Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Habits of Climbing Plants.

Looking for all the world like deranged 30 amp fuse wire, multiple years of Cabernet sauvignon tendrils have combined to thoroughly ensnare, with a death-like grip, the trellising wires in Vinoland.
Today I began pruning the Cabernet sauvignon vines, and once again I had forgotten how hard the wood is to cut through in comparison with the other grape varieties in Vinoland. Ouch! Not only did my pruning shears get a good workout, but so did my loppers and even my pruning saw. Thanks for help with that last cut Vinomaker!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

God-speed, little weed.

Supposedly first recorded in Britain in 1825, I am pleased to report that a familiar, cheery blue weed is flourishing in the vineyard right now - Persian speedwell (Veronica persica) is one of my favourite weeds and I always welcome it's annual appearance in Vinoland.
Speedwell, with it's diminutive, periwinkle blue-striped flowers and it's verdant, jocundly-haired leaves, makes it presence known by cheekily peeping out from behind other weeds. That is until about May, at which point the weather has sufficiently warmed, and conditions are no longer conducive for this little weed to thrive. Not to worry, this dinky weed is pretty adept at reseeding itself and it will make it's reappearance next year in exactly the same locations.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Whites down...

...reds to go. I finished pruning the Pinot grigio today, so that is both of Vinoland's white grape varieties done and dusted. Earlier this week snow was forecast (down at sea-level) for tomorrow, but now it doesn't look like it's going to materialise. Snow in Vinoland would probably interfere with my pruning plans for the weekend. We'll see...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Off the beaten track.

Today is Vinomaker's birthday. Whoo hoo!
Yesterday, for what is fast becoming a birthday tradition, we went wine-tasting. I got to pick, as a surprise for Vinomaker, the winery we were going to visit. We have both enjoyed wines from this particular producer in the past, but had never visited the I decided to remedy that. Vinomaker's 2011 birthday tasting was to be at Truchard Vineyards.
Literally situated in an unexpected corner of the Napa portion of the Los Carneros AVA, the Truchard family farm some 270+ acres of vineyards that are planted to at least 10 different varieties of grapes. There are no signs heralding the presence of this unassuming winery - just a standard issue United States mailbox tricked-out with the winery's logo. As it was a cold, rainy day we did not get to tour the vineyard, only the caves, but we did get to taste most of their wines. The wines were all well-crafted and very enjoyable, however they were just a little too cold. The tasting room is in a barn-like building and it was very chilly. At one point, I thought the poor lady next to me (from New York as it happens) was in danger of becoming hypothermic - I don't know any CPR so I helpfully, in my mind, suggested that she just drink more wine. Inexplicably, the New Yorker decided not to try Truchard's delicious late harvest Roussanne. Alas, she missed out on a wonderfully balanced dessert wine with a sublime acidity that ensured that the wine wasn't cloyingly sweet. Her loss!
Tonight we are eating out at a downtown Napa restaurant that we haven't tried before - it'll be another surprise.
Happy birthday Vinomaker!

Friday, February 18, 2011

When words are scarce...

I came across something interesting this morning whilst reading a few of my favourite blogs over breakfast. As you may have ascertained from some of my past posts on Vinsanity, I am not a fan of wine reviews in general and I personally think the 100 point wine rating scale is a load of phooey!
A certain Dan Sogg, who used to work for The Wine Spectator, has a new blog: thesoggblog. However, it was not one of Mr. Sogg's posts that caught my attention but rather a comment on his post from a gentleman called Tom Ferrell. I have no idea who Tom is (so I can't give him proper credit) but his comment went something like this;
" interesting exercise is to go to the Wine Spectator web site and search, sort, show, copy and paste wine descriptions into a document, then after you have accumulated a bunch, cut and paste all that verbiage into a word counting tool, (like  The tool will list all the words and show the number of times each is used.  If, for example, you do this for the 303 Cabs that scored 95-100 at W.S. you will see that, after sorting out non-descriptive words (the, and, J.L., Napa, etc), the three most widely used descriptive words are “black”, “rich”, and “ripe”.  Do the same for the first 303 Cabs they list that scored 84 and the most often used words are “cherry”, “currant”, and “plum.”  For the high scoring Cabs the word “concentrated” is toward the top at number six, whereas for Cabs scoring 84 “concentrated” is in 39th position.  Whether you do this for Pinot, Zin, Chardonnay, or any varietal it is easy to see that for the critic who judges wine, dozens of them at a time, size definitely matters."
I don't have time to perform such nonsense as cutting and pasting wine reviews and the suchlike, so I am simply going to take Tom at his word. Besides, I already knew that "black, rich, and ripe" were synonyms for cult, overpriced, and unobtainable.
Wine reviews...gotta love 'em!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sunny Oakville.

After 5 glorious weeks of unseasonably warm, dry weather Mother Nature has turned gangster on California! I took the above picture a week ago today on my way to the Oakville post office. I miss the sunshine...sigh! Unfortunately, the forecast for the rest of this week isn't very inspiring; high winds, occasional hail, and rain, rain, rain!
On a positive note, whilst standing by a large window in work, mindlessly gazing out at the rain-sodden Cabernet vines, I did espy the largest, most vivid, rainbow I think I have ever seen. In all I saw four rainbows today, one was even a double rainbow. I suppose every cloud does have a silver lining.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Nothing says I love you like a heart-shaped pepperoni pizza and a cheap bottle of Chianti. We know how to celebrate in Vinoland.
A very happy day to you all!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Everybody's doing it.

Pruning that is. For what will be my last post on the subject of pruning for a while, I have decided to showcase a cordon-trained vineyard that is about a half mile north of Vinoland - Farella-Park.
Although Farella-Park produces wine under its own label it would indeed be very rare to ever see the wine for sale in a retail location. Instead, this vineyard chooses to sell the majority of its grapes to various wineries around the Napa Valley. Whilst Farella-Park farms many distinct grape varieties, they have chosen (from what I can see from passing by) to cordon-train and spur-prune the entire vineyard. Cordon-training is a relatively simple way to maintain a grapevine once the permanent structure, the cordon, has been established. Consequently, it is the most common style of training to be spotted around the valley.
Caught mid-prune, you can see that the vineyard manager has still quite a fair bit of work to be going on with, one snip at a time. Carry on!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Clueless in Coombsville.

I may not be Napa's greatest pruner, I know I'm certainly not the fastest, but I definitely do a better job, of pruning grapevines, than one of Vinoland's closest neighbours.
What the hell? I think this vine is cordon-trained, although I can't be totally sure. It's crazy, it's a mess - I have never seen so many spurs and buds left on one is vinsanity!
I suppose I could offer my services, but if I did I'd miss out on the entertainment value of seeing how this gentleman's vineyard progresses through the year. Like a good accident, as much as I feel sympathy for the vine, I cannot pass up this voyeuristic opportunity.

Friday, February 11, 2011

One snip at a time.

In stark contrast to the old vine in my last post, Vinoland's young Orange muscat vines are mere whippersnappers. However, just like the gnarly up-valley vine, this photograph shows a head-trained vine - on it's way to being, well, gnarly.
I started pruning today. The weather has been so nice I just had to find something to do outdoors so, accompanied by the Vinodogs, I decided to kick start the 2011 growing season by commencing with the white grape varieties. I had quite a few decisions to make in the OM block as many of the vines had been damaged by deer last year. I carefully selected this year's spur and cane positions, and took a little extra time to make sure I left enough buds so that the vine remembers it is in the business of producing a crop, not just vegetation. I didn't get much done, but it is a start.
If anyone needs to find me, over the next 6 weeks, I'll be in the vineyard.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gnarly head.

As a rule, I do not like commuting. In the past, I have always had the good fortune to find employment in relatively close proximity to any place I have called home. Unfortunately, my current commute is 15 miles north from Vinoland, but it is one of the prettiest commutes anybody could wish for.
I drive past a lot of vineyards on my way to work, but perhaps my favourite is one located in the Stags Leap District AVA which contains within it some of the gnarliest, head trained vines to be found on the east side of the valley. I'm not really sure which winery the vineyard belongs to (nor even what grape variety it is planted to), I just love the seemingly character-riddled old vines who quietly do their thing year, after year.
The vineyard was pruned a day or two after I took this photo last week. The vines, with their new haircuts, are now patiently awaiting budbreak.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Food Truck Fridays.

Every now and again, impromptu food and wine events pop up in Napa and quickly acquire a healthy following of fans. That is until such events hit the city's revenue radar and the powers that be, unable to fiscally benefit from such an event, decide that the location isn't ADA compliant or some other such nonsense.
Food Truck Fridays (FTF) is one such improvised food event held in a downtown car park/dirt plot on the first Friday of each month. FTF had it's inaugral event last November and in just 3 months, with the growing trend towards mobile food, it has become quite the Friday night destination. Forget Napa's $200 degustations (think Morimoto), Vinogirl was in search of just one particular food truck - Dim Sum Charlies.
One of the things I miss most about no longer living in Liverpool is the easy access to great Chinese food, so when I heard about Dim Sum Charlies I was very interested to try what they had to offer. So, Vinomaker and I, accompanied by a few good friends, as many bottles of good wine, and the disliked (but in this case necessary) Go Vino glasses, headed down to First Street to see what all the fuss was about. Sure enough, in the advertised location, we found a bevy of food trucks all, incidentally, offering a dish containing rabbit in honour of Thursday's Chinese Lunar New Year.
Oh fun! Tables, outdoor heaters, good company, lots and lots of people, a crystal clear star-laden sky, and scrumptious dim sum served from a converted Airstream trailer (I want an Airstream), the event was a hit with one and all. Yes, our dim sum order was wrong twice and one order of sui mai never even appeared, but overall the food was delicious and reminded me of home, so these little hiccups can be overlooked. Besides, by then the wine had worked it's magic and all with the world was good.
Whilst dining alfresco, we mused about our friends in Wisconsin with their newly fallen 18 inches of snow and 5 foot drifts...the February weather in California is more often than not a treat.
A belated gung hei fat choi to you all!

Friday, February 04, 2011

An ugly weed.

As a result of high rainfall this season, there are a lot of different weeds flourishing in Vinoland right now, and not all of them are as pleasing to me as the well-disposed field marigold that I blogged about last year. One particular weed, common groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) appears to be thriving in Vinoland right now: it's everywhere!
Groundsel has the ability to adapt to many kinds of environmental conditions and can be found growing just about anywhere. And, this year it seems to have discovered, in Vinoland, an environment that it really, really likes. Fortunately, it mostly dies off in the long, dry summers we have here in California, but the seeds produced during the dry months are simply biding their time until the very first hint of moisture, come autumn, awakens them. Groundsel contains high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids which, if ingested in large quantities, are toxic to humans and livestock - lovely. It can be such a nuisance that the state of Colorado has it listed as a hazardous, noxious plant. It is a vulgar weed, indeed.
Groundsel's one and only redeeming feature is that it reminds me of my grandmother, as she used to feed her pet budgerigars groundsel leaves as a treat. My gran would often ask me to go out and find some, which invariably meant going out into the road, as no groundsel dared rear it's ugly cotyelons in my grandfather's pristine, weed-free garden. The memory of groundsel can, and does, elicit a smile from me. The reality of groundsel, proliferating everyplace I glance, only serves to make me frown.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Happy St. Trifon's Day: 2011.

Once again, it is time for the denizens of Vinoland to wish you all, pruners and non-pruners alike, a very happy St. Trifon's Day. May the patron saint of pruners bless us all with a bountiful 2011 harvest.
Now, get pruning!