Friday, January 13, 2017

Pruning 2017.

It may be a Friday the 13th, but I was lucky enough to be able to get out into the vineyard for a little while today.  The weather was very pleasant this afternoon which meant I was able to start pruning.  It was cold, sunny and, most importantly, dry.
As usual, I started to prune the Orange Muscat vines first.  It is the earliest date on which I have ever started to prune, but I am anticipating more rain in the coming weeks, so I thought I'd get an early start.  I love pruning, so I'm not complaining.  Prune on!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pluviophile, I am not.

I am not ombrophobic, nor am I pluviophobic.  No, I am not afraid of rain, I just dislike rain intensely.  So I have decided that I am most definitely a heliophile.  What is there not to love about going outside, anytime time one wishes, and staying dry?  Not much, for me anyway.
My drive home from TWWIAGE on Tuesday evening was an interesting one - not fun, but certainly an experience.  Nearly every other winery in the Napa Valley had closed early due to a major rain storm so, consequently, traffic was light, but it was dark and very, very wet.  Come daylight, and on my commute to work yesterday morning, I could see that most valley-floor vineyards were under water.  This photograph, of a rather waterlogged Groth Vineyards & Winery, was not an uncommon sight as I made my way across the valley.
Napa is officially at 171% of normal rainfall for the season: I think we've had enough.  I know I certainly have.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Morning in the Winery: 4.

This morning, Vinomaker and I ventured upvalley to partake in the annual event, Morning in the Winery (MITW).  This year there were five wineries to choose from; Humanitas Wines, Bouchaine Vineyards, Odette Estate Winery, Silver Oak Cellars and Beringer Vineyards.  We would normally pick the winery closest to home to visit, but a shortish drive up to Odette Estate Winery seemed in order.  (I have been wanting to visit this particular winery for a while.)   This may have been only the fourth time MITW has been held, but the event seems to be a victim of its own success.  MITW is a good event and I did enjoy myself, but perhaps not as much as at previously held events.
Despite some of the heaviest rain of the season so far, some 300 plus people converged upon Odette, a smallish winery (which was formerly Steltzner Winery), all of whom were milling about and trying to avoid the heavy rain.  A general air of disorganization hung over the event, much like the low-lying rain clouds above the Stag's Leap District AVA, but it didn't stop me from tasting through the  Odette wines.  And the wines were; a 2014 Reserve (titter, titter) Chardonnay (oaky, sigh), $66; a 2014 Adaptation Cabernet Sauvignon (tasted unfinished), $54; a 2013 Odette Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (pleasant, nice lavender vibe), $126; and a 2014 Adaptation Petite Sirah (soft, fruit-forward, with an appealing acidity that balanced the chalky-tannin character that poorly made Petite Sirah can exhibit in spades, best of the bunch), $44.
As an aside, when Odette first opened to the public, the winery's By Appointment Only (BAO) sign was conspicuously located on the first slat below the Odette Estate name.  After several months, perhaps, (I drive by this winery on my way to TWWIAGE) the BAO sign had migrated to a lower slat and was, consequently, obscured by the landscaping.  Then, just recently, the sign was newly relocated to its current, and once again visible, position. Curious, I thought then.  Now I know why.
Without diving head first into the intricacies of Napa County's Winery Definition Ordinance, I think it is safe to say that Odette rethought the positioning of their BAO sign because they had signed up to particpate in a high profile event, i.e., MITW.  Whilst an obscured BAO sign will increase the number of walk-in tasters, thus maximizing potential wine sales, it will also maximize how much trouble a winery can get into with Napa County, (dependent upon how egregiously a winery flouts the limitations set forth in its use permit.)  In 2013, Caymus agreed to pay a $1,000,000 fine to the county for violating the terms defined in its particular use permit.  It's alcohol and it's regulated.
I shall keep my eye on Odette's peripatetic signage.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Fox news.

It's a slow, January news day in Vinoland.  Even this grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), that Vinodog 2 had stuck up a tree for a couple of hours until it went dark, looks bored.  Mr. Fox certainly wasn't bothered by the rather annoying, little black and white dog creating a scene some 13 feet below him.  Although I was a bit disturbed by the commotion as I tried to do complete some outdoor chores.  It's a good thing our neighbours aren't very close.
And as regards to Mr. Fox, he made a very strong statement showing up like he did in the middle of the afternoon.  It is almost like he knows I have just found a chicken coop that I like and may purchase.  Hmm.
Like I said, slow news day.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Party animal.

My traditional New Year's Day walk through the vineyard this morning was a little disappointing.  I had wanted it to be crisp and white with frost (like it has been every morning since Christmas Eve), but instead, because the weather has warmed up a bit, everything was moist and green. Nevertheless, I got to have a good look around and assess the job close at hand - pruning.  Vinodog 2 accompanied me, but I insisted she leave her glad rags in the house.
A happy 2017 to all!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Done and dusted.

This is the bubbly line up for Vinoland's New Year festivities.  Can't wait.
2016 was a funny old year, neither good nor bad - which is a good thing I suppose.  But time marches on and here we all are on the eve of a new year.  I, for one, am ready to embrace the next 365 days.
I hope 2017 is prosperous, safe, healthy and blessed for all those that I hold near and dear. And for some other, random folks as well. Cheers!
Have a very Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Port out, starboard home.

Two, sort of, related things happened yesterday; my kind neighbour popped over and gifted Vinomaker and I a bottle of Heitz Cellars, Ink Grade Port (Napa Valley AVA), and I read a story about Porto, Portugal, in the Napa Valley Register.  (Oh, and a third unrelated thing, it was also my Vinomum's birthday.)
I have never tried this particular 'port' before, but my neighbour assures me it is delightful.  I can't wait to try it - tomorrow night, perhaps. The wine is a blend of eight, classic Portuguese grape varieties; Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Souzão, Tinta Bairrada, Tinta Madeira, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Cão and Bastardo.  (I think I am going to be particularly enamored by that last grape.  Titter, titter.)
The article in my local newspaper wasn't a typical fluff-piece written with the purpose of luring tourists to Porto.  No, instead the front page story was a report about a junket that three Napa County Supervisors recently took to the aforementioned city.  At a cost of $17,500 to the taxpayers of Napa County, the three supervisors, whilst in Porto, attended a conference called 'Great Wine Capitals' with the intention that they'd experience "a wonderful learning see what the rivals are doing". One Supervisor, Keith Caldwell, seems to not really have enjoyed the trip at all, or at least what he learned there.
In the article, Supervisor Caldwell bemoans the fact that he did not see more of the problems that Porto faces.  "They really went out of their way for us not to see some of the negatives," Caldwell complained.  What? The audacity!  God forbid the officials of that particular municipality, some 5,500 miles away from the Napa Valley, wanting to make a good impression on their visitors.
Caldwell continued, "What I think we could do is have an international dialogue about, 'What are you doing, Porto, to address homelessness?'" Hang on a minute, I have a suggestion.  Er, maybe the Napa County Supervisors could start by donating that $17,500 to a local homeless charity.  But no, it's other people's money.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Christmas: 2016.

I woke up to another frosty morning in Vinoland, it meant everywhere was white and very Christmassy.  Not as white and Christmassy as the morning my sister, La Serenissima, woke up to in Utah though: my brother-in-law is now busy shoveling 18 inches of 'White Christmas' personified.
Enjoy food, family, friends and the spirit of the season.  Oh, and wine.
Happy Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve, 2016.

I have been baking all day.  It's been lots of fun, very Christmassy.  And the house smells great. What would Christmas be without mince pies? I don't know, because I have never had a Christmas without them - thanks to my grandmother, my mother, my sister, my brother and, now, me.  Life is good.
I'm sitting here right now, with a glass of Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, watching Father Christmas (yes, my colonial cousins, Santa) wing his way around the globe on the Norad Santa Tracker. Der Weihnactsmann, (my thoughts are with the people of Berlin), is currently on his way to Ikeq Island, Greenland: free to spread his particular variety of Christmas joyfulness. Life's really good.
Happy Christmas Eve, folks!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Solstice, 2016.

A quick peek into my rear view mirror on the drive home form work tonight had me pulling off the road to take a quick photograph.  Whilst not quite as spectacular as the sunset this past Monday, which was simply stunning, the winter solstice sunset was not too shabby.  Looking west-southwest, through a vineyard of leafless vines, I stood for a little while and just enjoyed the view.  Aah.
Happy winter solstice, enjoy, be happy...for tomorrow it starts to stay lighter, later.
Sing it, Ian!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Baby, it's cold outside.

And I'm loving it.  The past five mornings have been white and bright.
After so much rain last Thursday, 3.5 inches fell in just under 5 hours, the sunny, dry, crisp weather has been a more than welcome respite.  Of course, all that rain meant there was plenty of moisture about to actually freeze and the resulting 1/8 inch of hoarfrost over every surface, including Vinoland's grapevines, made for some spectacular sugar-sprinkled vistas on my early morning walks with Vinodog 2.  And it made everything seem just that little bit more Christmassy.  Love it.

Friday, December 16, 2016


I'm stuffed!
Whilst the Far Niente vineyard crew were pre-pruning their neighbourhood, Coombsville vineyard this morning (a little later than is usual for them, but then we have been having a lot of rain lately), I was getting ready to go to a luncheon with all my female co-workers...and TWWIAGE's controller who absolutely insists on treating all the girls to a nice lunch every Christmas.  It is difficult for me to eat, and drink, so much at lunch, but it is hard not to when one dines at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena.  I now feel like a sloth, but a bit of work outside this afternoon will hopefully prepare me for my second round of festiveness this evening (also TWWIAGE related).  It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The winner by a nose.

Continuing with the continuing education theme, when the TWWIAGE production team are not actively making wine, the winemaker (or the oenologist) organises 'blind' tastings for the entire staff.  There is always a theme; usually a comparison of a particular vintage, AVA or price point. Or sometimes a vertical tasting of his own wines.  It is a serious, but fun exercise.
In a recent comparative-tasting, TWWIAGE's flagship Cabernet Sauvignon was pitted against five other 2013 Cabs from throughout the Napa Valley, all of them more expensive than TWWIAGE's offering.
Unfortunately, one wine was corked so it was, for all the tasters, relegated to last place.  Hate when that happens.
To cut a long tasting-story short, the winner, by one point only, was Far Niente's Cabernet Sauvignon.  The very close second went to the TWWIAGE wine (incidentally, my second place wine also).  My favourite wine in the tasting was the offering from Chateau Montelena - quite a light and elegant wine, but, I thought, a wine that would be very food friendly: (it came in third overall.)
And that was that, I feel much more clever now.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Gaudete, 2016.

It's Gaudete Sunday, 2016.  My rosé of choice this evening, for this the third Sunday in Advent, is a saignée of Cabernet Sauvignon produced by TWWIAGE.
Now, TWWIAGE do not make a rosé.  No, the Cabernet Sauvignon TWWIAGE actually retails is very, very red.  But the production crew did have a little bit of fun during harvest 2015 and produced enough of this very tasty wine for every staff member to get a whole case of it.  Yay, love when that happens!
This wine has a wonderful nose of strawberries, raspberries and cherries. The strawberry thing continues on the palate, but is joined by a hint of dried cherries this time, with a slightly sour, white peach vibe on the finish.  Beautifully, deeply hued, this wine has lots of layers and is, for the most part, balanced - though I suspect the alcohol is a bit high.  Although, I wouldn't really know what the declared alcohol is in this rosé as it didn't come with a front label, only a back label.  Just have to have that government health warning.  Titter, titter.
Sing it Maddy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The vineyards of Oakville.

Harvest 2016 is well and truly over in Vinoland, but it has been over much longer at TWWIAGE.  It is warmer up north in Oakville and harvest happened sooner, and finished faster, than here in the Coombsville tundra.  Grape-picking may be at an end, and wine is, well, still making, but now, in what is now considered the off-season for all things grape and wine, is a great time to partake in a little continuing education.
This morning, the winemaker at TWWIAGE took me, and several of my co-workers, on a field trip to some neighbouring Oakville vineyards. TWWIAGE does buy a small amount of grapes from a handful of well established Oakville growers with whom the winemaker, and the owners of TWWIAGE, have forged strong and stable relationships.
Buying grapes from other growers means that a winery can produce more wine to sell.  But purchasing fruit grown on different soils, from distinct micro-climates and with alternative clone/rootstock/training combinations can lead to various nuances and complexities in the final blend.
Our little band of wily winery-workers trudged through five vineyards in all, committing to memory soil-types, trellising systems and crop yield: it was very educational.  And fun, for a geek like me.