Sunday, November 11, 2018

The seed deed.

I was back at it today, doing a good deed in assisting Vinomaker with the pressing-off of a fermentor of our 2018 Syrah.  Vinomaker is always experimenting with different yeasts and this particular batch of Syrah was fermented with the aid of ICV D21™.  Vintage 2018 gave Vinomaker a lot of juice to work with, so he had an opportunity to use and evaluate a couple of new yeasts.
D21 is one of Vinomaker's favourite yeasts to employ.  Isolated from vineyards in Pic Saint-Loup Languedoc, by the Institut Coopéaratif du Vin, D21 is known for maintaining a fresh acidity and floral and fruity volatile compounds, whilst also delivering a robust mid-palate tannin structure.  At the same time, D21 is adept at banishing those horrible, unpalatable stewed/jammy characteristics often found in warm climate wines.   
The 2018 Syrah is already tasting very nice, oodles of black cherry and spice, even before it has had the distinct pleasure of being introduced to the seasoned, Monsieur Chêne Français.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Golden hour.

I arrived back in California yesterday afternoon descending into SFO through a thick, ugly, brown pall of smoke courtesy of the Camp Fire (Paradise, CA).  Sigh, California is afire again, so nothing really changed in the fortnight that I was away.  Oh, hang on a minute, Vinoland's Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested in my absence, October 27th to be exact, I was sad to miss that.  And most of the leaves have fallen from the white grape varieties: the colour of the now chlorophyll-free leaves accentuated by the perpetual golden hour-like light quality that goes hand in hand with an out of control conflagration.  As a consequence, things do look a little different out in the vineyard.
I had an interesting wine on my flight back to America (on United Airlines - Swiss Airlines, inexplicably, cancelled my flight to Zurich with extremely short notice and I was rerouted through Heathrow.  Hmmph, so much for Swiss efficiency).  The wine, a 2017 Mac Andrews, The Haven Chardonnay-Viognier,  NSW Australia, was quite lovely (for an in-flight wine).  Crisp, appley, honeysuckle loveliness, in fact.  I can't find any information on this wine online, so I can only assume that it is exclusively bottled for United.  What I, in my little geeky way, found interesting about this wine was that it came in a full 750 ml plastic bottle (with screw cap).  Of course, I am very familiar with the small plastic bottles that airline-wine routinely comes in (187 ml), but I'd never seen wine, on a flight, being poured from a plastic 750 ml (in first class, they have glass).  So, I asked the male flight attendant if I could possibly have an empty bottle to take with me.  "No," was the prompt reply, "We recycle them."  Even when I promised I'd make sure it was recycled in a responsible manner I was still denied.  Alrighty then!

Monday, November 05, 2018

A rocket ride.

It is Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night) here in Blighty.  I see lots of fire, fireworks, goodies and wine in my very near future.
The Wanted Zin, a 2017 "Italian Zinfandel aged in American oak," is Thud's choice of wine for this evening's festivities.  Vinified from grapes sourced from Puglia (the 'heel' of Italy's 'boot'), The Wanted Zin is produced by Orion Wines (a company based in Lavis, Trentino), whose business plan is to "produce the best and most interesting wines possible at fair prices."  What is there not to like about that?  Sounds good to me.
The back label exhorts the imbiber to, "Be daring and let this wine take you for a ride."  Seems like I may be in for a bit of a vinous-voyage with this one.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Pizza, beer and wine.

Thud's pizza oven gets awfully hot.  I risked life and limb to get this photograph, as it was super, super toasty.  And that high heat is the reason that the pizzas are ready to eat after just 90 seconds of cooking.  Simply fabulous.  Copious amounts of Peroni aided Thud and his culinary-accomplice, Monkey, in the making of a dozen pizzas, mostly with all different toppings.  I polished off a bottle (well, not the entire bottle) of Amalaya, Blanco De Corte, 2016 Torrontés-Riesling (Calchaquí Valley, Argentina) with my pizza-dinner.  The wine paired well with most of the pizzas, but not the Thai Chicken one.  But that's OK, there were plenty of other pizzas that did pair with this Argentine-quaffing wine.  Yum.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Get back...

...to where I once belonged, Part 13.
Yup, I'm on my way back to Blighty this evening, I'm excited.
Apparently, it is 'British Spirits and Sparkling Wine Week' in the U.S.A., it is a shame I'll miss some of it.  I received a nice email (from Shari Mesulam, I don't know her) that informed me that October 22nd to 28th is a celebratory week of campaigning by the British government (you'd think they'd have more important stuff to do), as part of their 'Food is GREAT' showcase.  In the email, I learned that "whisky is the largest food and drink global export for the United Kingdom, and the United States is the largest export market for both British Gin and English Sparkling Wine."  I could find neither aforementioned tipples in the pantry, so I had to make do with an old bottle of Vinomaker's Drambuie.  It's the spirit that counts, titter, titter.  So I'm going to export myself over to Blighty and hopefully do some catching up with the English bubbles bit.
Get back JoJo!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Just a quick Cab drive away.

The Cabernet sauvignon (CS) fruit looks good this year, but it's not the best I've ever seen it.  (That distinction belongs to the 2010 crop.)  The CS fruit definitely doesn't look as good as the Pinot grigio, or the Syrah.  A quick sugar reading today showed that the CS is at 24° Brix.  The weather has cooled down considerably, and even though there is warmer than average temperatures forecast for this weekend, the fruit is as mature as it is going to get.  It's time to get the CS in.  Taxi!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Syrah shuffle.

It usually gets a little bit hectic around here as harvest time approaches.  This year seems to be a little more chaotic than usual.  Vinomaker and I had to put our heads together and come up with a date for our Syrah harvest.  And today was the day.  All went smoothly, the weather was perfect and the harvest celebration afterwards was a lot of fun.
The Syrah fruit looked gorgeous and tasted great too.  The yield, as I suspected, was greater than average - about 30% more.  The Syrah's numbers are: 24° Brix, a pH of 3.58 and TA at 7.2.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Diseased!

This morning was Pinot grigio harvest day in Vinoland.  The fruit looked beautiful and the numbers came in at 27° Brix, a pH of 3.55 and TA at 6.75 - all in a good range.
The 2018 fruit may be in Vinomaker's capable hands now, but I am already thinking ahead to next year and some critical vineyard operations that will ensure a 2019 harvest.  Pruning, of course, is next up, but there is also a bit of replanting to be done.
Alas, there is evidence of Pierce's Disease (PD) in some vines (nine, one right after the other, in one row and at least one vine in the row above them).  The PD symptoms first appeared last year, but this year they are more definitely pronounced; foliar scorching, irregular bark maturity and raisining of the fruit, or, (as demonstrated in the above photograph) miniature clusters (a mere 2.4 inches).
Oh well, it'll give me something to do next spring.

Monday, October 08, 2018

One year later.

This morning, as the sun rose from behind Napa's eastern hills, I was greeted with the same charred vista that has greeted me for the past 364 days.  A year after the fires that ravaged Wine Country, what was once a solid ridge line of trees and vegetation across from Vinoland is still a blackened, skeletal-shadow of the verdant skyline it once was.  The ridge will eventually green-up again, it is just going to take a while.   

Monday, October 01, 2018

Happy 11th Birthday V2!

I can't believe it, Vinodog 2 turns 11 years old today.  Again, I ask, how did that happen?  Tempus fugit, etc.
After a decade of silly birthday hats, I seem to have exhausted the options available to me in the local shops, so I'm recycling a hat this year.  I hope V2 doesn't mind.  Actually, I know she doesn't.  My little fluffy-bundle of fun is more interested in toys, treats, walkies and, the aforementioned, fun.
Happy birthday V2!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Who are you calling Stinkwort?

I thought I'd end the month with a weed.  Why not?  Meet, the diminutive-flowered, stinkwort (Dittrichia graveolens).  A native of the Mediterranean, I have noticed that stinkwort has, over the past few years, become more and more common in the valley.  Maybe I just hadn't noticed before, but now stinkwort seems to be everywhere.  And this time of year is their bloom period, so they could have been making seeds as I type.  I said, could have.
Stinkwort is a little stinky (like camphor) and sticky, not really a weed that one would want around.  (I did read, though, that stinkwort has a claim to fame: it was once traditionally used to treat lice in chickens on the island of Crete.)  Mainly found along roadsides, stinkwort had decided a disturbed area of Vinoland was just the place to take up residence.  That was until I came along with a shovel.  The mature plant can be quite large, so it took me two different days (getting a nasty blister each time), but now the stinkwort is no more.  The weed in the photograph is a neighbour's stinkwort.  The neighbours are on their own.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A mechanical-mess.

This past week saw the harvest of a neighbourhood Chardonnay vineyard (one half of the vineyard was harvested just last night).  It's about time something got picked around here; it has been such a cool growing season.
I noticed this year that the trunks of the vines got rather beaten up by the whole process.  The harvester looked like a brand spanking new model from Pellenc, a French company.  Perhaps there are just some teething troubles with working with new technology.  Mechanical-harvesting is the way of the future, so I just hope the vines can survive the abuse.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Secondly, Syrah.

I was out and about with my handy dandy refractometer again today, sugar-sampling Vinoland's Syrah grapes.  The fruit looks fantastic, but it isn't ready for harvest yet.  I got a reading of 21 °Brix, and seeing as we don't harvest until the grapes are close to 25 °Brix, we have a bit of a way to go still.  Acidity is lovely, however there's still a little green component in the flavour.  I think it's going to be a good Syrah season.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Through the refractometer window.

Today was the first sugar-sampling of the season.  Using my trusty refractometer, to ascertain the level of sugar in a small sample of Pinot grigio juice, I got a reading of 23.2 °Brix.  A good start, but the flavours aren't quite there yet.
My handheld refractometer is a very useful instrument to have around, it helps makes my job easy.  A large proportion of the soluble solids in grape juice are sugars and it is the ripeness of the fruit (the percentage Brix) that I am trying to determine.  (Fructose and glucose are the main sugars in grape juice, combining as the disaccharide, sucrose.)  The sweeter the juice, the more it will bend the light that passes through it (refraction).  It is the angle of the light, the refractive index, that when viewed through the eyepiece of the refractometer, gives the level, or measurement, of sugar (i.e., grams of sugar per 100 grams of juice) in the sample.  See, easy peasy.  I'll leave the harder part to Vinomaker; determining the acid content and pH.
It is almost harvest time.  I predict I have a busy month ahead of me.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The ruler of Vinoland.

If I'm not careful, I may become the victim of a viticultural-insurrection.  The majority of Vinoland's grapevines look like they are on track to yield their biggest crop ever this season, however, the Syrah vines look like they are vying for domination of the entire vineyard.  Whilst there are lots of average-sized clusters in the Syrah block, the vast majority are simply massive (the photograph doesn't do the largeness of the front cluster justice).  I'll probably be sleeping with one eye open until it's time to harvest the Syrah and put paid to their Machiavellian-maturation.