Thursday, January 18, 2018

Pretty Milkmaids all in a row.

I was going to start pruning Vinoland's grapevines today, but it's raining, hmmph!  So, instead, Vinodog 2 and I went for an extra walk, a wet one.  Traipsing up the hill, a steep private road with three homes on it, which runs north from behind Vinoland, I was reminded that last week, whilst doing the same walk, I'd spotted a small white-flowered plant that I'd never seen before.  It goes without saying that I didn't know its name...had to rectify that.  After quite a bit of searching in my modest home-library and on the internet, with no luck, I gave up.
Never fear, I had one last resource at my disposal: Ellen Dean, Curator of the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity.  I have had the great fortune of being helped in identifying a plant once before by Ms. Dean, so I thought I'd bother her once again in the identification of this weed.  Within 20 minutes I had the identity of my mystery wild flower:
"That isn't a weed!  That is the beautiful milk maids, Cardamine californica - one of our earliest native wildflowers in the mustard family.  How lucky you are to have it!"
I am lucky.  Having such a person as Ellen Dean to bother when I need help identifying the flora that flourishes in my little corner of California makes me very lucky.  I'm also lucky to have a milkmaid now growing in Vinoland - I transplanted one of the pretty, little plants.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Party like it's MMXVIII.

Weather, beautiful; Rose Bowl, exciting; Supermoon, impressive; Vinodog 2, festive.  I hope everyone had a very enjoyable and normal first day of the new year.
A happy 2018 to all!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Trois French fizzes!

On this, the seventh day of Christmas, not wanting to bother trying to procur three French hens, and being four days late anyway, I am making do with three bottles of Champagne for my annual New Year's Eve festivities.  As one can see, The Widow is heavily featured.  Go 'ed, Mrs. Cliquot!  I hope a bubbly-filled night is ahead for all.
Have a very Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The net weight of a wet winter.

I spent a little time out in the vineyard today, un-pegging pegs and removing the bird-netting from the Pinot grigio vines.  I probably should have performed this little vineyard operation before now, as soon it will be pruning-time, but I ran the risk of being bonked on the head by an acorn, or two thousand.  Yikes!
I swear, I have never seen so many acorns as I have this autumn/winter.  There are years when the acorns are noticeably more bountiful than other years, but this year the sheer number of acorns has just been insane.  And they haven't stopped falling yet.  They're everywhere, not just in the bird-netting.
No doubt a result of the disastrous amount of rain that California experienced last winter, I'm afraid that if they all germinated and grew into oak trees there wouldn't be much room left for anything else in Vinoland.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Dogmas!

This festive little poochie wants to wish everyone a very happy Christmas.  My little Vinodog 2 certainly enjoyed opening her presents this morning, especially the edible one.  And as far as I am concerned, I want to wish one and all a very safe and merry Yuletide.  "For it is in giving that we receive."  St. Francis of Assisi (and approved by V2).

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Gaudete, 2017.

It's Gaudete Sunday, once again (funny how that happens).  My rosé of choice for this third Sunday of advent is a little something from the Côtes de Provence, a 2016 Fleur de Mer.  I picked this wine because I liked the name, Flower of the Sea.  And also because I felt like continuing with the French-themed weekend I am having; TWWIAGE's Christmas shindig, last night, was at a French restaurant.
A lovely pale salmon-pink, the Fleur de Mer is a little lean, but it does have a little bit of citrus, a little bit of white-heart cherry and a distinct briny vibe.  Of course, I could be just imaging that.
Sing it Maddy!

Friday, December 01, 2017

Oh, life.

Erm, hello.  As months go, November was a bit of a bust and I am happy it is over.  December is now here, thank goodness.
Time marches on and the Napa Valley is still busy with harvest.  However, it is not grapes that are being harvested right now.  No, it is the other crop, olives.  The olive harvest is in full swing and, at least to my untrained eye, it looks like it is a bumper crop this year.  Harvesting olives doesn't look like much fun, plain tedious if you ask me.  And the rewards are not as plentiful as from the positively-bursting-with-juice grape, although just as delicious.  I was talking to the gentleman whose crew was harvesting the above olives and he told me that he only expected a yield of 15 gallons of oil from each half ton bin.  No wonder good olive oil is so pricey.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Muscat's last stand.

Vinogirl is back in Vinoland.
I may have returned from my trip to Blighty, but Vinoland's grapevine leaves are currently in the process of, well, leaving.  The biological aging of the vines, senescence, is very definitely taking place.  Whilst the leaves were mostly green when I left, just over three weeks ago, they are now, for the most part, yellow.  In fact, the leaf in the photograph is one of the very last leaves on the Orange muscat vines.  Theory holds that it is decreasing day length that triggers the biological process of senescence.  I really can't blame the leaves for departing, I do not like the nights closing in myself.  But I'll survive: I'll patiently wait for the reappearance of Vinoland's grape leaves next March.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Remembrance Sunday.

My visit home has been a rather trying trip, but, as always, it is coming to a close.  It is with mixed feelings that I leave England now.
I did manage to slip in a little bit of English pageantry this afternoon, a Remembrance Sunday parade and the laying of wreathes of poppies at a local war memorial.  Although a sombre event, it did put the faintest of smiles on my face.  Lest we forget.
Bye, bye Blighty.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

There can be smoke without fire.

This photograph was taken on the 16th of October, the day I returned to work at TWWIAGE (after missing a week due to the wildfires that raged through my neighbourhood and the greater Napa Valley).  Whilst my home was by this time safe, the fires continued to burn around the valley (like here on the western Oakville hills, above the Robert Mondavi Winery), the air was still thick with smoke and people's nerves were worn a little thin.  Thankfully, the calamitous fires are now history: albeit recent history.
I've been busy since I arrived home, family stuff, but last night I was able to catch up on some wine industry news reading, e.g., Karen MacNeil's Winespeed newsletter.  I generally like Winespeed, it contains short, snappy wine-factoids. (If I want to know more about a particular wine varietal, region or industry news I can look further into the topic myself.)  In the October 27th issue, in a piece subtitled 'From the Oh No Files - Smoke Blunder', Ms. MacNeil takes umbrage at San Francisco restaurateur Michael Mina on the opening of his new restaurant, International Smoke.  Editorialising that the opening of the grill is ill-timed, MacNeil deftly succeeds in making smoke a trigger word.  Really?  How long will this imposed moratorium on uttering the word smoke last?  Are the words fire, flame, burnt or singed included?  Is there a geographical boundary, i.e., if Mina was opening his restaurant in San Jose, some 80-plus miles farther to the south, would it be permissible for him to use smoke in the naming of his eatery?  MacNeil's premise is specious and her 'Oh No Files' item is merely a silly, column inch filling, fluff piece.  Yes, silly, except for the fact that it is rather irresponsible in its criticism of Chef Mina and the naming of his new enterprise.  I think some of the wildfire smoke must have addled Ms. MacNeil's cranium.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween: 2017.

I started the month off with a photograph of Vinodog 2, so I'll finish the month off with another.  My adorable little imp is probably going to enjoy some California sun this afternoon, whilst I go out trick-or-treating with some little imps over here.
It's not exactly cold right now in Blighty, it is quite mild, but it's not exactly California either.  This morning, Thud, Mrs. Thud and I enjoyed a very pleasant walk along the beach at New Brighton, a town across the River Mersey from Liverpool.  New Brighton, once a seaside-resort destination for Liverpudlians, is nowadays blessed with the singular advantage of having a superb riverfront view of Liverpool.  There was no wind, which was unbelievable, so we did not get blown all over the place.
Our sandy perambulation was enhanced by a RAF fly-by (the pilot navigating along the shoreline, no doubt headed to RAF Valley on Angelsey) and the rumble of distant machine-gunfire (soldiers training) from Altcar Rifle Range, some 15 miles north of Liverpool.  Cool.
Happy Halloween, ghoulies and ghosties.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Friday night wine.

My journey to England was fantastic.  Well, the connections and timing, that is.  The transatlantic portion of my trip was super bumpy.  I have never experienced such turbulence on a flight, it didn't bother me at all.  After decompressing for a couple of days, Thud treated me to a really nice wine on Friday night (paired with the best wood-fired oven pizzas).  He'd purchased it from my favourite shop, Marks & Spencer.
The Amalaya, Blanco De Corte, 2016 Torrentés-Riesling (Calchaquí Valley, Argentina) was delicious; crisp, fruity, aromatic and refreshing.  Ever so slightly off-dry, the blend worked well with the acidity of the tomato sauce and especially with the crispy pancetta pizza.  Yum and yum.
It's good to be home.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Get back...

...to where I once belonged, Part 11.
"Off I go into the wild blue yonder..."  I have retrieved my passport and green card from the bag that I stuffed them into during my evacuation from Vinoland (due to the October 9th wildfire) owing to the fact that I'll be in need of them later today.  Yes, once again, I am off home to Blighty.  Just me, my passport, my green card, a canine-adorned credit card, some hard cash and a fairly large suitcase chock-full of spicy-cinnamony-pumpkiny-goodness.  Excess baggage, here I come.
Get back JoJo!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A pressing moment.

This afternoon, Vinomaker and I pressed off the Cabernet franc (CF) that we picked October 6th.  It seems like an age since we harvested those grapes.  The entire week of October 9th-15th is a complete blur: being in a constant state of emergency can have that effect, I suppose.
Vinomaker had decided to co-ferment the CF with a a batch of Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) from a vineyard on Zinfandel Lane, St. Helena.  It turned out to be a great fermentation - steady and very aromatic.  The taste of the young blend did not disappoint.  Throughout pressing, it's a good idea to sample the wine periodically to ensure that squishing the skins, seeds and stems does not negatively impact the finished wine, i.e., elevating astringency or bitterness.  (The different levels of pressing are called fractions.)  When possible, Vinomaker keeps the free-run and the pressed juice separate, affording him blending opportunities in the future.  The free-run and the pressed juice from this wine both tasted wonderfully full, rounded and supple.  And very cherry.  It's a pity that it will be about 2 years until I get to drink this wine again.  Roll on 2019!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Please rain on my parade.

I normally dislike rain, I may have mentioned that once or twice in the past.  Actually, I'm positive that I have.  Vinodog 2 and I spend a lot of our time in the great outdoors, which means that when water does fall from the sky it unfailingly curtails our al fresco activities.  Not usually a pleasant scenario, as VinoCur does not like to have a wet tail and I don't like to have curly hair.  However, I have to admit that the rain that was forecast for last night, and appeared right on schedule, was just what the length and breadth of the scorched Napa Valley was thirsty for.  Wine Country was desperately in need of some moisture - other than that which came out of a fire hose, or a helicopter equipped with a Bambi bucket.  I was more than willing to sacrifice my desire for straight hair.
There are charred leaves all over Vinoland; on the vineyard floor, on the crush pad, on the driveway, on the hill, on the deck and on the doormat.  The intensity of the fire, the ferocity of the wind and the accumulation of combustible vegetation meant that embers, ash and the aforementioned charred leaves were deposited far and wide.  (Though not far enough away, the fire raged less than a half mile from my doorstep.)  My and V2's morning parade, past our neighbours' homes that were mercifully spared the ire of Mother Nature, was crisp and fresh.  Sadly, the now moistened blackened hills look gloomily blacker.  Sigh.