Monday, November 29, 2010

Chilly 2.

It was freezing again this morning, but it made for a very beautiful drive to work.  The Napa Valley's grapevines have mostly dropped all of their leaves by now, a result of the strong breezes we had at the end of last week. However, the leaves on the vines in the Screaming Eagle vineyard, though uniformly brown and crispy, seem to be hanging on for dear life. Or perhaps they are just competing with the fabulous autumn colours of the Bradford Pear trees (Pyrus calleryianathat line the perimeter of the vineyard's pond.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


It was a tad cold here in Vinoland this morning, a crisp 29 degrees Fahrenheit. Everywhere and everything in sight was white with a thick frost which then glistened prettily in the rays of the rising sun. This lone grapevine leaf looked, perhaps hopefully, towards the warming sun in vain: its season is done. But, Christmas is coming and the snappy temperature served as a jolly reminder that my favourite season is just around the corner.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all from me and my glass of Sauternes.
Be thankful for the small things in life; a baby's giggle, the smell of baking bread, a tail-wagging dog (a Vinodog that is), and a good glass of wine...amongst other things.
Life is good.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What wine goes with...No. 3. I love duck. If I am eating out at a restaurant and duck is on the menu you can be sure that that is what I am going to order. I adore the stuff, but I would never cook it for myself.
Last week I went to a dinner at which duck was being served as the main course - yum! The Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) was being paired with two wines: Cabernet sauvignon and Petit verdot - double yum! The Cabernets on offer were a little too hardy for the beautifully rare-cooked bird, but the PVs proved to be a much better pairing. Very rarely bottled as a stand alone variety there were, surprisingly, about half a dozen California PVs on offer. Most notable amongst them was a tasty offering from Smith Wooton which paired extremely well with the fabulous fowl.
I thoroughly enjoyed my duck dinner, and about half of Vinomaker's also.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Barrel Aging.

Fermentation is at an end here in Vinoland, at the winery where I work and, I daresay, most every other winery in the Napa Valley. Now, the arduous cellar operation of barrelling down every last drop of adolescent wine is the job at hand.
Aging wine in an oak barrel serves two main purposes. Firstly, there is the slow oxidation of the wine through the porous grain of the barrel, which aids in the enhancement of the bouquet of the aging wine. Secondly, there is the addition of oak phenolics from the inner surface of the barrel, which when combined with the aroma component of a young wine can also enhance the wine's bouquet.
It is said that every cloud has a silver lining...or in this case every barrel has a M+ toasted interior. There is a definite bright side to one particular European country having been hit hard by the global economic crisis. French oak barrels are a real bargain this year at only about $900 each, down on average about 10 % from the past 2 - 3 years.
I wonder if the Greeks have ever considered going into the barrel business?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wine is bottled poetry.

"Wine in California is still in the experimental stage; and when you taste a vintage, grave economical questions are involved. The beginning of vine-planting is like the beginning of mining for the precious metals: the wine-grower also "Prospects." One corner of land after another is tried with one kind of grape after another. This is a failure; that is better; a third best. So, bit by bit, they grope about for their Clos Vougeot and Lafite. Those lodes and pockets of earth, more precious than the precious ores, that yield inimitable fragrance and soft fire; those virtuous Bonanzas, where the soil has sublimated under sun and stars to something finer, and the wine is bottled poetry: these still lie undiscovered; chaparral conceals, thicket embowers them; the miner chips the rock and wanders farther, and the grizzly muses undisturbed. But there they bide their hour, awaiting their Columbus; and nature nurses and prepares them. The smack of Californian earth shall linger on the palate of your grandson."
Today, there isn't one square inch remaining of undiscovered land in the 'long green strath' of the Napa Valley where Robert Louis Stevenson once briefly sojourned. In the 1880s, when the above passage was written, wine making pioneers settling in northern California must have indeed seemed much like the gold prospectors of some forty years earlier, who came en masse to seek their very own El Dorado. Even to this day people come to the Napa Valley in pursuit of some hitherto elusive viticultural mother lode, hopefully overlooked by perhaps hundreds of like minded wine-prospectors before them, that will yield up to them alone a wine of mythic proportions - perhaps a new Pétrus, or even a Le Pin. Search on! In the meantime, I'll sit back with a glass of Vinomaker's finest and observe their endeavours from my little, gilded corner of the valley that is Vinoland.
Happy birthday Robert Louis Stevenson.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Though the land be good... cannot have an abundant crop without cultivation. Plato.
Harvest may be over, but the work of farming the vineyards of the Napa Valley is never at an end. Valleywide, growers and vineyard managers are performing many necessary vineyard operations; sowing cover crops, spreading composted waste solids between the vines, making soil amendments (such as additions of K2SO4), and in some cases ripping out old, tired vines that are no longer viable.
This vineyard on the Oakville Crossroad was bulldozed about a week ago. I'm fairly positive it belongs to Franciscan Winery (but it could be Flora Springs Winery). Yes, it is sad to see the dead vines neatly piled high with the last of their summer foliage turning brown, but in their place new, vigorous vines will be cultivated. Nothing lives forever, but the 2010 wine that was made from these vines, before they were pulled from the earth, will be around for decades to come.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Raise a glass of your favourite vino, and remember the sacrifices that members of the armed forces, men and women, made in times of war so that we could enjoy freedom today.
Remember, freedom isn't free.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

There's a fungus among us!

The first two measurable rain events of the season have brought on an abundance of fungi that are furiously sprouting up all over Vinoland. I'm pretty sure this cluster, bursting forth through the landscaping outside my front door, are just plain, ordinary meadow mushrooms (Agaricus campestris). If I have indeed identified these fungus correctly, I believe they are quite edible. Not that I am going to be consuming them, I'm just not that adventurous - too many bad mushrooms look like good mushrooms (the 'shrooms in tonight's Stroganoff are store bought). I had some sautéed golden chanterelles recently at a winery event and they were delicious. I'm hoping one day some of those will grow in Vinoland, but then again, I probably wouldn't eat them either.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Napa Valley Viticultural Fair.

Just this last Thursday, Vinomaker and I attended the 2010 Napa Valley Viticultural Fair. This biennial event, held at the Napa Valley Expo and hosted by the Napa Valley Grape Growers, is a rather small affair, but none the less informative and entertaining - especially if you are a vine geek. I couldn't help but notice that it was a very green fair this year with an energy saving this, and a composting that.
Everyones favourite nemesis, and the current bane of grape growers, the European grapevine moth was the star of the show. Whilst the EGVM isn't the only vineyard pest it is the biggest threat to Napa and Sonoma grape growers, and the emphasis on eradicating this invasive insect is more than justified. There were many other pests in attendance that I got up close and personal with through the lens of a microscope, so many in fact that I am surprised I didn't have nightmares that night.
To aid in curing me of my creepy-crawly induced trauma, I participated in the complimentary wine social that was held at the conclusion of the event. There were a lot of wines that had been donated and I couldn't possibly get through them all, but I did my best. Here are my speed-tasting notes;

Elizabeth Rose 2008 Sauvignon blanc - tasty.
Cakebread 2009 SB - nice.
Honig 2009 SB - blah!
Cade 2009 SB - similarly blah!
Teaderman 2008 SB - am I in New Zealand? Grassy!
Detert 2006 Cabernet franc, Oakville - just plain delicious.
Piña 2006 CS - OK.
Hornberger 2006 CS, Rutherford - tastes unfinished, lacks finesse.
Elodian (Eddy Family) 2006 CS - nice.
Newton 2007 Claret - passable.
Teaderman 2005 CS, Oakville - thin and blah!
Cade 2007 CS, Howell Mtn - oak and sulphur with a cherry on top.
Larkmead 2006 Syrah - tastes like plastic, most likely Brett.
Paradigm 2006 Merlot, Oakville - rubbing alcohol or mouthwash? I can't decide.

There you have it! And, the Napa Valley Expo probably has a lot of dead patches of grass now because there was no dump bucket!