Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year: GMT style.

Although I will miss Vinoland's annual, New Year bubbly tasting it's not like I am going to forego drinking bubbles altogether on this the last day of 2013, am I? No, instead I will be imbibing in a tipple of Thud's choice, a nice little something from Piper-Heidsieck, a good 8 hours ahead of Vinomaker and all my Californian friends.
Have a very Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Back in Blighty.

Yup, I am back home.  My mother was having a special birthday, so I, with the help of Thud, decided to surprise her.  And surprised she was. What was also surprising was that my first two days here were sunny and dry.  I knew the dry weather was not going to last, of course.  A quick drive over to New Brighton today  reminded me, none too gently, of how powerful the winds off Liverpool Bay can be.  I shouldn't complain: Fort Perch Rock has been withstanding the 40 mph winds (and worse), that I had the joy of experiencing today, from it's vantage point on the River Mersey since Napoleonic times. Ten minutes was enough for me.  I really should have had something stronger than coffee.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Where in the world is Vinogirl now?

Where am I?  Well, that all depends upon what time this post is being read.  SFO?  ORD?  MAN?  Liverpool is calling, once again.  I'm en route to home, (...to where I once belonged, Part 5).  See you on the other side. 
Get back JoJo!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas: 2013.

A very Happy Christmas from everybody in Vinoland...that includes me, Vinomaker, old Vinodog 1 and a festive, poinsettia wielding, Vinodog 2!
Wishing you all a joyful day filled with family, friends, good food and great wine.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Eat, drink and be very merry!

Lots of bubbles (including a Prosecco), loads of cheese and charcuterie, a sherry for Vinomaker and some fancy biscuits for the Vinodogs.  Christmas eve is very merry in Vinoland!  Santa (Father Christmas) is in Nicaragua right now (according to NORAD) and he's already delivered more than five and a half billion pressies - makes me tired just thinking about that.  I'm off to bed.  Happy Christmas eve everybody!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Deck the vines...

...with boughs of tomatoes, fa la la la la la la la laEven Vinoland's grapevines are getting into the Christmas spirit. 
Now, I don't normally hang Christmas decorations out in the vineyard and this year is no exception.  I don't have the foggiest idea as to how these two cherry tomatoes (toe-marr-toes, thank you) ended up in the head of this Syrah vine.  But I like to amuse myself by imagining that there are some crazy party animals whooping it up amongst the vines whilst I slumber.  Party on little caroling-critters.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cliff diving.

Erm, not the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon one would usually find me quaffing, but an Oakville AVA Cabernet nonetheless.  This is another of Vinomaker's finds from our wine cellar and, as is becoming a very definite trend around here, he has no idea how he happened to be in possession of this particular wine.  What is known is that this bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon hailing from Vine Cliff Winery is a product of the stellar 1997 Napa Valley vintage.  Vine Cliff is located on a rather historic (for California) piece of property above the Silverado Trail in Oakville. Originally part of a Mexican land grant given to George C. Yount (for whom Yountville is named), the Sweeney family are the current owners and have been making wine there since 1985. The winery is considered a boutique winery, as they make less than 10,000 cases per vintage.
Good vintage here, good vintage there.  Blah, blah, blah!  All very well and good, but how did it taste?  Well, that depends on who was drinking it.  Vinomaker really liked it.  Me?  Less so.  I just couldn't get past the oak, lots and lots of the stuff.  Nice body and texture, but this wine is not aging very well.  In my estimation, this wine was overly oaked and out of balance back in 1997 and it's not like it's going to balance itself anytime soon: it's teetering on the edge.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Solstice sunset.

The winter solstice's sunrise wasn't much to look at.  And up I was, looking at it, listening to Jethro Tull, brewing coffee and making cinnamon rolls: I wanted to get my money's worth of daylight on this the shortest day of the year. 
However, whilst walking the Vinodogs late this afternoon I got to enjoy a very impressive sunset which highlighted the neighbourhood vineyards with a deep, amber glow.
Happy winter solstice, enjoy, be happy...for tomorrow it starts to stay lighter, later.
Sing it, Ian!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Winery Christmas Lights 12.

One doesn't have to actually go into Mumm Napa Valley to enjoy their Christmas lights because their twinkling, light-bedecked sign, situated on the Silverado Trail, is in plain sight for all driving past to see.  And rather festive it is too, I might add.  But whilst in the vicinity it would be rude not to pop in and do a  quick bubbly tasting, wouldn't it?  Which is exactly what my TWWIAGE co-workers and I did this afternoon (with a little bubbly-retail therapy to follow).  Always a great way to get in the Christmas mood, I tasted three very different sparkling wines and enjoyed them all.  So, I bought some. 
Sparkle on little lights.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gaudete, 2013.

Once again it's Gaudete Sunday, so, as is the tradition in Vinoland, a pink wine has been selected for this evening's libation.  My wine choice for this 3rd Sunday in Advent is a 2011 Phoenix Ranch, Bechthold Vineyard (Lodi AVA), rosé of Cinsault.  A pale salmon pink in colour, this saignée is packed full of flavour, big on strawberry-ness, with a really long finish.  Good stuff.
Sing it Maddy!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Double, double toil and...

...trouble.  A stuck fermentation spells big trouble for a winemaker, as unfermented degrees Brix can be a source of food for unwanted wine microbes which can spoil a whole lot of wine.  Stuck fermentations can occur for many reasons; an incorrect initial yeast selection; competition from other microbes (pediococcus, lactobacillus etc.); high fermentation temperatures. The best way to deal with a stuck fermentation is by avoiding this undesirable turn of events in the first place because restarting one involves a lot of work. 
Down in the bowels of TWWIAGE is a bubbling cauldron of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.  A lot of fiddly steps are being followed by the production team to get this particular fermentation going again, but restarting a stuck fermentation essentially involves a new yeast selection and a lot of granulated sugar...and perhaps throwing in the odd "eye of newt" and "toe of frog" for good measure.  The colour in the above photograph is off a little, in reality the fist-sized bubbles are a wonderful blue-purple.  Bubble on little yeasties!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Bonny and blithe.

I woke up this morning to a very pretty, and seemingly sugar-coated, Vinoland.  And the sweetest news that, during the night, my sister-in-law had been delivered of a healthy baby girl.  A new niece, how wonderful!  Welcome to the (chilly) world little one.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Hot Havana Nights!

Tonight was the annual TTWIAGE Christmas shindig.  My co-workers and I enjoyed an evening of food and festivity in the historic barrel room (the site of the Groezinger Winery in Yountville, built in 1870).
The theme this year was Hot Havana Nights, so each table was fittingly decorated with Carmen Miranda-like headgear (replete with grapes of course), fresh gardenias for the ladies, chocolate-cigars for the men, and feather boas (I have secretly always wanted a feather boa).  Mrs TTWIAGE's intention was that the polystyrene foam heads would be relieved of their sparkly-fruit salad at some point during the evening.  And that's just what happened: as the evening wore on much silliness ensued. 
Good fun was had by all.  And I got to take a feather boa home.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Steady mercury.

Well, the mercury had been fairly steady in the high 30s °F all autumn, until this morning when it took a nose-dive and reached 22° F.  And that was recorded on the thermometer that is protected below Vinoland's deck: the lowest temperature recorded in Napa was 19° F, and that's quite chilly for here.
Brrr!  Forget the wine, pass me the Cadbury Drinking Chocolate.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

A tree treat.

Here it is, the 2013 iteration of Anchor Brewing Company's Christmas Ale.  I look forward to this beer appearing in the shops this time of year.  It has become a fast tradition (especially for me and Thud, when he's visiting at Yuletide) that the mere act of purchasing this beer gets one into the Christmas-swing of things. 
The label, adorned with a different tree each year, this year the California White Fir (Abies concolor var. Lowiana), is olde worlde and festive.  The neck label reads thus: "This is the thirty-ninth "Our Special Ale" from the brewers at Anchor.  It is sold only from early November to mid-January.  The Ale's recipe is different every year, as is the tree on the label, but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life.  Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew."  Yikes, I feel all teary-eyed. 
Hoppy-citrusy-yumminess, I must buy more of this ale so that I have some to drink on the winter solstice.  "Ring out, ring solstice bells."  I feel some Jethro Tull coming on!