Thursday, June 22, 2017


The Marketing Queen at TWWIAGE recently gave me a copy of a Japanese magazine to read in which TWWIAGE was featured.  I say read, but there was not one, single word of English in the current issue of What-Wine!? (their punctuation, not mine) magazine.  So I just looked at the pictures.  And very nice pictures they were: it is a beautifully produced publication.  However, something other than photographs of TWWIAGE's vineyards and winemaker caught my eye.
The first time that I tasted Gazela's Vinho Verde, I remember thinking that it was pleasant, but that I had had better.  Well, I have since had to eat my words (or rather, drink them).  I drink Gazela all the time and I can still buy it at my local supermarket for $3.99 (if I buy six bottles at a time, which I do). The photograph that intrigued me in Wine-What!? was that of a Gazela wine called 'Frutos Do Mar' (seafood). Although I did notice the initialism 'DOC' in the write-up of this wine, I gleaned no information from the magazine's text.  So off, onto the internet I went.
Apparently, last year Sogrape, the producer of Gazela and Portugal's largest family owned winery, decided to repackage their Vinho Verde specifically for the Japanese market.  It seems that 'Frutos Do Mar' is the same wine, but packaged to let the Japanese consumer know that the wine is seafood friendly.  Can we say, sushi?  Yes, we can.
I had noticed that Gazela had changed the label this year/batch (remember, it is a non-vintage wine) from the old clear label to a new silver label.  I'm just wondering if  the seafood-friendly-marketing-move will make it to the USA in the future: does America need idiot-friendly labelling?  Actually, I don't care - I'm going to continue to drink Gazela no matter what the packaging looks like.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dr. Jezza.

Vinomaker and I had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Jeremy Parzen Ph.D. in Vinoland the past two days.  It wasn't really a social visit, although we did have a lot of fun and good conversation on Friday night.  No, Jezza was in California to work on a very exciting, new project for him, so he was just passing through.
And he departed Vinoland just in time.  It go to 104° F today: it was stinking hot.  Of course Vinomaker had picked today to be a bottling day. The St. Helena Sots, thankfully, showed up in Vinoland early and the bottling event went smoothly, quickly and without incident.  It was so hot that there was, unfortunately, no afterglow-luncheon - it was just too uncomfortable to be outside.  Don't know about anyone else, but I for one didn't want to be the BBQed meat!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Green, green grapes of home.

The weather has turned hot, finally!  We have had three days of mid 90s temps.  I'm loving it, but the grapes probably aren't as enthusiastic about it as I am.  So, to make the little grapettes feel better, they have been treated to their first watering of the season.
Watering the vines is not as easy as just turning on a tap, of course, nothing is that straight forward.  The vineyard drip irrigation lines have to be flushed of any deposits that may have collected in the lines over the previous growing season - deposits that could clog the emitters.  In Vinoland, the main culprit is the iron bacteria that is in our well water. The intense orange colouration of the water that blasts out of the end of the lines, (always my end of the line, Vinomaker is always upstream), is fantastic.  Stay hydrated, little grapies!

Friday, June 09, 2017

California quailettes.

It's hard to take a good photograph of a moving target, or targets.  What I initially thought was an army of cavorting frogs, turned out to be covey of, at least, ten baby quail bopping about under the watchful eye of their ever alert dad.  (Two to Mr. Quail's right side, one behind his tail and seven bringing up the rear.)  I got as close as I could, but dad was getting more and more agitated by my presence.  Mum was no where to be seen.
This might have been the little 'uns first time out of the nest: they are tiny. Mr. & Mrs. Quail have been hanging around Vinoland for weeks now, but I couldn't quite work out where they had decided to make their nest.  I know now, so no work in the Syrah block for a while.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

California calyptra.

It rained today; heavy at times, but mostly a miserable, stubborn drizzle that lasted all-the-grey-day-long.  And the temperature climbed to a whopping 65° F.   Hmmph!  Not exactly optimum conditions for bloom in the grapevines - which seems to be going quite slowly this year.  Come back, California-sunshine.
The number of days that the grapevines are in bloom is dependent upon the weather.  When conditions are favourable bloom can take about 8-10 days, (but it can take as long as two weeks under cool conditions like the Napa Valley is experiencing now).  And, of course, the flower clusters on a grapevine will not all bloom at exactly the same time, so that spreads bloom out a bit.  Still, I think bloom is more protracted this year.  I have also noticed that there are more clusters per shoot and that the clusters seem to be a bit bigger than the past two years.
Do not be alarmed by this picture of detached grape flowers from one cluster of Cabernet Sauvignon at TWWIAGE (and hand-modeled by a coworker).  Although it looks like a lot of dead material; anthers, calyptra, stamens, etc., it is quite normal.  As few as 20 to 30 percent of the flowers on a cluster will develop into berries, most will fall from the cluster during the initial stages of berry growth.  Furthermore, a significant number of flowers will drop from the cluster about 8 to 12 days after full bloom: a stage commonly known as shatter.  Fruit set is not complete until after shatter.  Phew!  It's a jungle out there.  Fruit, set, now!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bloomin' 'eck!

Yesterday, when I was working in the vineyard, stuffing shoots and suckering trunks, I noticed that bloom is rather advanced in the Cabernet Sauvignon vines.  How did that happen? There didn't seem to be much going just this time last week.  The weather was warm at the beginning of the week, but temps have cooled to the low 70s and it's been a bit windy. Whatever is going on the vines seem to like it.  Carry on buddies!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Still loving them thar hills.

Last week, due to an event that was held at TWWIAGE, I was able to taste this incredible wine, the 2014 Smith-Madrone, Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain District AVA).  The Wine Institute of California was holding its third international 'California Wines Summit' and I was lucky enough to be involved, albeit in a microscopic capacity.  The Summit was a week of tastings and events meant to showcase California wines to key wine-media and trade folks participating from 10 different countries. (Yes, the United Kingdom was well represented.)  There were a lot of great wines in attendance also.
I don't think the  2014 Smith-Madrone has been released yet, perhaps I shouldn't even be blogging about it, but it was just so spectacular I can't not write about it.  Whilst I personally think it's insane that some producers are releasing their 2014s already I just couldn't put my glass of this 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon down.  And over the past 10 days I haven't stopped thinking about this wine.  (I'd estimate that only half a dozen wines have had that effect on me in my entire life.)  Abounding with black fruit and spices this wine is certainly, in my humble opinion, not ready for drinking yet.  But, if my experience with a 1985 Smith-Madrone is anything to go by, I am predicting that this wine is going to be magnificent, oh, about 29 years from now.  Can't wait.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bloom is bustin' out all over.

Everything is blooming in Vinoland, except for the Cabernet Sauvignon. But that is not surprising, as the Cabernet Sauvignon is always the last variety to go through bud break and bloom.
The wonderful weather we have been having in the Napa Valley of late is absolutely ideal for bloom. Vitis vinifera generally likes the temperature to be about 85°F during bloom and will quite happily bloom away in the heat - until temperatures reach above 95°F when, like me, the vines get a little toasty.  Temperatures above 95°F can result in bloom, and fruit set, being adversely affected.  The grapevines and I are so sensitive.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Just because 9...

...Today would have been Joey Ramone's 66th birthday.  And also because it is 40 years to the day that Thud actually met The Ramones, in Liverpool, on May 19th 1977.  That particular day was Joey Ramone's 26th birthday.  Thud still owns The Ramones t-shirt he bought that same day from Joey's brother, Mickey Leigh.
It's not a secret that The Ramones are perhaps my favourite band ever, thanks to Thud, and it is no surprise to me that I enjoy their music now just as much as I did when I was a teenager. What has been a surprise to me is that, 40 years later, we now have a new generation of Ramones fans in the family.  Thud's nine, almost ten, year old daughter possibly knows more about The Ramones than me and her dad combined.  It's amazing to witness and it's a constant source of amusement to me.
Thud can be seen in the photograph on the right, or at least his leather jacketed-back can be seen, talking to Joey.  Great memories.  Happy birthday Joey.  And RIP.
Photographs courtesy of Ian Dickson.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I doff my calyptra to you, Pinot grigio.

I noticed last week that the Pinot grigio vines were starting to bloom, just a little bit here and there.  A week later, I am estimating that they are probably about 60% through bloom, (or anthesis).  Just look at those calyptra coming off.
There is a lot going on out in the vineyard right now; flowering, shoot stuffing, suckering, sulphuring, weeding, mowing, etc.  Phew!  The vines are busy, so am I, but I am not too busy to pause and acknowledge that the vines are doing most of the work.  Go buddies!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A tale of two bottles.

I was just saying to someone recently that, of late, I rather enjoy it when I open a bottle of wine that I can't drink.  That is, undrinkable for a variety of reasons; cork taint, over the hill, etc. And then it happened the very next night.
The wine on the left, the Henry Earl Estates 2013 Merlot (Red Mountain AVA), was totally oxidised and, yes, undrinkable.  Down the sink it went. I suspect that the wine was in this state when it was bottled, probably having been produced poorly.  (The cork appeared sound, no leakage.) This bottle of Merlot was a gift, which probably contributed to my rapid rejection of this wine.
The wine on the right was a quick replacement - simply, the next bottle at hand - as dinner was being served.  The Goosecross 2014 Amerital (Napa Valley AVA) was tasty, quite moreish and not oxidised.  And, being a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon and 43% Sangiovese, it just so happened to be a much better pairing with my Bolognese.
Life is too short to drink oxidised oenos!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The old and the new.

New Cabernet sauvignon leaves, old Cabernet sauvignon tendrils.
Vinoland's grapevines are enjoying a fantastic start to the 2017 growing season.  All four grape varieties are flourishing right now; lots of vigour in the vines, so lots of shoot stuffing for me to perform.
The weather has been a bit up and down, mid 90°s last week, mid 60°s the past two days.  I hope we are not going to have another cool growing season like that of 2011.  Only time will tell.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Afternoon in the Vineyards: 2017.

This afternoon, Vinomaker and I ventured out of Vinoland, but we didn't go too far.  Staying fairly close to our Coombsville home, we decided to attend Afternoon in the Vineyards the annual event hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners.  And, for the first time, Vinodog 2 came along with us.
The folks at Faust, our vineyard of choice, farm approximately 112 acres in Coombsville's gently, rolling hills.  The vineyard is planted to five grape varieties; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Sauvignon blanc.  And all the vines, from what I could see, are head-trained and cane-pruned.  The weather was a tad cool, the scenery was beautiful and V2 had a poo.  Not much more to say really.  Oh, except that I did taste a Faust 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, but didn't think an awful lot of it; too plummy and one-dimensional, not a lot going on.

Monday, May 01, 2017

¡Trabajadores del mundo, uníos!

Happy May Day!  By which I mean a cheerful May Day to all, but only in the ancient-spring-festival-laudatory-way of celebrating the first day of May.  I love a bit of paganism now and again.
Yes, it is spring and, like me, Vinoland's grapevines are suitably enthused.  I spent most of the past four days making sure that the new, rapidly elongating shoots are securely tucked up behind the trellis wires. I love viticulture.  I love farming the grapevines in Vinoland, but, at this stage in my life, I wouldn't want to pursue viticulture as a full time job. Things, and people, change.
TWWIAGE is in the process of hiring a viticulturist.  The vacancy was just posted on  It is a new position, as TWWIAGE has never had a dedicated viticulturist before.  Instead, the owners of TWWIAGE went the traditional route of employing a vineyard manager who oversees all things grapey.  But things change.
I would not be an eligible candidate for the job. Neither would my young coworker, The Doodler, who is in the process of working his way through UC Davis and has designs on making a career out of viticulture. Why? Well, The Doodler, like me, doesn't speak Spanish and, furthermore, has no particular desire to learn Spanish.  But speaking Spanish is a requirement of being considered qualified to perform the job of viticulturist.  As The Doodler commented, in wry observation, "California [Napa] is the only place where one has to learn a foreign language in order to get a job in one's own country". Thought provoking.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Happy St. George's Day, 2017.

Who is this international dog of mystery?  It's just my faithful Vinodog 2 celebrating St. George's Day.  Yes, today is the Feast of Saint George, so V2 and I are dressed appropriately for the occasion.  And I've been singing Jerusalem all day.
I wish I had timed my holiday a little bit better, so that I could have celebrated St. George's Day in England this year.  Unfortunately, I departed "England's pleasant pastures..." 48 hours too soon.  Perhaps next year.
Happy St. George's Day to my family, friends and any dog who loves England as much as I do.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Brimstage Brewery.

Today, I went for an informative tour of a small brewery located close to where Thud lives. Situated in a modest building in the yard of a dairy farm, Brimstage Brewery produce about 5 different beers - including my favourite offering of theirs, Trapper's Hat.
Brimstage Brewery's head brewer, Adam Williams, gave me and my fellow Trapper's Hat fan, Monkey, a fantastic tour of the compact brewing facility and walked us through the entire beer making process. So interesting.  I even got to taste a few different types of malt and smell several different varieties of hops. Wonderful stuff, thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The takeaway.

I love cheap and cheerful, in almost anything, and at £5.00 a bottle (approximately $6.50) this wine was definitely cheap - and quite cheerful.
Purchased at Sainsbury's, The Takeout, 2015 Sangiovese (Rubicone IGT) was just the wine to pair with Thud's pasta bake; a hearty dish of baked ziti, meatballs and tons of cheese - which we ate in.  Whilst I would have liked a little bit more acid (though, unfortunately, I think I did detect a bit of volatile acidity), The Takeout was smooth, plummy and, ultimately, quite easy to drink.  
The label on the bottle (funnily enough, most info about this wine is on the front label), recommends drinking this wine with tacos and burritos, amongst other things.  Good English fare?  Hee, hee, I think not.  Saying that, it is a commonly held misconception that English people do not like spicy food.  On the contrary, Mexican food may be eaten in England now, but the English have been shovelling down curry for more than 250 years. But marketing is marketing and the whole, "Enjoy fine dining from the comfort of your couch" and "Great wine to take away" is this wine-peddler's schtick. Especially when paired with the slightly silly food pairing suggestions, (see what I did there?)
Oh, and happy International Malbec Day.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Yeaster, 2017.

Sorry, but I couldn't resist using the pun, Yeaster, supplied by the manufacturer of this Easter egg.  Titter, titter.
It is Easter Sunday and, as is the tradition in England, a lot of chocolate eggs have been exchanged: big, tasty chocolate Easter eggs.  My Lenten fast ended just before breakfast this morning with my first taste of chocolate since February.  Yum!
I may not have had a lot of fermented grape juice since I have been home, but Thud wanted to make sure that I still had something yeasty. So he bought me this Marmite egg to try.  Marmite is a spread made out of yeast; it is dark, sticky, smelly and extremely salty.  Lots of people love it, or hate it.  Thud and I never had Marmite when we were growing up, it wasn't something our Vinomum liked even, so we never acquired a taste for it.  I had cousins who liked Marmite and they would eat it spread on top of buttered bread.  Yuck!
The Marmite Easter egg tasted bizarre.  I wouldn't say that I hated it exactly, but Marmite flavoured chocolate is not something I would really want to eat again, (but I'll try anything once).  It was intensely salty.  If I wanted to be pretentious about it, I'd describe the taste as umami-like. Titter, titter, again.
Eat chocolate!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A bunch of rosés.

Although there hasn't been much rain since I have been home it has been extremely blustery. Extremely blustery.  In other words, the weather has been anything but rosé-weather.  I was hoping that whilst I was here I could perhaps enjoy a glass, or two, of a nice pink vino with a leisurely lunch, or dinner.  No such luck. (Although I did have a nice glass of Frascati after the Grand National.)
If the weather had been nice, and a tasty rosé had been in order, I would probably have had a hard time picking just one to buy.  The selection of rosés available in the local Sainsbury's supermarket is rather extensive, I wish it was like that in my Napa supermarket.
I may still have time to partake of something pink, but only if the weather cooperates.  For now, I will just imagine that I am sitting in the Napa sun with a glass of a nicely chilled rosé in my hand and my trusty poochie, V2, who I am missing like mad, by my side.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The National.

Simply say The National to any English person and they will know exactly what one is referring to: just the greatest steeplechase in the universe, that's all.  The Grand National is an annual horse race which is held at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool.  The race is famous for having larger, and deeper, jumps than the common or garden steeplechase and it is run over a much longer distance, i.e., over 4 miles.  The race is a big event for Britons - even if one doesn't usually bet on the gee-gees, one will have a wager on The National.  The race has been run since 1839 and there have been a lot of winners.  But the 2017 race will mark 40 years since Red Rum, the most famous of all National winners, in an unsurpassed and historic feat, won his third and final Grand National.
I was excited to be home for The National this year, I love the spectacle of it all.  The entire family, even the 3 year old, got in on the act and placed bets (two horses each).  In fact, the horse the toddler picked came in first, a horse called One for Arthur.  (How did she do that?) Another niece and I both picked the horse that placed fourth, so we broke even money-wise, meanwhile the 3 year old is a big winner.  I still love the race, whether I win or lose.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Jefferson's Reserve.

I am always on the lookout for something unusual in the bourbon-department to buy for Thud.  I think this particular bottle of Jefferson's Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey fits the bill.
Jefferson's Reserve specialise in small, one-off batches of bourbon whiskey, or "very uncommon" and "ridiculously small batches" as the distillery likes to put it.  This particular small batch was finished off in retired French oak barrels that once held Groth Vineyards & Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  I thought this would be a fun bourbon for him to try because of Thud's, and the bourbon's, connection to the Napa Valley.
I hope he likes it.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Get back... where I once belonged, Part 10.
Yes, this evening I will be once again headed for home.
I love spring in England, in my opinion there is no prettier place on earth than the English countryside when the flora, and fauna, is fresh and renewed.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and I will actually be able to get outdoors and enjoy it.
A quick trip to Marks & Spencer is in order, at the beginning of my holiday this time, so that I can buy a bag of wine.  Yes, wine, in a bag.  I spotted this California Rosé in Marks & Spencer near the end of my last trip.  In the grey and damp of an English November, it didn't seem half as appealing to me as it does at the prospect of a warm, spring day.  And yes, the bag, a pouch really, does have a handle (Thud was holding it, so that I could photograph it).  I just have to try it.
As one can see, the bag also has a spigot, so no wine glass required.
Get back JoJo!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

A fortnight later.

It has been two whole weeks since I finished pruning in Vinoland, but today, finally, I noticed budbreak in the Cabernet Sauvignon vines.  It's not that budbreak is behind this year, it's just that I have a very definite schedule of my own this spring.  The vines are all behaving well. Well, perhaps all except the Orange Muscat vines which have about 8-9 inches of growth already - the little whippersnappers!  Growing season 2017 is definitely upon us.

Saturday, April 01, 2017


Whilst my favourite football Liverpool FC was busy beating rivals Everton FC 3-1 in today's Merseyside derby (on the other side of the pond), I was getting ready to attend a footie game a little closer to home.  Myself and a group of soccer enthusiasts from TWWIAGE had decided to spend our Saturday evening at the local high school's football stadium (hence the gridiron), cheering on the National Premier Soccer League's newest expansion team - Napa Valley 1839 FC.
With the splendid vista of Mt. George, the eastern hills and Coombsville in the background, my co-workers and I watched Napa's very own football team, playing in only the second match of their inaugural season, lose 0-2 to Sacramento Gold FC.  Oh dear.   I'd estimate that Napa Valley 1839 FC had a longer time of possession of the ball, but they just couldn't score. Better luck next time, boys.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I love pie!

On Monday, I got a lovely surprise from my TWWIAGE co-worker, The Doodler, (the same co-worker that drew a Liverbird for me), and his better half, Pie-girl: a wonderful, Liverbird-adorned, apple-cranberry birthday pie.  It is absolutely delicious.  Yum!  I tell ya, it is a real pity that this photograph isn't scratch'n'taste.
The Doodler's better half has toyed with the idea of going into the pie-making business.  I don't know how feasible a pie-making business would be.  I would imagine there could be a problem with scalability, (i.e., supply and demand, and dealing with competitors), but I would invest in her because Pie-girl's products are scrumptious. Besides, I can't imagine that Pie-girl would be in danger of getting too many orders for Liverbird-pies.

Monday, March 27, 2017

I love Groth!

I blame it all on my sister, La Serenissima, who played a little bit of tennis in grammar school (with nuns!), but who, come British summertime, was glued to the telly for the entire fortnight of Wimbledon. I mean, nonstop.  And being 10 years younger, what was a little Vinogirl to do?  La Serenissima soon had me hooked. Nowadays, if I am not watching the news, or something English on PBS, I am watching tennis. Only now, I get to blame my fondness for the game on Vinomaker, who does actually play tennis 3 or 4 times a week.
I tried learning to play tennis a few years ago (a funny story in itself), but I wasn't very good, as, alas, most English people aren't.  So, in lieu of having countrymen and women to cheer on, I gravitated towards the Australian players who were all just so good at chasing that little white ball - I'm showing my age - around the court.
Tennis is hard, really hard, and that's why I appreciate a player like Sam Groth, a current Australian player on the ATP tour.  Sam has the distinction of having the fastest serve on record, (that's serve, actually getting the ball in play), which was clocked at an incredible 163.4 mph.
I love tennis.  And I have it on good authority that Sam is "a big wine fan".
Go Grothy!
Photograph courtesy of Samuel Groth, professional tennis player.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Happy Mother's Day, mum.

It is Mothering Sunday in England, or Mother's Day as it is more commonly known.  And here is my mum, all smiley and young.  In her day, my mother used to be fond of a glass of Merlot, or a nice Rioja, but she doesn't drink much anymore. However, her real poison was Cognac, preferably Martell, although she did have a soft spot for Louis XIII (Rémy Martin), thanks to Thud.
In England, Mothering Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent and, as it has its origins in Christianity, is not really related to the American Mother's Day, which is celebrated in May (other than honouring mothers, that is). Of course, I am partial to the English Mother's Day because I am English. But also because it signals that the end of my Lenten fast is now only three weeks away.  All things chocolate be warned.  But, I digress.
Happy Mothering Sunday to all (English) mothers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It's birthday time.

Ta da!  Another birthday, what fun!
I had a great day, thanks to Vinomaker.  A wine tasting at Reynolds Family Winery (interesting), lunch at The Oxbow (duck taco, followed by a passion fruit cupcake) and dinner at Eiko's (lots of sushi, yum).
At dinner, I took advantage of Eiko's Wine Wednesday wine list and enjoyed a very refreshing glass of Albariño; a 2014 Calavera Wines, Dragone Vineyard (Calaveras County AVA).  And a few sips of some other good stuff. A very agreeable day.
Oh...and Happy Birthday John Toshack.
Vinogirl loves birthdays.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Don't rain on my Syrah.

A fine first day of spring this turned out to be: the rain is back.  It seems that I really did finish pruning in the nick of time.
At breakfast this morning, as I sleepily gazed out of the window, I thought I noticed a little fuzz of green in the Syrah vines.  Sure enough, this evening, upon closer inspection, in the rain, with V2 in tow (who had the expectation of going for a walk when I got home from TWWIAGE, not looking at some upright twigs in a downpour), I can confirm that budbreak is happening in the Syrah.  I am happy that the vines are having a great start to growing-season 2017, but they do look a little forlorn and soggy.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tied and tired.

I'm done!  I achieved the goal I set for myself and pruning is finished for 2017.  It took a lot of effort, I ignored a lot of other stuff I could've been doing and my hands are sore, but all the vines are pruned and the canes are tied down.  It feels great to be finished.  Whoo hoo!
Meanwhile, one week later, the Orange Muscat vines seem to be growing before my very eyes. The baby shoots have lengthened about 3 inches in the past six days.  The nascent inflorescence are now clearly visible.  I love this time of year, but I'm just a bit tired to enjoy it right now.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, 2017.

Vinodog 2 wants to wish everybody a very festive, but safe, St. Patrick's Day.  But really, it is just an excuse for her to put on another pair of silly glasses, secure in the knowledge that I will then post her photograph on Vinsanity.
In addition, Vinodog 2 also wanted to share with you all one of her favourite Irish sayings, "May the cat eat you and may the devil eat the cat." Whatever the bejesus that means!
Diddly, diddly, diddly, diddly...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Budbreak: PG-style.

I had my suspicions.  When I drove past the Pinot Grigio vines on my way to work yesterday, I thought there was something afoot.  And I was right. Seems the Pinot Grigio vines have been enjoying the spell of warm weather, as have I. We haven't missed the rain one bit.
The weather started to cool down Wednesday and it was forecast to rain last night, but it didn't, so I got a good day of pruning the Cabernet Sauvignon vines in.  I had set myself the goal of finishing pruning everything by this Sunday, the 19th of March.  Even though I have to work at TWWIAGE tomorrow, I think I am still on target.  Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy baking.

I got a lovely surprise in the post last Thursday - a gift from my big sister, La Serenissima.  How nice.
I usually pick up the post on my way back from my afternoon promenade with V2, but there is never anything very exciting in Vinoland's mail receptacle, (the good stuff goes to our P.O. box in Napa).  Imagine my surprise when I discovered a cheery, yellow bubble-wrap envelope, that jangled when I picked it up, in the usually junk-filled box.  What could it be?  I was intrigued and could not walk quickly enough back to the house to open it.  Well, inside the package was an adorable set of grape and wine themed measuring spoons with a simple little note that said, "Happy baking!" Thanks, sis, I'll get right on that.
Funny, but I had made a mental note to myself only that morning that I needed to get a new set of measuring spoons, as, for years now, I have been using an old set belonging to Vinomaker. How could my sister have known?  A case of sibling telepathy?  Or just a happy coincidence? No matter, I just love them.
It just occurred to me that my new measuring spoons almost match my spoon ring and bracelet - how perfect.  In fact, I think the measuring spoons are so cute, I may just wear them.  But not before I have actually measured something with them.  Thanks again, La Serenissima.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Evolution and the missing (internet) link.

This is what happens when one gets 4 days of mid 70° F temperatures, but doesn't have any internet access to document it sooner.  Not just budbreak, but fully fledged leaves.  The Orange Muscat grapevines are enthused, nature is taking its course.
Of course, the grapevines don't care if I have internet access or not. Then again, perhaps they do: I had 50 extra hours with nothing better to do than prune and preen the little miscreants.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

2014, already?

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be able to do a comparative tasting of Cabernet Sauvignons from the Oakville AVA.  Four out of the six wines included in the tasting were from the 2014 vintage: the other 2 were 2013s.  What?  That's crazy!  I'm only just getting acquainted with the 2013 vintage, which, in my opinion, is a young vintage that needs to be laid down (and forgot about) for a quite a few years yet.
My favourite of the assemblage was a Plumpjack Winery, 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.  With 5% Petit Verdot thrown into the blend, this Cabernet was complex and layered. Surprisingly, a dizzying 15.6% alcohol content - winemaker Aaron Miller told me the fruit hung a little long that year - was not a problem.  This wine is so balanced, fruit forward (lots of cherry - red and black), well integrated oak and with a palate-pleasing acidity, that there was no telltale burn from the high alcohol.  Just loved it.
On the home front, today I started pruning for the 2017 vintage of Vinoland's Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon.  Tee, hee!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Hail, filaree!

I spent most of the day finishing off tying down the Syrah canes.  And dodging hailstones.
Beginning with my morning perambulation with V2 (when we both had to run and take cover to avoid being peppered with hail), I was interrupted, about every six vines, by another heavy salvo. The hailstones were very tiny, but plentiful.  It was also very chilly, so the hailstones lingered in small drifts against walls, fences and tree trunks. And cupped in the leaves of weeds that grow in rosettes, e.g., dandelion, catsear, bristly oxtongue and this whitestem filaree (Erodium moschatum).  Brrr.
I didn't have a lot of fun as I worked, but I did eventually finish the Syrah, yay!  Now, on to the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Ready, steady, bud!

And there you have it - Orange Muscat budbreak, 2017.  Ever so slightly behind last year (not surprising seeing as Vinoland had just experienced 8 days of frosty mornings), the Orange Muscat vines are waking up from their long winter nap.  As expected, it is the apical buds that are the most enthused.  Go little buddies, but stay warm.
Meanwhile, I am frantically pruning the Syrah vines.  With rain forecast for the next two days, it means I will be pruning the vines with my waterproofs on.  Prune hardy!

Thursday, March 02, 2017

World Book Day.

Today is the 20th anniversary of World Book Day: a day designated by UNESCO to celebrate books, authors and reading.
I wanted to celebrate some of my personal favourite wine books which, over the years, I have read again and again.  There is a handful of wine books that I continually return to and use as reference books.  (My list of books dedicated to the topic of viticulture is actually bigger.)  And some I just read for fun.
A special mention, once more, has to be given to the book Wine by Hugh Johnson.  That particular book, a gift when I was 17 years old (thank you, Thud), started my interest in all things wine.  And eventually viticulture. Wine is definitely one of my favourite books of all time, written by my favourite wine writer.  Thanks, Hugh.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Dewi Sant: 2017.

Happy St. David's Day from Vinoland.
Vinodog 2 is posing with fake daffodils. Why, might one ask?  Well, as usual, the daffodils are nearly finished blooming in our little corner of California, and when they were nice and fresh the rain and wind battered them to the ground. It was very upsetting to me.  Have I mentioned that I really don't like rain?  I think I have.  So, fake daffodils it is for this 2017 St. David's Day.
I hope everyone who is of Welsh extraction takes a little time today to celebrate their patron saint.
Bore da!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Shrovetide sunset.

It hasn't rained in almost a week, yay!  Since last Thursday it has been frosty every morning and sunny every afternoon - my favourite type of winter weather.  Consequently, pruning has resumed in the valley: the east side of the local Far Niente Chardonnay vineyard was pruned today.
Vinodog 2 and I had a lovely walk after I got home from work, enjoying the rich hues that the setting sun cast over Mt. George and the eastern hills.  Then it was home for dinner, and pancakes, yum!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Recon Day: 2017.

I am a little late posting about the annual TWWIAGE event, Recon Day, (which was held back on February 8th), due, in part, to the fact that the three wineries visited weren't very interesting to me.  February 8th was an extremely rainy day, which was cast a bit of a grey mood on the proceedings.  But we bravely forged ahead, as the promise of free wine beckoned our motley group of eight forth.
First stop was Cakebread Cellars.  This winery is very brown, wood everywhere (I'd paint it all white), so I really didn't like the facility. And I can't say I particularly liked any of the wines I tasted either.  Some light relief was provided, albeit unintentionally, by our host, a man we nicknamed The International Man of Mystery, who regaled us with tales of the many hats he had worn throughout his life.  This gentleman had had so many dissimilar occupations (e.g., selling Picassos and Gauguins), in many different parts of the world, that he'd have to be about 150 years old to have fit everything in. Or had performed every job for, oh, let's say, about 39 seconds each.
Next, we headed over to Goosecross Cellars (GC).  I visited GC (now owned by a Coors Brewing Company heiress) last March, so I think I'd already tasted most of the current releases.   A member of our group had once worked at GC, so the wine-tasting devolved into more of a reunion. In truth, there wasn't a lot of focus on the wines, if any, which was a shame.
Lunch was at Bottega, in Yountville, and was delicious as usual (I had a fabulous duck ravioli). Chef Michael Chiarello, being in residence that day, came over to say a quick hello.  Celebrity chefs: a modern day phenomenon, sigh.
Last stop of the day was at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars (SLWC).  Made famous by Warren Winiarski (and the Judgement of Paris), but now under the ownership of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Marchesi Antinori, the newish visitors centre at  SLWC is absolutely stunning. And absolutely overwhelming.  (I could have done without the lecture on Copernicus.) However, of all the wines I had tasted today, I liked the wines here best, especially a rather tasty 2010 Cask 23 (at once both smooth and intense).  I was delighted to discover that SLWC produce a dry Sémillon, a varietal that can be difficult to do well.  The Rancho Chimiles, 2015 Sémillon (Napa Valley AVA), was quite appealing, so I bought a few bottles.
All in all, it was a fun day.  If there were any awkward silences - at lunch, or driving to and from wineries - someone would recall an interesting factoid about our Cakebread Man of Mystery and we'd all have a good laugh.  The rain was persistent.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Happy birthday Vinomaker.

Yes, today is Vinomaker's birthday.  And, as is our tradition, we decided to go out and do a little bit of wine tasting.
Usually, I try to choose a winery that is off the beaten track, has an interesting backstory, or produces an uncommon varietal wine.  But today I chose to visit a winery that is slap-bang in the middle of everything that is touristy about the Napa Valley; Grgich Hills Estate on Highway 29, Rutherford.
Although Grgich does have an interesting backstory, the Judgement of Paris, I have never found their wines particularly to my taste. However, the 3 million people packed into the tasting room (alright, I'm exaggerating, it was only 2.9 million - and they were all soggy because it was raining), alongside me and Vinomaker, apparently disagreed. The tasting room is outdated (brown, stained plywood), the wines are mediocre (except for a truly awful 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon), but the flock of adherents are, seemingly, irrepressible.
All in all, I did enjoy the experience because it reminded me that there are a lot of different experiences to be had in the Napa Valley. Besides, where else could one find a cheery, be-bereted Croatian on a wine label? Vinomaker and I then drove over to Laird Family Estate and bought a mixed case of  some wines we could actually drink.
Dinner tonight is at Mustard's Grill, so I'm expecting to end the day with a happily overcrowded tummy.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Suspicious activity.

Yikes!  Bud swell has been spotted in the Orange Muscat (OM) vines. Today, I happened to glance at the OM when I was passing them by, gathering my things in order to start pruning the Syrah, and wasn't sure that what I was seeing was actually the expanding OM buds rupturing their scales.  Suspicious, that something was afoot, I went and had a look-see.  Yup, on closer inspection I discovered that the OM are indeed enthused and ready to get on with vintage 2017. Early pruning will do that, sigh.
In reality, the OM are only about a week earlier than last year, and they are even a little behind schedule when compared with the 2015 vintage. Bud swell just seems early to me this year.  It is probably because, due to the rain, I feel that I am a little behind.  Prune on, Vinogirl!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy St. Valentine's Day: 2017.

Vinodog 2 is a very happy little dog: she greets every new day with a vigorous way of her tail. This morning was no different, except that me and my pooch had a quick smooch before our daily routine commenced.
I beseech you all to kiss a dog today.  (A cat, a hamster, perhaps a chicken...whichever is closest at hand.  You'll be glad you did.)
Happy St. Valentine's Day to you all!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Mushroom crowd.

It stopped raining last night.  Today the clouds parted, the sun came out and I finished pruning the Pinot grigio vines, yay!  I even tied the canes down on one row, double yay!  It was a rather squishy affair, as I was within inches of Vinoland's overflowing creek, but I kept both of my wellies on my feet by moving as little as was humanly possible.
One consequence of all the rain, (besides all the mud, flooding, a dirty Vinodog and boredom), is that some interesting fungi have popped up around Vinoland.
The poison pie mushroom (Hebeloma crustuliniforme) is, as the name suggests, moderately toxic to humans and usually appears in the autumn. But due to the fact that winters in California are so mild, this winter the poison pie mushrooms are enjoying an extended run in Vinoland.
There is always something to distract me, sigh.

Friday, February 03, 2017

True Wine Lover 18.

Rain stopped pruning.  Sigh.  So retreat indoors I did and amused myself with a bit of light reading.
George Edward Bateman Saintsbury, was an English writer and scholar. But he was also somewhat of  a wine expert who possessed a rather extensive wine collection.  Published in 1920, Notes on a Cellar-Book is really a book about an inventory; a detailed list, written in a simple exercise book, of the contents of Saintsbury's wine cellar - and the memories of all the wines, beers and spirits Saintsbury had consumed over his lifetime.  And he had consumed a lot.  Surely Saintsbury was a devoted, true lover of wine to go to all that bother of inventorying his cellar.  And his mind.
It's an interesting read, very English, very English (he rails against Prohibition in the U.S.) and indispensable to anybody who wants to know how to keep whiskey and brandy in barrels in one's own cellar. (I mean, why wouldn't one?) George Saintsbury, whilst waxing lyrical about the wonder that is wine, once remarked, "...vintage wine, one of the most perfect of nature's products".  Hear, hear!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Happy Groundhog Day.

This morning in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (in actuality, a spot called Gobbler's Knob...titter, titter), Punxsutawney Phil, the unfortunate, grudging-groundhog who is unceremoniously dragged out of his ersatz tree stump every year, saw his shadow.  I was hoping that Phil's prognostication of six more weeks of winter would perhaps be for the east coast only. But alas, the rain has returned here on the west coast.
Nevertheless, I donned my rain jacket and ventured out into the vineyard to continue with my pruning.  Surprisingly, I got quite a bit of done before the rain just got too heavy for me to carry on.  It is forecast to rain for the next 10 days, or so.  Great.  But at least it is not cold.  I am predicting that I will be experiencing a fortnight of rather soggy vineyard work.  Lovely.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pinot prunio.

Today was my first day off in almost two weeks that it hasn't rained. Thank goodness!  So I was able to get out into the vineyard to begin pruning the Pinot grigio vines.  Yay!
It is still rather wet in the vineyard, so I was very careful about where I trod: it always amazes me how quickly a small, soggy gopher mound can turn into a fully fledged quagmire.  Vinoland's creek has almost retreated back behind its banks, but it is impossible to walk anywhere near the flood plain without having at least one wellie ripped off.  Hate when that happens.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cult vineyard?

So I have been giving some thought to the whole cult wine phenomenon - just a little, not a lot. (The subject was recently raised, in the comments section of my 'Pluviophile...' post, by New Hampshire Wine-man.)
I have to say, I am more than a little sceptical when it comes to the whole cult wine thing, (I have been accused of being a doubting Thomas in the past).  But I cannot ignore the fact that some people might, and do, pay an ungodly amount of money for a wine that merely has the perception of being extra special, for one reason or another.  To me the whole cult wine faction, amongst the wine buying public, is akin to those folks who have to wear the latest designer labels.
Just last week, at a Napa Valley Vintners event, I was able to taste a Herb Lamb Vineyards, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley AVA).  The vineyard this wine is produced from, the Herb Lamb Vineyard, is perhaps better known in cult wine-circles as the vineyard from which one of the first cult wines in the Napa Valley hailed; the Colgin Cellars, 'Herb Lamb Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Colgin was a wine with all the hallmarks of cult status; small production, vineyard designation, high critical acclaim and a lofty price point.  But what actually made it a cult wine in the first place?  The proprietor?  The winemaker? The vineyard? The farming practices?  Hmm.
Well, the commonality here, with Colgin and the wine I tasted, is, of course, the Herb Lamb Vineyard itself.  The seven acre vineyard is located in the hills just below the Howell Mountain AVA at some 800 feet in elevation. The soil is rocky and the exposure is northeastern.  Is great terroir, a terroir that produces high quality grapes, the sole factor in determining that a resulting wine will be of cult status?  I think not.  To me it is arbitrary and faddish.  There, I said it.
And how was the Herb Lamb Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon?  Smooth, sufficient fruit up front,  soft tannins, a little lacking in the acid department, a brusque finish, just okay.  But then, I'm not really a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon type-Vinogirl.  No, I happen to be in the possession of taste buds of the doubting Thomas-persuasion.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pruning 2017.

It may be a Friday the 13th, but I was lucky enough to be able to get out into the vineyard for a little while today.  The weather was very pleasant this afternoon which meant I was able to start pruning.  It was cold, sunny and, most importantly, dry.
As usual, I started to prune the Orange Muscat vines first.  It is the earliest date on which I have ever started to prune, but I am anticipating more rain in the coming weeks, so I thought I'd get an early start.  I love pruning, so I'm not complaining.  Prune on!