Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Waiting in the rain.

The rain has returned - with a vengeance.  And it is forecast to rain every day for the next week.  Disgusting weather.  I suppose I should be thankful for bloom being a bit delayed this year, at least I don't have to worry about all this rain blasting the flowers off the vines.  Sigh.  What is a Vinogirl to do?  Go wine tasting, of course.
A quick drive up Highway 29 (in heavy rain, light traffic) found me at Pestoni Family Estate Winery.  I chose to visit Pestoni, established in 1892, as I wanted an authentic Napa Valley experience.  Or should I say what the Napa Valley experience used to be.  I have been feeling a little jaded with the wine industry lately (or rather the theme park direction the Napa valley seems to be heading in), so a quick dose of Napa Valley history seemed to be just what was needed.
A rather old-fashioned, brown tasting room, which seemed a tad dim on this grey day, the Pestoni experience was still a suitable antidote to the new, gimmicky wineries that seem, more and more, to be the way of wine's future in the Napa Valley.  I was interested in tasting Pestoni's 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, their 2018 Rosé and their 2017 Sangiovese.  So I did, and I liked all three wines sufficiently that I went ahead and purchased a bottle of each.
Upon leaving Pestoni I had to stop to let the Wine Train pass as it headed north.  Whilst I waited, I braved the rain and took a photograph.

Thursday, May 09, 2019


I have spent a lot of time in the vineyard since I returned to California: I am paying for going on holiday during the spring bud break-bacchanalia.
The weather in Vinoland continues to be unusually cool which has been a bit of a boon as whilst I was away the vines have had a bit of a slower start to the growing season.  There is no evidence, as yet, of flowering in the Orange muscat (OM), or the Pinot grigio.  Flowering was retarded in 2018, so I'm expecting 2019 to be late also.  However, it's not as if the grapevines were dormant in my absence, there is plenty of growth for me to deal with.
The OM is more than a little unruly, I was positively slapped silly as I struggled to stuff the recalcitrant shoots into the trellis wires. I'm not a wimpy person, but at one point I almost felt that if I got thwapped in the face one more time I was going to burst into tears.  It hurt!
Whilst I'm not saying a grapevine has the ability to bear malice (even with my proclivity to be a tad anthropomorphic), I do feel I was being severely reprimanded for my dereliction of viticultural-duty.  Ouch.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Anyone for cricket?

Thud is good at discovering interesting wines for me to try.  The ones he finds can be of interest due to an unusual varietal or blend, a compelling place of origin, or a gripping backstory.  Or, as is the case with this wine, a celebrity connection: former England cricket star Sir Ian Botham OBE (incidentally, born about 2 miles away from where I'm sitting)..
The 2017 Botham All-Rounder, Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia) is definitely not a complex wine, but I wouldn't expect it to be for a wine that costs about £8.00 (currently about $10.50).  Produced from several vineyards in South Eastern Australia, and the result of a collaboration with Paul Schaafsma (innovative wine industry guru), The All-Rounder is a medium bodied, invariably quaffable, fruit forward, usual-suspect-berry-packed red.  Thanks Thud for the easy to swallow wine - bit of a dibbly dobbly, really.
Sir Ian was a rather big deal when I was in my teens (I do like a bit of cricket) and is considered one of England's best ever to play the game: excellent at batting and bowling (an all-rounder).  As a retired sportsman, he is currently in an advert on the telly hawking the Revitive Medic, an electrical muscle stimulator/circulation booster.  He isn't drinking wine in the advert, but methinks he should be.  In my opinion, a glass of wine would certainly aid in the relaxation of Sir Botham's, or anybody's, aching muscles.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Everybody was Kung fu wine-fighting.

Thud and I bought this Kung Fu Girl, 2017 Riesling (Colombia Valley AVA), simply because we both liked the label.  But also because he was planning on cooking Chinese food for dinner.  (The Kung Fu Girl [KFG] was the first Riesling we spotted whilst out shopping.)  On Thud's part it reminded him of the killer-kiddie-Kung fu moves of his youngest daughter: on my part I thought that it would pair well with Thud's, own recipe, 'Chinese Chilli Chicken'.
The KFG did not disappoint.  What was initially a rather pedestrian wine, the KFG turned into a delightful citrusy, white-peachy, unexpectedly medium-bodied, food friendly wine.  When consumed with food this wine went through a really remarkable transformation.  Not only did it pair well with our dish, it didn't fight with the food - always important.
Admittedly, buying a State of Washington wine (in Costco) whilst on holiday away from the US is a little odd.  However, sometimes, when deciding on what wine to buy, I just throw my hands in the air like I just don't care.  Or like a drunken Kung fu-fighter.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Der Geschmack der Farben.

I arrived home in one piece.  My flight from SFO to Manchester, via Zurich, was without incident - very smooth and painless.
Now that I am home, I am in a state of amazement.  I have experienced better weather here in the past four days than all of 2019 in California and I have loved every minute of it.  Thing is, England is hard to beat when the sun is shining, it is just so pretty.  And so green.  Spring has always been my favourite season in Blighty.
Family OTW and I have busied ourselves with lots of activities; shooting, archery, bingo and other games.  Every meal has been outside, breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  Of note, yet another fabulous wood-fired pizza event (my sister-in-law's Thai chicken pizza could give California Pizza Kitchen a run for their money) at which I discovered that a particularly spicy pizza paired well with a Prosecco that Thud pulled out of his wine-stash.  Fun.
The Taste of Colours, kindly reproduced with the permission of Swiss Air (well, I'm sure they would have approved it if I'd asked), is not about the neurological trait synaesthesia.  Rather, the wine-article in my seat-pocket magazine maintained that there was a correlation between the colour of a wine and the way in which a wine is produced, even a vintage's growing conditions, with the qualities therefore inherent in a wine.  Not sure I totally buy the whole premise of the article as it's a little simplistic, besides I don't read German, but it made for some light, in-flight entertainment - a bit like the colour, Blasses Weissgelb.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Get back... where I once belonged, Part 14.
Yes, this evening I will be winging my way back home to Blighty, hopefully with a glass of Swiss Air white wine in my hand.  Chasselas to be exact.
In preparation for my journey, I did a bit of research (wine research, my favourite) and drank a bottle of Swiss wine.  I even let Vinomaker have a little.  The 2017 Cave de La Côte, Chasselas Romand was an extremely quaffable, light wine.  Fresh and airy, with an aroma of lime and flowers, followed by lemon and melon on the palate this was a very nice Chasselas.  Besides, what's there not to like about a bottle of wine with the Matterhorn on the label?
I remember years ago driving past the vineyards in the canton of Valais (around Sion).  Little did I imagine that years later I would be sitting in the Napa Valley drinking a bottle of Swiss wine from the Upper Rhône Valley.  Life is funny.
Get back JoJo!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

All systems go.

A little bit later than last year, but no too much, the Cabernet sauvignon vines are beginning to go through budbreak.  That's it, all of Vinoland's vines now have some green-stuff going on.  In fact, the white grapes are at the stage were I need to start suckering the trunks.  It's always something. 
Go Cab, go!

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Fava beans and Chardonnay.

This is not a post about a food and wine pairing.  No, it is a post about the incessant rain that northern California is experiencing and the fact that I don't like it.  However, a neighbouring vineyard's cover crop is enjoying it immensely.  Every cloud has a silver lining, or something like that.

Friday, April 05, 2019

I'm nettled.

It has rained every day this week,  PPTHHPTHPFFTHPPPT!!!
The weeds, like this purple dead-nettle (Lamium purpurem), are loving the rain, whilst me, and Vinodog 2, not so much.  At least I have something pretty to look at, as I walk around with my head constantly bowed to avoid the raindrops.  Sigh.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Pruning, performed.

I'm pooped, but I am finished with pruning (at 4.26 pm, to be exact).  Hallelujah!  It was a tough year, the rain has been incredible, this is the latest date ever that pruning has continued in Vinoland. 
I don't normally drink on Sundays, but the end of pruning always calls for a bit of a celebration.  I opened a bottle of something Vinomaker had given me on my birthday.  Another Crémant D'Alsace, the Emile Boeckel Brut Rosé is a delightful wine - right down to the simulated pink leather label (complete with faux silver stitching).  Quite pink, rather fizzy, very tasty.  Love it!
A second reason to have a glass of bubbles (as if I needed one) is that it was Mother's Day in England today, so cheers to my Vinomum.
Phew.  I'll sleep well tonight.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Frost wars.

It was a gorgeous day today, finally.  Beautiful blue sky, a few white fluffy clouds, temperature reached 66° F.  I managed to get quite a bit of pruning done.  Yay!  When, at 5.10 pm, I finished pruning for the day it started to rain - just as Vinodog 2 and I were going on our afternoon walk, of course.  With just one gigantic, dark grey cloud over Vinoland the rain did not last for long, thankfully.  The weekend forecast is promising.
Of course with clear, cloud-free spring nights comes freezing overnight temperatures and frosty mornings.  A neighbouring vineyard, Farella Vineyards, is preparing for such an eventuality.  (As an aside, I love this portable fan.)  It can be a bit of a battle, as frosts may or may not occur this time of year.  However, commercial vineyards need to be armed with preventative measures to ensure that the vines are protected from injury.  It's always something with Mother Nature.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Hydroponic farming.

I can honestly say that I have a new found appreciation for England's farmers, or rather how difficult it must be for them to grow or raise anything in the often calamitous English climate.  I myself am having a bit of difficulty farming here in, currently, not-so-sunny California.
I managed to get out into the vineyard quite early this morning and it was actually a little sunny.  However, I made the mistake of stopping for a cup of tea at 11.00 am and consequently wasted some valuable outside-time.  When I returned to the vineyard I barely managed to get in another 40 minutes of pruning before the heavens opened.  Determined to be finished pruning by this coming Sunday, I was hoping the weather would cooperate with me over the next four days, but nope. 
This afternoon, for the 3.00 pm hour, lightning was forecast.  What?  There was no way I wanted to be caught out in the vineyard with long metal loppers in my hands in lightning.  The lightning didn't materialise, not that it mattered, I was stuck indoors anyway.  The weather forecasts have been very changeable of late - as in they have been literally changing every 4 to 6 hours - and I don't know whether I am coming or going.  Neither does the rain.  Sigh.
At this rate I may have to ask Vinomaker if he has a headlamp I can borrow and some skunk repellent I can arm myself with, as I may have to resort to a bit of catch up nocturnal-farming.
Today was a bust, oh well.  One down, three to go.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Mule-Ear Report.

My hopes of getting out into the vineyard Friday, for a little while at least, were dashed by a constant downpour that just got heavier and heavier as the day progressed.  Yesterday was a different matter.  Absolutely gorgeous sunshine meant that I was able to get out into the vineyard and get some pruning done.  Also, Vinodog 2 and I had a lovely mid-afternoon walk, always a better event when the two of us don't get drenched, and on the walk I discovered yet another new wildflower.
I first noticed several Mule-ears (Wyethia glabra), growing here and there a couple of weeks ago, due to their rather conspicuous burdock-like, lance-shaped leaves, but I had no idea what they were.  Now, however, they are flowering and the beautiful, vivid yellow blooms are extremely cheery looking.  Still, it took me a while to identify the Mule-ears as at first I thought they might have simply been wild sunflowers, but in researching sunflowers, wild or cultivated, I came up with nothing that resembled my neighbourhood-native.  But I persisted and finally identified the Wyethia glabra, a member of the Asteraceae family, as my new floral-find.  So I'm happy to report, well, that I'm happy with my discovery.     

Friday, March 22, 2019

My birthday buddy.

It's my birthday and the fact that it is raining hasn't dampened my enthusiasm any.  Seeing as I already had my wellies on, after my and V2's morning walk, I had a quick glance at the Syrah vines to see if anything was going on.  Yes indeedy, bud break is happening - finishing pruning the Syrah this past Sunday wasn't a moment too soon.
Of course, the rain means that I won't be getting much done out in the vineyard today.  I am, however, determined to tie down the Cabernet vines I pruned yesterday.  So I'll don my rain jacket and hopefully not get too soggy wrestling with the wet canes, but other than that it is just too wet to get any actual pruning done.  I always try to be finished pruning by my birthday, but  Mother Nature hasn't cooperated with my plans this year.  Sigh.
Oh...and Happy Birthday John Toshack.
Vinogirl loves birthdays.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

October 1982.

I recently got to partake in the tasting of a 1982 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon.  And it was stupendous, probably one of the nicest wines I have ever tasted.  Stunning, really stunning.
In October of 1982, the young Vinogirl had just started college: the vineyard workers at Groth had just started to harvest the Cabernet sauvignon grapes that went into this wine.  Hard to believe that what I was drinking was a 36 year old vintage.  Whilst I got a lovely, crazily nuanced strawberry jam vibe from the '82 (acid was sublime), the tablemate, to my right, got plum jam.  The tablemate to my left wouldn't stop drinking long enough to comment - can't say I blame him.
It is fitting that I post about Cabernet Sauvignon this evening, as I started to prune Vinoland's Cabernet vines today.  It's a little distressing to me that I am only just getting started, I usually set myself a goal of being finished with pruning by the 22nd of March.  That is not going to be the case this year.  However, I must keep calm and prune on.  Panic!