Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A meristem mutiny.

The table grapes in Vinoland are looking rather healthy right now. Of course they aren't flowering yet, like every other vine in Vinoland, but they are very enthused in another way. Whilst I was suckering the trunks, and thinning out adventitious buds, I came across several shoots which had decided to grow multiple apical meristems in one cosy, not-so-little assemblage of grapey-goodness. A split or double meristem is not that unusual of an occurrence, especially in the Syrah vines, but this was the first time I have seen three fused meristems growing together. Can we say overachiever?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Off with their heads.

I can't spend all my time obsessing over the non-existent spring-like weather, or looking for the almost non-existent bloom...well, I could, but I shouldn't. There are other things to be done in the vineyard. So, this weekend I redirected my energy towards unearthing the rootstocks that I field-budded late last summer.
There are several simple steps to follow in performing this particular vineyard operation; carefully push away the dirt pile, unwind the grafting tape, check the bud has a good callous, whip off the rootstock's new growth, place a milk carton over the new shoot (in this case Syrah) for protection, all the time avoiding stealth-puppy-kisses from a particular, small black and white dog. Oh, and get up, brush off your knees and move on to the next vine. Easy-peasy!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May flowers 2.

Finally, grape flowers in the Pinot gris - all two of them! I have been checking on a daily basis to see if bloom was ever going to get started this year, only to come away each time disappointed. The weather has been unseasonably cool this spring and sunny days have been in short supply. I have heard reports that in the Carneros AVA Chardonnay vines planted there are only about 10-15% through bloom.
What is surprising to me is that bloom didn't begin in the Orange muscat block first, it usually does, but then it seems that 2011, like 2010, is going to be an unusual growing season. I estimate that bloom in Vinoland is about 2 weeks later than last year.
Great, another shortened growing season in the Tundra!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A bevy of whites.

Optimistically hoping that the weather will one day be warm enough in California to eat out on the deck, Vinomaker and I did a quick white wine tasting - in part to decide what wines we need to stock up on. Generally, we both prefer to drink more white wines over the summer months, but I do know people who will drink nothing but red, no matter what the temperature is. Here are some speed tasting notes;

Mayacamas Vineyards 2001 Chardonnay - as the old adage goes, if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything.
Lamoreaux Landing 2008 Riesling - a delightful, lemony-minerality. Nice acid man!
Artesa 2008 Albariño - peachy, tropical, clean. Nice.
De Rose 2000 Viognier - aging and flabby, though still showing telltale signs of ripe apricots and orange blossom. A passable attempt, but it is no Condrieu.

There you have it. The Lamorueax Landing won hands down, but seeing as it was a gift it would take a bit of an effort to stock up Vinoland's wine fridge with this particular wine. Oh darn, I'll just have to do more research.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Grapes.

Another black and white photograph I took whilst I was recently on holiday. The Grapes - a pub made famous by four lads from Liverpool who frequented it between gigs at The Cavern Club, located just across the street.
I began going to the Grapes, at first with my brother Thud then later with friends, when I was 15 years old. No stuffy Beatles tunes were played in the pub's smoky bar and lounge at that time. A new musical generation had taken over Liverpool and now The Grapes just happened to be the nearest pub, a mere 20 yards down the street, to another historically important music venue, Eric's - the very centre of the teenage Vinogirl's world. A couple of glasses of Guinness, a bevy of local celebrities, the last bus home: life was good.
Who knew that grapes, of another sort, would feature so prominently later in my life?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May flowers.

Cold, almost winter-like weather conditions the past few days have not been much fun. Hail, lots of rain, and very little sun have dampened the spirits of most Napans. The white grape varieties that should be flowering any day now (if the sun ever comes back out), could be adversely affected if there is another hail event. Extra shifts at work, two papers to write for school, a final to prepare for, curly hair, and bored Vinodogs...boo hiss!
At least I have a smattering of cheery wild flowers in the vineyard, which smile and wink at me between showers, that are helping to snap me out of my general malaise.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

VE Day.

I very well may be a certified vine-nerd, but I don't think I'll ever be a fully fledged photography-geek. I did however enjoy taking pictures of Liverpool on my recent holiday.
Raise a glass of bubbly, preferably Pol Roger, and toast the countless men and women who sacrificed their lives for us.
Remember, freedom isn't free.
St. Luke's, Liverpool. Bombed 5th May 1941.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An afternoon in a vineyard.

I spent some time today amongst grapevines though not in Vinoland, but in somebody else's vineyard for a change.
The 11th annual 'Afternoon in the Vineyards' was held today, so I took a break from suckering the vines to pop along to a local vineyard, accompanied by Vinomaker, to see what was happening out in the great, wide world. Usually, these events turn into nothing more than your common or garden wine tasting, so on the way there I determined that I was going to find someone to talk to about the vineyard...and I was in luck. Having a chat with the proprietor Tim Darrin was fun, but the real treat for me was getting to pick the vineyard manager's brain, Michael Wolf.
Mr. Wolf has been involved in the development and management of Californian vineyards for over 30 years: he knows his stuff. Rootstock selection, permanent wilting point, field capacity, apical dominance, unilateral cordon training, adventitious buds...someone, please, stop me!
I was having way too much fun. I am such a vine-nerd!

Friday, May 6, 2011

To mow, or not to mow.

In some parts of the vineyard, that have not yet faced the wrath of Vinomaker on his tractor, the cover crop persists. The crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) looks particularly cheery and spring-like caught lolling about in the glow of the late afternoon sun. It may seem a bit early, but I have already been giving some thought as to the cover crop I would like to sow this autumn.
As much as I like crimson clover it has a major drawback: it's flowers rise above the foliage and therefore it has to be left uncut, until relatively late in the spring, to facilitate reseeding. Delaying the first mowing in Vinoland for that long is not really feasible (think frost protection) and would have been nigh on impossible this year. The early winter rains, and plentiful sunshine in January, meant that it was necessary that the vineyard be mowed slightly earlier this year than is the norm. Whilst a cover crop of subterranean clover would be ideal as it tolerates close spring mowing, I'm leaning towards white clover (larger biomass than crimson), or soft chess (cv 'Blando' brome) depending on the availability (and price per lb) of these particular seeds.
As with most decisions in life, more research needs to be done - suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hello suckers!

I'm back!
Whilst I was on holiday it seems there was some extra-curricular, shoot goings-on in the vineyard. Can't a Vinogirl go away for almost 3 weeks without some viticultural skulduggery taking place in her absence? Seems not.
Not to worry, all the vines will be whipped back into shape over the coming weekend. Bye-bye suckers!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The leaving of Liverpool.

My holiday has come to an end. Good bye old city it's been great and I'm hoping to see you again sooner rather than later.
California, here I come!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Trapper's Hat.

This afternoon, I enjoyed a glass of Trapper's Hat bitter in The Wheatsheaf Inn, a tiny little pub that is celebrating it's 400th anniversary this year.
It was a lovely, sunny Bank Holiday Monday and going out for a quick half just seemed like the thing to do. The beer, by local brewer Neil Young, was light with refreshing citrus notes and a rather hoppy nose and finish. Nice beer, old pub, good company, an English spring - great combination.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A pleasant tipple.

Enjoyed this bottle of rosé last night, purchased from the supermarket chain Tesco. Deeply pink and very fruity it was delightful. Thud and I enjoyed a bottle of the red version of this wine, from the same producer, about a week ago. I have to say I think I could become very fond of any wine, red or rosé, made from this Sicilian grape variety. I shall have to explore further.