Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dot wine.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit agency that coordinates the world's internet domain names.  I did not know that such an organisation even existed.  ICANN is based in Los Angeles, Ca. (of course it is.  It wouldn't be in plain, old Bognor Regis, England, would it?) and is currently overseeing an expansion of available domain names.  The most common domain names are .com , .org and .net, but ICANN has a list of 2,200 potential new offerings up for consideration.  Amongst the new suggestions are two proposed new wine-themed domain names; .wine and .vin.
Now apparently wine producers around the world have their knickers in a twist over the possibility of having to defend their brands against trademark infringements and other unscrupulous goings-on.  The Napa Valley Vintners, a non-profit trade association, recently joined six other west coast trade groups, representing some 2,000 winemakers (including 500 Napa vintners), in a concerted effort to secure the cancellation of the .wine and .vin domains.  In June ICANN rejected their appeals.
Napa vintners already have several governmental regulations in place, as does Champagne in France, that defend their product's identities.  They obviously feel they need more safeguards.
I'm in two minds about this.  On one hand, seeing as I work at a winery, I'd like to see the product I help sell protected, after all most wines are tied more specifically to a particular place of origin than any other food product.  On the other hand I believe in a free market economy, and I also feel  that a wine with a simple, California appellation designation does not  need to be protected as perhaps a wine from a specific vineyard in a designated AVA should (for example the one in which I live, Coombsville).  Consumers in all walks of life need to do their homework before they purchase anything.  Caveat emptor, I say.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sip and Spit.

I have always thought that oenology and viticulture students in the USA were at a distinct disadvantage, compared to their European peers, by not being able to taste wine in a winemaking class until they turned 21 years of age.  I actually think the whole minimum drinking age of 21 is absurd (don't get me started on that one), but handicapping future winemakers in this manner is just plain ludicrous.  Universities, like U.C. Davis here in N. California, have had to structure their oenology programmes in such a way that leaves any class that would involve tasting wine until the student's last semester - at which time the students are most likely to have come of age.  Crazy!  I can imagine the mere idea of this type of prohibition is very amusing to the French (and the Italians, and the Spanish) who have in essence had the advantage of drinking wine, and honing their palates, from a much, much younger age.  Fancy letting the French have an edge over anyone, tut, tut!
All that changed today with California Governor Jerry Brown signing AB 1989, a bill that allows students of 18-20 years old who are enrolled in an accredited college oenology programme to taste, but not swallow, wine as a part of their coursework.  The so-called sip and spit law, which is set to take effect next year, in part remedies the disparity of exactly when budding American-winemakers can begin to develop their own palates, legally.  It's a start, but methinks all adults should be treated like adults as soon as they turn 18.  I couldn't imagine not having been able to have a glass of bubbly on my 18th birthday. Thanks mum!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Syrah Veraison: 2014.

And here it is: veraison in the Syrah vines.  There is a lot going on in this photograph besides veraison; a little bit of sulphur residue on the grapes, some very prominent stylar scars, there are some shot berries, a smattering of thrips damage and a couple of undetached calyptra.
I worked all day in the vineyard today, mainly in the Cabernet sauvignon vines.  I did some hedging, some leaf-pulling, some lateral-removal (especially those with second crop) and some training (and tying up) of the juvenile grapevines planted this season. 
As is usual, I was distracted by a number of things; baby towhees, grasshoppers, Vinodog 2, lizards...and the best crop of blackberries I have seen in years.  I love eating berries right off the plant.  It's not exactly like foraging for food when they simply fall into your palm because they are so ripe.  I must have eaten at least 10 ounces of delicious sun-warmed, finger-staining, purple-black berries - I just couldn't stop myself.  Yum!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Napa nest 5.

Veraison is running rampant in Vinoland.  Well maybe not quite rampant, but it is moving right along in the Pinot grigio and the Syrah vines (and probably the Orange muscat vines also, it's just harder to see in white grapes).  So today, I was going to post a photograph of one, or the other, of the vine varieties changing colour except I discovered something more interesting.
Yesterday, whilst working in the Pinot grigio vines, I suddenly became aware that I might be close to a bird's nest.  How did I come to this conclusion?  A pair of California Towhees decided I was persona non grata in a particular part of the Pinot grigio block and they created quite a ruckus to dissuade me from working around their nest further.  I did have a quick gander and discovered that their wonderfully constructed nest held four, blue-green speckled eggs.  How wonderful.  I then immediately left them alone.
Today, whilst working in the Cabernet sauvignon vines, the same thing happened: another pair of towhees made it abundantly clear that they were not very happy with me performing some vineyard operations in their neighbourhood.  I couldn't help but to take a peek and to my delight I espied one egg and two pinky-grey, fuzzy chicks.  Momma towhee loudly protested my reappearance with a camera, but I just had to get a photo.  And as I snapped away, one baby promptly fell over onto his back.  So cute.  Love all my Vinoland feathered friends.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Invasion².

As reported in the local newspaper, the veraison invasion of 2014 has begun (shown here in TWWIAGE's Cabernet sauvignon vines) and it seems to be about two weeks ahead of schedule.  Not that Mother Nature has a set in stone schedule, but nevertheless it's still a little earlier than average.
The British Invasion has also begun; my family arrived from England last Saturday, all 10 of them, and since then they have been keeping me quite busy.  Fun, fun, fun!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Red, white wine and blue.

Happy 238th birthday America!
Today, I'm joining with my colonial cousins in wishing a very happy birthday to the United States of America.  So the English lost a little skirmish, big deal.  I'm still going to enjoy a glass of something white, and chilled, in honour of American independence.
From sea to shining sea, I hope the festivities are enjoyed by all who call this country home.
God bless America. 
Oh...and God save the Queen!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bombs bursting in air.

Happy July 3rd.  As is our tradition, Vinomaker and I spent the 3rd of July in the company of good friends at the annual Phoenix Ranch Vineyards 3rd of July Party.  Lots of fun, yummy food, a standout 2009 Saddleback Cellars Charbono and spectacular fireworks, kindly provided by Silverado Country Club, made for a really nice evening.  Happy Independence Day Eve to all my American buddies (including the surrounding 6 acres of Phoenix Ranch's Syrah vines). 
Party hearty!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Foregiveness is the vine.

There is not a lot going on in the vineyard right now, just the usual bits and bobs; wayward shoots to stuff, young vines to train and adventitious growth to nip in the bud. 
I still have some replanting to do, however.  A week ago, I drove over to Novavine, a grapevine nursery in Sonoma, to pick up some green-growing Cabernet Sauvignon (clone 337) bench grafts, but I've been a bit too busy to do anything with them.  And now it is forecast to be 100°F, or higher, for the next few days - not exactly ideal planting temperatures.  But in they must go.
Overall, I am happy with the growing season thus far.  Fruit set in all four of Vinoland's grape varieties looks good.  I'm a little surprised at how advanced the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are, despite my almost calamitous timing as to exactly when to begin pruning this year.  Apparently the vines have forgiven me.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Debitum naturae.

In a quiet corner of Vinoland, forlornly leaning against a California live oak, several dead (or dying) Cabernet sauvignon vines await their final fate - the wood chipper, sigh.  I always find it sad when grapevines have to be removed, but for a number of reasons nature just runs it's course; viruses, the health of the initial plant material, gopher blight etc.  There are many things that can cause a grapevine to decline and eventually die.  Nothing lives forever.
So instead of gadding about the Napa Valley like a tourist (although I enjoyed myself immensely yesterday), I spent today in the vineyard.  I performed small jobs, training up some young vines and stuffing shoots, whilst Vinomaker dug out the vines that were to be replaced.  It was a hard job removing them, as the vines had taken a firm hold in Vinoland (even though the rootstock is the relatively shallow 101-14).  I, of course, helped in a supervisory capacity.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Italian Job.

It's a tough job, but somebody had to do it.  Just joking, it was lots of fun showing these four lads around TWWIAGE this afternoon.  Giovanni Arcari (winemaker and blogger), Jeremy Parzen (aka Do Bianchi, blogger, food and wine historian, Italian translator and rock musician), Nico Danesi and Andrea Rudelli (both Franciacorta winemakers) were a joy to host.  A quick couple of beers in downtown Napa at Norman Rose Tavern, then a really quick glass of wine in Vinoland, and they were off over to Sonoma.  Lots of fun.
Happy solstice.  Grazie e buona notte.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Vinomaker likes Viognier.

Vinomaker doesn't just like Viognier, he loves this particular grape variety and is always looking for new producers of this not particularly common wine varietal.  Although his current favourite is Miner Family's, 2012 Simpson Vineyard Viognier (Madera County), this tangent (their lower case 't' not mine) Winery's, 2012 Viognier, Edna Valley AVA (a sub-appellation of the Central Coast AVA) was very nice.  And it's always nice to try something that doesn't hail from Napa or Sonoma.
The nose on this wine was fairly typical of this varietal; creamy-peach/apricot floral-ness, yum.  I, myself, would have preferred perhaps a little more acid, but the peachy-cantaloupe taste bud goings-on were very pleasing.  But what made me, and to a slightly lesser extent Vinomaker, really enjoy this wine was tangent's back-story.  This winery only makes white wines; Sauvignon blanc, AlbariƱo, Pinot gris, Grenache blanc and this Viognier - isn't that fab?  And if not absolutely fabulous, isn't it at least very refreshing?  I think so.
Each white wine that tangent produces is 100% stainless steel fermented.  This winery's approach to winemaking, whilst not totally unique, is still rather interesting - which in turn makes for a rather interesting wine-drinking experience.  I must try tangent's other wines.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The AVA in which I work.

It was a relatively quiet drive to work this morning, and I was early, so I popped out of my Vinomobile and took this photo of an Oakville American Viticultural Area (AVA) sign.  I haven't counted them, but there are probably four Oakville AVA signs in total; two on the Silverado Trail and two on Highway 29, north and south depending on which way you are approaching Oakville.
Slap-bang in the middle of the valley, Oakville, which was granted AVA status in 1993, is perhaps mostly known for Cabernet sauvignon production and is currently home to more than 50 wineries.  It is quite an expansive AVA stretching from the Vaca Mountains in the east and across the valley floor to the Mayacamas Mountains on the west side of the valley.  Oakville has a relatively warm climate, it's very pretty to look at and it's a great place to commute to.
Last month I wrote a post about the new Coombsville AVA sign which was recently installed onto a vineyard's fence quite close to where I live.  I'm thinking I might make this into a series on Vinsanity, covering each of Napa Valley's AVA signs. 
Two down, fourteen to go.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Disgusting!

This is simply disgusting.  Whilst catching up my reading of a few wine related articles at breakfast, I saw this photograph on wineindustryadvisor.com and let me tell you, it nearly put me off my bran flakes.  Disgusting, I tell ya!
Identified as an Araneus, this two inch long aracnid was found bottoms up, so to speak, by a man in Bristol, England, in a bottle of Tesco Finest white wine he had taken to his mother-in-law's birthday party.  Surprise!
Photo credit:  Adam Gray

Friday, June 6, 2014

A leafy nave.

Considering California has had three rather dry winters in a row, and Vinoland's vineyard has not yet had the benefit of irrigation this year, the Orange muscat vines are growing very enthusiastically.  The vines are so enthusiastic that I decided to top them today.  It was very cosy inside the verdant, canopy tunnels, but in order to allow more overhead sunlight to penetrate to the lower leaves (and air to circulate), the vines had to be quite severely trimmed back.  Topping the vines will encourage more lateral growth, but at this point in the growing season additional photosynthetic potential from new leaf activity isn't a bad thing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cruise control.

Things are coming along swimmingly in the vineyard; flowering is continuing nicely and fruit set in the Pinot grigio vines looks good, little intervention is needed right now. It's just as well really, as I had a really busy weekend and couldn't devote too much time to the vineyard.
On Friday, my TWWIAGE co-workers and I went to an Oakland A's game. It was a long night, but lots of fun was had by all. Saturday evening found Vinomaker and I at BottleRock 2014, with about 30,000 other music enthusiasts, enjoying the second iteration of this local music event. We enjoyed ourselves, but it meant another late night for me.
Around noon on Sunday I finally got out in the vineyard, but I wasn't there for very long. What I can only assume was a very mild bout of norovirus literally knocked me off my feet for 48 hours. I never get sick, so this was a bit of a shock to me. I thought norovirus was something people usually contracted on cruise ships, sheesh! I'll think twice about partying with 30,000 peeps the next time the opportunity arises, I'd have been safer in the vineyard.