Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Next up, a selection of cheeses and a bottle of 'The Widow'.
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The highlight of the event for me though was meeting the maker of one of my very favourite Napa wines. I had spied a bottle of the 2005 Smith-Wooton Cabernet franc on the bar and had made a bee line for it. It is a wonderful wine, more in the tradition of a fine Chinon, but definitely a new world rendition of an old world classic. To my surprise the host informed me that Gary Wooton was also a guest and proceeded to introduce me to him. I followed him around the kitchen, behaving like a gushing teenage fan, or stalker (you decide), but I wasn't about to let him out of my sight. I told him that I always sent my brother home to England with a least one bottle of his fine wine and he seemed genuinely impressed. He shared some of his winemaking philosophies with me, including a very interesting barrel protocol and then I learned the source of his grapes...right next to the vineyard in the Oak Knoll District where Vinomaker gets ours. Small world.
As the party drew to a close, I was left reflecting on how great the wine was, how great the entire Northern California wine community is, how great is the talent of the winemakers that I know and how wonderful it will be in 2009 to meet more...and drink their wine of course.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Seeing as California is almost at the end of his run, he can stop and have happy hour with the Vinodogs before he hits Hawaii and jets off back to the North Pole. Cheers Santa!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Over a period of 54 years, beginning with Mission San Diego, established in 1769, 21 missions were established by the Spanish stretching 650 miles along the 'El Camino Real'. All were established near the coast and were designed to be one days walk apart.
Franciscan monk Junípero Serra is generally credited with planting the first grapes for wine production in California at Mission San Diego. Father Serra's grapevines, of uncertain genetic heritage, had originally been introduced from Spain to Mexico. The original European strain having been lost, the grapes were simply called Mission grapes since the Catholic missions were where they were generally grown.
The final mission at Sonoma, in the Sonoma Valley, has proved to be an ideal location for grape production; fertile soil, maritime fog, and a mild and sunny climate. And over the hill, here in Napa, Vinogirl is enjoying a glass of wine and her own Christmas lights.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Besides the obvious amount of wattage their fairy lights consume, Sutter Home should be commended for the volume of White Zinfandel they sell worldwide. I have had people visit me in the past and they have wanted to visit Sutter Home, not Caymus, not Phelps...Sutter Home. I'm just glad people are drinking wine and keeping me in a job!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
My Devonian auntie Dot lived in Totnes, a wonderful Elizabethan town on the River Dart, and each summer we would all pile into our Ford Consul and head south-west. It was a long journey. To the tiny Vinogirl, Totnes was the best place in my little universe and I couldn't wait to get back there every summer, (the family sometimes managed it twice)...and back to Bonzo the dog, as my canine love affair had started early.
The Tonic Wine that the wonderful monks at Buckfast are famous for is not for everyone. I'm sitting here drinking a fab Mi Sueño Syrah right now, which in contrast to that dark, viscous elixir, the thought of which sends shivers down my spine, is fruit forward, spicy and easy to drink. But, monks, an abbey, a tonic wine, how fabulous that such a throwback exists in this day and age.
That's it, I'm off to listen to my 'Carols from Buckfast' CD, a tonic for the soul this Yuletide.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Now some wineries just don't photograph well so I am just going to post a few that do.
This winery is quite new, (18 months old), and quite frankly, their wine is nothing to, well, blog about...but their fairy lights are quite fetching. In true Napa Valley style, the trees are not Christmas trees, but olive trees...but I think they look brilliant anyway. Look at the shadow the 'Black Stallion' casts, it's almost as big as the one V2's ears create!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It's 23 degrees F right now, unseasonably cold for Napa. The leaves on the vines from a couple of posts ago are now all on the vineyard floor, having been blown off in brisk winds on Tuesday. Last season's wood, trained up through the trellising wires, is white with frost. The scene from my window all looks very festive...if only a robin red breast would appear and bob through this tableau.
Alas, I just have V2, (V1 is in her bed, the old dog is not so daft).
Look at those ears!!!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The vines in the foreground? They belong to Opus One.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Cold, but so Christmassy. I love it.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Well we know it didn't really quite happen that way but I only cook turkey at Christmas and so if Americans want to break bread with Vinogirl on Turkey Day, they have to accept something other than the traditional fowl. I do confess that I love pumpkin pie, so I appease the natives with that. So Lambanana and Vinogirl wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Today we bottled our remaining 2006 Cabernet sauvignon and Syrah. It's a little later in the year than we intended but we had moved it into neutral barrels so it hadn't picked up any additional oak. It all tastes rather nice...we are both pleased with how the 2006 vintage turned out. Now we just have to wait until it settles down from bottle-shock before we can imbibe. Can't you hear me tapping my fingers?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
This year I chose to plant a clover mix in our vineyard. Clovers are legumes, belonging to the Fabaceae family, and so are capable of fixing nitrogen from the air. Through a symbiotic association with bacteria from the genus Rhizobium, they convert nitrogen gas (N2) in the atmosphere to ammonium (NH3) that can be readily used by crops. Because rhizobia occur naturally at low levels in most soils, the bacteria must be present on the legume seed at planting, hence the uniform look of the seed in my photograph. They are coated with everything they need to perform this amazing feat of alchemy.
There are arguments for and against the planting of cover crops. On the pro side; they are very beneficial to overall soil health, add organic matter to soil, retard soil erosion and provide shelter for beneficial predatory insects, amongst other things. Naysayers fear; competiton for available groundwater, too much nitrogen fixation (that could result in too much vigour), and the over-wintering of problematic insects...but seeing as I am a proponent of cover cropping, and it's my blog, I'm not going to dwell on the negatives. There is a lot more to this subject than just tossing out a few seeds and calling it good. Cover crop management is quite complex and is a science in itself, but the positive aspects of this practice are to me incontestable. Besides, it was a great day to be outdoors. The weather was fantastic (84F) and V2 accompanied me as I worked...or at least I think she did, if the huge shadow of her large ears just to my side was anything to go by.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
It's fun having a walk with the Vinodogs as there is a lot of new stuff to entertain Vinogirl. Viewed from a certain angle, there is a verdant green haze covering every flat surface...even my coconut front doormat has a germinated burr medic clover seed, happily reaching up to the autumn sun.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
The afternoon concludes with a complimentary wine social, where you can catch up with friends in the wine industry and share tales, or horror stories, of the harvest past. Fun!
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
The vines seem to be quite resilient this year and appear to be shutting down rather slowly. All the better to store nutrients for next season I'm sure. The rain we just had knocked a lot of dying leaves to the ground and the vines are starting to look a little bedraggled.
The more seasonal temps, and the smell of damp leaves, reminds me that it is Bonfire Night in dear old Blighty. This, with the exception of Christmas of course, is an extremely difficult time for Vinogirl to be away from home, sigh! You just can't beat the olfactory delight of gun powder, hanging in the damp autumn air, insinuating itself into your nostrils. So fellow countrymen, light up the sky with Standard Fireworks and think of Vinogirl.
Monday, November 03, 2008
These are my favourite shoes of the moment and the last bunch of Crimson Seedless from the garden. They are very, very tasty...and the grapes aren't bad either.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
The day began with Vinomaker and I barreling down a batch of Syrah. Then, we processed the aforementioned late harvest Zinfandel, (from a friend's vineyard). And finally, we pressed off our own Cabernet sauvignon, which had fermented to dry, and is now settling for 24 hours before it is barreled down. It is a distinct pleasure to sit down and enjoy a bottle of wine, (especially one that you have vinted yourself), but there is a lot that goes on between vine and glass that most people don't get to see. For instance, disposing of the cake, (above picture). The 'leftovers' of wine production include a lot of skins and seeds which need to be dealt with. They make a fantastic soil conditioner and are no doubt a source of food for many an insect, flying or otherwise. Overall it was a good day for wine making and the environment...that includes happy Vinodogs with purple feet, I kid you not!
Saturday, November 01, 2008
What is not confusing is the propitious timing of Napa's first significant rainfall since February. Vinomaker and I have been busy out in the vineyard applying Potassium sulphate (K2SO4) around the vines. Placing the fertiliser near the root zone in large amounts, is the best means of overcoming soil fixation as Kalium, (K), is particularly immobile in the soil. It moves so slowly in fact that the results may not be seen until the second season after the application. Though it is an expensive procedure, it is an absolutely necessary one. The potassium needs of a grapevine are high, comparable to the demand for nitrogen, and a deficiency would result in poor vine growth and lower crop yields. However, one application will last at least 5 years.
So Mother Nature continues to smile on Vinogirl and Vinomaker, albeit in a different way, and helps move the fertiliser into the soil...next up, cover cropping.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Boney was probably a right plonky. The hand tucked into his waistcoat stance? It conceals a corkscrew no doubt...look, you can even see a couple of corks in the hand behind his back.
Friday, October 24, 2008
I ate, drank and was merry. So much so that a simple dinner was in order tonight. I opted for a plain chicken salad. The Lycopersicon above did not make it into the salad because Vinomaker and I thought it too aggressive looking for consumption. How would that thing digest in my stomach? More to the point, how would I slice it? More like duel with it...where is a Samurai sword when I need one? Still, methinks it is quite magnificent in a bizarre, tomato-ey sort of way!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Tonight, Vinomaker and I spent the evening at Black Cat Vineyard where we were treated to an advance tasting of their '06 vintage, (they were releasing a Cabernet sauvignion for the first time). Hitherto, proprietor and wine maker, Tracey Reichow, has concentrated on a stunning Syrah, which she grows herself, and a Syrah/Cab blend, (her Family Cuvee). With the '06 vintage, Black Cat has achieved a wine industry trifecta. I can't imagine wanting any red wine combo other than this trio, they are that good.
It was however a little freaky without the Vinodogs around. Anyone out there want me to review their Black Dog wine? I am more canine, than feline, inclined.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The irony is that the Vinodogs made the wines, they're smart poochies. The one judge, in 2007, with the "try again" comment, must have known!
Sunday, October 12, 2008
"Remember gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne". Churchill said it best...there is nothing Vinogirl can add!
Friday, October 10, 2008
V1 is not bothered by the wind but V2 is a little unnerved, as are the weather forecasters who warn of the fire danger Santa Ana winds can wreak. Maybe I should keep the hosepipes at the ready...otherwise I may be harvesting raisins!
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
What's so good about acid, man? If you read the definition of the word acid in a dictionary, it really doesn't sound like anything you'd want to put in your mouth. Chemically, it's a sour-tasting water-soluble compound that can react with a base (alkali) to form a salt. But show me a wine without adequate acid, and I'll show you a wine that's flabby and not very appealing. While too much acidity can be terribly sour, a touch of acid gives wine an appetising, mouth-watering characteristic that can be described as bright, or crisp, or fresh. Of course balance is important, and that bright component must be matched by fruit, but the fact remains that acid is not a negative term when it comes to wine. There are a number of different acids in wine, primarily tartaric (shown above), malic, citric, succinic, and lactic. The sum of these is the total acidity (TA) of a wine which winemakers generally express in grams of acid per 100 millilitres of wine. You don't really need to know all this chemistry to appreciate a good glass of wine but the fact that it exists will make your tongue extremely happy.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
It's been pretty quiet here the past week. Our little Cab vineyard doesn't look like it was adversely affected by Friday night's rain. I shouldn't complain, we haven't had any real rain since February, but the timing, so close to harvest, could've been problematic. Fortunately, the past 2 days have been rather breezy so the clusters should have dried out nicely. The Syrah we picked last week is almost dry, (it was a quick fermentation), and the Viognier, that has been undergoing a slow, cold fermentation, is at -2.5 Brix. That doesn't necessarily mean it's dry, but we racked it off the lees today and hit it with 33 ppm SO2 to inhibit MLF. Tomorrow Vinomaker is anticipating the arrival of a lot more Syrah. The crusher/destemmer is at the ready, Vinodogs will be on duty, and I'll be out of harms way...selling wine.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
And where is 'Vinodog 1' whilst all this activity is going on? Sunning herself of course...somebody has to supervise the workers.