Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oil Futures.

"Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit of as great importance as the olive." Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79).
I would agree, although I am quite partial to the humble strawberry. Vinomaker would disagree: He thinks any land planted to olive trees would be invariably better off if planted to vines.
Our neighbours have formed an olive oil cooperative and today was their olive harvest. I, for one, hope it was successful and bountiful as I enjoy the couple of bottles they give us...olive oil pairs well with wine.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wind, wind, go away!

There was a high wind advisory for the entire San Francisco Bay Area today. They weren't kidding. Our power went out, and was out for 14 hours plus. Soup for lunch, hot dogs for dinner, and water for cups of tea were all heated on top of our wood burning stove...which we wouldn't have lit otherwise because it was unseasonably warm outside. Driving into town was a little hair raising with large branches and debris being flung from every direction at the car. We lost two trees in Vinoland, which had Vinomaker rubbing his hands together with glee at the prospect of being able to get out his chainsaws tomorrow.
I noticed this fence and it's covering of crispy grape leaves, on a vineyard in downtown Napa. I thought it made quite a nice little pattern on the wire...isn't Mother Nature great?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are thankful for something in their life.
I am thankful for many things; for living in such a pretty part of the world (look at how cute Napa is right now), for my family and good friends, for good health, for great Vinodogs, for good wine...and a husband who makes it :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas in November 2.

What do you do on a rainy November day in Napa? You go and do some early Christmas shopping, of course. There is a gift faire being held at the Napa Fairgrounds this weekend and although I don't normally have the inclination to attend such things, I kept a possible visit in the back of my mind as I thought my mother may enjoy it. I had to go over to Napa Fermentation Supplies to buy some drilled barrel bungs, and seeing as the faire was being held right next door, my mother and I did indeed decide to stop in and see what was for sale.
I really did not expect much, and to be quite honest there was a lot of dust-collecting nonsense being offered, but one particular stall caught my eye. Some enterprising young woman had come up with the idea of making jewellery, wind chimes, money-clips, candle holders etc. from old silverware. I had to take a second look because it was not immediately apparent that the goods she was tendering for sale were made out of old, unwanted silver utensils. Very clever indeed.
On a nice display rack, about 100 bracelets sparkled and beckoned to me to come and take a peek. My mother slyly asked me which one I liked and I immediately zeroed in on the only one that happened to have grapes on it, and which in a former life had been the handles of two old spoons . The bracelet is now mine. Thanks mum!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The wild one.

Autumn is indeed settling in and the few deciduous trees we have around Napa are showing off brilliant hues of yellow, orange, and red. One star performer in this category that often fails to get attention is Vitis californica, the native California wild grape. This deciduous vine is not shy and is very conspicuous, this time of year, in it's encroachment upon other vegetation. In riparian woodlands, stream-banks, and swales you can spot this wild vine scrambling up the trees and shrubs that are capable of supporting it's vertical growth habit of up to 40 feet. V. californica is important to wildlife as it's vegetation provides shelter and it's grapes, which ripen quite late, provide autumn and winter food for Napa's resident critters and our winter visitors.
The native vine has been employed in California since long before the first Spanish Padres planted their mission vineyards. Indigenous people cultivated and ate the grapes and leaves, used dried vines to weave baskets, and made tinctures to be used as mouthwashes and as a treatment for diarrhea. Lovely!
Apparently, jam can be also made from it's grapes. I have never personally seen a cluster of V. californica grapes. I've only glimpsed these vines from afar, usually out of my car window, and have never really felt a pressing need to clamber through a thicket, and risk getting a bad case of poison oak in the process, just for a quick look-see. There are plenty of cultivated grape varietals here in Vinoland to satiate any desire I may have to get up close and personal with a berry. Besides, who am I kidding, I much prefer having Thud and Prince Charles take care of all my jammy aspirations.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One last hurrah!

With the first frost for Napa forecast for tomorrow, I decided to take one last pass through my vegetable patch. The tomato plants are still flowering so consequently they have fruit at every stage of development, partucularly the Roma tomatoes, so it looks like another pasta dish is on the menu for this week. The basil is still faring well, so a homemade tomato sauce is sounding better by the minute.
I managed to scavenge a small courgette that was obscured amongst a few zeppelins I had neglected to harvest in the past month or so. It was swiftly incorporated into a modified fried rice dish I have been making since I was a teenager. Paired with one of my favourite Napa Sauvignon blancs it was a fitting conclusion to the summer vegetable season.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eye of toad.

With the recent end of Daylight Saving Time (a week behind the end of British Summer Time), it is now dark when I get home from the winery. Whether it is light or dark when I drive in through the gate, the Vinodogs are always barking and yipping in welcome, but more likely in anticipation of being fed. Tonight I was greeted by a plump, rather happy looking toad that sat in the middle of the path and was quite unperturbed when I bent down and got up close and personal with him. The western toad (Bufo boreas) was also quite happy to wait while I ran into the house and grabbed my camera for a photo op. The Vinodogs were sequestered on the deck so Mr. Toad was quite safe from becoming their dinner...but I did wonder what wine would pair well with Toad-in-the-Hole.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Super fly.

The common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), is running amock at the winery right now. With a rather large amount of Cabernet sauvignon fermentations all going at once, these annoying little diptera have come out of the woodwork, en masse. This is the same fly, with it's rather short, annoying little life-cycle that is used as a model organism in biology; including the study of genetics because it is easy to take care of, reproduces quickly, and lays tons of eggs. They are apparently very useful: Sister-in-law OTW assures me that they came in very handy when she was reading for her B.Sc at the University of Liverpool. That just may well be the case but I just can't handle them getting biblical on the rim of my glass when I am barrel sampling wine with some visiting dignitary.
Other than using DDT to rid yourself of these bothersome little devils, a relatively easy solution is to leave 'fruit fly traps' lying around, not foolproof but they help. Take a plastic drinking cup filled halfway with preferably still fermenting wine, cover the top with cling wrap, make an opening just big enough for them to crawl in and feed, but not large enough for them to get back out, and bingo! Darwin must have been on to something.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Guy's wine.

It's Saturday night and the task at hand for all in Vinoland is to drink some good wine and enjoy a slightly delayed celebration of Bonfire night.
We started the festivities quite early. Vinomaker, Thud and I quickly polished off a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut before moving on to Vinomaker's finest '04 Cabernet franc, (a wine not suitable for women and children, except me of course.) But not before Thud had worked his magic with a can of treacle, butter, brown-sugar, water and lemon juice. This little tradition of whipping up a batch of homemade toffee for 'Bommy Night' is something Thud started when we were quite young children. The resulting treacle toffee was quickly dispatched whilst sitting around a fire pit, complete with a spark screen. Pathetic, I know, but this is tinder-box dry California after all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Christmas in November?

I received my first Christmas gift today. I know, Halloween was a mere 3 days ago, Bonfire Night is still 2 days hence, and Thanksgiving (if you happen to be an English person who cares about that particular holiday), is yet more than 3 weeks away. But Christmas is looming large already; on telly commercials, in the shops and apparently, on the mind of my own personal Santa! An extremely generous co-worker left a rather large, gift-wrapped package for me at the winery, with the instruction to open it and enjoy it with my family before Christmas, if I wished. So open it I did, but only after I nearly threw my back out picking it up!
What was it? Oh, just a 6 litre bottle of 1998 La Vita Lucente. This Sangiovese/Merlot blend from Tuscany was the brainchild of Florence’s Lamberto Frescobaldi and Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi when they united their efforts in 1995 to create a world class Italian wine.
I happen to love Italian wines, so this is going to be interesting...I just need to quickly organise a party to aid in the polishing off of what is the equivalent of eight bottles of wine. Any volunteers?