Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween.

Nothing says Halloween in these parts like a spicy Napa Zinfandel, spicy Napa pumpkin seed brittle...and a few cheesy, little pumpkin decorations.
Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's raining Cabs.

Vinomaker has an abundance of Cabernet sauvignon fermentations right now, all bubbling away at once. Alongside our own clone 4 we have clones 2, 7, 24, 169 and 337, all intensely busy with their respective biological, chemical and physical approach to fermentation: it's like some demented, oenological Fibonacci number sequence. I suspect Vinomaker must be following his own, hitherto unnamed, mathematical formula to keep track of everything that is going on. This includes yeast choice, as the selection of different strains of yeasts are a major contributor to the diversity of wine even among the same grape variety, never mind clonal variations.
Resembling one of Macbeth's demonic witches, Vinomaker is down in the winery twice a day working his magic. Performing punch-downs, taking temperatures, and spinning hydrometers in cylinders of adolescent wine; whilst all the time invoking the beneficence of Dionysus (or St. Vincent if I were the winemaker), in the successful transmutation of grapes into wine. There are handwritten notes, Excel spreadsheets, textbooks, website printouts, and industry catalogues strewn all over Vinoland. Where all of this wine is going to be aged, stored, and blended is still a mystery.
What is clear to me however, is that it is making it even more likely that the Vinodogs and I will have to look for an alternate living space...for a short spell.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The black grape of Avola.

Because Do Bianchi asked so nicely, I decided to say just a few words about the Sicilian wine I recently drank that had the Vino-seal closure. I usually try to steer clear of reviewing wine, but here goes.
Cusumano's 2007 Nero d'avola (the most widely planted of Sicily's indigenous red varietals), is a fruit driven, surprisingly high alcohol wine with a distinct Mediterranean character. Dark cherries and damsons abound, buoyed by a bright acidity. The pleasant spicy-plum finish is ample consolation for the fact that the wine is a tad unbalanced (due to the heat at the end.)
All in all, this offering of Nero d'avola was very entertaining because of it's unique closure, and was eminently quaffable because of the high standard of winemaking .
I hope the next bottle will be just as enjoyable. Never buy just one.

Monday, October 26, 2009


There is an ongoing, didactic discourse on certain wine blogs about which is the best closure for wine. It is an interesting topic, but sometimes the preachiness of it all gets a little tiresome. A screw cap can be a perfectly acceptable closure for a wine that you do not intend to age. Some proponents of the use of nothing but all natural cork are reaching ridiculous heights of brinkmanship, e.g. the folks at Celani Family Vineyards who feel the need to apprise the consumer of the exact size, to the closest millimetre, of the cork that bungs up their Cabernet sauvignon. I generally care more about what is in my glass, not how it manages to stay in the bottle.
One of the wines Vinomaker, I and everyone else drank after the christening, a week last Sunday, was a tasty offering from Sicily. It didn't really matter what the grape varietal was, we were all so enamoured with the Vino-seal closure that the contents of the bottle became secondary. Small things amuse...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Blue velvet.

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are amongst the most photogenic grapes around, their velvety blue hue is like no other varietal. Sure, Syrah, Merlot etc., are all black grape varietals but tend to look more purple on the vine whilst Cabernet Sauvignon diplays the richest royal blue.  Here is my Clone 4 enjoying one last day idling in the California sun for tomorrow is harvest day!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

One more for the team.

Today began with Vinomaker and me crushing and destemming some Cabernet sauvignon from a friend's vineyard; I did a little leaf-pulling in our vineyard, Vinomaker did some punch-downs on ongoing fermentations, and then it was time to get scrubbed up for our baby niece's baptism.
The St. Helena R.C. Church is a small, picturesque stone structure that just underwent six months of earthquake's all better now and thus was the perfect setting for one of life's rites of passage...if you're Catholic.
It was a beautiful, joyous day filled with close family, well wishes, good food and of course, good wine...which was just as well, seeing as sacramental wine is no longer an option due to the threat of swine flu. I swear to God.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gathering nuts.

Some enterprising Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) has been busy squirrelling away nuts for the coming winter months in a tree up the road from Vinoland. I wish he'd gather more acorns for his larder from Vinoland as the walking-on-ball-bearing trick I have adopted to get to my car is an ankle-accident waiting to happen.
Every 3 or 4 years we seem to get a bumper crop of acorns, 2009 is one of those years. The recent rain aided and abetted in the dumping of a massive amount of acorns onto the driveway. Of course, they drop at any old time but primarily when I am making a trip out to the dustbin...ouch!
Vinomaker is also busy stockpiling for winter, however his stash, ahem, is in liquid form! He has so many fermentations going on right now that the Vinodogs and I may have to move into a hotel, temporarily, to make way for all the fermentation bins.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My girdle is killing me.

Whilst walking through the vineyard late this afternoon, checking on how the Syrah vines are shutting down for the winter, I noticed a red leaf. I did not panic, instead I checked the leaf's underside.
A ha! As I expected I found insect damage: girdling of the petiole. Now in this neck of the woods there are two main suspects for such crimes against vines; the Buffalo Treehopper (Stictocephala bisonia) and the Three-cornered Alfalfa Hopper (Spissistilus festinus). Damage to the vine occurs when continuous feeding punctures, resulting in the interruption of the movement of materials to the leaf, reduce chlorophyll production and cause anthocyanins to become the dominant pigment remaining in the leaf. The reddish leaves look like those of Leafroll virus, hence my concern upon espying the offending leaf.
It is obviously not a big problem, seeing as this is the only red leaf I have seen in the vineyard, but it was a momentary cause for concern. After all, you need healthy vines to make yummy wines.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rain, rain, go away!

My poor grapes!
It rained all day yesterday. Let me qualify that...we just experienced, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the worst October storm since the 1960s. Vinoland looks like a battlefield. Mother Nature has deposited her detritus everywhere, the autumnal colours of which are pretty, but the acorns make walking around extremely difficult. Our creek is full, there are puddles everywhere, the firewood is wet, and the Vinodogs are bored.
Last Sunday I did a quick sugar reading of our Cabernet grapes. They were only up to a rather disappointing 22.8 degrees Brix, nowhere near ready to harvest...and now wet, grey weather.
My poor grapes!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Frequent flyer miles?

Made in Argentina. Purchased in Liverpool. Consumed in Napa.
This has to be the most traveled bottle of wine I have ever had (next to the bottle of 1994 Opus One Thud purchased in Costco, Liverpool). And guess what? was delicious...even with jet-lag.
What a great combination; Pinot grigio and, one of Vinomaker's and my favourites, Torrontés. We frequently drink Susana Balbo's Torrontés but this blended offering from Familia Zuccardi is wonderful, combining the best characteristics of these two eminently quaffable varietals.
Thanks Monkey and Thud.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Breaking bread.

Last night a pleasant, balmy October evening was spent on the deck at Vinoland, with family, good friends, food and wine. As a thank you and goodbye to the Wisconsin Winos, and a welcome to family OTW, Vinomaker and I pulled some special bottles of wine from the cellar. Among them was this bottle of Mi Sueño Syrah, which seemed appropriate as the WW's had harvested our Syrah. Rolando Herrera's wine was delicious as usual...and a good time was had by all.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Hello Syrah!

A busy day in Vinoland.
Vinomaker left at the crack of dawn to drive, once again, to Courtland to collect some Marsanne he had contracted to buy. I stayed in Vinoland and supervised our Syrah harvest. The Wisconsin Winos had arrived early, on this cool October morning, to assist with the day's activities. I stayed as long as I could and picked away with them but had to leave to collect Family OTW from San Francisco International.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the Marsanne and will have to be content with watching it ferment, but I will make sure I am around to drink the finished product.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Many happy returns of the day V2!

Vinodog 2 (Canis-vino familiaris), is two years old today. Here she is reclining on the deck in the morning sunshine, in her party finery with a new, squeaky toy squirrel by her side.
It is with some astonishment that she is still here in Vinoland, after many threats to send her back to the pound for generally terrorising the vines, the neighbourhood, and last but not least, poor old V1.
The fact that she is so cute and constantly provides pure, unadulterated canine-comedy makes her a keeper.
Happy birthday V2.