Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Daily Globe.

In today's news, Vinoland's table grapes are also going through veraison.  The Red Globe grapes are enthused.  It just occurred to me that I have never posted a photograph of the Orange Muscat vines doing their veraison-thing.  Well, there's a good reason for that.  Veraison in white grapes is just not as dramatic as veraison in black grapes.  Grapes going from green to slightly less green versus grapes going from green to purple, way more paparazzi-worthy.
Veraison, read all about it on Vinsanity.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Colour me purple.

A little further along than I thought, the Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) vines are busy going through veraison.  A little bit of hens and chicks, but otherwise the crop looks good.  I've been preoccupied with the Syrah and the Pinot Grigio and hadn't really given the CS vines a thought.  That's all about to change, tomorrow the CS will have my undivided attention.  Well, that is until I have to put the bird-netting on the Pinot Grigio.
A woman's work...

Friday, August 10, 2018

Vineyard angel?

I don't think so.  This praying mantis may look harmless and angelic, but Stagmomantis californica is more adept at preying than praying.  Happy hanging about amongst my courgettes, this miss, or mister, looks more like a mischievous green devil than a cheery cherub. 
One of the most successful hunters in the animal kingdom, mantises will eat just about any insect they come across - including other mantises.  However, being so indiscriminate about what they snack on means that they will also prey upon other insects beneficial to a vineyard.  Oops!
This is the second mantis, in less than a week, to pop up out of nowhere and commune with me as I go about my business.  However, it didn't have much to say for itself, its mouth was full.  But that's alright, I'm just happy that Vinoland has such a diverse ecosystem.  Hopefully, this mantis will cooperate and help me keep a happy balance in the vineyard.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Smoke gets in your eyes.

The wonderful view that usually greets me and Vinodog 2 when we reach the top of the hill behind Vinoland on our daily walk doesn't exist right now.  Well, the view is there, but at present it isn't visible due to the amount of smoke that is in the air.  My Mayacamas Mountains vista is in hiding, I can barely see it at all.   Also the overall light quality is very odd making everything yellow and muted.  However, I'm thinking a photographer would probably see some benefit to the perpetual golden hour the Napa Valley is experiencing.
There are two major wildfires burning in Northern California right now.  The Mendocino Complex Fire is now the largest wildfire in California history (recorded history, that is), it has currently burned over 300,000 acres and is still not contained.  The Carr Fire in Shasta County, at present the 6th largest fire in California history, at approximately 180,000 is a mere tiddler in comparison.  And all the resulting smoke is drifting south to wine country.
I'm not really worried about smoke taint in the grapevines, but the possible reduction in light- and temperature-dependent photosynthesis is a little bit of a concern.  When it is this smoky, and it has been for the past 10 days, or more, the chlorophyll in the vines cannot absorb enough sunlight to synthesis the sun's energy into carbohydrates.  Bit of a problem when Vinomaker needs those carbohydrates (think sugar) to synthesise into alcohol.  It has already been a cool growing season, so lack of good quality sunlight now is an ongoing concern of mine.
Of course, my first thought is for the safety of anyone, or any animal, in the path of the many conflagrations burning around the entire state.  Godspeed firefighters.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Hey presto!

Ta-da!  Just like magic, veraison has also begun in the Pinot Grigio vines.
Generally, the crop looks good this year except for a little millerandage which is no doubt due to the cool, windy weather we experienced all spring long.  And especially when the grapevines were flowering.  The under-developed berries shouldn't be a problem in the resulting Pinot Grigio wine, but they could be an issue, giving undesirable green-flavours, in the Syrah and the Cabernet Sauvignon.  It's all good: this is the stuff that goes into making one vintage very different from another.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

The times they are a-changin'.

Or at least the grapes are, veraison is upon Vinoland once more.  It is very early in the process, but veraison has to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually in the Syrah vines (this year is no different).  I will be checking in the Pinot Grigio tomorrow for signs of veraison there.
I love the cyclical nature of farming grapes and the influence Mother Nature exerts over the whole affair.  Veraison 2018 is about a week behind last year which doesn't surprise me one bit.  After all, it has been a cooler than normal growing season.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Wine of the hour.

Every two weeks, the entire staff of TWWIAGE get together to partake in themed blind tastings.  Fundamentally educational, the tastings are often of a comparative nature, i.e., comparing a TWWIAGE wine to that of a peer (of the same vintage, but not necessarily the same AVA).
A recent Sauvignon Blanc (SB) tasting had TWWIAGE's  SB up against eight other producer's wines.
To cut a long story short, my favourite wine of the tasting did turn out to be the TWWIAGE SB (in all honesty I probably have a bit of a house palate), but the best of the rest, in my opinion, was a 2017 Hourglass (Napa Valley AVA).  The Hourglass had a really nice fruity nose, lots of lemon/lime/pineappley-lychee on the palate and wonderful mouthfeel.  However, at $44.00 retail, I am glad that the owner's of TWWIAGE footed the bill, not me!
It is nice to try something different now and then, as I tend to get myself stuck in a vinous-rut sometimes (besides, it is important to my job to be familiar with competitor's wines).  Even so, it can be quite difficult to pull myself out of aforementioned rut, as I just don't have a problem with drinking a wine, that I really enjoy, again and again.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Winemaking t'ain't what it used to be.

Last night, I attended a Napa Valley Small Vineyard Association (NVSVA) meeting that was held in the barn of Phoenix Ranch Vineyards.  I don't get to attend all of NVSVA's meetings, but when I do I relish the opportunity to catch up with friends and acquaintances.  The guest speaker at this session was Sue Langstaff who is a sensory scientist, an international consultant to beverage manufacturers and the creator of the Defects Wheel.   Sue's business, Applied Sensory LLC, provides analytical sensory services for the wine, beer and olive oil industries.
Sue began the evening by outlining the role a sensory scientist plays in the wine industry and described the process of how she trains panelists in the sensory evaluation of wine - to include qualities and defects.  Besides being distressed on being reminded that my taste buds only live for 30 days (R.I.P. little buddies, I'll miss you), there was a good discussion about wine drinkers and their ability, or inability, to identify what they are actually tasting.  Interesting stuff.
As the evening progressed talk turned to the wildfires of October 2017 and the presence, or not, of smoke taint in the wines of that vintage.  The offending compounds that contribute to smoky off-flavours in wine have been identified as guaiacol and 4-methylguaiacol.  To complicate matters, it turns out that these two compounds are also found in toasted oak barrels and are responsible for the lovely spicy, toasty aroma characters one enjoys in, e.g., a nice Cabernet Sauvignon.  Mind.  Blown.
In a brief moment of levity, one NVSVA grower asked if a 2017 wine should carry a smoke taint disclaimer label.  "Not if," quipped another NVSVA member, "you want to sell your wine."
There are many resources and services, including sensory and chemical analyses (photographed graphs, above) available to the modern day winemaker.  It's going to be interesting over the coming months, perhaps even years, to see exactly what wineries decide to do, if anything, with their 2017s.  I'm expecting smoke taint will be the hot topic of conversation for quite some time to come yet.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Sunny-flower Days.

Yesterday was another beautiful, sunny day in the Napa Valley: Oakville to be exact.  For the past few weeks I, and every other commuter and tourist traveling north and south on the Silverado Trail, have had the pleasure of espying an entire vineyard (a vineyard awaiting a replant, I assume) brimming with sunflowers.  Located on the northwest corner of the Oakville Crossroad, Rudd Winery have cultivated a veritable sea of Helianthus (much more impressive in person) for everyone to enjoy.  Or perhaps the folks at Rudd planted these flowers, of sunny-disposition, to pay homage to proprietor Leslie Rudd who passed on to greener pastures this past May.  A nice tribute, I hope Mr. Rudd is enjoying them too.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A little something missing.

Oh, I really wanted to like this wine; the concept was very appealing, that of a bottle-aged white wine (and a Semillon to boot) made by a woman winemaker.  The 2014 Little Frances Semillon, Luchsinger Vineyard (Lake County) produced by Aussie, Erin Pooley, promised to be something I would enjoy on many levels.  Alas, the wine, a gift from a neighbour, was undrinkable.  There was something a little funky on the nose, a little too heavy-handed of an approach to acidulation and, most unfortunately, little to no fruit.  A real shame.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Napa nest 8.

This is the second set of chicks this spring for one very busy house finch mother.  Right next to my front door, balanced on the top of a pair of outdoor lights, the nest of the Haemorhous mexicanus is looking a little worse for wear.  The four, fluffy chicks, huddled together in the nest, don't seem to care about the droppings accumulating around the edge of their weed, grass and horsehair-lined penthouse, so I suppose I shouldn't let it bother me either.  Both Vinomaker and I have stopped using the front door, as much as we normally would, so as to not unduly disturb the materfamilias in the raising of her brood.  I just love having baby critters around Vinoland.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Independence Day, 2018.

Happy 242nd birthday America!
Vinodog 2 (looking a lot like the cute canine-superheroine she is) and I would like to wish all American peeps a very joyous Independence Day.
Before composing this post, I took a quick look at Vinsanity's 'Independence Day' posts all the way back to the first one in 2009.  The overwhelming sentiments in each post are ones of pride and patriotism, both admirable qualities that this particular Englishwoman recognises in most Americans.  Last year's post, however, is still, if not even more, relevant this year.  If anyone living in America right now would prefer to exist under the tyrannical regimes of North Korea, China, Russia or Iran, please, feel free to go and try to live a life of personal liberty in one of those godforsaken countries.  Just sayin'.
God bless the United States of America.  (I'll even, albeit hesitatingly, include California and New York in my humble benediction.)
Oh...and God save the Queen!

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Fire season.

California is already well into fire season.  In reality, the time of the year that isn't considered fire season, here in tinderbox dry California, is lamentably short.
Yesterday afternoon, in what were eerily familiar conditions, the sun became obscured by smoke, the light quality changed dramatically, the temperature dropped 6°F in a matter of minutes and ash began to fall like snow.  Vinomaker and I sat for a little while, just watching as a thick grey smoke plume headed our way from the northeast, until the ash became too heavy to remain outside.  The fire, now known as the County Fire, began in Yolo County and grew overnight from 8,000 to 16,000 acres.
When I woke up this morning everything was covered in ash (very messy).  I worked for a bit in the Syrah vines this afternoon, but each time I reached for a shoot above my head I was showered with huge flakes of ash.  Not very pleasant.  A strong wind would rid the grapevines of their ashy-coating, but, alas, strong winds are the last thing firefighters need right now.
The fire, as I type, has now burned 32,500 acres and is 0% contained, and it has now spread to Napa County.  Godspeed to the first responders.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

How green is my valley.

I don't know if it's me, the light quality today, or the fact that Vinoland's grapevines got a little extra TLC last night, but everything in Vinoland just looks wonderfully verdant today.  The Pinot grigio grapes are definitely a little shinier: I'll explain.
In the never ending quest to produce good quality grapes from disease free vines, preventing pests from damaging the grape crop calls for a combination of techniques, or integrated pest management (IPM).  Along with cultural practices, sometimes chemical control, the use of pesticides, can be more effective in controlling pests (in the greater context of a broad IPM strategy).  Yesterday evening was the first time Stylet-Oil (SO) was used on the grapevines (with a little Mettle® fungicide thrown in for good effect).  SO is a little more effective against powdery mildew (Uncinula necator) (PM) in cooler growing seasons (like the one the Napa Valley is experiencing this year) versus the more conventional use of sulphur.  Sulphur needs warmer temperatures to volatize (65°F is the recognised minimum temperature required for sulphur activity against PM), whereas SO is not temperature dependent and so it acts as an eradicant, protectant and, most importantly, an antisporulant 24 hours a day.  In layman's terms, SO stops spores from growing, and insects from breathing.  And it makes baby-grapes shinier.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Happy Midsummer's Day.

A very cheery, yellow flowered weed currently blooming in Vinoland is perforate St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) a flowering shrub native to northern Europe and thus named because it can be found flowering on the feast day of St. John the Baptist, which is today. 
The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, falls on June 21st (or thereabouts, depending on GMT) and is the occurrence of the summer solstice, whilst Midsummer's day is traditionally observed on the 24th of June.  (The discrepancy in the date is said to have been exacerbated by variations in the Julian Calendar, only to be further confused by the Gregorian Calendar. Oh, those wacky Romans and Popes.)  The two days are often confused; as are the somewhat dubious medicinal benefits attributed to St. John's wort.  Methinks just looking at this sunny yellow flower would promote a positive mood in the biggest of whingers.
Have a dreamy Midsummer's day, and night, everyone.