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.