Sunday, July 26, 2009

The butterfly upon the road.

My constant companion this afternoon in the vineyard was Junonia coenia, that's a Common Buckeye butterfly to me, or you. Unlike the Painted Lady butterflies who migrated right on by me in March, this lovely lepidoptera would alight beside me as I worked, flutter between the leaves of the vines, flit from a cool blade of grass to the warm gravel of the access road...until I went to get my camera.
Never work with animals or children!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Widow.

When you live in England you don't have to worry about such appalling creatures as the one pictured above. This Black Widow (Latrodectus mactans), has been hanging out under our deck for God knows how long. I only became aware of her presence when I left my shovel beside my potting bench the other day and came back the next day to find the shovel ensnared in the strongest silk I have ever touched. I gave it a good twang then curiously followed it's path upward...oh hello! There she was, in all her ghastly glory, maternally watching over her egg sac...with her husbands dessicated body close by. Lovely!
I just don't like spiders. I tolerate the ones living in the vineyard as they are predatory carnivores that take care of pests that are harmful to grapevines. However, they generally run away, at great haste, when approached. Not Madame. No, she lay in her web above me, her token retreat towards a joist just barely perceptible. At this juncture, I would normally have introduced her to Mr. Wet/dry-Vac, but for one thing: Vinomaker likes spiders, nay, he loves spiders, any and all. You can see where this is going can't you? Yup, she's still there.
Vinogirl and the Vinodogs have female competition in Vinoland!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One of these things is not like the others.

Instead of rice or birdseed being hurled at Vinomaker and me on our wedding day, we had our guests chuck a handful, or two, of wild flower seeds at us. As a result, we got to enjoy a pretty array of poppies, lupins, and cornflowers the very next spring. They have flowered each spring since then conjuring up happy memories, with their reappearance, of a warm August day spent with family and good friends, all gathered together in our vineyard to celebrate one of life's more pleasant rituals. This year however, I had a bit of a surprise...a pink cornflower.
Much like that different clones of grape varietals are actually genetic mutations (albeit with desirable attributes which are then propagated), this pink cornflower apparently decided to spurn convention (along with the protocyanin pigment that makes it blue), and go with a decidedly more feminine look this time around. Cute.
I don't know if she will be back next year but she is very welcome to visit, just as long as she brings with her a bunch of very welcome reminiscences...and smiles.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cause for the Paws.

Another event today. This time it was the Napa Humane's Cause for the Paws event, held at Silverado Country Club.
I volunteered to work at the event but I still had plenty of time to walk about, visit with friends, eat some great food, and drink some fantastic wines. It was a little toasty temperature wise, it just meant a lot of Sauvignon blanc was consumed above everything else, apparently no one was interested in any red wine.
I really didn't care in what capacity I was present, the reason I participated was primarily for the poochies (secondarily, the cats and rabbits). Several dogs were paraded around with an eye to adoption during the proceedings, which included a silent auction and a live auction in which lots of fabulous wines were available for bidding on.
It was an exciting but tiring event and I was only too glad to get home and spend a quiet evening on the deck with Vinodogs 1 & 2.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Home Winemakers Classic.

This afternoon, Vinomaker and I attended the 27th annual Home Winemakers Classic, hosted at St. Supery Winery. It's a fun event and we have probably gone the past 7 or 8 years in a row. It is a great opportunity to see what local home winemakers are up to and taste some good, some not so good, non-commercial wines. There are varietals that you recognise and some you don't. Some home winemakers take it all quite seriously and a lot of care and effort is taken in procuring the fruit, fermenting the wine, and producing very professional looking labels (I may post a couple of my favourites in the future). To others it is very definitely a hobby and they take a more light hearted approach to the whole thing, like the wine with the label that was nothing more than a piece of gaffer tape and a marker!
For the price of admission there is great food, live music, approximately 60 home wine makers, a raffle (one prize is a BBQ at the firehouse, cooked by the fire chief), a free engraved wine glass, and a silent auction. Vinomaker picked up a couple of really good wines at bargain basement prices. Locals know such events around the valley are often a goldmine of hard to come by, collectible wines.
All the proceeds of the event go to maintaining and replacing the fire departments aging equipment, training the volunteer firefighters, covering costs (such as uniforms and fuel), and the general operating expenses of a much needed service in a rather rural part of the valley.
All in all, it's good wholesome fun, a chance to taste and definitely spit, catch up with friends and, last but not least, support a good cause.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Hello there little vine!
It amazes me how dormant, bench grafted vines muster up the energy, stored in their roots, to push through the mound of earth above them. It's a vineyard miracle :)
When the growth is about another inch long I will gently break down the mounds and let photosynthesis perform it's wondrous wizardry.
Of course this means the vines will need to be irrigated now as they will have almost depleted the moisture content of the soil they were planted in. Vinomaker, where are you?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The hills have vines.

What is this? Some barren moonscape? Evidence of crazed, hill building moles with a knack for synchronicity? No, it is just the extension of our Pinot gris block here in Vinoland.
The little bench grafts are stretching out their roots, taking up nutrients and water, and reaching upwards, through the mounded soil, to the awaiting California sun. I'll be there to greet them when they make their entrance into the world.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

All stirred up.

Washed, sliced and stir-fried. My first courgette tasted fabulous.
Vinomaker paired his dinner with a California Reisling. Vinogirl paired her dinner with a Napa Cabernet sauvignon.
More veggies please.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Harvest time.

Yes, it's my first courgette of the season. I know it's a tad late, but I didn't get my veggies planted until I got back from my holiday in England. I checked it yesterday and I swear it was not even close to being big enough to pick, but today, yikes!!! I don't know how this particular vegetable does it, but it just seems to sneak up on you, growth wise. It may have something to do with the triple digit weather we are having and the amount of water I am giving them to stop them going all droopy.
The courgette was a lot easier, and quicker, to harvest than our grapes...and tomorrow night it will incorporated, somehow, into my dinner!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hard graft!

Finally, all the new Pinot gris bench grafts are in. It's been a long, tiring, often frustrating process, especially for Vinomaker who did the majority of the work, (I am competent with a shovel, but more impressive in a supervisory capacity.)
We chose to use bench grafts over field budding, simply to ensure a better percentage of successful adult vines. Our Cabernet sauvignon and Syrah were all field budded (and the majority of our existing Pinot gris), and they are happy healthy vines...we just wanted this block of new plantings up and running the first time around. We had a 100% take with our Orange muscat block, so we were encouraged to go the bench graft route once more.
Bench grafts are a more expensive approach to establishing a vineyard: there is a lot of work done in the nursery to produce a graft that is alive and calloused fast to the rootstock. You can see the callous around the graft in the picture with the nascent Pinot gris buds above. Doesn't look like much does it? However, in 4 years time it will be a tasty glass of chilled white wine enjoyed on a warm, sunny Napa summer day.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Patterns in nature.

Two very busy days in the vineyard; stuffing shoots, removing some over zealous laterals, and checking for powdery mildew...which, unfortunately, I found a couple of pockets of. Not to worry, the vines are getting a good dose of sulphur tomorrow morning. Also on the agenda for Saturday is the planting of the last of the Pinot gris bench grafts which I collected from the nursery last Thursday.
Even though I often have my head buried in the canopy, looking closely at what is going on in there, I still notice little gems that Mother Nature has seemingly, purposely placed in my path as a welcome distraction from my work. Vines are great!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July.

It maybe slightly unusual to participate in celebrating your Motherland's historic loss of a bountiful source of tax revenue...but I'm always up for a good party. The fact is, I like the 4th of July primarily for selfish reasons. I love fireworks!
Being deprived the experience of the gun powder infused air of a damp November night each year is one of the things I miss most about England. So enjoying another country's firework fuelled celebration of Independence is alright by me.
Last night, Vinomaker and I attended a 3rd of July party at Phoenix Ranch Vineyard. Besides the opportunity to spend some fun time with good friends, eat great food and taste from a large selection of wines (it was a Napa party after all), the vineyard is in extremely close proximity to Silverado Country Club and, you guessed it, the Country Club's firework display. In tinder-box dry California fireworks are generally a no-no, except for organised displays held mostly on this the biggest holiday of the year. Vinomaker and I sat on a bench on the edge of the vineyard and had an unobstructured view of the pyrotechnic bacchanalia.
This afternoon we have a 4th of July party to attend at Black Cat Vineyard, an annual event that we thoroughly enjoy, followed by fireworks downtown on the Napa river front.  Two nights of fireworks in a row, what a treat.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Courgette, or zucchini?

This years grapes are coming along splendidly. I'm thinking 2009 is going to be a great vintage.
We only have one more sulphur application to make for the season, so things are calming down in the vineyard right now. Time to turn my attention to veggies.
My courgettes are doing fab and I'm looking forward to my first harvest in a matter of days. I planted less plants this year than I normally would as they are such prolific producers...I cannot eat enough courgette incorporated food items to keep up with them when they really hit their stride!