Thursday, September 22, 2016

Go Vatican!

I borrowed the title of this post from a teaser in the subject line of Karen MacNeil's (author of the Wine Bible) weekly e-zine, Winespeed (September 16th issue).  I subscribed to Winespeed a few months ago, but of late it has become something of a mini-obsession with me - I just love it and look forward to it arriving in my inbox each Friday.
Winespeed is packed with fascinating wine facts and tidbits of vinous information.  It's a fun, snappy read; included therein is a weekly wine recommendation, a 'Wine Question of the Week' and the 'Verbatim' feature - a quote from some or other wine-personage.  And other good stuff.  So what was so interesting to me about the 'Go Vatican!' item in Winespeed?  Everything, it's the type of wine-factoid that I just geek-out on.
"16.  Number of gallons of wine consumed per person annually in the Vatican City State--the highest per capita consumption of any country in the world.  Only 836 people live in the Vatican, but the country's voluminous wine usage is partly the result of the Catholic celebration in which bread and wine are consecrated during the Mass.  By comparison, U.S. per capita wine consumption is about 3 gallons."
Anyone interested can subscribe to Winespeed here.
Oh, and happy first day of autumn!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Black Cat's meow.

This afternoon, Vinomaker and I spent a pleasant couple of hours at Black Cat Vineyard's harvest/wine club pick-up party.  Proprietor, and winemaker, Tracey Reichow was also releasing her 2014 Howell Mountain Zinfandel and 2014 Coombsville Syrah.  I had a quick taste of both new releases, but due to the rather toasty temperature, (it got to 89°F down the road in Vinoland), I stuck with a rosé that was being poured. And lots of water.  Lots of water.  I tasted enough of the Zinfandel, however, to determine that it did pair well with the barbequed ribs, Italian sausage and beef brisket with crispy grits that were being served, yum.
Good fun and good wine.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Whites are in.

It's been a long day, but Vinoland's two white grape varieties are now just grape juice and are safely chilling their little bottoms off in the cellar.  The Pinot grigio fruit looked beautiful and came in at 26 °Brix (not sure about the Orange Muscat sugar).  I'm pooped.
This year we experimented with rice hulls as a press aid and they really seemed to help with the extraction of more grape juice.  There was plenty to go around, enough to share with this thirsty honey bee.
Whites down, reds to go.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Berry close.

These Pinot grigio grapes are cuddled up and squished very close to each other.  They are also very close to being harvested.  Vinomaker tasted a few berries this morning and then requested that I collect some grapes for him to test.  A quick 100 berry sample later, the Pinot grigio's vital statistics are; 25.6°B, a pH of 3.4 and a TA of 7.4.  It appears that they are good to go.
The weather has cooled down considerably the past two days and it's suddenly feeling quite autumn-like.  I am glad that it has cooled down, (though, it has been quite chilly at breakfast the past couple of mornings), as it will buy me a little bit of time to get things organised for picking. Never a dull moment.

Friday, September 09, 2016

A red leaf day.

I have spent quite a bit of time in the vineyard the past two days.  I am still playing catch up, but I have also started to do some pre-harvest prepping; some leaf removal, a fair amount of canopy management and a little bit of weeding.  There were several, persistent stands of shortpod mustard (Hirschfeldia incana) and spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper) to be dealt with.  I tripped over a large mat of sharpoint fluvellin (Kickxia elatine) myself, so I think it made sense to remove any large weeds that may get in the way of those who will harvest Vinoland's grapes.
Even though it was a bit toasty out in the vineyard (especially yesterday afternoon) I had an enjoyable time and was even able to stop and have a look at the fruit, the odd insect (including the really odd insect that unexpectedly jumped on me, but which I reflexively flicked away before I could ID it) and the dark red leaf (in the photograph) with the telltale girdling on its petiole.  Darn insects!

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Happy Blogday: 2016.

Happy 8th anniversary of blogging to me!  Yup, it is eight years today since I wrote my first post on Vinsanity: this post is my 1,181st.  I have had a lot to say.
My niece, the one who sketched a glass of pretend wine for me when I was back home last April, and who is now 7 years old, recently presented me with another wine-themed drawing.  Should I be worried, or at the very least slightly concerned, that each time this child wants to draw something for me it involves wine? Hmmm.  I have been blogging for longer than she has been on the planet so I'm just going to blame it on osmosis.  Or something.
Thanks to everyone for commenting on, and thus contributing to, Vinsanity.
Roll on year 9!

Sunday, September 04, 2016


Today was a bottling day in Vinoland.  In an effort to tie up some odds and ends before our harvest begins, Vinomaker and I bottled a barrel (24 cases) of Syrah by ourselves.  The 2014 Syrah, from a small vineyard on Vichy Avenue (hence the title of this post, titter, titter), was all spicy-dark-berry-plum on the palate, and displayed a softer tannic profile than is usual for this varietal.  I think the Vichyites will enjoy it.
With loud music for motivation, the bottling event went rather speedily. Vinomaker had done a lot of prep work yesterday, so things moved along at a brisk pace.  I think I may have worked even quicker if I had had the musical accompaniment of The Ramones.  But, instead, I acquiesced to Vinomaker's choice of music, Lynyrd Skynyrd, as he is the winemaker after all; I am just chief cook and (almost literally) bottle-washer.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Sugar levels.

I tested the sugar in the Pinot grigio grapes for the first time today.  Using a handheld refractometer I took a simple measurement of the fermentable sugars available in a 100 berry sample from the vineyard and came up with a reading of 23.2 °Brix.  Not bad, for starters.
The 2016 growing season has been uncharacteristically cool and rather reminiscent of the 2010 growing season, methinks.  The month of August has been much cooler than is normal, so ripening has slowed down for everyone in the Napa Valley.  But the fruit looks great in Vinoland, so I think the future is looking sweet.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Party's over.

My family returned home to England yesterday, and today I returned to the vineyard.  I have a lot of catching up to do.
I usually like to post photographs of all four of Vinoland's grape varieties going through their particular physiological stages, but I was a bit busy this summer.  I totally missed the Cabernet sauvignon (CS) grapevines going through veraison.
Vinoland's CS vines are 100% through veraison, as they should be this time of year, yes, even my little slowcoach Clone 4.  And I missed it all. Now I have to get my head out of holiday-mode and into harvest-mode. (TWWIAGE harvested their first grapes of 2016, Sauvignon blanc, on August 25th.)  The grapes themselves will keep me on schedule: I am now on their timetable.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Beer jelly.

I have had a few beers of late.  And I have had some jelly also.  Today was the first time that I have ever had beer flavoured jelly.  Or beer flavoured Jelly Belly jelly beans to be exact.
A quick trip out of Napa with Thud and his three oldest children found us at the Jelly Belly Candy Company (located at One Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield, of course).  I just love seeing things being made and packaged (love bottling-time at TWWIAGE) and so I found the Jelly Belly factory very interesting.  One can witness the entire jelly bean making process at this very busy production facility.  We all had lots of fun, but at the same time learned a lot about food manufacturing.
Perhaps in an attempt to attract more adults, Jelly Belly are now offering wine and chocolate pairings in a '21 and over' tasting room.  And grown-up jelly bean flavours like 'Champagne' and 'Draft Beer'.  The champagne jelly beans tasted like stale, still white wine to me, but Thud thought the draft beer beans actually tasted like beer: my taste buds were not that convinced. Weird.  I'll just stick with Juicy Pear, my favourite flavour.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Birthday brews.

I have been very busy lately with family goings-on.  A lot of driving has been necessary, so, consequently, I haven't really been drinking.
I had one glass of wine last Friday night, which was my and Vinomaker's anniversary, an agreeable 2014 Chenin blanc from Vinum Cellars (Clarksburg AVA).  I had half a glass of beer at the Main Street Reunion car show on Saturday.  And on Sunday, in celebration of Thud's birthday, I had two bottles of beer; a bottle each of the Kona Brewing Company's Castaway IPA and Fire Rock pale ale.  Both beers were very pleasant and paired well with the tasty BBQ fare on my plate.  I'm not complaining, I'm having fun.
This evening, my family and I are planning on throwing an Earthquake Party: it is two years since a rather angry temblor shook the Napa Valley to its roots.  The little ones have suggested that we all eat jelly (Jello), popcorn and Pop Rocks.  Kids!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Main Street Reunion 2016.

This afternoon, my family and I spent quite a bit of our time oohing and aahing (and at one point I think I may have even slobbered a tad) over a fabulous collection of classic American cars.  Yes, the 2016 Main Street Reunion car show was held today in downtown Napa.  I have said it before, and I'll say it again, I love this event; great automobiles, happy people, fabulous music (lots of Johnny Cash and Eddie Cochrane) playing loud.  Love it!
At the conclusion of the event we all lingered in one particular area to watch, and listen, as many of the cars and trucks fired up their engines and rolled out into the greater Napa Valley.  Very impressive.
Vroom, vroom!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Family net work.

One of my least favourite vineyard operations - installing the bird netting on the white grape varieties - was made more bearable today due to the fact that Vinomaker and I were assisted by Thud, two Vinonieces and one Vinonephew.  It actually was a lot of fun; the little ones caught on quickly and were just the right height to apply the clothes pegs below the vines to secure the nets.
I had a quick taste of some secondary clusters, that I removed as I worked my way down the rows, and I have to say my little grape-babies have quite a bit of flavour already.  And the crop looks beautiful.  I can sleep soundly tonight knowing that my grapes are safe from hungry birds.  Thanks kids!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

All aboard.

For lunch today Vinomum and I decided to take a trip up the valley on the Napa Valley Wine Train.  It is almost two years since we last rode on the wine train together.  Last time we were on the train we basically had it all to ourselves, as lots of visitors to the valley had cancelled their reservations due to the very recent, and rather large, earthquake (that had rattled a lot of nerves) in August 2014.
It was a perfectly gorgeous day for sitting back, enjoying the views and being waited on hand and foot - for three hours.  I did not really have anything to drink, well, just a small glass of Chandon bubbles, because I was driving.  But I sure ate a lot.  A very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Land Remembers.

Another new book arrived in the post today.  The book, The Land Remembers, is ostensibly a treatise on viticulture and terroir.  However, my first impression, after a quick shufty through the book, is that this book is more about one man's love affair with his very own garden of Eden at Indian Springs Ranch, Kenwood (Sonoma Valley).
George MacLeod and his family bought acreage back in 1974 without really knowing anything about winegrape growing, it seems.  But he brought plenty of passion with him.  If one is in doubt as to Mr. MacLeod's romance with the land, his inscription to me, at the front of the book, says,"To Vinogirl - Here is a true vineyard love story! With affection, George, grower".  Case closed.
The Land Remembers has some interesting sections on soil, topography and water, with accompanying charts and photographs - all the vine-geeky stuff I love.  There is a short chapter on 'Microbial Terroir' which has really piqued my curiosity.  I am really enjoying all the viticultural reading I have been doing of late.  This book is a lovely addition to my humble reference library.
The book was written with Arthur Dawson, and other contributors.  One of the contributors is yours truly: yes, I contributed a photograph of a smudge pot (page 79).  Ta da!  That's my 15 minutes of fame done.