Sunday, February 17, 2019

Meteorological mélange.

In less than 24 hours Vinoland experienced an epic variety of weather; rain, hail, frost, fog and glorious sunshine.  (And an earthquake.  Just a magnitude 3.7, close to Yountville). 
It was not forecast to rain today.  And it didn't.  Instead it hailed, again.  Vinodog 2 and I were treated to a fabulous rainbow, over a neighbouring vineyard, on our rather soggy afternoon perambulation.  An interesting weather day.
I did, however, manage to get all the Orange muscat and Pinot grigio canes tied down whilst the sun was shining.  In fact, I got a little bit warm working my way from vine to vine, but I loved it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wanted: an ark.

There has been a lot of rain lately, a lot.  And I may have mentioned it once or twice before, but I really don't like rain.  I like to be able to go out and about whenever I want to, and stay dry.  Simple as that.
It really bothers me when it rains so much that the road in front of TWWIAGE vanishes under the flooding, Napa County closes said road, and then I have to navigate through the deluge to head home.  Sigh.
I must admit, it was mildly entertaining watching some motorists hit the standing water at full speed and momentarily disappear from view.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Don't start me, fuzzy-buddy.

No, stop!  I am not ready for budbreak.  This promiscuous, young Viognier vine, the only Viognier vine in Vinoland, is trying its hardest to get going for the season.  I made it my job to set the little fellow straight, but not before I finished pruning the Pinot grigio vines. 
A good example of apical dominance in Vitis vinifera, albeit a very subtle one, this stunted lateral shoot was having delusions of grandeur.  The whole unit was removed (as is all the lateral growth of this nature), but not before the prospect of an early start to the growing season gave me, well, a little start.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Brass monkey weather.

There are no monkeys in Vinoland, but if there were, well, they'd be cold.  Yesterday and today, the Napa Valley has experienced its first real frosts of the winter.  There was one chilly day after the new year, but in no way was it cold enough to discommode any cannonballs.  We have been having a good amount of rain, though.
It was a crisp 29°F when I got up, nevertheless I ventured out into the vineyard to take this photograph.  I love it.  My drive to work revealed that the Mayacamas and the Vaca Mountains both had a light dusting of snow, beautiful.  And, at the top of the valley, Mount St. Helena was adorned with a white cape.  I felt like I was in Lake Tahoe, not the Napa Valley.  Very pretty.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I like lichen...

...but I'm besotted with bryophytes, aka mosses.  Which is just as well as Vinoland is covered in the green stuff right now: everywhere is very moist.  There has been quite a lot of rain thus far in 2019 and more is on its way.
Unfortunately, I don't know much about mosses.  I think moss is a fascinating plant, the way it can go dormant and survive through California's arid summers alone is amazing.  But with about 13,000 different species worldwide it is nigh impossible for me to identify any that are thriving in Vinoland right now.
I started pruning the Pinot grigio vines yesterday and it was a little concerning to me to be trampling all over the myriad of mosses that are growing between the rows and near the vines.  My anthropomorphism is raging right now, I'm contemplating wearing earplugs so I can be spared the bawling of the bryophytes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Choose your Chardonnay.

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.  Another staff blind-tasting at TWWIAGE this time squared off the 2016 Chardonnay (CH) against five other 2016s.  Once again, the TWWIAGE contender happened to be my favourite of the bunch.  For me, the second best wine turned out to be a 2016 Gary Farrell, Russian River Selection (Russian River Valley AVA).  My tasting notes were thus; candy, caramel apple, toast, nice mouthfeel.  A rather lovely little wine.
My least favourite wine, and the lowest rank amongst the majority of my fellow co-workers (great taste buds taste alike?), was a 2016 Mer Soleil Reserve (Santa Lucia Highlands AVA).  In my opinion, this wine was absolutely undrinkable.  And, surprise, surprise, or not, this wine hails from the cellars of the Wagner Family of Wines (Caymus...titter, titter).  Who drinks this stuff?  Apparently someone does because the Wagners make 59,000 cases of this plonk.
I'm so glad that there are alternative winemaking styles being employed with Chardonnay nowadays.  I personally never bought into the California style of this the most impressionable of grape varieties.  More choice is always good for the consumer, just don't choose the Mer Soleil.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Last night's tipple.

I love bubbly, I do.  I generally prefer a Blanc de noirs over a Blanc de blancs, but, honestly, if it is fresh and well balanced I'll drink it.  So when I was introduced to Tipp Rambler (TR), which is 100% Pinot noir, I was intrigued.  And thirsty.
A novel concept, in snazzy packaging (that almost Tiffany Blue, very attractive), I didn't quite get this little tipple at first.  It wasn't that TR was a bad wine; it wasn't flawed, it's just that it tasted like a sparkling rosé not a sparkling wine.  A subtle distinction, I know, but tasting is in the, erm, taste buds of the beholder, or something like that.  And it did not go with my grilled salmon, a tad disappointing.
It wasn't until I visited the TR website that I started to understand this little wine-offering.  I believe psychology has a lot to do with enjoying any wine and sitting around Vinoland on a Saturday evening just wasn't the best way to experience TR.  The whole concept of a portable libation, as a take-along to a picnic, a BYOB party or a barbeque, now rang an oenological-bell in my head.  TR comes in a four-pack, each bottle containing 187 ml.  I was gifted just one bottle of TR but it is something that I would indeed buy.  I'm not the TR target, but then I'm rarely anybody's target.  Sigh.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A quick fix.

Still suffering from a bit of a shopping-hangover from Christmas, this afternoon, when I had resolved to start pruning the Vinoland vineyard, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma; having worn out the left thumb of my old pruning gloves I really needed a new pair, today.  Not wanting to drive over to a certain hardware store on the other side of Napa to procure a pair, I decided to do a quick patch job with duct tape (AKA gaffer tape in Blighty) on my old gloves.  It did the trick.  In fact, I doubled up the tape and have decided to try to make my old faithfuls last one more pruning season.  Gloved-fingers crossed.

Friday, January 18, 2019

THIS is a weed.

I had to clamber down into a gully, contort my upper body and click away blindly with my phone, arm outstretched, to get a photograph of this winsome, little weed.  It was worth it.
Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), a member of the mustard family, is a weed whose leaves grow close to the ground in a rosette.  It's not a very tall plant, it has attractive, diminutive white flowers and I just love how unassumingly delicate it seems.  Looks can be deceiving, however.  My favourite thing about this weed is the violent, spring-loaded flinging of its mature seeds if you so much as look sideways at it.  Watch out!  I do love weeds (I might have mentioned that once, or twice, before), what I don't love is weed.
I get an awful lot of unsolicited emails in my Vinsanity inbox.  Most of them are wine-related, but not all.  (I tend to simply ignore the ones that mention Muscat/Muscato, titter, titter.)  Recently, I received one untypical email three times.  Initially, the email caught my attention with the sales pitch of, "...this would be a great story for Vinsanity."  Okay.  The email, introducing a Canadian company called Sproutly, extolled the virtues of, "the world's only water-soluble cannabis solution" and asked if I would be interested in speaking with Sproutly's CEO.  Erm, no!  The only mood-altering beverage that I am interested in is wine.
Old hippies (underachievers, hedonists, common or garden losers...), in their pot-induced delirium, ascribe all sorts of miraculous attributes to weed, marijuana, pot, grass, ganga, dope, Mary Jane, etc.  Call it what you will, by any other name, cannabis is a psychoactive drug with behavioural and health ramifications.  Besides, the fact is that old hippies just smell like skunk.  And although I like the skunk as an animal, beats me why anyone would voluntarily want to stink like one.
I don't see anything hypocritical in my enjoying a glass of wine now and again, with food, and friends (and as a necessity of my job), compared to someone whose preference is to get stoned.  I personally know of a couple of people who get inebriated in this way all day long, calling it 'recreation'.  Well, I could drink all day long, but that would be called, and rightly so, 'alcoholism'.
Old hippies never die, they just smell worse by the day.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Almost famous.

I had totally forgotten all about being asked to write a review for Making Your Own MeadThen recently, whilst I was looking for an unrelated email, I came across the original email with the request for a review of what, I still think, is a great little book.  I had furnished a quick review after reading the book last April, then heard no more.  I don't consider myself a particularly good writer, so I had no expectations of Fox Chapel Publishing using my brief write-up.  However, curiosity piqued, I hopped over to Amazon and did a quick search.
Lo and behold, there it was, my review, in all its black and white glory.  Upon showing my published vino-critique to Vinomaker, he just laughed and said, "Quintessential Vinogirl."  Hey!  I resemble that remark.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Chips and spread.

Yes, here it is, the obligatory, annual, first pile-of-prunings photograph.  I managed to finish pruning Vinoland's table-grapes today.  It took me a whopping 10 minutes to prune the remaining two vines.  I was exhausted afterwards, hee, hee.  The pruning of the table grapes created a small pile of vine-prunings, small enough that I could probably pick the whole thing up quite readily with both arms.
It's a completely different story when I get to the wine-grapes. 
It still amazes me, each and every year, how much vegetative-material the vines produce.  It's a viticultural miracle that nutrients in the soil combined with water and sunshine can create so much vegetation, shoots and leaves galore.  (Well, pruning determines the number of shoots, but Mother Nature dictates shoot-length.)  And clusters of grapes on top of that.
Of course, all that pruned wood needs to be disposed of.  The Napa Valley Grape Growers outline, in their Best Practices, an online educative resource, the four main ways of disposing of prunings; chop and disc; chop and cover crop; chip with a chipper; burn like billy-o.  (I predict, in the not so distant future that burning will be banned outright in the Napa Valley, even though it is the most efficient way of disposing of grapevine material.)  In Vinoland, we chip and spread - a practice that works best for our modest vineyard operation - returning all that vegetative matter back to the ground from whence it came.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The party's over.

Yes, it is time to return to reality; time for the party muselets to be thrown away; time for the New Year.
On the whole, I've been having a pretty slow start to 2019.  I did, sort of, start pruning today - one table-grapevine to be exact - before it began to rain.  Gotta start somewhere, titter, titter.  One vine at a time.
The weather has been quite damp this January and it has cramped my outdoors-style significantly.  I have, however, had time to read several books so it hasn't been a total loss.  And it's not like the vineyard is going anywhere.  I'll get to wherever I'm going, eventually.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The 2019 routine.

Humiliate the dog, walk through the vineyard, hang up my 2019 calendar (a complimentary calendar that comes with my subscription to American Vineyard magazine).  Wow!  It's 2019 already, how did that happen?  Next year we'll be out of the teens, crazy.
My immediate 2019 routine, well, starting pretty soon, will consist of pruning, training and other vineyard operations.  I have at least a dozen vines that need replanting due to them being dead, or dying.  And two end posts that have died and need replacing.  All fun stuff.
A happy 2019 to all!

Monday, December 31, 2018

See ya, 2018.

No messing around this New Year's Eve, Vinomaker and I planned on simply imbibing in our two favourite Champagnes.  The Widow is undoubtedly my go-to non-vintage bubbly, whilst the Cordon Rouge is most definitely Vinomaker's.  Sometimes it's good to stick with the tried-and-tested.
Vinomaker decided to blind-taste me on the two wines: nailed it.  Not that it mattered, I then proceeded in drinking equal amounts of each tipple.  It is no secret that I love bubbles.
The year 2018 is now history.  I'm hoping 2019 is the fabulous future.
A Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

December sun.

Even though, at this time of year, I always think I'd like to experience a white Christmas (snow, icicles, the whole shebang), I have to admit that a cold, but sunny, California December day is rather hard to beat.  There is nothing I like better between Christmas and the New Year celebrations than going for long walks with Vinodog 2.  I know V2 really enjoys our promenades also.
Today was no exception, strolling around V2's favourite off-leash dog area, in Alston Park on the west side of the valley, surrounded on three sides by vineyards (to further entertain me), it was cool, but not cold, and very bright.  V2 and I lingered until the sun began to dip behind the trees.
Although high winds are forecast for tomorrow, New Year's Eve, it still will be dry and sunny.  I am hoping that January 2019 will be like January 2015 when not one drop of rain fell in Napa.  Now that's my type of winter.  Shine on, sun!