Saturday, July 27, 2013

Veraison, even in the table grapes.

Yes, even in the table grapes.  Vinoland's Red Globe table grapes are as enthused as the wine grapes and are blushing at the prospect of an early harvest.  Not that I harvest the Red Globe, or the July Muscat, or the Crimson Seedless - I just eat them as I go, perhaps leaving a few for the birds. 
That's enough veraison for this week.  I'm exhausted.

Friday, July 26, 2013

And over in the Cabernet vines...

...veraison.  Fancy that!  I don't think I have ever had, in my albeit somewhat limited farming experience, all four of Vinolands's grape varieties (not forgetting the Orange Muscat) going through veraison at about the same rate, at the same time.  The Cabernet Sauvignon is usually the last to begin changing colour.  But what is usual?  Every growing season should be different from the last, that's why we call them vintages.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Meanwhile, in the Syrah vines...

...veraison is also moving along nicely, thank you very much.  Although, my Syrah vines are not as far along as the Cabernet Sauvignon vines at TWWIAGE.  But then it is much warmer up in Oakville than it is down here in Coombsville.  Still, it looks like everyone in the valley is in for an early 2013 harvest, especially if the growing conditions continue to be as agreeable as they have up to this point.  A friend who works at Mumm Napa told me that they are going to start bringing grapes in on July 29th - that's about 3 weeks early (as compared to previous harvests).  Yikes, I'd better get my picking knife sharpened.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Veraison 2013.

It's that time of year again.  How time flies.  Actually, veraison in the Pinot grigio vines is a little ahead of schedule this year.  But whose schedule?  That of Mother Nature I would suppose.  The Napa Valley has been experiencing a pretty nice growing season thus far for 2013.  I have been enjoying this pleasantly warm summer, so I don't see why the grapevines should be any different.  Thank you, ma'am.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A tale of shortpod mustard.

Identifying common vineyard weeds and strategies for managing weed populations were the subjects being discussed last night at the Napa Valley Small Vineyard Association's quarterly meeting/wine social.  John Roncoroni, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor (Weed Science), was the guest speaker and just let me say this, he really knows his weeds.  An extensive PowerPoint presentation was followed by a lengthy Q & A session.  There was a lot of discussion about certain weeds and grasses that are becoming herbicide-resistant, although none of the guilty suspects have made it to the Napa Valley...yet.  Good stuff. 
Mr. Roncoroni is actively involved in advising farmers on all types of weed eradication (not just chemical weed control) and has an ongoing vineyard floor project at the UC Davis Oakville Station comparing several weed control practices with and without herbicides.  The day before he had held a field day in which he took groups through the Huichica Creek Demonstration Vineyard in Carneros to train attendees on how to identify and control weeds that commonly occur in vineyards.  Unfortunately, I missed it because I had to work.  Drat!
One weed that was profiled by Mr. Ronocoroni was shortpod mustard (Hirschfeldia incana).  He explained the mustard's growth habits and how it can thrive under certain vineyard conditions - those in which the weed is faced with little competition from other weeds.  I can attest to the fact that it doesn't like to compete with other weeds, as hitherto Vinoland had been an any-type-of-mustard-free zone and now there is a sizeable stand of this weed on what is normally a weed-free gravel access road to the barn.  I have to begrudgingly admit that the mustard looks very cheery and honey bees really seem to love it.  Yes, Vinoland's pollen-pluckers have been at work daily, from dawn until dusk, minding their own business whilst performing flower related bee activities.  That is until somebody (me) walked through the mustard and disrupted their apian-industriousness.  Consequently, one particular bee displayed his displeasure, perhaps because he was unceremoniously catapulted down my left welly, by stinging me on the foot.  Ouch!
I have always maintained that mustard is bad for a vineyard.  To emphasise my point of view I have been walking around like the Emperor Claudius all week.  Sigh.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

New fridge.

It's amazing how many tired, out-of-date condiments can accrue and lurk in the back of ones refrigerator.  It took me almost 2 hours today to organise, purge and dispose of a lot of undesirable sauces, relishes and spreads.  A 2009 mustard, anyone?  I didn't think so.
The upside of all of this is now I can fill my new refrigerator with a lot of yummy stuff and the necessities of life - which I have started making a shopping list of.  Have to have my priorities straight.
Exciting life, huh?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

We the tax-payers.

Lest anyone think I was going soft on Big Government with my last post about the effectiveness of quarantines...
Yesterday I learned that next Saturday, July 20th, I am going to have a bit of free time on my hands.  I had planned to attend the 31st annual Home Winemakers Classic (HWC), an event which I find is always a lot of fun.  That was until I read in the Napa Valley Register that the HWC, a fund raiser for the Dry Creek-Lokoya Volunteer Fire Department, had been cancelled less than 10 days before the event.
The state Alcohol Beverage Commission (ABC) has shut down the 30 year old event after deciding that the HWC was breaking the law.  What law?  Apparently, under state law, home-made wine can be consumed only by family and friends.  The state refused to issue the HWC a license for the one day event because it learned that wine produced at home would be poured and, in effect, sold.  Sold?  Yes, because asking attendees to pay an admission fee is tantamount to selling the home-made wines.  Chris Albrecht, north division chief of operations for the ABC, when asked by The Register "if the name HWC had caught anyone's attention in the past 30 years?"  "Well, no,"  Albrecht replied.  And there you have it...our tax dollars at work.
So let me get this straight.  A group of like-minded, wine-loving, tax-paying individuals agree to purchase tickets to a wine-tasting event in full knowledge that they cannot buy any of the wine, but want to attend the event anyway because they support the fundraising nature of the event.  A volunteer fire department, desperately in need of funds to meet their annual operating costs, incurred when protecting tax-payer's properties from fire, apply (with applicable fee) to the ABC for a license to hold their annual fund-raiser, but this year are summarily refused.  A government agency, only in existence because it is funded by monies in the form of taxes from aforementioned tax-payers (tax-payers who are also the fund-raisers of Mr. Albrecht's pay cheque), decides that it is shutting down the tax-payers fun, whilst also shutting down the volunteer fire department's fund-raising ability. 
The government always knows what is best for the tax-payer, right?  I suppose we all should be thankful that the ABC are spending our tax-dollars to save us from ourselves; keeping us from unwittingly breaking the law when imbibing in an illicit glass of home-made wine, all for a good cause.  The mind boggles.
Breath Vinogirl.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Quarantine - a word deserving of an exclamation point! 
No, it isn't me that needs quarantining.  I haven't got a case of galloping payaka, or anything for that matter.  The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is not interested in any ailment I may have contracted.  No, they are primarily concerned with the baby grapevines I just had delivered and whether such delivery harbours any plant or animal pests and diseases.  The CDFA uses quarantines to prevent unwanted heebie-jeebies from entering the state and also to prevent subsequent infestations within the state from spreading to new areas.  The Federal Government has already approved my resident-alien status, so the pests the CDFA are interested in are not of Liverpudlian origin.
The CDFA's quarantine guidelines are amongst some of the world's most stringent.  A measure of their effectiveness is that a large number of pests that have gained a foothold elsewhere have not established themselves in California; including the Colorado Potato Beetle, the Golden Nematode, the European Grapevine Moth and various (and sundry) exotic fruit flies.  To the grape-grower, the restrictive nature of the imposed quarantines can constitute major impediments to the general flow of viticulture.  Indeed, pests have helped define viticultural practices and vineyard management in this part of the globe.  To the government imposing them, the quarantines are the first line of defense against potentially devastating infestations of unwanted pests.  Let's face it, with the global nature of today's wine industry, (no more suitcase-clones, please), it would be all to easy, if there wasn't such an agricultural-watchdog as the CDFA,  to reek a pestilence-like havoc on unsuspecting California vineyard owners.  An old fashioned vineyard nemesis like phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae) would be the least of California's problems.
People laugh when I tell them Great Britain is rabies free.  "How quaint," they quip.
Quarantines work!!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What wine goes with...No. 7.

...venison?  Despite my best efforts to pair a red wine with this brown sugar/bourbon marinated game meat - I had two different Cabernet Sauvignons, a Cabernet Franc and a Syrah at my disposal - the wine that actually worked best with the venison was, surprisingly, a relatively unassuming Riesling.  Now, I'm not saying that Riesling is a so-so wine varietal.  On the contrary, many top wine critics (think Hugh) consider Riesling to be the world's finest white grape variety.  So who am I to argue?  It's just that the Dr. H. Thanisch, 2010 Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling is, at approximately $20, a reasonably priced and reasonably accessible wine.  Nothing too special.
This Riesling, grown on the steep, slatey, sun-facing slopes along the banks of the meandering Moselle River, is what I'd expect a typical Riesling to taste like.  But what does a typical Riesling taste like?  From bone dry to staggeringly sweet, I am coming to the realisation that Riesling can be a rather delicious wine at any sweetness level.  Well balanced acidity and sugar (with a citrusy, flowery, slatey-minerality thing going on) meant this medium-bodied wine paired well with the sweet, tender dead deer on my plate.  A fact that I can only attribute to the acidity of the wine pairing well with the sweetness of the meat.  So at a measly $20 it was a deer wine after all.  Sorry!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy Birthday America!

Born, or rather grown, in the US of A!  That's my Syrah grapes not me.  But not one to be a party-pooper, I'm all ready to don my glad rags and join the natives in a convivial afternoon of patriotic revelry.
Happy 237th birthday America!
Oh...and God save the Queen!