Sunday, February 28, 2010

Suck it up!

I finished pruning Vinoland's white grape varietals today (this is a Pinot gris bud).
Looks like I was just in time. The ground is apparently warming up and signalling to the grapevines to get on with bud break. It hasn't been a very cold winter so it doesn't really surprise me to see something that looks suspiciously like bud-swelling in the Orange muscat. It is all a bit bothersome though, as now I have to worry about frost.
In a neighbouring vineyard a mechanic was tinkering with a large fan ensuring sure that it will run when needed, as all the fans in the valley have not been used since last April. Spring is truly just around the corner!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wile E. Coyote.

Sorry about the quality of this photograph. I had gotten up early this morning to do a bit of last minute revision for a biology exam I had to take today, and just as daylight broke I happened to look towards Vinoland's gate and spotted yet another of Mother Nature's recyclers. Standing guard beside the odoriferous, furry heap that was formerly a deer was a lone coyote (Canis latrans) unchallenged for a quick bite of breakfast, as vultures seemingly don't get up this early. The early coyote catches an ear, apparently...the doe is now missing one.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guess who's coming to dinner?

This time last week I was trying to decide what to give up for Lent: Thank goodness the local population of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) did not give up venison for the Lenten season.
They're here en masse in all their funereal splendor; on Vinoland's gate, fence, up in the trees, and of course on the carcass of the dearly departed doe. Mother Nature's recyclers are doing their job.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Eyed by an eagle.

Today is Vinomaker's birthday. Whoo hoo!
As a birthday treat, I arranged for a tour and tasting at Stagecoach Vineyards. We both have enjoyed Krupp Brothers wines for some time now (especially Black Bart's Bride a viognier blend) however, it was the vineyard itself that I was particularly interested in touring. With 500+ acres planted high along the eastern edge of the Napa Valley, Stagecoach Vineyards can boast the largest mountain planting in the county.
Vinomaker and I were greeted by a very pleasant young woman who was to be our guide on the drive through the vineyard. As we passed by vine variety after vine variety, our guide recalled the history of the area and regaled us with tales of the abundant wildlife in this almost sanctuary like setting. The first settlers were Germans who had cleared the chaparral, on what was indeed an old stagecoach route, to plant their own grapevines. Sharing this rugged land with the winegrowers are many wild animals including; bobcats, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes. Around last harvest time she herself encountered a lone black bear, hungrily eyeing the ripening grapes.
Standing on a rocky outcrop, overlooking Oakville on the valley floor below was a bit of a thrill for me, I have to tell you, but the highlight of the tour was undoubtedly happening upon a Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), it's feathers a wash of gold. Perched atop a 20 foot pole (erected for that purpose I believe), this magnificent creature was totally unperturbed as Vinogirl moved very close and snapped away below him. I suppose if I was at the top of my particular food chain and had a 7 foot wingspan, I too would be unconcerned with the noisy oddity below me.
Happy birthday Vinomaker!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


A doe decided to expire in the culvert right outside Vinoland's gate. I am pretty sure she was dispatched by a neighbour's automobile and just didn't trip and break her neck. Whatever the cause of her demise was, it's a bit of a problem for Vinomaker and me because Napa County animal control will not come up a private drive to remove road-kill. Mother Nature will have to run her course, if you know what I mean?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What wine goes with...No. 1.

...pancakes? Any wine you want really, pancakes are rather bland. My pairing choice this evening was a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, but to be honest that was just because a bottle was already open. I'm sure a crisp white wine would have worked better with the fresh lemon juice, but it was getting late and opening several other bottles just didn't seem prudent. I will endeavor to do better in the future, but tonight it was the lowly pancake, a great English tradition, that gave me an idea.
Whilst eating this customary Shrove Tuesday fare it occurred to me that although I live thousands of miles away from my homeland I still eat many foods (or reasonable facsimiles thereof), that I would eat if I were still living in Liverpool. So, I have decided to start a series of posts on Vinsanity entitled, "What wine goes with...?" in an attempt to pair some of my favourite dishes with wine. Pancake Tuesday flipped up the perfect first entrant.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day.

Those fun, festive folks at Rudd are at it again. A large, lighted arrow-pierced heart sits at the corner of their vineyard, on the Oakville Crossroad, for all passers-by to enjoy. I don't really get Valentine's Day, but I do however recognise that a minimal amount of celebratory effort by a few, can bring delight and smiles to the many who do.
It actually worked for me this year, so a very happy day to you all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Through the winery window.

The 2009 Sauvignon blanc is currently being bottled at the winery. It's a fast paced and noisy, but eminently fascinating winery operation. I am mesmerised by the bottle-filler every time I wander through the cellar. Approximately 2000 bottles are filled, labelled and packed into cases each day. The Sauvignon blanc is my very favourite wine to watch being bottled, as the entire process can be witnessed through the almost clear glass. Many wineries do not have the luxury of their own bottling line, whether due to size or economics, and must resort to having their product bottled at a custom crush facility or by a hired mobile bottling service that will come to their premises.
I have always enjoyed seeing food items being manufactured and packaged for sale. Perhaps this fascination has it's origin back in my formative years watching such presenters as Brian Cant on Play School, the children's programme that often featured a sweet, or a biscuit factory's production line (through the round, square or arched window), churning out tiddler-tantalising confections. For me, a wine bottling line is just the adult version.
Photo courtesy of a co-worker.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

All over bar the shouting.

Grey, miserable weather, that is. Spotted yesterday at the winery, the first blossom of...winter. Yes, it's technically still winter but really, once January has passed in these parts, nice weather is just around the corner. The ground is warming up, the vines will be waking up, and I really must be getting on with my pruning.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Snip, snip.

Bored with my biology homework, I decided to start pruning this afternoon. Vinomaker kindly sharpened my pruning shears while I had lunch and then, with my trusty Felcos in hand, I was off out into the February sunshine to take a little something off the top of Vinoland's Orange muscat vines. These vines are still relatively young so they aren't much to look at yet...but Vinogirl and time will take care of that.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Old wineries never die...

...their wines just fade away, or they are reincarnated as another winery.
When the fruit in a wine has all but disappeared sometimes all that we are left with is the information on the label. Sometimes we don't even have that. So what do we have here?
Let's start with the Beringer. This is a historical Napa Valley winery that is still in existence, albeit now owned by multi-national Beringer Blass Wine Estates. The label on this wine tells you all the pertinent stuff you would want to know about the bottles contents; varietal - Zinfandel, valley - Napa, vintage - 1974, and alcohol - 12 1/2% (a ha, a fraction. No silly decimals back in those days). Beringer were very obviously on top of things back in the 1970s.
The 1985 Merlion Chardonnay hails from the Napa Valley also. This defunct winery was located in the St. Helena AVA although the label just claims Napa Valley as the source of the wine, which I assume means that the fruit was not from the aforementioned AVA. The alcohol content is not listed so there is not even a hint as to the alcoholic punch that the summer of '85 endowed upon this particular vintage. The winery may be long gone but a signature tasting glass, designed by Merlion owner George Vierra, endures.
The Christain Brothers, (now Hess), Napa Rosé declares an alcohol content of of 12%. However, there is no vintage or mention of grape varietal. The Brothers used more label space on extolling the virtues of their "anytime wine" rather than waste it on all the regulatory nonsense required on current day wines.
Last but not least, the Carneros Creek California Red Table Wine. This property now operates as Folio Winemakers Studio (a Michael Mondavi venture), a collection of wine companies in the Los Carneros AVA. This extremely simple label does not divulge the vintage, alcohol content or even the varietal of the grapes. How can I be sure that it is even wine?
How times have changed. Compared with the draconian governmental stipulations wineries have to comply with nowadays when they put together their labels for subsequent releases, the wineries of decades past had it easy.
I don't feel inclined to taste any of these antiquated wines, to me they are more like museum pieces, unless somebody dares me of course.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Happy St. Trifon's Day!

Who? You know, St. Trifon.
It seems some old Bulgerian fellow is the patron saint of pruners. It's a little early for pruning to begin in Vinoland, but not wanting to upset the Gods I did a quick ceremonial cut...assisted by V2, the marvelous mammilian mulcher. Some Bulgarian's like to repeat this feast day on the 14th of February which is closer to the actual date I am likely to venture out into the vineyard with my trusty Felcos in hand.
Balkan folklore, eh? Gotta love it.