Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween.

This evening, I have been invited to a soiree that will double as a Halloween party and a housewarming.  There will be bucket loads of wine available, as many of the invitees are my winery co-workers, but Vinogirl is going to down a couple of Cape Cods and call it good.  To that end, I have bought the hostess this scary looking bottle of vodka...woooo!!!  A very festive spirit.  Apropos, don't ya think?  Happy Halloween to all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Up, up and away.

The past two mornings, whilst driving to work, I have been treated to the sight of cheerful, corpulent, multi-coloured balloons high above the valley floor.  Gondolas brimming with visitors, envelopes swollen with hot air, they glide silently along until the ride is over and they alight at a predetermined destination or, in some unfortunate cases, in a vineyard on top of vines where they are really not welcome.  I took this photograph on an early morning flight in a friend's Luscombe in June.  We were careful not to get too close to the balloons.  I love them, others do not, but what would the postcard manufacturers and fridge magnet makers do without them?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Sunday evening heralded the end of the 2008 harvest at my place of employment. The winery actually received their last Cabernet sauvignon fruit today, harvested overnight under floodlight. If the people that sign my pay cheques want to call the end of harvest a little prematurely, then so be it. Sunday night was the night they wished to celebrate, so Sunday it was. A good time was had by all. For Vinogirl it meant a night off from wine. I imbibed in a pleasing malted beverage called 'Death & Taxes'...dark, lucious and bitter. Wonder what old Ben Franklin would think of the current election season? Dark? Bitter? Prophetic? I hope not.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

And Mother Nature continues to smile.

Vinomaker and I just finished a simple, but fabulous grilled salmon dinner out on the deck. The temperature is splendid...who would believe this is October 25th? It feels more like a July evening. Good fish, (cooked perfectly by VM), great Pinot grigio and a Sauvignon blanc, good company, including the Vinodogs...who could ask for more. Napa life at it's best.

True Wine Lover 2.

Le Petit Corporal undoubtedly quaffed a lot of bubbly after the English exiled him to the island of St. Helena.  Defeat must have been hard for the Emperor to swallow.  His trouncing, at Waterloo, when washed down with a few good glasses of champers probably made the whole ordeal seem a lot more tolerable.  I'm sure being a Corsican, of Italian descent, and supreme leader of France, predisposed him to indulge in a lot of still wines too.  I even hear that he was fond of Cognac.
Boney was probably a right plonky.  The hand tucked into his waistcoat stance? It conceals a corkscrew no doubt...look, you can even see a couple of corks in the hand behind his back.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mutant Ninja tomato.

I spent a long relaxing, celebratory lunch with my co-workers today at Auberge du Soleil.  It is my, and Vinomaker's, favourite restaurant in the valley.  Unfortunately he couldn't join me. What fantastic food.  What a fantastic location with splendid views of the valley.  What fantastic weather. The past week's mid 80's temps could lull one into a false sense of it still being summer.  I have to remind myself that as well as the grapevines, everything else is shutting down also, even my vegetable garden.
I ate, drank and was merry.  So much so that a simple dinner was in order tonight.  I opted for a plain chicken salad.  The Lycopersicon above did not make it into the salad because Vinomaker and I thought it too aggressive looking for consumption.  How would that thing digest in my stomach? More to the point, how would I slice it?  More like duel with it...where is a Samurai sword when I need one?  Still, methinks it is quite magnificent in a bizarre, tomato-ey sort of way!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The party's over?

No, it's only just begun, but it is time to put the picking knives away until harvest 2009. We brought our own Cabernet sauvignon in last Sunday. Vinomaker was ready this morning for the last batch of a friend's Cab, but it didn't materialise...Mother Nature had other ideas. Timing, in life, is everything. Whilst Vinomaker and I were enjoying 90 plus degree temps last May, the grapevine flowers were not. Things got hot, the flowers did not pollinate properly, a percentage of berries did not form thus resulting in poor fruit set and consequently a reduced crop. It's a condition called shatter. Hence not enough Cab to go around, (same problem with the Cabernet franc two weeks ago). We will have to be content with the Cab, Syrah, Pinot grigio, Semillion, Orange muscat and Viognier we already have...hic!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The essence of senescence.

Things are starting to look a lot different around here.  Things are looking more...yellow. It's a good job that I think yellow is a very nice, happy colour because every vineyard around here is not so green anymore.  The grapevines have given up their crop for this vintage and are now shutting down for their long winter nap, a process called senescence.  A grape leaf lives for approximately 150 days and so the first to give up the ghost and fall to the ground is usually the first one that grew in the spring.  The vine, however, first removes any goodies it can from the leaves and stores what it can in it's root system.  This way it is assured a kick start in the spring when the ground begins to warm up again.  The correct colour sequence is green, then yellow and finally brown...and down, not the autumnal colours depicted on postcards all over the Napa Valley.  Red leaves mean the plant is virused and will eventually die.  I must confess that I love to see the horrified look on visitors faces when I tell them that.  My grandmother would have said that the 'divil' was in me.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Le Chat Noir.

I have no intention of turning my blog into a wine review venue. Boring! Alas, here I am pontificating on a 'must have in your glass' Napa Valley potable.
Tonight, Vinomaker and I spent the evening at Black Cat Vineyard where we were treated to an advance tasting of their '06 vintage, (they were releasing a Cabernet sauvignion for the first time). Hitherto, proprietor and wine maker, Tracey Reichow, has concentrated on a stunning Syrah, which she grows herself, and a Syrah/Cab blend, (her Family Cuvee). With the '06 vintage, Black Cat has achieved a wine industry trifecta. I can't imagine wanting any red wine combo other than this trio, they are that good.
It was however a little freaky without the Vinodogs around. Anyone out there want me to review their Black Dog wine? I am more canine, than feline, inclined.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tarnished medals.

There are lot of competitions out there, a lot. Actually hundreds in California alone that commercial wineries and home winemakers alike can enter. They vary from well recognised contests and those in vastly distributed industry publications to small, regional local fairs. They seemingly have a million categories that all and sundry can enter...and everyone seems to be a winner. In fact Vinomaker has won two gold medals in consecutive years at a Sonoma County fair for his Syrah. (He's very modest. A 'friend' entered him both times).
The irony is that the Vinodogs made the wines, they're smart poochies. The one judge, in 2007, with the "try again" comment, must have known!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

True Wine Lover 1.

Winny loved champagne...and Pol Roger loved him. So much so that they produced special pint sized bottles (20 fl oz) just for his consumption and named a special blend (cuvée) after the great Statesman. I love the stuff too, it's just a pity it's made by the French.
"Remember gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne."  Churchill said it best, there is nothing Vinogirl can add!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.

It's extremely windy in Napa right now, the entire Bay Area actually. It would be a good day to fly a kite. I took this pic of my English Bull Terrier weather vane, (thanks Vinomaker), a little while ago. You can't really tell but the cups were going like the clappers. I'm happy because the Cab grapes will definitely benefit from the airing they are getting after last weeks rain. They may also experience a little dehydration so the Brix may look elevated when I take a sample tomorrow. Of course sugar is not the only prerequisite for timing harvest, I will be tasting the grapes too.
V1 is not bothered by the wind but V2 is a little unnerved, as are the weather forecasters who warn of the fire danger Santa Ana winds can wreak. Maybe I should keep the hosepipes at the ready...otherwise I may be harvesting raisins!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Drop some acid?

What's so good about acid, man? If you read the definition of the word acid in a dictionary, it really doesn't sound like anything you'd want to put in your mouth. Chemically, it's a sour-tasting water-soluble compound that can react with a base (alkali) to form a salt. But show me a wine without adequate acid, and I'll show you a wine that's flabby and not very appealing. While too much acidity can be terribly sour, a touch of acid gives wine an appetising, mouth-watering characteristic that can be described as bright, or crisp, or fresh. Of course balance is important, and that bright component must be matched by fruit, but the fact remains that acid is not a negative term when it comes to wine. There are a number of different acids in wine, primarily tartaric (shown above), malic, citric, succinic, and lactic. The sum of these is the total acidity (TA) of a wine which winemakers generally express in grams of acid per 100 millilitres of wine. You don't really need to know all this chemistry to appreciate a good glass of wine but the fact that it exists will make your tongue extremely happy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The rain it raineth.

It's been pretty quiet here the past week. Our little Cab vineyard doesn't look like it was adversely affected by Friday night's rain. I shouldn't complain, we haven't had any real rain since February, but the timing, so close to harvest, could've been problematic. Fortunately, the past 2 days have been rather breezy so the clusters should have dried out nicely. The Syrah we picked last week is almost dry, (it was a quick fermentation), and the Viognier, that has been undergoing a slow, cold fermentation, is at -2.5 Brix. That doesn't necessarily mean it's dry, but we racked it off the lees today and hit it with 33 ppm SO2 to inhibit MLF. Tomorrow Vinomaker is anticipating the arrival of a lot more Syrah. The crusher/destemmer is at the ready, Vinodogs will be on duty, and I'll be out of harms way...selling wine.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Happy Birthday V2.

Yup, today is V2's birthday, she's a whole year we gave her the day off. We didn't expect her to punch down the Syrah, sample the sugar in the Cab, or chase out the neighbour's horses that wandered into the vineyard this morning, she was free to do as she wished, which was not much apparently. This evening we toasted the beginning of her second year with a good glass of Cab whilst she, and V1, chewed on her pressies. Happy Birthday V2.