Friday, May 28, 2010

Graduation Day.

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. Aristotle.
I am finished with school not just for the summer, but forever. I will be taking a class for fun next semester, but I have completed a Viticulture degree at Napa Valley College and any other classes I take will not involve riotous amounts of studying or stress-inducing examinations.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Vinomaker for putting up with me; through 2 semesters of Algebra, a politically charged English class and a loathsome, but mandatory, Gender Studies course (I nearly threw in the towel over that one!)
Now, I am feeling just ducky!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And the great heron feeds.

Last seen flying out of the Far Niente vineyard with a gopher in it's beak, this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) gave the Vinodogs a bit of a fright on our walk this afternoon. Their start probably had more to do with a missed gopher snack of their own than the sight of a 4ft tall bird about 10 feet above their heads. Mr. Heron is currently perched in an oak tree on the periphery of Vinoland eyeing the multitude of gopher mounds in the vineyard as if deciding which one houses this evening's supper. I hope he's hungry and takes two, or more.
And to think Vinomaker and I installed owl boxes for rodent control, maybe we needn't have bothered.

Monday, May 24, 2010

2010 Wine Blog Awards.

Too busy studying for a Biology final I had to take this morning to pay much attention to anything else, I hadn't the foggiest idea that I had been nominated for a Wine Blog Award. One of my favourite bloggers Do Bianchi (who makes me want to drink copious amounts of Italian wine every time I read his posts), was kind enough to point out the very welcome honour to me.
I'm shocked I tell you! Who on earth would bother nominating Vinsanity and it's wine-sodden-viticultural-meanderings? A family member perhaps?
I have never won anything in my entire life and so I am very chuffed just to be nominated...I do however think a winner's badge would look right at home beneath my Liverbird - hint, hint.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What the...?'s May 22nd! Frost this morning: Hail this afternoon. Someone should tell Mother Nature that it's supposed to be spring in California!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Freaks of nature.

I spent some time this morning stuffing and thinning shoots in the vineyard until it got a little too windy to continue, so I decided to finish the row I was in and go back inside. But not before I took a photograph of an unusual event that is going on in the canopy right now.
I have no explanation for this phenomenon that occurs in a handful of grapevines every spring, mostly in the Syrah, I just simply refer to it as "that double-meristem-thingy." I'm pretty sure the dividing of the apical meristem, into two growing tips, is simply a spontaneous somatic mutation. The clusters on these shoots never seem to be adversely affected, however it does result in twice the amount of fruit. The more the merrier.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Another cool, rainy day in the Napa Valley...Humph! It was however brightened, in some small part, by this California Quail (Callipepla californica) who had chosen to loiter about in one of the barrel cellars at the winery, most likely to dodge the nasty spring weather we are having. I can't blame him, I'd rather be in a room filled with barrel after barrel of wine too. What Mr. Quail didn't know was that all these barrels are now empty, having been relieved of their aging duties last week.
After taking this photograph with my phone (sorry about the quality), and a bit of barrel-hopping in the opposite direction of the roll-up door, I escorted him out into the rain. Sorry Mr. Quail.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Win early!

While everyone is in a tizzy about the appearance in the Napa Valley of the European grapevine moth, and understandably so, there are many other threats to the vintage that the winegrower must face every growing season. Just this past Monday (May 10th) we had an exceptionally late spring frost. Rain is forecast for this coming Monday and, with bloom nearly upon us, heavy rainfall now would be disastrous for fruit set.
Possibly the biggest headache for winegrowers every year is powdery mildew (Uncinula necator), a fungal pathogen that infects all green, succulent tissue on the grapevine, including leaves and young berries. Powdery mildew (PM) can cause extensive crop loss and poor wine quality if left untreated. Temperature is the most important factor influencing the development of PM: it positively thrives in temperatures between 68-81 degrees F. Vitus vinifera cultivars vary in susceptibility to PM, but the principal control method for preventing infection in all cultivars is the application of sulphur in wettable and dust forms.
It is looking like 2010 is going to be a bumper year for this particular disease as we have had no hot weather this spring. So far this year, each sulphur application in Vinoland has been followed by a rain event making it difficult to get the upper hand in preventing further germination of conidia. But, perseverance is the key and so Vinomaker was out spraying the vines today and could oft be heard muttering to himself the mantra, win early.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A miner whine.

Speaking of miners...Bolognese for dinner tonight, which always calls for something Italian. Vinomaker came up from the cellar with this domestic offering, a 2005 Sangiovese from Miner Family Vineyards.
Miner Family is one of my favourite wineries in the valley. I generally enjoy their wines which, amongst others, include a Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet sauvignon, a luscious Viognier, and a rather appealing rosato of Sangiovese (a saignée). However, this wine was a little disappointing. Maybe it was a bit old, the fruit had a distinct stewed character, and it was a touch over-oaked. But, it wasn't bad: the acidity did pair well with the sauce. It's just that it's always a tad frustrating when one drinks something that doesn't live up to expectations.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In the vineyard, dwelt a miner.

This is another of my favourite weeds - Miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). It grows around the edge of the vineyard usually in shaded areas cast by the boughs of oak trees. Not only is it pretty to look at, but it is also edible. I was talking to a Napa Valley restauranter, just yesterday, who told me he regularly collects and uses it's leaves for salad greens. I love the idea of finding fruits and plants growing wild that you can eat; I often pick sorrel from the vineyard and munch on it as I love it's citrus-like flavour, and midsummer will find me in any old bramble patch snacking on sun-warmed berries for hours on end (I'm weird like that.) Unfortunately, the Miner's lettuce is past it's best this time of year as it has already flowered, but I will be waiting for it, balsamic vinegar and olive oil at the ready, next winter.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Flying Fortress.

I spent this evening having dinner in a hanger at the Napa Airport with this B-17 bomber parked outside. Looking most spectacular, with the vine-laden Napa hills as a backdrop, this particular aircraft was delivered too late in 1945 to see action in World War II. It has however been on duty ever since as an airborne reminder of a great debt of gratitude we all owe to the nameless men and women who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. Present at the dinner were three WWII veterans looking rather hale and hearty, but sadly very much in the minority. I sat across from Deke...isn't that a great name? (I must admit that sometimes I feel like I'm in a John Wayne film.)
As I feasted on BBQ ribs and beans, washed down with a hearty Napa Cabernet sauvignon, I periodically cast a glance outside to where the Aluminum Overcast was positively glowing in the setting California sun.
Remember, freedom isn't free.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

In the vineyard piped the bluebird.

There is not too much going on in the vineyard at the moment, so I have a bit of a respite before I have to start shoot thinning.
This western bluebird (Sialia mexicana) and his missus have moved into one of several ornamental bird houses that I have dotted around the vineyard. It has been a lot of fun watching them, first gathering nesting materials and now collecting insects to feed to their hungry brood. I just hope that while out on their foraging expeditions they round up some of those nasty European Grapevine Moths and feed them to their maturing young.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Workers of the world, unite!

Happy May Day to this industrious little bumblebee (Bombus californicus). Although not needed in the vineyard as grapevines are self-pollinating, (their flowers include both stamen and carpel), there are plenty of other trees, shrubs, and flowers for this worker bee to busy herself with.
Vinomaker is out in the vineyard sulphuring the vines and I am in the middle of studying for an exam on Monday, so the only malingerers around Vinoland today are, as per usual, the Vinodogs.