Thursday, February 01, 2018

Bee spree.

It was a gorgeous day today, the temperature got all the way up to 71°F.  Loved it!  And it seems that there is no rain in the forecast for, perhaps, the next two weeks - love that.  It means that I should be able to proceed with my pruning uninterrupted by unpleasant weather.  I actually got a little too warm whilst pruning the Pinot grigio today.
The local honey bees are loving the warm spell also.  Vinoland's industrious bees are busy filling their pollen sacs with grains of yellowy-goodness from a multitude of weeds and wildflowers that are blooming now.  Vinoland's rosemary plants are teeming with bees.
A particular, famed groundhog may see his shadow tomorrow in Pennsylvania, presaging six more weeks of winter, but the busy-bees and I will not be too concerned.  I feel I can safely predict that winter in California will not be too protracted this year.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


It is supposed to be winter, however one would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.  Whilst the vines and the trees of the Napa Valley are leaf-free, wildflowers, cover crops and weeds are thriving: a combination of rain and sunshine will do that.  The weather has been mild and the mustard and I are enjoying it immensely.  Although there is a lot of activity and pruning is well underway valley-wide, including here in Vinoland, this, to me, is the most peaceful and contemplative time of the viticultural-year.  Omphaloskepsis, anyone?

Friday, January 26, 2018

PG snips.

I started pruning Vinoland's Pinot grigio vines today.  After two days of rain it was pretty soggy out in the vineyard, and chilly, so I had to talk myself into getting started.  But once I got started, I was immediately reminded of how much I enjoy pruning; it's just me, the grapevines and my trusty Felco 6s.  Oh, and the little black and white dog that couldn't stop barking at a possum, cat, skunk, or something, hunkered down in a drainage pipe, that was trying to avoid her.  Prune on!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

And so it begins.

Pruning has started in Vinoland.  This afternoon, taking advantage of the sunny, but chilly, dry weather I began to prune Vinoland's Orange muscat vines.  I didn't get very far; failing light, and a mouthy little dog who wanted to go for a walk, curtailed my progress.  But I did get started and that is all that counts.  Roll on vintage 2018.

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.