Saturday, March 28, 2009

Even more budbreak.

As I was pruning our Cabernet sauvignon today I noticed that the Pinot grigio vines have woken up from their long winters nap. Everything is getting off to a good start. Even our table grapes are experiencing budbreak. The Cab, hopefully, is another two weeks away from pushing out it's little, fuzzy buds. Which is just as well as I am only half way through pruning. We have a few baby Cab vines that were put in last season and they are actually ahead of their older siblings. They were replanted for a number of reasons; gopher root-attacks, poor graft unions, Vinodog 2 blight, etc.
Cab pruning is hard work. There are so many tendrils, it is taking me forever to get last years wood off the trellis wires. I definitely prefer pruning Syrah.
Of course I stop what I am doing, now and then, to play tug of war with V2 as she tries to abscond with a cane. I stand still and watch the antics of the dozens of ladybirds that seemed to have populated the vineyard in the past few days. I pause, now and again, to observe the migration of Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui.) They flutter, from the south-east corner of the property to the north-west looking, for all the world, like a convoy of dancing flowers. I last witnessed this phenomenon about two years ago and they look so pretty I just have to delay my pruning to admire them.
I'm not usually so easily distracted, but there really are just so many good things to amuse me. The Cab will all be pruned eventually. Honest, Vinomaker.

Friday, March 27, 2009

An unmitigated good book.

My pruning was interrupted today by the Vinodogs heralding the arrival of the mailman. He handed me an ordinary looking brown package, too large to fit in the roadside mailbox. On closer examination it turned out to be a Royal Mail package from Thud.
The one redeeming factor of having a birthday away from home, and family, is that birthdays are prolonged, as stuff just keeps showing up in the post. Which is fine by me, I love to eke out any celebration.
So, what was inside I hear you asking with bated breath? It was a copy of a wonderful book: Unmitigated England. The author, Peter Ashley, has done a fabulous job of preserving English ephemera. A must have for anyone who loves England...even an ex-pat like Vinogirl.
The pruning was forgotten. I made myself a mug of Earl Grey, opened a snack pack of mini Hobnobs, sat down, and read, and smiled. I smiled a lot.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The sweet pea that has run wild.

It is just so pretty in Napa this morning. Warm, sunny and very spring-like.
My cover crop looked so stunning, by where I was pruning, that I had to stop and take a picture. Life is good.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More budbreak.

The first thing I had to do when I got home from the winery today was to put a stop to an excavation project in the vineyard. V1 and V2 seemed intent on digging their way to China. Dogs and gophers, they just don't mix! But my trudge up the hill was not in vain. I noticed budbreak in our Syrah. Yea...and nay! Again, one word, frost!
Hopefully Mother Nature will be kind this year. I doubt it somehow. The past two nights we have been serenaded with our neighbouring vineyard's fans, their method of frost protection. The frost season lasted 6 weeks last year. We eventually become used to the noise of the fans, as we do every year.
You can see in the picture that the infant Syrah leaves have a very definite pink tinge compared to the Orange muscat, (Cabernet sauvignon even more so), but all in all, baby leaves look much the same. They don't look quite like "homicidal fried eggs" as all babies looked to P. G. Wodehouse, but they are awfully similar.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, to moi.

Yes, today is Vinogirl's birthday. In spite of the fact that I am getting older...I...LOVE...BIRTHDAYS. Anybody's, not just my own.
It looks like Vinomaker invited 'The Widow' to my celebration. I think she might be a surprise guest, but I found her in the wine fridge so I invited her out for a drink. Let's get this party started!
First though, I have to put on my new, lime green Hunter wellies and have a wade through the creek with V2.
Oh...and Happy Birthday John Toshack.
Vinogirl loves birthdays.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Muscat is busting out all over.

In between stacking firewood and helping Vinomaker chip the Syrah prunings, I had a quick peek into the Orange muscat block to see if anything was happening. Lo and behold...budbreak. Hello to the genesis of the 2009 vintage.
Now I just have to worry about frost.

Friday, March 20, 2009

...Ego deputo.

...and here is a vine I prepared earlier. Actually, it is the same vine but I have given it a new 'do'. This vine is not an ideal model, the positions are a little low, but it will improve with subsequent years. Every vine is different from the next and each vine offers a new challenge.
V2 is happily chewing away on a cane I cut from the trellising wires. My little mulching mongrel.

Veni, vidi...

Happy first day of spring!
I had a bit of a sleep in this morning but I was out pruning before the sun came up over the eastern Napa hills.  I pruned for most of the day, accompanied by the Vinodogs, and I am happy to say the Syrah is done. All the Syrah, that is, except for a few odd vines that need special attention.
The vines in Vinoland are head trained and cane pruned - meaning a 2 bud renewal spur and an 8 bud fruiting cane on each side - although there is one, short experimental row of Syrah that is cordon pruned. Cane-pruning is a slightly more labour intensive way of pruning but in the long run it makes for better fruit.  Ergo, good wine.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring is almost sprung.

The past couple of days have been spectacular weather-wise. It is amazing how winter has just suddenly disappeared. Sure we could get nasty frosts through April here in Napa, but for all intents and purposes, winter is over.
My daffodils are all but finished and my tulips, short-lived at the best of times, are about 75% done. My irises have just started blooming. A large Valley Oak, (Quercus lobata), to the north of the house has large, swollen buds and even a few immature leaves. Spring doesn't even officially begin until tomorrow.
Nicest of all the early spring surprises around here, for me, is the recurrence of my cover crop from three years ago. My field peas, (Pisum sativum), are dotting the vineyard with their happy, purple and lilac flowers. The sub-clovers I planted last autumn don't seem to be making an appearance just yet. Thank goodness for the self-seeding prowess, and nitrogen fixing capacity, of these little legumes. The peas were easy on the eye as I pruned today. My babies look so pretty.
Of course V2's early mowing protocol, (with her never resting jaws), will mean there will be less self-seeding next year!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Head above the rest.

Hidden in this mess of mustard is a head trained vine. I do not know the varietal although I could find out as Vinomaker knows its dad. Just look at it. Brilliant! I love head trained vines. Look at the permanent structure. Cast your eye over the pruning work needing to be done. Fantastic!
The grapevine is...a vine...quelle surprise! It will twist and turn its way up a tree, or anything taller than itself, in order to reach the top and...the sunlight. Truly head trained vines give little support to the actual vine except for their own established trunk. The pruner maintains an almost cartwheel-like structure on which the fruiting spurs are renewed each year. Fabulous!
The main advantage is that it is an extremely cost effective way of training. No stakes, no trellising, and in the case of a dry farmed vineyard, no costly irrigation system. The disadvantages are many. For example, greater instances of disease, heightened pest management issues, and it's bad on your back at harvest time...but like high heels, from adversity comes great pleasure.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happy Birthday V1.

Yes, Vinodog 1 is celebrating today. She is 11 years old...or 77 in human years. The old girl is getting a little slower these days...and of course she now needs reading glasses.
Happy Birthday V1!

Monday, March 09, 2009

True Wine Lover 5.

It is hard for me to give the French credit for much of anything. However I must doff my cap to, the one and only, Louis XIV. If not for his penchant for an obscure Hungarian dessert wine, the rest of us would not be able to readily enjoy a snifter of fine amber coloured Tokaji. Thank goodness he made a point of pouring it at his court, thus initiating a fashion for this varietal that Vinogirl would eventually benefit from.
Last night brother Thud cooked a fabulous goulash for family OTW, Vinomaker and me. We paired it with several truly wonderful Napa Cabernet sauvignons. For dessert we had a wonderful Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonoyos, (accompanied by a Key Lime pie).  It was delicious.
I am not going to review this varietal, just recommend that you drink it from time to time.  It would be worth your while.  Even Pope Pius IV quipped: "Summum pontificem talia vina decent!"  Worthy indeed.
So, vive le Roi Soliel...or at least his taste buds.