Thursday, August 26, 2010

A day in the vineyard.

I have been drinking too much wine of late and have not been paying enough attention to the work of growing the grapes that become the wine. I remedied that a little today by doing some small jobs in the vineyard that could be put off no longer.
One small but necessary task was the removal of milk cartons that I had placed over vines this spring, vines that were field-budded last September, after determining if the grafted bud was viable. I then trained and tied each liberated young vine up a stake.
It looks like I will have about a dozen vines to field-bud this year. The demise of several of the vines seems to be gopher related. The other vines seem to have simply expired.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cor blimney!

Another English wine recently appeared in Vinoland for my delectation, this time courtesy of Monkey.
The Limney, 2007 Horsmonden Dry White Wine, produced by Davenport Vineyards, is a wine that seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. Trying to understand the wine that was in my glass proved to be a little too taxing, when all I really wanted to do was simply enjoy a pleasing white wine as an apéritif...ho hum!
Davenport's website does little to shed light on the personality of this confusing tipple, even themselves quoting the wine as being "in conversion...half way to being organic." And Loire-style? What's wrong with English-style?
The wine is composed of five different grape varieties; Ortega, Bacchus, Faberrebe, Huxelrebe and Siegerrebe. As with the Denbies wine, that I enjoyed earlier this month, the Limney is a blend produced from grapes that are hybrids of predominantly German grape varieties - that in turn are themselves hybrids. Davenport Vineyards also grow Pinot noir at their Horsmonden farm and I wouldn't be surprised if they threw some of this into the mix also, a la the kitchen sink. Immediately upon smelling this wine I detected burnt matchstick which is an odour that is usually associated with an excess of sulphur dioxide. Given time this usually dissipates and sure enough, in this case, it blew off relatively quickly. Some people contend that the flavour of burnt matchstick is a tell-tale sign that a wine may contain Pinot noir...I personally think it simply illustrates the inherent funk that one often finds in organic wines. This wine was dry and quite crisp, but ultimately, and underwhelmingly, vinous. In the end, all the hyper-active-varietal-gymnastics were just a little too incestuous for my palate.
I have great hopes for the future of the English wine industry and genuinely look forward to enjoying many more wines from the likes of Denbies and Nyetimber. However, if now and again the odd, delusional producer insists on releasing a schizophrenic wine such as this offering from Davenport then, in my humble opinion, they will have only doomed themselves to failure and, perhaps even worse, ridicule.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dog days of summer.

A glorious California last!
No vines or wines today for Vinogirl just tons of fun in the warm California sun, accompanied by my family and the Vinodogs. We couldn't have asked for better weather.
What a great day!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Main Street Reunion 2010.

It's that time of year again - time to enjoy the Main Street Reunion Car Show which is held on the streets of downtown Napa; lots of classic cars, sun and fun. This was the third year in a row that Vinomaker and I have attended, but this time we had lots of people in tow.
For Vinomaker, this event is like stepping back in time for a day since many of these cars were commonplace to him growing up as an American teenager. For the English contingent, and there were nine of us, it was a crash course in America's love affair with the automobile. Any of these cars, with their copious amounts of shiny chrome, tail-fins, flared fenders and omnipresent hood ornaments, could have been a much drooled over centrefold in a glossy magazine.
The evening was spent celebrating a major family event. Some great wines were quaffed (which I hope to chronicle in future posts), much food was consumed, and those of us with a passion for all things chocolate were thoroughly satisfied. A good time was had by all.
Vroom, vroom!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fruit or flowers?

Vinomaker and I are celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary today. Tradition dictates that gifts of fruit or flowers be exchanged. Consequently there is a lot of fruit, an orchid, a bottle of Sauternes (grapes), and a couple bottles of Calvados (apples) lying around the kitchen right now.
Calvados has always been a favourite tipple of Vinomaker's. Whether this eau de vie de cidre is produced by single or double distillation the resulting apple brandy, hailing from Normandy, is a very pleasant alternative to its high brow cousin, Cognac.
Happy anniversary Vinomaker.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Quail watch.

Mr. Quail kept his jet black eyes firmly on me as I walked through the vineyard late this afternoon, ensuring that Mrs. Quail and their 8 tiny quail-ettes could make a safe escape up the hill into the neighbouring horse property. Usually extremely timid, in this instance Mr. Quail let me get rather close to him perhaps sacrificing his safety for the survival of his brood. This mating pair of quail have been hanging around Vinoland for several months now dodging marauding crows, jays, and the Vinodogs - they were obviously determined to set up home here despite the perils of doing so. Sure enough, close by to where Mr. Quail and I stared each other down, I found an abandoned nest in the middle of a clump of weeds. The nest, which is filled with discarded egg shells neatly broken into two like someone had made a tiny omelette and placed the shells back in place, is tangible evidence of the tenacious and resolute nature of Callipepla californica.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Woman are often criticised for buying a wine, merely because they find the label attractive. Guilty as charged.
The wine wasn't very good. A 2007 Napa Sauvignon blanc, definitely past it's best, this wine was slightly flabby with a metallic aftertaste. Good label though.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mother Nature's composition.

It is fun driving around the valley right now because there is lots to look at. Clusters of grapes, that were green and hidden in the canopy just last week, are now easily spotted, conspicuously blushing amidst the verdant vegetation.
At the Opus One vineyard, in Oakville, veraison in the Cabernet sauvignon is well under way, despite daily temperatures being 10 to 15 degrees below normal this summer.
2010 is going to be an interesting vintage.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Veraison in Vinoland.

Spotted today in the Syrah block: the onset of veraison 2010.
I have spent a couple of afternoons this past week working in the vineyard and can report that veraison is starting to show on a few vines. And, when I say a few - I mean literally three vines. Actually, I am very surprised that it is happening at all as it only managed a whopping high of 70F today.
So far, the weather in 2010 has been pathetic!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

What wine goes with...No. 2.

...beef stroganoff? I cheated a little bit with this one, and had Vinomaker research what would be the best wine pairing. An Australian Shiraz, an Italian Barbera, and a Napa Cabernet sauvignon were all recommended. Cabernet sauvignon seemed like the most obvious choice to me, because it is a beef dish after all, but more specifically I had in mind a Cabernet sauvignon aged in American oak. American oak barrels can often impart a dill component to a finished wine and I supposed that this particular oak characteristic would compliment the dill in the stroganoff. Alas, we had to settle for two wines which were aged in French oak; El Llano, a Cabernet-Syrah blend, and a 100% Cabernet sauvignon both from Mi Sueño Winery.
The Cabernet sauvignon won hands down. A monstrously fruit forward wine to begin with, Rolando Herrera's Cabernet sauvignon fairly exploded with black and red berries on the palate whilst still managing to display nice acidity and balance.
A very yummy wine and food pairing!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Auberge du Soleil.

Vinomaker and I, enjoyed a celebratory dinner last night with my co-workers, proving that the abysmal economy cannot keep a good Cabernet sauvignon down.
Auberge du Soleil happens to be my very favourite restaurant in the Napa Valley.  In the past, I have delighted in many wonderful dishes at this most exquisite of fine dining restaurants, last night's offerings being no exception - the squab, pictured above, was delicious.  I wish I could go more often, but it is just so expensive.  Auberge du Soleil is however a perfect example of the old maxim - you get what you pay for.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

English Rosé.

Thud always turns up in California with a little something of interest in the wine department. This visit is no exception. Denbies 2007 Rose Hill rosé is an ever so slightly sweet, deeply salmon-hued still wine which is a blend of Pinot noir and Dornfelder. Dornfelder? Yes, Dornfelder - a cross between Helfsteiner and Heroldrebe, two German grape varieties which, in turn, are themselves crosses. A very nice tipple.
I have had Denbies wines before, namely their Juniper Hill, and have always found them to be very pleasant. The Juniper Hill is a rather aromatic still white wine that is vinted from Bacchus and Schnöburger grapes. Bacchus? Schnöburger? Yes, Bacchus - a Silvaner and Reisling hybrid which is then crossed with Müller-Thurgau. As for the Schö can look that one up for yourself!
It is heartening to me that there are now some quality wines emanating from the Mother Country, albeit reliant on Teutonic inventiveness, with the introduction of newer, cool-climate hybrids.
All in all, the Rose Hill is a very agreeable mongrel of a wine.