Saturday, August 19, 2017

Main Street Reunion 2017.

A pleasant afternoon was spent at one of my very favourite annual events, the Main Street Reunion car show (MSR).  I just love it.
This year, at the behest of the new, but not yet open, hoity-toity Archer Hotel the MSR event was moved to Third and Main Streets in downtown Napa.  The Archer did not want the temporary closure of First Street to impact their guests (again, the hotel is not yet open and won't be until November).  The event did not seem quite as intimate as those of years past.  Third Street is rather wide, so the crowd seemed more dispersed and, in some way, less festive.  No matter, it is the pageantry of classic American automotive history that I wanted to see, not the crowd. Of course, I always bump into someone I know.  There were some beautiful cars and trucks being exhibited and I would have happily driven away in any of about a dozen of them.
And today was my and Vinomaker's anniversary to boot (or should I say, to trunk?), so I was determined that I was going to have a good time on whichever pinhead-designated street.
Vroom, vroom!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Up a creek.

I don't normally purchase wine that I have read about in a review, but never say never.  Catching up with some wine industry reading at breakfast this morning, I came across an article on Sauvignon blanc (SB), and its many styles, by wine columnist Dan Berger.
I have rarely met a SB that I didn't like, so I was intrigued by Mr. Berger's description of the "herbal charms" of SB grown in cooler climes. The problem was that Mr. B was reviewing the 2016 Dry Creek Fumé blanc and I could only find the 2015 vintage when I went out wine-shopping.  Buying wine at a retail location can be frustrating when that retailer doesn't sell enough of a particular vintage, or producer, to facilitate cycling into the next vintage in a timely manner.
It's all good, I was having salmon for dinner and it actually did pair with the fish quite nicely. Yes, it was a little vegetal and it could have done with a tad more acid, but my only quibble is that I can purchase TWWIAGE's SB for quite a bit less than the $17.99 I paid for the Dry Creek. And, quite frankly, the TWWIAGE SB is a more pleasing tipple. Sometimes it is alright to stick with the tried-and-true.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Water, water, everywhere...

...Nor any drop to drink.  Purple water, that is.
Yup, the maturing Cabernet sauvignon and Syrah vines aren't the only purple things in Vinoland of late.  There are pipes, tape, markers, valve boxes and signs and, yes, all of them are purple.  And not a very attractive shade of purple at that.
Due to the fact that there is not a lot of water in Coombsville, Vinomaker opted, a few years back, to receive recycled water from the Napa Sanitation District.  So, some two plus years on; after permit approval, the signing of a water-use agreement (the Recycled Water Users' Guide is 40+ pages of the usual governmental-twaddle), the handing over of a not inconsiderable amount of dough, having the physical connection to the main pipe installed and dealing with a mucky little dog who is inexplicably drawn to mounds of dirt (though it is possible that V2 thinks we have giant gophers), we are almost to the point where the recycled water can be connected to Vinoland's irrigation system.  But, hang on, it's not that straight forward. Regulated by Napa Sanitation District, the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Department of Health Services the entire process has to be inspected and reinspected numerous times to make absolutely sure that not one drop of recycled water comes into contact with potable water: hose bibs are not to be installed on any part of the recycled water system. Really? Can't wait to hear what some pinhead bureaucrat thinks of me filling my water bottle up under an irrigation emitter.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A trio of chicks.

Just wanted to report that Vinoland's California towhee chicks are doing really well.  All three eggs hatched, the chicks are feathering up nicely and I'm sure that they will fledge this week.  I took this photograph with a long lens, atop a very rickety old chair, whilst mama and papa towhee protested, one Syrah row over, perched beside each other on an irrigation line.  Not wanting to agitate the parent birds too much, I decided that any photo I had already managed to snap of the chicks would have to suffice.  I would feel horrible if the nest was abandoned because I was too nosy.  I carefully climbed down, very carefully, and went about my business in the Pinot grigio vines.  I hope to see these little chaps, or chapesses, eating seed on my deck rail very soon.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Net worth.

It may be my least favourite vineyard operation, but putting on the bird netting is worth the effort if I want any grapes to harvest at the end of the growing season.  I must say, the Pinot grigio crop looks beautiful; all that rain I suffered through last winter has, admittedly, had a beneficial effect on the grapevines.
Harvest 2017 has already begun.  Mumm Napa picked their first Pinot noir grapes, from Green Island Vineyards in the Carneros AVA, on Monday the 7th of August.  The Napa Valley sparkling wine producer is expecting a slightly larger than average crop.  I'm not surprised, the crop looks bountiful in Vinoland also.  I'm just hoping that Mother Nature behaves herself between now and harvest.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Toe of frog.

The American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) is an invasive species in California.  Native to the southern and eastern United States, Mr. B. Frog, although he may not belong here, appears to be quite happy in his adopted irrigation-runoff-drainage-pipe habitat.  In fact, he seems to have quite a secure foothold in his aqueous abode which overlooks the Far Niente Chardonnay vineyard.  My BF has been in residence since the winter and shows no intention of moving on to greener pastures: they'd be far too dry.  Perhaps someone should tell him that he is persona non grata in The Golden State.  Not me, I quite enjoy his presence.  I just hope my neighbour's irrigation system keeps this little guy in the liquid-lifestyle he has grown accustomed to.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Bringing up the rear.

I was kept busy all day today pulling leaves in the Pinot grigio vines in preparation for the installation of bird-netting.  About mid-afternoon, feeling a bit peckish, I took a break and wandered over to the bramble patch to have a quick snack of sun-warmed blackberries.  Lo and behold, I discovered that the Cabernet Sauvignon vines had started to go through veraison.  In fact, some of the clusters are far more purple and advanced than the one I photographed.  Go grapies!
And please ignore the cleistothecia in the photo, I am.  (Until next spring, that is.)

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Syrah show-off.

Seven days on, the Syrah grapes are progressing through veraison quite nicely.  A bit more advanced than the rest of the Syrah, this specific vine has always been a bit of an overachiever.
One of the original vines planted in Vinoland (circa 2000), the scion (Durell clone) was grafted onto 110 Richter (berlandieri x rupestris) rootstock.  Arguably the worst rootstock for the soil type in Vinoland, tuff and clay, the 110R-grafted vines eventually failed and the Syrah block had to be replanted.  The replant, though, was to 101-14 Millardet et de Grasset (riparia x rupestris), a much more suitable rootstock. There are approximately eight vines surviving from the first planting, my little poser vine being located in a particularly poor area of soil, I mean shockingly bad. Regardless, the vine seems to have tapped into something it likes below ground and it continues to thrive.  Crazy teenager.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

International Albariño Day, 2017.

Happy International Albariño Day.  I'm sitting here, with a cup of tea, amusing myself with the thought of  the many Albariños that are, perhaps, being quaffed at this very moment in the different time zones across the globe.
The Albariño that I picked to drink with dinner tonight is already chilling in the fridge.  I have shared a glass, or two, of this particular Albariño, on a few occasions, with a neighbour who claims that the La Caña Albariño is his favourite all time Spanish Albariño.  And he was born in Spain, so who am I to argue with him.
The 2015 La Caña (Rías Baixas, Galicia DO) is a beautifully crisp, white peachy rendition of the Albariño grape, a grape thought to have been brought to the Iberian Peninsula by Cluny monks in the 1300s.  Hmm, monks.  I'm planning on being decidedly un-monkish tonight by not denying myself a glass, or two, of La Caña.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wine meld.

There are no shortcuts in the making of a fine wine; it is a long, slow, laborious process.  Whilst not as vulnerable to the capriciousness of Mother Nature as is the grape grower, the winemaker must nevertheless practice patience and, to a certain extent, let nature run its course. Blending, like winemaking, is an exacting endeavour.  And like winemaking, it is an undertaking that cannot be rushed along.
The week before last, I was thrilled to be able to get a small insight into the art of blending wine. For several weeks, the production team at TWWIAGE had been hard at work determining the base blend of the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. Taking into consideration some 30 possible candidates for the blend, the winemaker, his assistant, the oenologist and others - not quite a cast of thousands, but several more folks, including the owners of TWWIAGE - had painstakingly, and through trial and error, agreed upon four finalists.  It was these four wines that the production team now presented to the rest of the staff to taste, even though the final final blend had already been decided upon.
It was an extremely interesting, fun, informative and educational tasting. The majority of the staff, myself included, concurred with the winemaking team by choosing the same finished blend.  Great.  But that's not the end of this long, drawn out exercise.  Now the winemaking team will start tasting trials anew, as they decide upon how much Merlot will make it into the finished wine.  Hope I get an opportunity to try those blends also.  I, for one, am glad that the production team take their sweet time: a great glass of wine should never be hurried.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Napa nest 7.

I've been working in the vineyard the past few afternoons.  Well, actually, today I got distracted by Vinoland's bountiful blackberry crop. Wow, all that winter rain has paid off.  I'm going to be consuming a lot of vanilla gelato in the next few weeks, just sayin'.  But back to the grapes. Everything is looking good; healthy canopy; nice crop.
On Thursday, a California towhee alerted me to the presence of her nest whilst I was working in the Syrah vines.  Momma towhee's usually mellow, but bright, single-note call was whipped-up into a frenzied chip-chip-chip as I got closer to her nest which was hidden in the top of the canopy. Momma-bird got even further agitated when I got out a step ladder so that I could take a photograph.  Sorry Momma, just had to get a photo of this horse hair-lined, luxury Napa nest.
I am happy to report that Momma and the eggs survived my interloping: the past couple of days she has been dutifully sitting on the nest doing the stuff that birds do best.  So adorable.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Black measles.

What is happening with this bunch of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes has me both excited, and sad. Excited because I have never seen this particular grapevine disease before.  And I must admit that it is extremely interesting to see it in person, rather than in the pages of a text book. However, it also makes me sad because it means this grapevine (located upvalley in a favourite vineyard) is infected with a disease that will seriously impact its longevity: Black Measles. Measles refers to the purple/black blemishes found on the fruit.  Look at the spots on those grapes.  Grab the calamine lotion, quick!
The cause of black measles, sometimes called Apoplexy (severe infections), or Esca (in France), is not fully understood.  But it is has been established that the disease is closely correlated with vascular fungal infections and pathogens that cause other vine-trunk diseases/rot.  All vines are prone to disease, but black measles starts to show symptoms in infected vines that are 10 years old, or older. Whilst this particular vine was not exhibiting foliar symptoms; i.e., interveinal chlorosis (in white grapes), or reddening (in black grapes) followed by necrosis, a nearby vine had a couple of shoots that were entirely dried up and had raisined fruit.  The economic impact due to crop loss could prove devastating to a grape grower.
There really is no treatment for a measles infected vine.  Applications of sodium arsenite, a recognised carcinogen, seemed to keep the spread of black measles in check, but its usage is no longer acceptable.  Now, with infections becoming more widespread in grape growing regions across the globe, researchers are studying possible causes, such as bad pruning practices, poor propagation of plant material (in grapevine nurseries) and plain, old-fashioned water stress.  Farming is hard.
Like I said, I have mixed feelings about witnessing this particular grape malady, literally, in the flesh.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

On the turn.

I suppose I should have checked the Syrah vines before the Pinot grigio (PG) vines, but it just so happens that the PG vines are closest to the house and I pass by them more often.  The Syrah vines, like the PG vines, are indeed going through veraison, forming anthocyanins and dumping said pigment into the grapes. Veraison, to me, is a particularly wondrous physiological change in the vine's life cycle and it never ceases to amaze. Carry on, grapies!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Veraison: PG-17.

Whilst on my way out to walk Vinodog 2 this evening, after I got home from work, I noticed the first blush of veraison in my Pinot grigio vines.
It is that time of year again: the onset of ripening that signals the imminent culmination of the growing season.  The Pinot grigio vines are transitioning from berry development to berry ripening - getting nice and juicy.  And sweet.  It is about time that Vinomaker and I break out the bird-netting.  Sigh.  Not one of my favourite vineyard operations.
Must have a look-see in the Syrah vines tomorrow and check if veraison has started there.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A vicennial.

Last night, Vinomaker and I headed upvalley to join the Herrera family, and about 100 other people, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of Mi Sueño Winery.
The event was held at Auberge du Soleil which is the restaurant where winemaker Rolando Herrera took a job, (as a dishwasher on the night shift), to support himself when he was just a teenager.  Twenty years later, now an accomplished winemaker, the owner of a successful winery, and with six children in tow, Rolando was celebrating a major milestone with family and friends in a private dining room at the restaurant.
Highlights of the evening included little speeches from Warren Winiarski (of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars) and Marketta Formeaux (of Château Potelle), who had both employed Rolando in his formative years.  However, for me, the real highlight of the night happened to be a food and wine pairing.  My appetizer of sautéed 'Day Boat' scallop, with corn purée, English peas and vanilla oil, was paired with a 2010 Herrera Perla, Chardonnay (Sonoma Mountain AVA), which made for a truly amazing palate-pleasing-phenomenon.  (Yes, I know, I just put Chardonnay and amazing in a sentence together.)  The vanilla component of the food made the fruit and vanilla in the wine just explode, or at least I think that that was what was going on.  It was just superb.  The experience was enhanced further by the little gem of a tablemate seated to my right: none other than the effervescent Miss Perla Herrera.