Saturday, November 30, 2013

One last hurrah!

It is autumn isn't it?  This young Pinot grigio vine doesn't seem to think so.  Working in the vineyard this afternoon, removing clothes-pegs in preparation for removing the bird-netting, I looked up to see this shoot (which has 5-6 inch tendrils a little further down) reaching for the sun.  And sunny it is.  And warm.  It hasn't been below 66° F all week.  I'm loving it.
Now, young vines tend to remain a tad more enthusiastic later into the season than their more mature row-mates, but this is a little unusual for this far along in the year.  Grapevine shoots do not form a terminal bud like some plants, so technically they may continue to grow if there is sufficient heat (yup), available nutrients (apparently so) and adequate soil moisture (questionable).  However, with the onset of veraison a shoot's apical meristem dies back because now there in a new source-sink (point of usage) in town - the sugar hungry cluster.  I did cut the fruit off this vine quite early on in the season, so evidently it took it upon itself to redirect it's photosynthates.  Very enterprising of it, but it isn't half going to be surprised when we get our first frost.  Ouch!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Paper delivery.

Vinomaker is always bringing something interesting home, in the wine department, for me to try - the Paperboy, 2012 Red Blend was no exception.  But Paperboy turned out to be interesting for the packaging only, not the contents.  Read all about it, here.
Truett-Hurst Inc., a wine company up in Healdsburg, released what they are heralding as, "The World's First Paper Wine Bottle."  Well, that may well be the case, and whilst I applaud their valiant attempts at lessening the weight of a case of wine, (I can hear a sigh of relief from thousands of peeps whose jobs involve schlepping around cases of wine), shouldn't the contents of the bottle, paper or otherwise, outshine the packaging?  Just a thought.  Now, whilst I didn't bother to taste the Chardonnay, I did blind-taste the red blend. 
Without knowing anything at this point about the uniqueness of this wine's packaging, I stuck my nose into my glass to get a good, deep whiff.  Up front I got a spicy red-berry thing that was quite appealing at first, but it didn't last.  The wine quickly started to smell slightly pruney and hot, as in high alcohol hot.  On the palate the wine was thin to medium bodied, had a Zinfandel-fruity character, with a touch of flabbiness.  Not very good.  Ultimately, Paperboy tasted like a hastily put together blend of any barrel-dregs that were left over after all the tasty wine had been bottled: uninteresting and simply vinous. 
I won't be subscribing to Paperboy wines any time soon.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
I hope today that every last person I know takes some time to unwind, spend time with loved ones, eat some good food and, of course, drink some delicious wine.  Cheers!
Disclaimer:  This wine was not consumed, it was just a prop used by a trained, professional wino.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The leaves have taken their leave.

After two days of rain (the first of the season, really) and 24 hours of unusually high winds (sustained wind speeds topping 40 mph, with gusts up to 69 mph), I should have known better than to expect a relaxing breakfast this sunny, but still windy Friday morning.  "Would you like more coffee," says Vinomaker, "and by the way, there are 3 deer in the vineyard."  What??? 
Now it's not like deer can do any damage in the vineyard this time of year, but they are still a nuisance.  The vines, that were full of yellowing leaves on Monday, are practically naked after suffering through so much weather the past 72 hours.  There is absolutely nothing in Vinoland for the deer to munch on this time of year.
Initially, we thought the deer had entered through one of Vinoland's front gates.  The wind was so strong last night that the larger of the two gates had been blown off it's tracks, which left ample space on either side that the two does and one yearling could have easily stepped through.  After a few, unsuccessful, attempts at trying to encourage the interlopers to exit Vinoland through the other, now open, gate, the deer led Vinomaker to where they had actually sneaked into the vineyard. 
Timber!  A neighbour's pine tree on our fence line had blown over.  In the process it had peeled open a 6' by 4' hole in our deer fence where, even now, there were more deer standing about contemplating also visiting Vinoland.  I don't think so.  Actually, our unfortunate neighbour had a second tree topple over just outside his backdoor.  He's a lucky man.  Or, isn't.  I expect I'll be hearing a lot of dueling chainsaws this weekend.

Monday, November 18, 2013

If I had a hammer.

So I was thinking further on how the folks at Mer Soleil produce their Silver Chardonnay.  Much is made of how Silver is fermented in "small Nomblot cement tanks" (they've even gone to the trouble of screen printing an egg on the back of the bottle to illustrate this fact).  And Silver is packaged in a ceramic bottle that they say, "continues to preserve the bright, fresh fruit characters" of the wine, I was curious as to whether or not the inside of the bottle was glazed.  Would an unglazed interior continue the whole cement/ceramic/oxygen-aging thingy?  One way to find out...enter Vinomaker with a hammer, (but not before the Vinodogs donned their safety glasses, of course).  One good whack later and the bottle's insides were laid bare.  The inside of the bottle was glazed (with extra glazing in the neck area, no doubt to ensure a cork slips in and out with ease).  There you have it: make of it what you will because I am done thinking about this wine.
Disclaimer:  No normal glass bottles were harmed in the smashing open of this ceramic one.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

...And silver fountains mud.

Until Caymus Vineyards were sued by Napa County, and the amount of wine they actually produce was revealed, most folks, that I have at least spoken to about wine over the years, considered Caymus to be a premium, family owned winery. (For family owned here, read exclusive and small production, that's the common perception).  The details of the lawsuit, made public this past August, revealed that Caymus bottled 830,000 cases of wine in 2012: some 788,000 cases in excess of their use permit which allows for a mere 42,000 cases to be bottle per annum.  Talk about having your cover blown!  I was shocked upon hearing this, after all Caymus is the winery that gave us Special Selection, a wine that frequently scores high with wine critics (don't get me started on scoring).  Really just how special is Special Selection?  In all fairness, under the Wagner Family of Wine, the makers of Special Selection also produce several other wine labels.  Which brings me to a particular Chardonnay I tried recently.
The Mer Soleil, 2011 Silver Chardonnay (Santa Lucia Highlands), is an unoaked Chardonnay.  In fact it is fermented, and aged, in stainless steel and small Nomblot cement tanks.  Then it is bottled in a stone bottle, or as the winery's website puts it, "...unique ceramic bottle is reminiscent of the cement fermenters."  Okay.  Overall, the producers have a very lofty opinion of this wine.  "We believe that the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation in Monterey County is the best appellation in the world for producing Chardonnay."  Of course they would say that, wouldn't they?  But I'm thinking they'd lose an argument, and badly, with the growers of, oh I dunno, let's say Corton-Charlemagne.  Just saying.
Anyway, back to the wine.  I can't began to describe my experience with this wine.  The nose had something a little tropical going on, but it was sort of a clumsy jumble of over ripe fruit.  On the palate I got a sweet-mystery-fruit, hay-baley, briny-flabbiness that kind of flapped around my mouth like a floundering fish.  Briny?  Floundering fish?  Maybe thoughts of la mer were muddying my tasting experience because, in the end, my poor palate was just so confused.  However, I am going to give this wine the benefit of the doubt and I'm going to say that perhaps this was just a bad bottle...because I can't for the life of me believe that the folks at Caymus/Mer Soleil intended the wine to taste this way.  At least I hope not. 
The moral of this tasting?  Not every bottle has a silver lining - and this bottle isn't even recyclable.  Utterly confounding!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

American nightshade.

Working outside this afternoon, doing nothing of particular import except enjoying the fresh air, I was easily distracted when V2 happened by and flushed a grey fox out from a clump of blackberries, adjacent to the Pinot grigio vines, where it was apparently having an afternoon nap.  Always ready to indulge my little terrier mix in any canine-caper she chooses, I joined in hot pursuit of the fox across the creek, behind an oak tree, where it disappeared into another clump of blackberries.  Oh well.  It was then that I spotted a couple of nightshade plants growing at my feet. 
The American nightshade (Solanum americanum) reappears in the same spot beside the creek, next to the pokeweed, every year.  The nightshade is a rather winsome little plant; it's flowers are very pretty; it's immature berries are very shiny and green; it's mature berries are even shinier and black.  These plants can be toxic to animals and humans when ingested as they contain glycoalkaloids, including solanine which can also be found in sprouting potatoes.  However, the degree of toxicity varies depending upon plant population, plant maturity and environmental conditions.  And whether or not a certain little black and white dog's belly is full because she, perhaps, already dined upon a certain Mr. Basil Brush.  Boom! Boom!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Decline in the vine.


Although tourists may enjoy seeing red leaves on grapevines this time of year, red leaves are not normal and are, in fact, an indication that something is wrong with the vine. Several problems can cause red leaf symptoms in grapevines.  For example, red leaves are one symptom of Syrah Decline (SD), but they are not the only symptom.  And certainly, Syrah is not the only variety to show red leaves.
Several of Vinoland's Syrah vines display varying levels of red colouration in their dying leaves in the autumn.  (Curiously, there are fewer vines displaying redness this year than previous years.)  In the above photograph, the yellowing vine on the right is shutting down correctly - from green the leaves turn yellow, then brown, then drop to the ground - the reddening vine is shutting down not so correctly.  I needed to take a closer look, so out to the vineyard I went. A quick once over of this vine revealed, or not, as the case may be, a few things to me.
The culprit could be SD (more commonly referred to as Syrah Disorder in California), a syndrome that is said to affect particular clones of Syrah more than others.  The graft union of this particular Syrah vine shows no evidence of cracking or pitting (which are two symptoms of SD).  In fact, I'd have to say this particular vine has the prettiest of graft unions.
It can't be Leafroll disease as there is no evidence of, well, leafroll.
It isn't Fanleaf Degeneration as the leaves show no signs of deformation - as in looking like a fan.
Could it be Pierce's Disease (caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa)?  Well, there is some leaf scorching, and there are a few petioles that have remained attached to the cane after the leaf blade has separated, but this vine shows no other symptoms.  No stunted shoot growth - this particular vine has shoots that are up to 8 feet in length.  No raisining of fruit - the vine supported a fantastic crop this year.
So, in conclusion, I don't know what is wrong with this vine.  If I really wanted to know what was going on I could have the tissue tested.  Then again, I could not.  Perhaps it is a hitherto unknown pest...that'd just be my luck. Ho hum.

Monday, November 04, 2013

A blotch on the landscape.

Just a quick post.  It's Monday night and I'm tired.
The Oakville Winegrowers held a meeting, late this afternoon, at TWWIAGE.  On the agenda was a presentation by Dr. James Stamp on Grapevine Red Blotch-associated Virus.  Commonly referred to simply as Red Blotch, this is a fairly new grapevine virus (unexplained disease symptoms were first categorised in 2007, in Oakville) that may have dire economic ramifications for commercial growers and wineries.  And to be quite honest, nobody really knows much of anything about this virus.  For example, it is thought that possible vectors of the disease are leafhoppers, or whiteflies, but the research is ongoing.
The photograph shows a sampling of the handiwork of some of the participating wineries.  Yes, the meeting had a rather serious tone, but that didn't stop the attendees from tasting the goods.  It was quite a who's who of Oakville.  I just hope that none of these vineyards are infected with Red Blotch already.  Yikes.
I'll be attending a seminar on Red Blotch later in the month, so hopefully I'll learn a little bit more about this disease.  Stay tuned.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Selección Victoria.

In 2009, according to the Napa County Ag Commissioner, there were only 302 producing acres of Malbec growing in the entire county.  Malbec, more famous nowadays for it's success in Argentina, is not a widely produced single varietal wine in Napa, although there are a few notable producers, including Antinori and St. Supéry.  This particular Malbec, the Herrera, 2009 Selección Victoria, is perhaps the best of any domestic Malbec I have tasted.  I don't know where these grapes were sourced, I just wish more had been sourced  as only 65 cases of this delicious were produced.
Made by winemaker Rolando Herrera, and named after one of his daughters, this Malbec was full bodied with the deepest purple hue, nicely balanced acidity, bold, but silky tannins and a persistent, moreish finish.  A purple-plummy-raspberryness was followed by the suggestion of blackberries - the floral-perfumey character one gets when one passes by a bramble patch loaded with overly ripe berries - then there was the velvety vanilla vibe that just didn't let go of my taste buds.  Yum! 
Unfortunately, the bottle was only a 375 ml and it disappeared quickly, but not to worry it was sufficient.  And the wine paired well with my Jack-o-Lantern shaped pepperoni pizza (a tradition in these parts).  I'm all about high-end food and wine pairings me.  Double yum!