Friday, January 28, 2011

Too much of a good thing?

Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber recently discovered he had a terrible problem (and not for the first time in his adult life apparently), when he found that he owned too much wine!
Wouldn’t it be splendid to have a large enough wine collection that one could satisfy ones thirst for any particular wine, from any wine producing region of the world, at any given time? If that was the case in Vinoland I definitely could have chosen to have a Lambrusco with my Pastisio the other night. Unfortunately, there is always a scarcity of Italian wines in my wine cellar, because they get polished off very soon after arriving in Vinoland.
Sir Andrew is a very fortunate man to have access to, and the means to purchase, many world renowned wines: and to have made such shrewd and intelligent investment choices by purchasing case after case of them. Now, I consider myself a wine enthusiast, but Sir Andy loves wine in a way I couldn’t possibly begin to and he has taken his personal appreciation of wine to a higher level - he loves to make money from reselling it.
A passion for fine wine, a talent for writing catchy tunes, a savvy business acumen, a recent bank deposit for £3.5 million – Sir Drew and I don’t have a lot in common, but we do share a birthday (with John Toshack).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What wine goes with...No. 4.

...Pastisio? I have always loved Greek food. And, I have made it a personal mission of mine to stuff myself silly with copious amounts of the stuff on numerous visits to Greece - the islands and the mainland (and even at a favourite Greek restaurant, when I was growing up, in Liverpool). So, tonight for dinner I decided to make Pastisio - baked pasta. Oh yum! The lamb, the bechamel, and the nutmeg really hit the spot!
I wish I had had a Xinomavro to pair with this dish. Alas, none of this wine, made from a northern Greek grape variety of the same name, was to be found in the cellar at Vinoland. Instead, I settled for an extremely peppery Syrah (grown by me) was a serviceable pairing. Still, I can't help but wonder if even a lowly Lambrusco would have been a better pairing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

One man's meat.

There has been a lot of dithering on wine blogs lately about the merits of the 100 point scoring system for reviewing wine.  Love it or hate it, the 100 point scale is, unfortunately, here to stay.
It is perhaps inherent in human nature for some, but not all, individuals to try to convince the rest of us that they alone know what is best.  This trait is seemingly amplified within certain wine reviewers (with overly inflated opinions of their individual sense of taste, bordering on fanaticism) who feel the need to tell others what is good to drink. Personally, I only trust my own buds to tell me if I am enjoying what is in my glass and I can draw my own conclusion as to whether a specific wine is merely a pleasant tipple, a stupendously mind-blowing experience, or rather something to be avoided like the plague.  After all, aren’t my taste buds a survival mechanism that will send, tout de suite, a quick message to my digestive system to warn me that I am about to swallow something that might not be advantageous to my well-being?  Nobody else can make this decision for me.  Hemlock, anyone?
The fixation with the 100 point system began for some in California (more specifically Napa) on a singularly auspicious day, more than two decades ago, when a certain Robert Parker Jr. bestowed upon one wine, the Groth 1985 Reserve Cabernet sauvignon, the, perhaps now dubious, honour of being the very first American recipient of his preposterously grandiose perfect score. To be delivered into the annals of wine history by such magnificent taste buds was surely a tremendous privilege for Groth Vineyards & Winery.  One can only imagine that being thus catapulted into the realm of enological-infamy was a bit of a shock for the unassuming Groth family who (like other wine producers in the still, relatively sleepy Napa Valley of the 1980s) were simply trying to produce the best wine possible from their little slice of Eden.  But, Parker interfered and things in the wine-reviewing game have never been the same since, or in the wine industry for that matter. It now seems that some wineries are obsessed with trying to manipulate their product into something that may please one particular critic’s palate. Cha-ching!
One could ask what exactly is being scored anyway?  A particularly extraordinary vineyard/terroir? Mother Nature’s beneficence in the deliverance of an ideal growing season?  The green-fingered expertise of the viticulturalist?  The alchemical-prowess of the winemaker?  The bankrolling ability of the proprietor? Of course there is no simple answer, wine is far too complex to pigeonhole.  Just as the 100 point scoring system is, in some perverse way, far too simplistic - but it is always subjective.
Recently I got to taste the Groth 2005 Reserve Cabernet sauvignon. Some twenty vintages later, this is a wine worthy of reviewing.  This is not a typical over-blown Napa Cabernet; instead it is a restrained, but intricately layered interpretation of a much revered wine varietal.  I have no idea what score Mr. Parker bequeathed upon this particular vintage, and I’m not even going to look it up, I simply don’t care – and I wish more people didn’t care.  A little while back I was speaking to a stranger about wine scores and mused aloud that surely no one took these scores too seriously, only to be berated and told, in no uncertain terms, that "some people need to be told what to drink".  What?  Did this lemming really utter those words? Unfortunately, it seems that there are more people out there than one might imagine who cannot make the most basic of choices for themselves.
Of course, this is coming from little old me who, as a self-confessed contrarian, hardly ever agrees with film reviews, never even reads book reviews, so, therefore, is not likely to take a blind bit of notice of a wine review in which someone else feels the need to tell me that what they are tasting is more valid than my own perception.
Ho hum!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A beautiful day.

A glorious, unseasonably warm January day in the Napa Valley. The mustard is blooming and pruning is in full swing in certain vineyards. And, no rain is forecast for the foreseeable future. Whoo hoo!
Life is good.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fishing in Napa.

Thursday night Vinomaker and I hit the town. Well, not quite, we really just went out to dinner. But, it was the celebration dinner for me completing my Viticulture degree at Napa Valley College.
Technically, I graduated when I finished my last classes in June of last year, but I did not want to celebrate until I had my diploma in my sticky little fingers. That happened last October. Then work, harvest, holidays, and life in general got in the way. Until Thursday afternoon when Vinomaker informed me that that evening we were going to Morimoto Napa.
This is not a restaurant review. It goes without saying that one can expect any restaurant in the Morimoto chain to conform to some very high standards; the decor was just so, the service was impeccable, the menu was extensive, the ingredients were of the highest and freshest quality...the prices lofty. I do however think that the ambiance could have been a tad more dynamic. The main dining room is large and open, and consequently somewhat bleak in spite of the energetic level of chatter coming from the other diners. But what do I know? Me, who can be entertained for hours by scurrying insects out in the vineyard.
Vinomaker paired his appetiser and sushi with a 2009 Breggo Gewurztraminer, a well balanced wine with just the right amount of linalool, which he thoroughly enjoyed. I didn't exactly experiment with my wine choice. I imbibed in a Sauvignon blanc, from the winery that employs me (sometimes loyalty is to be commended), but then I can make SB go with just about any food. All in all, a good time was had by both of us.
Thanks Vinomaker.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I am not known for being a big Pinot noir fan. Hang on, let me elucidate my position with regards to wine made from this particular grape variety: I am not known for being a big fan of Californian Pinots. Actually, I can be even more specific, I am not a big fan of Napa Pinots. In fact, I am of the opinion that the best thing to do with local Pinot noir is to make it into sparkling wine. It was with some surprise then that I recently found myself thoroughly enjoying a 2009 Black Kite Cellars Kite's Rest Pinot noir from the Anderson Valley (Sonoma).
Now and again I can force myself to appreciate, to some extent, fruit-forward interpretations of Pinot noir, after all I do love strawberries. However, I do not like versions of this wine that I would personally describe as smelling not unlike sweaty socks, anaerobic compost bins, or musty mushrooms - although I am a big fan of fungi. A Christmas gift to Vinomaker from a friend, this Pinot (as yet unreleased) was nothing like I was expecting it to be. It was delicious.
As this wine isn't out in the market yet it was difficult to find any information about the 2009 vintage, except for a little snippet on that commented that this wine would probably peak around 3 years from now. Three years? Vinomaker and I finished this bottle in one sitting, a rare event for us, it was simply that tasty.
Whilst this wine is no Burgundy, I don't think I have ever enjoyed any bottle of Pinot noir so much as I enjoyed this one. Plainly, I have to procure for myself another bottle of Kite's Rest to ensure that my initial reaction to this wine wasn't just some tasting aberration on my part.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

An epiphany, of sorts.

It suddenly came to me today, on my annual New Year walk through the vineyard (delayed this year due to the abysmal weather and my day job), that I should adopt a different approach to pruning this year. Nothing too drastic, just a small change in the order in which I prune the Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) and Syrah vines.
Typically, I prune the CS last with the objective of retarding budbreak, thus avoiding frost damage in that particular block of vines (we have no fans or overhead sprinklers in Vinoland). Consequently, budbreak in the CS is on average a full 3 weeks behind the Syrah...a great cultural approach to frost protection but one that results in very late maturation in the CS vines. Having been plagued with early rains the past two harvests, I have decided to address the late budbreak issue by determining an earlier start to the growing season for the CS. And I can affect that change in the vines by altering the sequence of my pruning schedule.
Accompanied as usual by the Vinodogs, who were more interested in the cornucopian gopher activity along the vine rows than the vines themselves, I was rather pleased with what I saw in the now skeletal-like forms of the dormant vines - balance. Balanced grapevines do not require much in the way of canopy management, thank goodness. There was no need to hedge the vines in Vinoland last summer, unlike in some vineyards that display excessive vegetal growth. The uniform length of last years now leafless shoots stands as a testament to the importance of influencing the ratio between crop and vegetation. This is another result of effective pruning.
V2 only seemed like she was interested in what I was doing; instead she was really only focused on where her next, super-fresh and furry, snack was going to appear.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Lost in translation?

My first, and probably last, attempt at Haiku resulted in the most comments that any Vinsanity post has ever garnered. The fact that it was a New Year post, and the kindness of others in wanting to spread joyful season's greetings into 2011, was probably a major factor in a small milestone for my humble blog. Thank you all.
Today, a dear, dear friend generously took the time to translate my feeble effort at Haiku into her native tongue, and basically fix it for me. The word hush is no more, evidently it does not have a direct equivalent in Japanese, but rather in translation becomes be quiet. My Haiku now, apparently, has the correct number of moras. Who knew?
I was also given the translation written in the Latin/Roman alphabet. Even with coaching from a Japanese person there was one word that I just could not get my tongue around. Several hours and one glass of Cabernet sauvignon later the pronunciation of this singular word still eludes me...can't imagine why. I always thought that I made much more sense after a glass of wine!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A New Year Haiku.

I don't particularly enjoy reading all the pontificating on some wine blogs about the 10 best this and that of 2010. I think I am blessed with enough good sense to realise that nobody is, in the tiniest bit, interested in the things last year that were note worthy to me (although Happy Balls would feature rather high on any list I might compile.)
Instead, I'm going off on a tangent here and submitting a viticultural Haiku for your delectation. Why not? This unassuming Cabernet sauvignon bud, formed in the spring of 2010, contains all the promise of this year's coming vintage and deserves to be lauded in verse.

Hush bud, be still.
Until springtime's will
Awakens you.

A happy, healthy and wine-filled New Year to everyone.