Sunday, March 17, 2019

How green am I?

Gorgeous weather yesterday and today, so I was lucky enough to get quite a bit of pruning done.  However, I am still really behind because of all the rain we have been having.  (Panic?)  But today, I was able to finish pruning the Syrah vines and I got them all tied down.  Phew, what a relief.
I did have one teensy-weensy hiccup, though: I ran out of twist ties.  Vinomaker had gone out and I had no idea where he kept our supply of ties.  Then I remembered that I had bought a bunch of asparagus yesterday and it had a couple of ties on it.  Voila!  Recycling at its finest.
So Happy Finished-Pruning-Syrah Day, or Happy St. Patrick's Day, whichever celebration one prefers.  I'm going with the former.

Friday, March 15, 2019


I attended a retirement luncheon today and although it was a happy occasion - the celebration of a job well done for 37 years - it did, however, cause me to pause and reflect on a few things.  Things like, let's see, the passage of time, the comings and goings in life of friends and family, and the fact that nothing stays the same forever.  Including wine.
A score of years has passed between the vintages that produced these two wines: Groth Vineyards & Winery's 1996 and 2016 Chardonnay, Napa Valley AVA.  (Of course, if I had one bottle to represent each year in this particular span of time I'd have 21 bottles of wine.  Two will do.)  Drinking these two wines, side by side, just seemed fitting considering my mood.
The 1996 was still a beautiful wine, golden in colour with a honeyed-apricot jam thing on the nose.  (I'm thinking the 1996 will be good for a couple more years, at least.)  I just wish it had been a tad more crisp.
The 2016, however, was very crisp and vibrant with a lovely apple-limey-pineapple mouth-filling complexity.  Chardonnay is not my favourite wine varietal, but when it is done well it can be quite fascinating.  Although not fascinating enough to get in the way of my navel-gazing.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

On the table.

Apparently, there is no room for discussion, the table grapes are leafing out.  Bud break is happening in all three varieties of the only grapes in Vinoland that don't go into making wine; July Muscat, Crimson Seedless and, pictured here, Red Globe.  We are having rather nice weather at the moment, so I'm expecting them to go crazy this coming week.  Leaf away, little fellas.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Geek Squad: 2.

Illuminated in a rare (this winter) ray of sunlight, this pretty Pacific hound's tongue (Cynoglossum grande) adds a very noticeable and welcome pop of colour to all the greenery that currently is soggy-California.  A member of the borage family, I had first spotted this particular wildflower a year ago, but was too busy, distracted, preoccupied, dog-tired (pick one) to take the time to identify it.  As with the shooting stars, this wildflower was identified for me by the Marketing Queen.  Thank you MQ!  I just love any blue flower.
Seeing as I was out and about with my camera, photographing the aforementioned shooting stars, I thought I'd get a quick snap of the hound's tongue too.  Geek's do stuff like that.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Plus: the Pinot grigio.

Not to be outdone by the Orange muscat, the Pinot grigio vines are also ready to get started with the 2019 growing season.  I do love the fact that spring is fast approaching.  And I love that I don't have to check it's proximity on a calendar - I have grapevines for that.
I'm starting to panic a little, as I always do this time of year, that with all this rain I may not be able to get all the Syrah and Cabernet sauvignon vines pruned before they want to start going through bud break.  The weather this coming week is forecast to be nice.  We'll see.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Must(cat) you do that?

Apparently, it must.  Despite all the rain we have been having, the Orange muscat vines have decided that they need to get a move on.  Although bud swell is not determined by atmospheric moisture, but rather by soil temperature, it has been rather cool of late, so I wasn't expecting the vines to be so enthused.  Wrong.  Again!
The atmospheric moisture came with an earnest all day today.  I tried to prune in the Syrah vines, but finally gave up as I was spending more time sheltering in the barn, from rain and hail, than actually out in the vineyard pruning.  It was when Vinodog 2 found something to incessantly bark at, in Vinomaker's lumber supply, that I decided to call it a day.  It was then that I discovered...

Thursday, March 07, 2019

The Geek Squad.

Most lunchtimes will find TWWIAGE's Marketing Queen (MQ) and I huddled together in the winery's kitchen discussing a diverse miscellany of topics; anything from art to zucchini.  (Dear reader, you don't have to state the obvious as we both freely admit to being rather geeky.) Yesterday's lunchtime was no exception, however the subject at hand did happen to be one of my favourites - wildflowers.
Whilst the MQ had been out hiking she had spotted and photographed a wildflower that I had never seen before.  How exciting!  Furthermore, the MQ went on to identify this dainty, but quite dramatic, wildflower as Henderson's shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii).  Such a discovery scores high on my geek-o-meter.  So, imagine how thrilled I was when, today, I spotted a couple of shooting stars whilst Vinodog 2 and I were out walking.  (V2 is the black and white bokeh in the photograph.)  What were the chances?  Perhaps simply an example of frequency illusion, I was nonetheless excited to discover the shooting stars growing in close proximity to Vinoland.
It is my hope, after suffering through so much rain this winter, that the array of wildflowers this spring will be full of new discoveries for me and the MQ.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Last night's tipple: 3.

Last night Vinomaker and I went out to celebrate his birthday, finally.  We had originally planned to go out to eat last Friday, but Vinomaker was feeling a bit poorly and we ended up having to cancel our plans.  After rescheduling, yesterday evening we headed off to Gran Eléctrica in downtown Napa.
Always on the lookout for something curious in the vino-department, a particular white wine on the restaurant's wine list caught my eye.  The Ruth Lewandowski, 2017 'Naomi' Gibson Ranch Grenache Gris seemed to fit my curious-criterion, so I went ahead and ordered it.  Our server brought out the bottle and proceeded to give a little speech.  "I think this is my favourite wine on our list.  It's made by a gay Mormon with fruit he buys from California and makes into wine in Utah.  The winemaker wanted to be a ski-bum instead, however, he decided to start a winery."  Thanks for the editorial, I think, but I usually prefer it when a server just gets wine into my glass.  Some people love to assign labels: I just love to be assigned a glass for my wine.
As I sipped the wine, it dawned on me that the vintner and proprietor of Ruth Lewandowski Wines, Evan Lewandowski, is most likely not a practising Mormon.  Unfined and unfiltered, the slightly cloudy, almost colourless Naomi was a truly eye-opening wine: it takes a gifted winemaker who is a wine-drinker to make a wine as interesting as this - I'm just saying.  Made from the grey clone of Grenache (similar concept to my Pinot grigio/gris vines), Lewandowski does indeed source his grapes from a vineyard in the McDowell Valley AVA, up north from Vinoland in Mendocino County.  The fermentation process is started in California, but then the partially fermented juice is trucked to Mr.  Lewandowski's Salt Lake City warehouse-winery.
Peachy, citrusy, floral, with a crazy vanilla-pineappley-vibe and diaphanous-salinity, my initial reaction to the lofty acidity was that it could possibly render the Naomi undrinkable.  But no, everything just magically slipped into focus on my palate.  (And it paired wonderfully with Gran Eléctrica's upscale Mexican cuisine, though the food wasn't nearly as exciting as the wine.)
A lovely wine with an entertaining story, a nice little find.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Happy St. David's Day: 2019.

It is March 1st (or Mawrth 1af, if you're Welsh).  Happy St. David's Day!
There are quite a few patches of daffodils flowering around Vinoland.  Unfortunately, with all the wind and rain that the Napa Valley has been experiencing lately, they are looking a bit worse for wear.  They still appear cheery, however, and I smile as they catch my eye whilst pruning.  Again, Happy St. David's Day whether you are of Welsh extraction, or not.
Bore da!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

E Clampus Vitus.

Today, I wanted to write a post in celebration of a niece whose birthday it is.  (She's actually a leap-year baby, but y'know.)  Vino-niece, La Serenissima's oldest daughter, is a historian so I thought I'd do a quick Napa-history bit in her honour.  How do I possibly connect my niece, history, England, Utah and Napa together?  It could be tricky, but - with the help of an inconspicuous little plaque on the Silverado Trail, north of Yountville, against the fence of a Napa County corporation yard - I think I can pull it off.
I first spotted this modest plaque last year whilst I was stuck in traffic, but I wasn't able to photograph it until yesterday as I drove home from work on a deserted Silverado Trail.  Erected by E Clampus Vitus (ECV), Sam Brannan Chapter 1004, an organisation dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the American West, the plaque marks the location in the Napa Valley of a World War II prisoner-of-war (POW) camp.  Apparently, the United States aided Great Britain with the detention of a surplus of POWs: Germans some of who, upon release, returned to Germany and then made their way back to eventually settle in the United States.
An interesting little history-factoid, or not?  ECV's motto is, improbably, Credo Quia Absurdum which, roughly translated from Latin, means "I believe it because it is absurd."  Titter, titter.
Happy birthday Vino-niece!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Road Closed!

It is not often that you see roads being closed to through traffic in the Napa Valley.  Essentially, with very few arterial roads in the valley for locals and tourists alike to begin with, even one road closure can cause a major headache.  After two nights of substantial rainfall, this morning's commute to TWWIAGE was problematic.  So problematic, in fact, that only the winemaker and I made it in.  I made him a pot of coffee, myself a cup of tea and proceeded to answer some voice- and emails, etc.  It was very quiet at the winery.
Sitting in a long queue of traffic, awaiting my turn to drive through the water that was streaming over a low spot on the Silverado Trail, I was able to have a good look westward to where the Napa River had breached its banks and had submerged acres and acres of vineyards.  Submerged, as in the pruned, cordon-trained vines were fully under water.  I really can't complain about Vinoland's current soggy condition after seeing that.
The Napa River peaked at 11 pm last night: there is a lot of water everywhere in the Napa Valley.  The amount of precipitation, experienced as of late, is very reminiscent of the direful rains that fell during the winter of 2017.  I'm not a big fan of rain (I may have mentioned that before), but I am thankful that this rain event was nothing like that of Napa's record rainfall, set in 1862, of 80.62 inches.  Now that would have been something for me to complain about.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Last night's tipple: 2.

I love this wine.  I first tried it at a neighbour's Christmas gathering and immediately fell head over heels.  Delicate (almost ethereal), refreshing, laden with a bowl-of-red-berries-fruitiness, crisp and gracefully balanced acidity, this was the perfect wine for sipping whilst mingling and chit-chatting.  As one would imagine, I was very happy when my party-throwing neighbour recently gifted me a couple of bottles of it.
Domaine Allimant-Laugner Brut Rose NV (Crémant d'Alsace, AOC) is produced from 100% Pinot noir, is a very pale pink (I'm thinking not much skin contact) and is perilously easy to drink.  Priced well, so it falls into my cheap and cheerful category of wines, I will certainly be stocking up on this little gem.  (I find myself enjoying sparkling wines now even more than I ever have before.)  Vinomaker wasn't quite so enamoured with this wine as I was, which I am totally fine with because it means that there is more for moi.  It's a tough job, but somebody has to imbibe in this eminently appealing Alsatian wine.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Make haste.

Some nice sunny, springlike weather today was exactly what I needed to get a start on pruning the Syrah vines.  I would have started yesterday, but the wind was just too strong.  Armed with my Felcos (actually, I grabbed a pair of Vinomaker's as I couldn't locate either of mine), and a pair of loppers for the big cuts, I headed out into the vineyard with my trusty Vinodog 2 bringing up the rear.  That was until V2 spotted the neighbour's horses.  It was then that the quiet, contemplative discipline that is pruning quickly devolved into an uproarious disturbance.  Sigh.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Golden Vineyard.

This past Tuesday, the 19th, was Vinomaker's birthday, whoo hoo!  To celebrate the anniversary of his birth, I bought yours truly, ahem, Vinomaker a bottle of Vigna Dorata Brut (Franciacorta DOCG).  I am just so good to myself him.  Titter, titter.
In all honesty not the world's most complex sparkling wine, but very enjoyable nonetheless, and seemingly a tad unbalanced on first impression, the Vigna Dorata opened up to reward the palate and nose with huge dollops of delicious appley-ness.  A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot noir, I, I mean we, quite enjoyed this bottle of metodo classico Italian fizzy stuff.
I also gifted Vinomaker a bottle of Château Du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac.  Armagnac is one of Vinomaker's favourite after dinner tipples and this particular bottle, aged for 15 years and made exclusively from the Folle blanche grape, apparently did not disappoint.  I wouldn't know, I am not a spirits drinker, I'll have to take his word for it.  More bubbles, please.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Meteorological mélange.

In less than 24 hours Vinoland experienced an epic variety of weather; rain, hail, frost, fog and glorious sunshine.  (And an earthquake.  Just a magnitude 3.7, close to Yountville). 
It was not forecast to rain today.  And it didn't.  Instead it hailed, again.  Vinodog 2 and I were treated to a fabulous rainbow, over a neighbouring vineyard, on our rather soggy afternoon perambulation.  An interesting weather day.
I did, however, manage to get all the Orange muscat and Pinot grigio canes tied down whilst the sun was shining.  In fact, I got a little bit warm working my way from vine to vine, but I loved it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wanted: an ark.

There has been a lot of rain lately, a lot.  And I may have mentioned it once or twice before, but I really don't like rain.  I like to be able to go out and about whenever I want to, and stay dry.  Simple as that.
It really bothers me when it rains so much that the road in front of TWWIAGE vanishes under the flooding, Napa County closes said road, and then I have to navigate through the deluge to head home.  Sigh.
I must admit, it was mildly entertaining watching some motorists hit the standing water at full speed and momentarily disappear from view.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Don't start me, fuzzy-buddy.

No, stop!  I am not ready for budbreak.  This promiscuous, young Viognier vine, the only Viognier vine in Vinoland, is trying its hardest to get going for the season.  I made it my job to set the little fellow straight, but not before I finished pruning the Pinot grigio vines. 
A good example of apical dominance in Vitis vinifera, albeit a very subtle one, this stunted lateral shoot was having delusions of grandeur.  The whole unit was removed (as is all the lateral growth of this nature), but not before the prospect of an early start to the growing season gave me, well, a little start.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Brass monkey weather.

There are no monkeys in Vinoland, but if there were, well, they'd be cold.  Yesterday and today, the Napa Valley has experienced its first real frosts of the winter.  There was one chilly day after the new year, but in no way was it cold enough to discommode any cannonballs.  We have been having a good amount of rain, though.
It was a crisp 29°F when I got up, nevertheless I ventured out into the vineyard to take this photograph.  I love it.  My drive to work revealed that the Mayacamas and the Vaca Mountains both had a light dusting of snow, beautiful.  And, at the top of the valley, Mount St. Helena was adorned with a white cape.  I felt like I was in Lake Tahoe, not the Napa Valley.  Very pretty.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I like lichen...

...but I'm besotted with bryophytes, aka mosses.  Which is just as well as Vinoland is covered in the green stuff right now: everywhere is very moist.  There has been quite a lot of rain thus far in 2019 and more is on its way.
Unfortunately, I don't know much about mosses.  I think moss is a fascinating plant, the way it can go dormant and survive through California's arid summers alone is amazing.  But with about 13,000 different species worldwide it is nigh impossible for me to identify any that are thriving in Vinoland right now.
I started pruning the Pinot grigio vines yesterday and it was a little concerning to me to be trampling all over the myriad of mosses that are growing between the rows and near the vines.  My anthropomorphism is raging right now, I'm contemplating wearing earplugs so I can be spared the bawling of the bryophytes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Choose your Chardonnay.

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.  Another staff blind-tasting at TWWIAGE this time squared off the 2016 Chardonnay (CH) against five other 2016s.  Once again, the TWWIAGE contender happened to be my favourite of the bunch.  For me, the second best wine turned out to be a 2016 Gary Farrell, Russian River Selection (Russian River Valley AVA).  My tasting notes were thus; candy, caramel apple, toast, nice mouthfeel.  A rather lovely little wine.
My least favourite wine, and the lowest rank amongst the majority of my fellow co-workers (great taste buds taste alike?), was a 2016 Mer Soleil Reserve (Santa Lucia Highlands AVA).  In my opinion, this wine was absolutely undrinkable.  And, surprise, surprise, or not, this wine hails from the cellars of the Wagner Family of Wines (Caymus...titter, titter).  Who drinks this stuff?  Apparently someone does because the Wagners make 59,000 cases of this plonk.
I'm so glad that there are alternative winemaking styles being employed with Chardonnay nowadays.  I personally never bought into the California style of this the most impressionable of grape varieties.  More choice is always good for the consumer, just don't choose the Mer Soleil.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Last night's tipple.

I love bubbly, I do.  I generally prefer a Blanc de noirs over a Blanc de blancs, but, honestly, if it is fresh and well balanced I'll drink it.  So when I was introduced to Tipp Rambler (TR), which is 100% Pinot noir, I was intrigued.  And thirsty.
A novel concept, in snazzy packaging (that almost Tiffany Blue, very attractive), I didn't quite get this little tipple at first.  It wasn't that TR was a bad wine; it wasn't flawed, it's just that it tasted like a sparkling rosé not a sparkling wine.  A subtle distinction, I know, but tasting is in the, erm, taste buds of the beholder, or something like that.  And it did not go with my grilled salmon, a tad disappointing.
It wasn't until I visited the TR website that I started to understand this little wine-offering.  I believe psychology has a lot to do with enjoying any wine and sitting around Vinoland on a Saturday evening just wasn't the best way to experience TR.  The whole concept of a portable libation, as a take-along to a picnic, a BYOB party or a barbeque, now rang an oenological-bell in my head.  TR comes in a four-pack, each bottle containing 187 ml.  I was gifted just one bottle of TR but it is something that I would indeed buy.  I'm not the TR target, but then I'm rarely anybody's target.  Sigh.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A quick fix.

Still suffering from a bit of a shopping-hangover from Christmas, this afternoon, when I had resolved to start pruning the Vinoland vineyard, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma; having worn out the left thumb of my old pruning gloves I really needed a new pair, today.  Not wanting to drive over to a certain hardware store on the other side of Napa to procure a pair, I decided to do a quick patch job with duct tape (AKA gaffer tape in Blighty) on my old gloves.  It did the trick.  In fact, I doubled up the tape and have decided to try to make my old faithfuls last one more pruning season.  Gloved-fingers crossed.

Friday, January 18, 2019

THIS is a weed.

I had to clamber down into a gully, contort my upper body and click away blindly with my phone, arm outstretched, to get a photograph of this winsome, little weed.  It was worth it.
Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), a member of the mustard family, is a weed whose leaves grow close to the ground in a rosette.  It's not a very tall plant, it has attractive, diminutive white flowers and I just love how unassumingly delicate it seems.  Looks can be deceiving, however.  My favourite thing about this weed is the violent, spring-loaded flinging of its mature seeds if you so much as look sideways at it.  Watch out!  I do love weeds (I might have mentioned that once, or twice, before), what I don't love is weed.
I get an awful lot of unsolicited emails in my Vinsanity inbox.  Most of them are wine-related, but not all.  (I tend to simply ignore the ones that mention Muscat/Muscato, titter, titter.)  Recently, I received one untypical email three times.  Initially, the email caught my attention with the sales pitch of, "...this would be a great story for Vinsanity."  Okay.  The email, introducing a Canadian company called Sproutly, extolled the virtues of, "the world's only water-soluble cannabis solution" and asked if I would be interested in speaking with Sproutly's CEO.  Erm, no!  The only mood-altering beverage that I am interested in is wine.
Old hippies (underachievers, hedonists, common or garden losers...), in their pot-induced delirium, ascribe all sorts of miraculous attributes to weed, marijuana, pot, grass, ganga, dope, Mary Jane, etc.  Call it what you will, by any other name, cannabis is a psychoactive drug with behavioural and health ramifications.  Besides, the fact is that old hippies just smell like skunk.  And although I like the skunk as an animal, beats me why anyone would voluntarily want to stink like one.
I don't see anything hypocritical in my enjoying a glass of wine now and again, with food, and friends (and as a necessity of my job), compared to someone whose preference is to get stoned.  I personally know of a couple of people who get inebriated in this way all day long, calling it 'recreation'.  Well, I could drink all day long, but that would be called, and rightly so, 'alcoholism'.
Old hippies never die, they just smell worse by the day.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Almost famous.

I had totally forgotten all about being asked to write a review for Making Your Own MeadThen recently, whilst I was looking for an unrelated email, I came across the original email with the request for a review of what, I still think, is a great little book.  I had furnished a quick review after reading the book last April, then heard no more.  I don't consider myself a particularly good writer, so I had no expectations of Fox Chapel Publishing using my brief write-up.  However, curiosity piqued, I hopped over to Amazon and did a quick search.
Lo and behold, there it was, my review, in all its black and white glory.  Upon showing my published vino-critique to Vinomaker, he just laughed and said, "Quintessential Vinogirl."  Hey!  I resemble that remark.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Chips and spread.

Yes, here it is, the obligatory, annual, first pile-of-prunings photograph.  I managed to finish pruning Vinoland's table-grapes today.  It took me a whopping 10 minutes to prune the remaining two vines.  I was exhausted afterwards, hee, hee.  The pruning of the table grapes created a small pile of vine-prunings, small enough that I could probably pick the whole thing up quite readily with both arms.
It's a completely different story when I get to the wine-grapes. 
It still amazes me, each and every year, how much vegetative-material the vines produce.  It's a viticultural miracle that nutrients in the soil combined with water and sunshine can create so much vegetation, shoots and leaves galore.  (Well, pruning determines the number of shoots, but Mother Nature dictates shoot-length.)  And clusters of grapes on top of that.
Of course, all that pruned wood needs to be disposed of.  The Napa Valley Grape Growers outline, in their Best Practices, an online educative resource, the four main ways of disposing of prunings; chop and disc; chop and cover crop; chip with a chipper; burn like billy-o.  (I predict, in the not so distant future that burning will be banned outright in the Napa Valley, even though it is the most efficient way of disposing of grapevine material.)  In Vinoland, we chip and spread - a practice that works best for our modest vineyard operation - returning all that vegetative matter back to the ground from whence it came.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The party's over.

Yes, it is time to return to reality; time for the party muselets to be thrown away; time for the New Year.
On the whole, I've been having a pretty slow start to 2019.  I did, sort of, start pruning today - one table-grapevine to be exact - before it began to rain.  Gotta start somewhere, titter, titter.  One vine at a time.
The weather has been quite damp this January and it has cramped my outdoors-style significantly.  I have, however, had time to read several books so it hasn't been a total loss.  And it's not like the vineyard is going anywhere.  I'll get to wherever I'm going, eventually.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The 2019 routine.

Humiliate the dog, walk through the vineyard, hang up my 2019 calendar (a complimentary calendar that comes with my subscription to American Vineyard magazine).  Wow!  It's 2019 already, how did that happen?  Next year we'll be out of the teens, crazy.
My immediate 2019 routine, well, starting pretty soon, will consist of pruning, training and other vineyard operations.  I have at least a dozen vines that need replanting due to them being dead, or dying.  And two end posts that have died and need replacing.  All fun stuff.
A happy 2019 to all!