Sunday, September 14, 2014

In the warm California sun.

Enough of my lollygagging with earthquakes, wine trains, AVA signs and that certain gargle of Grenaches.  Enough, I say! 
I spent an entire day spent in the vineyard today, pulling leaves in the Syrah and admiring the pretty sight that was these back-lit Pinot grigio grapes.  But wait a minute, what else is going on in the Pinot grigio block besides a impromptu photo opportunity?  Oh, not much, just 25.6 °B, a pH of 3.48 and a TA of 7.25.  Yikes, it's time!
Like clockwork, the mini heatwave that happens early, every September has done it's magic in bringing the fruit close to harvest perfection.  Of course, these numbers don't paint the whole picture: whilst the fruit tastes pretty darn good, the seeds have still not quite reached phenolic maturity.  So, tomorrow, the Pinot grigio vines will have the bejesus watered out of them to try to buy some further maturation time.  Slow down little grapies!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Yountville AVA.

Guide books often refer to the town of Yountville as being the "culinary capital" of the Napa Valley.  Indeed, famed chef Thomas Keller has three acclaimed restaurants, and a stellar bakery (yum), in this small town.  However, Yountville, to me at least, is more significant as the place where grapevines were first cultivated in the Napa Valley.  Oh, and Yountville also has great Christmas lights.
George Calvert Yount was the first United States citizen to be awarded a fairly sizeable Spanish land grant from the Mexican government back in 1836.  Yount called his land Rancho Caymus and on it he built a cabin and a grist mill making him the first Euro-American settler in the valley.  In 1855 Yount paid for a surveyor to lay out the boundaries for a village he called Sebastopol, despite the fact that there was a nearby town, one valley over, already named that.  Eventually, in 1876, two years after Yount's death, the town was renamed Yountville in honour of it's founder.
Yountville did not become an American Viticultural Area (AVA) until 1999.  With 2,700 acres of planted vineyards, this AVA has a rather unique climate.  Moderated by the Yountville Mounts (which is actually just one rather large hill that waylays the marine fog as it advances up, through the valley), the relatively cool climatic conditions here lend themselves to great grape growing.  Interestingly, there are more grape-growers than actual wineries in Yountville.  For example, Gamble Family Vineyards is considered an Oakville winery, but they produce a Yountville AVA Sauvignon blanc, that I have enjoyed in the past, which hails from a vineyard in the AVA that they own and farm.  I have, however, also enjoyed wines from wineries that are in the Yountville AVA proper, e.g. Goosecross Cellars, Dominus Estate and Noah Vineyards, to name but a few.  Yountville is a compelling AVA.
Four down, twelve to go.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I believe in pink.

Vinomaker and I are still working our way through our "gargle" (thank you, Thud) of Grenaches.  Thus far, mid-gargle so to speak, there have been a couple of hits and a few misses.  This rosé offering, the Bergerie de l'Hortus, 2013 Pic St. Loup (Coteaux du Languedoc), was a definite hit.  A GSM, made in the saignée method, this delightful pink wine had plenty of ripe fruitiness going on; raspberry, strawberry and a little tropical something that I couldn't quite identify.  A little floral, a little creamy, with very balanced acidity, this was a very pleasant tipple.  Love the label too - modern, fun and very un-Frenchlike. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A fortnight later.

It has been two weeks today since Napa's 6.0 earthquake rattled many of downtown's historic buildings.  And, let's face it, this being California, there were precious few historic buildings to begin with.  This past Thursday was the first time I had ventured into downtown Napa proper, as I had some errands to run, and I was surprised to see that the overall state of the town is definitely as bad as the news media make it look.
Vintner's Collective, on the corner of Main and Clinton, is one such building that sustained considerable damage in the quake.  The collective, which showcases wines from boutique wineries that are perhaps too small to have their own tasting rooms, is housed in a building that hails from around 1875.  Or at least it was.  The building is a total mess, but apparently they are going to be able to rebuild it as the internal structure is intact.  It's an attractive building and I'm really glad it is going to be saved.  Hopefully, engineers will be able to save the Second Street Post Office and The Goodman Library also.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy Blogday.

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the birth of Vinsanity.  Six years!  And this is my 891st post.  I do go on, don't I?  I'm starting my day with a celebratory breakfast: Earl Grey and a carrot cupcake, whoo hoo!  Perhaps I'll go wild and have some bubbly with tonight's dinner.
Again, thank you to all the nice folks who bother to read and comment on Vinsanity, I love the feedback.
Roll on year 7!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Stags Leap District AVA.

I had some errands to attend to up valley today.  Traffic on the Silverado Trail was pretty sparse, so I was able to pull over and take a photo of the Stags Leap District AVA sign.  It was a gorgeous day for a drive and I enjoyed passing by many picturesque vineyards on my way up to Miner Family (Oakville AVA) to purchase some wine for Vinomaker.  I almost felt like a tourist.
The Stags Leap AVA is a beautiful part of the valley, topographically stunning due to the lofty Stags Leap Palisades to the east and the soft, rolling hills to the west.  But the AVA is perhaps most famous for being the home of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, the winery whose 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon took first place in the red wine category at the historic 'Judgement of Paris' in 1976. 
Cabernet Sauvignon was first planted in this AVA in 1961 by Nathan Fay and to this day Stags Leap's 1,200 acres of planted vineyards are mainly dedicated to the cultivation of Bordeaux grape varieties - with a bit of Chardonnay and Zinfandel thrown in.  And while this year the AVA is only celebrating it's 25th anniversary, the Stags Leap District has been a grape-growing region since the late 1800s.  Note to self...must find something, Stags Leap-ish, in the cellar with which to toast the AVAs milestone.
Three down, thirteen to go.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A gaggle of Grenache.

I don't think there is an actual collective noun that is specific to a group of Grenache wines.  I just like gaggle and Grenache together, although bevy (as in quail), or bouquet (as in pheasants) might be more appropriate.  But I digress.
Vinomaker has been on a bit of a Grenache binge of late.  He has been promised some Grenache grapes this year and so, seeing as he has never made this particular wine varietal before, he has been out on a Grenache investigative-shopping spree (mostly Napa and Sonoma iterations).  Consequently, we both have been, and will be, tasting a fair amount of this wine varietal (whose grape is a native of the Rhône Valley) in order to get a little better acquainted with Californian-style Grenache. 
The Frith, 2012 Grenache Napa Valley, was an early standout for me; light to medium bodied, lots of raspberry (Vinomaker got strawberry), candied-cherry, a hint of spiciness and rather food friendly.  Sigh, unfortunately, in my estimation it had a tad too much oak.  Otherwise, the Frith was an intriguing little wine.
Most of the wines in Vinomaker's Grenache collection are blends containing Syrah and Mouvedre (GSMs).  But one, the Mathis, 2012 Grenache Sonoma Valley, contains Petite Sirah, Carignane and even a little Alicante Bouschet (a tinturier variety).  If I deem any of the other wines in the gaggle blog-worthy I'll more than likely post about them right here. 
At this rate, I may tire of Grenache before the next International Grenache Day, which is slated for September 19th, rolls around.  We'll see.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

View from a train.

Today, Vinomum and I had lunch on the Napa Valley Wine Train.  We spent a leisurely 3 hours travelling up and down the valley (at about 15 miles per hour), gazing at moving vineyard-vistas, eating a three course meal and quaffing a bottle of Mumm Brut Prestige.  Life could be worse. 
The Wine Train was relatively quiet for what is considered peak season in the Napa Valley - harvest time.  Our waiter informed us that a lot of prospective passengers had cancelled their reservations due to fears related to Sunday's earthquake.  What a shame!  I don't think there are many other pastimes that could possibly be much more soothing to frayed nerves than sipping bubbly whilst being unhurriedly ferried through beautifully calming scenery. 
The wine list needs some help, and the waiter could do with brushing up on his facts a little bit, but other than that Vinomum and I had a wonderful afternoon ride on the Wine Train.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Still shaking!

With new barrels arriving at TWWIAGE, in anticipation of the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon harvest, wine-life goes on after a rather major earthquake.  Watching news coverage of the damage at certain wineries, (notably two crumpled-like-a-soda-can, 10,000 gallon, stainless steel tanks at the Hess Collection), I realise that TWWIAGE got off very lightly.  My employers only suffered the loss of a few cases of personal wine that were still stacked in cases, not unpacked and placed in the diamond shaped wine bins.  And Napa is still shaking.  Thud and his family got little sleep on Sunday night due to all the aftershocks.  I myself was awakened at 5.32 a.m. this morning by a small temblor, followed by another at 6.44 a.m.  California, man!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Shake, rattle, but no roll.

Vinomaker and I had been saving this magnum of Havens, 2001 Syrah Napa Valley for more than a decade.  Not for any particular, special occasion, maybe just a nice dinner with friends who appreciate Syrah.  But as of 3.20 a.m. this morning, courtesy of a 6.0 earthquake, this 1.5 litre bottle of Syrah no longer exists.  Hate when that happens!  It was a very violent, shaking type of earthquake, and very noisy as everything was rattling.  Add to that the sounds of things falling from the walls, shelves and in the pantry.  When I opened the refrigerator this morning most of the contents fell on me.  It was very different from the rolling motion of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  Things could be worse. 
Vinomaker, Vinodog 2 and I are unscathed.  And so are my visiting English family.  However the farmhouse in which they are staying, on the westside of the valley which was hardest hit, has took a real beating.  Thud is not even sure if they can stay there tonight; no power, no water, and a very unsafe chimney stack.  What a way to begin the last week of their holiday.
Vinoland fared much better.  The main water supply pipe to our well ruptured, but Vinomaker was able to turn the water off quickly before the cellar suffered major water damage.  We did not lose electrical service.  In total, just three bottles of wine broke.  Thankfully, all the barrels of our 2013 vintage stayed put on their barrel racks...phew! 
Clean up is complete, now everything is just drying out.  I'm definitely having a glass of wine with dinner tonight, perhaps something I have been saving - before Mother Nature disposes of another valued bottle of wine for me.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Happy birthday Thud!

Today, to celebrate Thud's birthday, the entire English contingent (including V2 - English heritage, you know) drove over to Stinson Beach for a day at the seaside.  The marine fog has been a bit persistent of late, but today we couldn't have asked for better weather, it was just gorgeous.  The kids frolicked in the surf, I took photographs of jellyfish, the babies ate sand, we all got pink...the usual stuff you do on the beach.  Fun!
Our evening repast was not a crab-feed, as could possibly be inferred by the accompanying photograph, no, we were all too tired to prepare a huge birthday meal.  So instead we dined on take-out Chinese food; washed down with a 2005 Mumm Napa Valley, DVX; followed by a wonderful chocolate cake made by Tenbellies.  Yum!
Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside.  A good day was had by all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Happy anniversary: Version 2014.

Today is my, and Vinomaker's, 8th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary to us!
After a quick glass of Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta, Vinomaker and I dined at a neighbourhood restaurant, Cordeiro's Bar & Grill.  Under new owners (at a location that used to be the Bay Leaf restaurant), Cordeiro's was a bit of a confusing dining experience.  Pleasant, but confusing.  Fairly high prices (that won't do anything to attract new customers) and a poor wine list.  That is all I am going to say about Cordeiros's.
Happy anniversary Vinomaker.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Main Street Reunion 2014.

Another year, another annual Main Street Reunion Car Show.  This is one of my favourite downtown Napa happenings (I may have mentioned that before), I look forward to it every summer.  Once again my English family joined me in enjoying a very sun-reflecting-off-chrome afternoon. 
This year I saw several cars that made me want to own them, not just admire them from afar.  The list included a 1957 Ford Fairlane, a 1959 Chevrolet Impala and a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda.  The silver-flamed 1940 Ford Coupe in the photograph was just very pretty to look at.  Think I'm bad?  Thud had his eye on a lot more cars than me.
Afterwards we all ate together at the house Thud is renting, over on the westside of the valley, for the rest of his holiday.  Burgers and sausages were washed down with one of Vinomaker's finest syrahs, followed by a delicious tarte Tatin made with pears (instead of apples) from a tree on the property (thank you, Tenbellies).  A quick swim and a cup of tea later, I was snuggled up in bed with visions of tailfins dancing through my head.  A good time was had by all.
Vroom, vroom!

Friday, August 15, 2014

One for the tub: Sagrantino.

I have never been one for fads (and I'm not athletic enough to jump on the bandwagon), but I have always thought the '100 Grape Challenge' (1GC) is quite an interesting concept and a harmless sidebar to one's personal wine knowledge and enjoyment.  The 1GC is perhaps a decade old now and whilst I have never formally bothered to document all the different grape varieties I have tried over the years, the idea of the 1GC is always in the back of my mind when I try a new grape.  I have just added another variety to my personal list.
The Sagrantino grape hails from Umbria in central Italy: it is a intensely pigmented grape which produces a deeply coloured wine.  Sagrantino, and the wine that is produced from it, was new to me until I tried a bottle of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, (yes, the same Jacuzzi's who brought the world hot tubs and spas), 2011 Sagrantino, Tracey Hills (San Joaquin County, CA).  The wine was heady and luscious, but at the same time mellow and silky.  The nose was delightful.  On the palate lots of blackberry and black cherry abounded with an almost sweet, tongue-pleasing fatness to the mouthfeel.  The Sagrantino surprisingly held it's own against Thud's spicy-sweet goulash (served over gigli) and quickly disappeared from the dining table.  Hate when that happens, but the wine was a hit with everyone.  Now, I have to try the Italian version.

Friday, August 8, 2014

All set to net.

I'd estimate that Vinoland's Pinot grigio is about 90% through veraison.  The fruit this year looks fabulous.  As yet, my little feathered friends don't seem particularly interested in the fruit, nevertheless, it is time to get out the bird-netting and install it on the vines.  It's not a particularly pleasant job, but it is a necessary one.  After months of tending to the vines I don't feel a particular need to share the grapes with the avian population, so tomorrow the nets go on.  Clothes pegs at the ready!