Saturday, January 17, 2009

Micro Pest Management.

Look at this cutie pie, a baby ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus).  I was sweeping up leaves this morning, when I found this baby hanging out in the damp edges of our Orange muscat planting. I wish I could have captured a shot of his/her tongue flicking in and out, giving me a good sniff. So cute, but yet so useful. I deposited him/her safely, under the leaves at the base of one of the vines, out of harms way. After all, I want this baby to reach adulthood and be the 30 inch long, slug eating predator it has the potential to be.
Godspeed little one...just leave my favourite lizards alone!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Licensed to sell.

Today I stopped at the college and bought the required books for my English course, (text books are expensive). I wish I were taking something a little more exciting than this particular class but I have out of the ordinary time constraints this semester.
I am disappointed in not being able to take one of the follow-on classes from the oenology programme I took last semester, e.g. Spring Winery Operations. This would be an especially good time to take that class as Napa Valley College (NVC) was just recently issued permits allowing them to sell wines produced by the students. NVC is California's first community college with a bonded winery. The bond allows the college to sell up to 1,000 cases per year. A 2008 Chardonnay will be the first release available for purchase and any profit from sales will help support the viticulture/winery programme.
The college is well regarded among Napa Valley wineries, which hire many of its students and encourage employees to study there. Graduates work as grape growers, winemakers, marketing specialists, and in other areas of the industry. However in some cases, natural winemaking talent is put on hold because some classes at the college require the student to be at least 21 years of age. These classes involve wine tasting and to stay within the confines of the law, (a law I totally disagree with), students must be of legal drinking age.
Unfortunately, Vinogirl, is slightly above the age limit...and some!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Farella...with food.

Whether Vinomaker likes it or not, we have grilled salmon every Saturday night...gotta have those Omega 3's. We have found that some wines just don't work with this relatively fatty fish, like Chardonnay or Torrontes, for instance. Generally we fall back on a trusted compliment to the salmon, good old Sauvignon blanc.
This past Saturday night we had one of the best SBs that I have ever had. The Farella-Park 2007 is just plain delicious. It had, which I didn't believe was possible, the minerality that you get with a good Sancerre....from a Napa wine no less. If you are a fan of Sauvignon blanc as Vinomaker and I are, then this may be the quintessential, varietal expression.
Just fab, not Kiwi style, not full-on Sancerre, not over-bearingly Napa...just about as good as it gets...with or without food.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's not rocket science.

A friend brought this newly released wine over for Vinomaker and me to try last night. Unfortunately, the rocket shaped bottle was the most memorable feature of the wine. The colour extraction was great but that's about it; high alcohol (14.9%), heavy mouth feel, not a lot of tannins, the fruit was under ripe red plum, with a tiny amount of vanilla on the finish...but overwhelmingly acidic. This wine had most definitely been over acidulated. Yes, being an '06 it is young, but I think you can take it's youthfulness out of the equation...it's just out of balance. Thankfully, this is not John Caldwell's, (famous in these parts for his 'suitcase clones'), primary label.
The name, Rocket Science, I am assuming, is a tongue-in-cheek attempt at saying that wine making is NOT rocket science. He's right, it's not, but it can get awfully complicated. This thinly disguised rant against the phenomenon of Napa Valley cult wines, (a category in which Caldwell is not included), comes over as trite and a little pathetic...like some old boy's insider joke that nobody else gets. In the same vein is Clark Smith and his line of Cheapskate Wines...it's a shame that teenage boys can't drink wine in the US...nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Say no more!
I don't buy into cult worship myself. Last year I was fortunate to be able to partake in a blind tasting of the usual suspects (all '02 Cabs), Bond, Harlan, Phelps, etc., (Screaming Eagle was not included). My favourite was the David Arthur Elevation 1147. I'm a bit of an 'Emperors New Clothes' type person so I'm not easily influenced by the opinions or reactions of others. To me, it was the best of the bunch because I was using my taste buds, no one else's, and I drink what I like. I very rarely read wine reviews, they're boring. There are plenty of wines I can find out there, in the entire universe, for myself...thank you very much.
Rocket Science is great if you like a particular brand of humour paired with your wine. I was left just feeling sorry for the poor retailer who is trying to merchandise this wine, on it's side, in a bin. The angled sides of this bottle would make it rocket right out onto the floor!
To quote Colin McPhail of Larkmead Vineyards, "Less cult, more cultivation". With that being said, I'm launching myself out into the vineyard.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Vine Land Security.

It's still going to be winter for quite a while yet. Perhaps less so in California than other parts of the world, I admit, but it seems almost spring like this morning.
The local red-shouldered hawk, (Buteo lineatus), population seems to be out in full force today. A pair has spent the morning hunting in our vineyard, hopefully successful in partaking of a fresh, juicy breakfast of Pocket Gopher. Others flew overhead, their voices loud in warning, for whatever reason, to the ever circling Turkey Vultures, (Cathartes aura). These super ugly birds, by the way, drive the Vinodogs crazy. Not hawks, not crows, just vultures.
Gophers are responsible for the death of many a vine in the vineyard. They nibble their way through the roots which eventually causes the vine to die. Then they move on to the next vine!!! In her day V1 used to do a pretty good job of keeping the rodent inhabitants of our little part of Napa in check. In her prime she was very adept at dispatching the little devils in two quick chomps. However she has slowed up of late and Vinomaker and I have had to employ other means of 'pest management'.
Owl boxes are one approach, so we have several strategically dotted around the property. Alas, as of yet we have no occupants. I don't understand why, they are really nice boxes made by a friend, the view is fabulous and the rent is free...meals included.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A is for...

...anxiety. It is also for the grade I got in the oenology class I took last semester. My 4.0 GPA is still intact...whoo hoo!!!
I must admit I was getting a little worried as the grades seemed awfully slow in being posted on the college's website. I checked it several times over the Christmas holidays and was becoming ever increasingly discouraged when nought was to be found. But at last, Wednesday morning, I checked before going to work...and there it was in all it's pointy glory...my A. Phew!
This semester I will be only taking one class as I have a heavier work load, my family will be here from Blighty and I will be happily winging my way home in May. But the one class I'll be taking is...English. I just know I am going to flunk it!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The year in preview.

When most people are still thinking up New Year resolutions that they may or may not keep, I decided to take a more practical approach to the year ahead.
Accompanied by the Vinodogs, I took a stroll through the vineyard to assess the amount of pruning work to be done in the near future. Due to the fact that white wine grape varieties bud out earlier than red wine grapes, I paid particular attention to our Pinot grigio and Orange muscat vines. The Syrah usually displays bud break a whole 2 weeks before the Cabernet Sauvignon, (which is clone 4), so I most likely have at least 4-5 weeks before I have to start to prune either red varietal. Even then I will prune the vines higher up on our hill than those down by the creek to lessen the chance of damage by late frosts.
I really like pruning the vines. It is said that it is the one most important thing that you do to the vine as you are determining the crop and vegetation for the year ahead.
The vines are very forgiving, if I get a little over zealous with my shears, which has happened in the past, they grow back next year, tah rah!!!