Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mumm's the word.

Two French, two domestic: This is the selection of bubbly for tonight's festivities. Only one candidate for merriment is a vintage sparkler, (it just so happens to be the locally produced 2000 DVX by Mumm Napa Valley), the others are non-vintage. 75% of the offerings are technically from the same producer, G.H. Mumm. 100% of the wines, thankfully, have the Chardonnay grape as the smallest component.
The Mumm Cordon Rouge wins this particular tasting hands down; redolent with stewed Bramley apple skins, yeast, and toasted white bread. It is simply delicious. The Perrier-Jouët was a close second.
Champagne? Methode Champenoise? It doesn't matter. The final word is, just enjoy this style of wine often and in abundance.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wakey, wakey!

At the side of the vineyard, nestled amid the coils of a hosepipe, Vinoland's first narcissus casts it's golden smile about the dormant vines and the now almost bare oak trees. No doubt unceremoniously relocated in the summer months by an overly enthusiastic squirrel, this lone harbinger of the 2010 growing season has succeeded in reminding me that the wintry world I see through my window is merely slumbering. Like the dozing wine tucked-up in oak barrels in the cellar below where I sit, this narcissus, whilst appearing to be doing nothing in particular, has deftly awakened in me a certain joie de vivre. The imminent arrival of a new calendar year signals to me the beginning of yet another joyous cycle of life out in the vineyard.
Many thanks to a little yellow flower.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A blot of mustard.

This morning heralded a rather sunny but frosty start to my day at a chilly 29 degrees.  It was a very still morning so, perhaps taking advantage of a near perfect temperature differential, the hot air balloons were out en masse, floating high above the commuting Vinogirl below.
Also present in abundance, but in this instance very definitely planted on terra firma, was the mustard flowering amongst the vines.  The mustard has been blooming for about 3 weeks now already, perhaps the earliest I can ever remember, no doubt due to the little bit of rain we had in October.
With barely any traffic on the Silverado Trail it was a very pleasurable drive to work on this still rather Christmassy December morn.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas: 2009.

Yuletide greetings from the Napa Valley to everyone who visits Vinsanity.
Vinomaker, the Vinodogs and I wish all deserving folks a very healthy and happy New Year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve in Napa.

How else would you decorate the downtown Napa Christmas tree, other than with purple baubles clustered to look like bunches of grapes?
A festive Christmas Eve to you all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winery Christmas Lights 6.

The house that Robert Mondavi built: no, not his namesake winery but his actual home.  Previous posts have highlighted Christmas lights on commercial winery buildings, but this post is dedicated to a particular Napan's abode.  On a large knoll, overlooking the Stag's Leap District AVA, is the site where the late Robert Mondavi built his home, high above the valley and vineyards he made famous world wide.  A genius in marketing and promotion, Mondavi arguably made the Napa Valley the success it is today.
A cheery site on my drive home from work, the roof top Christmas tree can actually be seen as a red dot from the steps of the winery where I am gainfully employed some five miles north.  Thank you, to whomever, for continuing such a welcome, joyous tradition.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winery Christmas Lights 5.

Situated on the corner of the Oakville Crossroad and the Silverado Trail, this festive tree twinkles and sparkles night after night for countless passing motorists to enjoy.  Erected by the kindly proprietor of Rudd Vineyards & Winery, this relatively small gesture of installing a Christmas tree in a high profile area, to be shared by many, goes a long way to embodying the true spirit of the season.  Rudd doesn't just stop with Christmas, recently they had on display a massive carved pumpkin for Halloween and coming up soonish will be a large arrow-pierced heart, they place on the same corner annually, for our St. Valentine's Day delectation.  The Christmas tree just happens to be my favourite.

Monday, December 21, 2009

True Wine Lover 8.

What was the first thing Noah did when he docked the ark? Right off the boat he planted a vineyard. Smart man. Noah then preceded to get nekkid and drank until he was, well, drunk! Can you blame him? I'd be driven to drink also: I can barely assemble an Ikea coffee table without needing a stiff glass of Cabernet sauvignon afterwards to sooth my frayed nerves. Imagine being required to build an ark to carry all those animals, just two Vinodogs are enough for me to deal with.
It seems as if Noah was the Bible's first viticulturist. Good man. If I was caught in a deluge of biblical proportions, I'd hope that I would have the foresight to take grape seeds with me, better still grapevine cuttings.
After all that building, herding, sailing, and planting Noah probably had earned a well deserved break. What better way to relax than to sit down and enjoy a delicious glass of wine from your own vineyard paired with, perhaps, a tasty ham sandwich.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The best of the wurst.

A lot is written, in magazines and on blogs, this time of year about food and wine pairing. I personally find that some folks get a little obsessive about finding the perfect pairing with certain seasonal fare, and frankly it can all get a little boring. There are indeed some foods that when paired with a particular wine will make your taste buds perform a happy dance. The most obvious pairing, that springs to mind, is of course pâté de foie gras and Sauternes. (I don't normally like to give the French credit for anything but they got me on this one.)
Our friends, the Wisconsin Winos, send Vinomaker and me a much appreciated gift of Usinger's meats and cheeses every Christmas. It is an annual event much anticipated by me as it heralds the approach of Christmas. Packed by the Usinger Elves, this festive carton includes such delicacies as summer sausage, beerwurst, bologna, mortadella, pastrami, and yachtwurst to name but a few (the only things missing are the cheese curds.) The entire box is a positive bachanalia of carnivorous delights. But, what to pair with such a gastronomic tour de force? Wine of course, lots of each and every varietal...washed down with beer!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Winery Christmas Lights 4.

Hurrah!  My finals are over and now I can begin to celebrate Christmas properly.  It was seemingly a very long, and stressful, semester but it is finally over.
Continuing on from where I left off on December 22nd last year, I am posting about the Christmas lights at Darioush.  This is not my favourite style of architecture for a winery, but I have had one of their Cabernet Sauvignons and it was very pleasant and that's what counts.  I do, however, like the Christmas tree at the entrance: the lights are a deeper blue when viewed with the naked eye, and it always cheers me on my way home from work.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Prune early for Christmas.

Almost one year ago to the day, this vineyard was undergoing the exact same farming operation, pre-pruning. The people at Far Niente have to be the most consistent and dedicated winegrowers I have seen in these parts. Either that or they have nothing better to do. Having polished off a bottle of their delicious 2006 Cabernet sauvignon, with Vinomaker and Thud last week, I know that is not the case.
I hope I don't come across as some Far Niente groupie or stalker, it's just that their vineyard is the closest commercial vineyard to where I live, just some 200 yards from my gate, and it is hard not to notice when stuff is going on over there, seeing as I walk it's entire length daily with the Vinodogs.
So a very Merry Christmas, and a very nice looking cover crop, to all the Far Niente vineyard crew.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Oh deer me!

It's amazing what you can find when you go out to the mailbox.
I just hope this antler belongs to the young buck that has been loitering in our creek bed and not to Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, or Blitzen.  Or, God forbid, Rudolph! Who would deliver that magnum of Veuve Cliquot that I have on my Christmas wishlist?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Jack's back.

Brrr! It was 20.5 F when I got up a little while ago. Everywhere is white with frost, it looks very pretty. The Vinodogs are curled up in bed, but I unfortunately have to go to work. It does mean, however, that I get to see how beautiful the Valley looks cloaked in a veil of frost. Poor me!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Snow alert.

My commute to work 15 miles up through the Napa Valley is always pleasant, but today it was especially delightful. A sprinkling of snow on both ranges of hills, but more noticeably on the eastern Vaca Mountains, had succeeded in making my familiar drive all the more enjoyable. The snow may only have lingered for a few hours but during it's sojourn, high above the sleeping vines below, it delivered a quick blast of Christmassy cheer.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Volstead Debacle.

"I think this would be a good time for a beer." So quipped Franklin D. Roosevelt upon signing a bill (ahead of the full repeal of prohibition 76 years ago today), which made 3.2% alcohol beer once again legal.
Prohibition was an unmitigated failure; it was an onslaught on individual rights, was impossible to enforce, and had the unforeseen consequences of giving rise to massive, organised crime syndicates.
There seemed to exist in the American psyche a propensity to demonize things that gave folk pleasure, to censor behaviour, legislate morality, and reinvent human nature. Certain people are at it still today; supposed well meaning politicians, pontificating lawyers, and activist groups who strive to deny adult Americans the right to partake in a custom as old as civilization itself...enjoying a tipple.
Thank heavens for the proximity of the Napa Valley to the Archdiocese of San Francisco. If it hadn't been for the need of the Roman Catholic church to continue to have a source of sacramental wine, the wine industry in Napa would never have survived prohibition.
Phew, I'm glad I got that off my chest. I'm off now to have a Anchor Steam Christmas Special Ale...5.5% alcohol, thank you very much!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hail to December!

Christmas is coming and I am looking forward to it already.
Things have slowed down considerably in these parts; the vines are shutting down, malolactic fermentation is progressing in the cellar, and post harvest Napa Valley is once more relatively quiet.
It's no secret that I love Christmas. For me the season is not merely about the giving and receiving of gifts, in fact the older I get, the less I care about that particular aspect. Rather it's about spending quality time with family and friends, good old fashioned carol singing, relaxing repasts, nativity scenes, and yes, twinkling lights, sparkling tinsel and shiny baubles.
There are so many things I enjoy, but one of my favourite traditions is my and Vinomaker's Christmas Eve champagne tasting, and I am already thinking about what wines to include this year. After all, I have to have something to look forward to to get me through my school finals. I'll need a good glass, or two, of bubbly afterwards in order to recover, from the ordeal of the exams, in time for Christmas.