltry $29.00, (i.e. paltry by Napa standards).
Overall, I must say, it was a very pleasant visit to Starmont.  Nice building, very clean and organised, good wines and a chance to get away from a grey, drizzly January morning.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Once upon a 160 million years ago.

One hundred and sixty million years ago today the Napa Valley was underwater.  Not underwater as in the my-mortgage-has-a-higher-balance-than-the-market-value sense. No, the Napa Valley was literally underwater. Glug, glug.
I had the honour of spending yesterday evening in the rarefied company of a multitude of Oakville winegrowers and vintners: a veritable who's who of the Oakville AVA.  The Oakville Winegrowers were hosting geologist David G. Howell at the Robert Mondavi Winery and I was fortunate enough to be extended an invitation to attend.  Yay!  Once again, Mr. Howell's insight as to the geological history of the Napa Valley, specifically Oakville, and its influence on present-day grape-growing was riveting stuff. God bless vulcanism, plate tectonics and glaciation.
Aside from the 160 million year geological-education, I was given the opportunity to sample a plethora of Oakville wines, mainly from the 2012 vintage, prior to the presentation beginning. Really fascinating stuff, the presentation and the wine.  All of the attendees had contributed bottles of their own wines for the pre-presentation meet-and-greet.  I have to say, of all the wines represented, the TWWIAGE Cabernet sauvignon really stood out from the crowd.  That made me very happy.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Out with the old.

Out with the old, but not necessarily in with the new.
Usually I am not one for making New Year resolutions, but this year I have resolved to declutter my life.  I just have too much stuff.  I am challenging myself to throw out, or recycle, at least one item a day.  The item to be binned does not have to be something substantial, it just has to be something that I no longer have a use for and is just sitting collecting dust.  I am doing good so far, I even threw away three things today. Vinomaker dug up this bottle of Jackson's Napa Soda down by Vinoland's creek a few months ago and it has sat in his woodshop ever since.  I have decided, for now, that it can stay.
Napa Soda Water was bottled at a natural springs, located on Soda Canyon Road, between 1875 and 1929.  The property eventually became the Soda Springs Resort which was owned and operated by a Colonel J. P. Jackson.  The property had an interesting history: it was eventually destroyed by fire in 1929.  Although this bottle is probably about 100 years old it does not have any monetary value, well, perhaps $10.00.  But, seeing as Jackson is a family name, it's a keeper.  The bottle will have to be put to some use though, perhaps as a vase when the daffodils begin to appear in a few weeks time. This small piece of Napa Valley history has to have a job if it is going to stick around Vinoland.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Joie de vivre!

This year, in homage to the people of Paris, I went 100% Français in the selection of wines for my traditional New Year's Eve bubbly event. Real Parisians, one and all, demonstrated remarkable stoicism in 2015 when faced with abominable barbarism.  Three cheers to freedom!
The wines?  Of the three Champagnes in tonight's tasting, the Perrier-Jouët was, unquestionably, my favourite.  A perfectly delightful tipple.
It had been quite a stressful day, with my little Vinodog 2 spending most of it at a veterinary clinic having an emergency surgical procedure, but, thankfully, the prognosis is good.  So tonight, in celebration of life, I had an extra glass of the Perrier-Jouët.  Tchin-tchin to 2016.
A Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sweetly doing nothing, or a lot.

Yesterday, I spent almost 2 ½ hours running errands for the owners of TWWIAGE.  I am not complaining, whilst I was out and about, I got to visit some of the most iconic, and prettiest, wineries in the entire Napa Valley.  And high on the pretty-o-meter is the driveway leading to the Far Niente Winery.
The driveway, that wends its way up to the gates of the Far Niente grounds, is impressively lined with more than one hundred Ginkgo biloba trees which look good not only in the summer months, but are very striking even now in the winter. Well done, Far Niente, well done.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Choosing stocking fillers can be fun, especially if said stocking fillers are for wine-lovers because there are so many to choose from.
In Vinomaker's stocking this year was the Capabunga, an innovative, liquid tight, silicone closure for partially used bottles of wine, so that they can be stored on their side in a refrigerator. The folks at CapaBunga also came up with the CapaBubbles a product which turns a partially emptied sparkling wine bottle into a screw cap, (a product absolutely not necessary in Vinoland).  But this post is not about how useful, and fun, CapaBunga's products are.  No, this post is about the fun, whimsical, bottle-shaped UPC code on the Capabunga's packinging.  I just love it, it's a great design.  God is in the detail.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Christmas: 2015.

A very Happy Christmas to all from Vinoland.  I might possibly remember Christmas Day 2015 as my first ever white Christmas in Napa: the frost was so heavy this morning that everywhere was indeed white.  No doubt due to the elevated humidity, from all the rain we have been having of late, there was just more moisture than normal to freeze.  It was just gorgeous.
Wishing you all a joyful day filled with family, friends, good food and great wine.  And a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to all.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve, 2015.

I spent the entire day baking and preparing food; two different types of bread; two batches of mince pies (thanks to Thud for the new mince pie tin); and a massive amount of 'Puppy Chow' (aka Chex Muddy Buddies).
I had so much fun as I mixed and stirred, whilst listening to, and singing along with, my favourite Christmas carols ('Once in Royal David's City' being my all time fave).
A happy Christmas Eve to everyone.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Solstice, 2015.

Looking north from Oakville on this the winter solstice, except there is nothing much to look at besides the rain and clouds.  A grey, rainy morning gave way to a grey, rainy afternoon.  So, yes, not much to see and even less to photograph on this winter-solstice sunset.  Except there was no detectable sunset.  And the solstice is not until 4.48 a.m. GMT (which will be the 22nd December PST) - which is about four hours from when this photograph was taken.  But you get my drift.
Happy winter solstice, everyone.
Sing it, Ian!