Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's a boy!

Well, of course it's a boy. I already knew the new bundle of unmitigated joy due to be delivered into our family was going to be a male child, the first in almost a dozen years. What I didn't know was how tardy the little tinker was going to be. After a long delay, which necessitated changing my flight to extend my holiday by 5 days, my new nephew finally made an 45 minutes. Seemingly he was making up for lost time!
Welcome to the world little one, your Auntie Vinogirl loves you very much.  Now, Veuve Cliquot all round!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Duck egg blue.

Whilst I was eating my breakfast this morning, a male Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) entertained me by wandering around the courtyard just outside the kitchen window. Cheekily peeking into various outbuildings, he kept up a constant, barely perceptible quacking as if protesting the fact that his early morning promenade was being observed. Eventually, Mrs. Mallard appeared and, along with her inquisitive mate, wandered over towards the vegetable garden, had a quick nose around, then finally waddled off in the general direction of a nearby duck pond.
A little later, when the entire household was up and about, a solitary duck egg was discovered nestled in some dead vegetation atop a 2 1/2 foot high sandstone wall. An adorable photo op for me, but not a smart decision on the duck's part. All that effort for nought, it made me a little sad for the duck...there I go with my anthropomorphism again.
It is a wonder that any duck ever survives into maturity - only for me to then come along and pair it with a nice, older red Burgundy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Casa.

A rare, and delightfully nostalgic, treat for me today courtesy of Thud - lunch in the Casa Italia.
I have been visiting this particular restaurant on Stanley Street, in Liverpool city centre, since I was about 11 or 12 years old. I was first taken there, also as a treat, by my sister La Serenissima, and in my teens and twenties I dined there at least once a week.
It may not be the world's greatest Italian restaurant, in fact I know it isn't, but I still love to visit the Casa (as it is known locally) when I am home. The waiters are, and always have been, Italian. And although it hasn't been on the menu for years they will still whip up a pizza Casalinga for me, my favourite, on request.
Love it!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter, 2011.

Happy Easter to all, from a chocolate filled Vinogirl, an English Cadbury Creme Egg (albeit made by Kraft now) and it's piddly, diminutive American cousin.
Eat chocolate!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy St. George's Day, 2011.

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,—
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Is there any better way to honour our patron saint other than drinking a chilled glass of a pleasantly crisp, white English wine in the English countryside? I think not.
Happy St. George's Day to my family, friends, and anyone who loves England as much as I do.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What wine goes with...No. 5.

...Scouse? Nothing! For God's sake, who would pair wine with a good plate of Scouse? And, it was indeed a great rendition of a classic Liverpool dish...thanks Thud!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

British plonk?

During the interview for my job at the winery, the owner happened to comment that in her opinion "the English only drink cheap wine." Well, I have to tell you that I was a little taken aback with this obviously misinformed stereotype, as this had not been my life experience at all. My 18th birthday present from Thud had been a bottle of Ch. Margaux, nothing to be sneezed at by the most ardent wine enthusiast, and I already by then considered myself a bit of a Champagne-spotter. I suppose I could have retorted that most Napa wines are considered by Europeans to be over blown, high octane fruit bombs - but I am not one for gigantic, all-encompassing generalisations.
Today, standing in Tesco's wine aisle, looking at the selection available to the British wine-drinking public, I would perhaps have to agree with the lady who signs my pay cheque. In the 2 years that have past since my last visit home to Blighty, I was hoping the selection of wine in the supermarkets may have improved (with specific regard to Californian wines), but alas no. With the demise of high street wine shops like Oddbins (good analysis here), a place I shopped at as a teenager, the consumer now has fewer and fewer wine choices. All the usual suspects are still on the shelves at Tesco and Sainsbury's, but this time they have been joined by a red wine apparently from Hollywood!!!
Like the proverbial coals to Newcastle, I just may have to repatriate a bottle of this pigswill to the U S of A. Brace yourself Vinomaker!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Home, sweet home.

There's nothing quite like waking up on a beautiful spring morning in England! Chilly, only slightly sunny, but always spectacular!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

First class.

A first class flight to England was a much appreciated treat (thank you, Thud.)  Lots of fairly good wine; beginning with bubbles, followed by a nice Kiwi SB, and finally a passable Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  The food was decent also.
However, the single best treat of the day was being met at Manchester airport by my 3 year old niece who brought a freshly made strawberry jam butty, just for me.  Yum!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Get back... where I once belonged, Part 2.
Vinogirl is going home. This evening I begin my journey home to Liverpool - whoo hoo! I will miss the Vinodogs, the vines and Vinomaker, of course, but I can't wait to be back on English soil. And, also I'm really looking forward to meeting my new nephew.
Posts on Vinsanity may be scant for the next fortnight as I don't know how much free time I'll have...but please, stay tuned.
My suitcase is packed, my passport is at the ready.
Get back JoJo!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Big periwinkle.

Lest folks think I have it in for all weeds (after my latest mustard diatribe), let me offer up for your consideration the pretty periwinkle (Vinca major). Commonly known around these parts simply as vinca, this is another blue coloured weed that I just love. Native to Europe, vinca is a hardy little riparian plant that thrives in moist, shady conditions and reproduces vegetatively from trailing stems. With it's shiny deep green leaves, and it's lavender-blue funnel shaped flowers, I find this plant an attractive addition to Vinoland's flora. Vinca can be unruly and invasive: if not kept in check it can choke out many native plant species. But the vinca in Vinoland mostly behaves itself, and merely serves to make me smile when I happen to spot it peeping out from behind a creek-side tree trunk.
Besides, what's not to love about an agreeable blue flower that shares the same first three letters with vino?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

No blush here.

At some point in Napa's winemaking history, Chenin blanc (CB) was the valley's most widely produced wine. Historical records show that Charles Krug produced a CB back in 1861, when he finally founded his own winery after making several vintages at John Patchett's winery.
I do love a nice CB, but don't get to drink it as often as I might like. Truth is, nowadays it's not that it's hard to find a good CB, it's hard to find one at all...that's why the most recent CB I had was from Washington State.
What struck me initially about this wine was the strong whiff of burnt matchstick (sulphur dioxide, perhaps) upon twisting open the screw cap, but this quickly dissipated. Whilst this wine was certainly no Vouvray, it was pleasant in it's own honey-citrus kind of way.
In full disclosure, I was given this wine by somebody who knows the lady on the label. Whilst her name, I'm assured, is actually Chenin, she doesn't happen to look very shy to me.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Whether the weather be nice.

At this time of year, when one season is still transitioning into the next, weird weather conditions can only be expected. In the space of one week the weather, in Vinoland, went from gloriously sunny with low 80 degree temperatures to hail and a daytime high of 54F. Last night, neighbouring vineyard fans heralded the arrival of the first post-budbreak spring frost, with their annual reminder to me of their proximity to my about 3 am. Such is life.
Late autumn/early winter rains, which persisted until about 10 days ago, have ensured that my particular part of the world is beautifully verdant, perhaps the lushest I have ever seen Northern California's vegetation. This means that most vineyard plants and weeds, (and I'll use the bothersome mustard as an example), seem to be having a unusually long growing season.
Recently, I was told about a neighbourhood vineyard that had purposely planted mustard in several rows of vines on either side of their driveway just to make the approach to the winery look pretty. Well yes, mustard en masse, in full bloom, does indeed look very pretty, but in my mind it is useless as a cover crop. I haven't the foggiest why anybody would go to the expense and bother of sowing mustard in their vineyard when all that effort could be put into a cover crop that would be of benefit to the finished wine (through nourishing the soil). Mustard has a very low biomass, it is not a legume as is often mistakenly thought, and most likely will take more out of the vineyard (in nitrogen - and water) than it would ever put back into the soil after disking-in as a green manure.
To add insult to injury, mustard also provides an overwintering site for the Grape Orange Tortrix (Argyrotaenia franciscana) worm/moth, a vineyard pest that can be every bit as problematic as the Grape Leafhopper.
I really had to look around for a mustard plant to photograph, eventually finding a lone example on my neighbour's property. There is no mustard in Vinoland, and if there was I'd pull it out. Even the aforementioned, mustard-enamored vineyard mowed their sunny, yellow, thigh-high crop down today as a frost damage prevention it doesn't look so pretty anymore.
Weather, weeds, worms - it is a wonder that anyone chooses to be a farmer of anything, never mind wine grapes.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

April hail showers!

The day started off beautifully. I enjoyed checking the progress of the Orange muscat vines in warm sunshine, marvelling at the 4 inches of growth, and baby flower clusters, they had grown in just one week - sunshine and warmth will do that. Then, at 4.30 pm, Mother Nature turned gangster! Hail the size of dimes, I swear I have never seen hail that big before. Thank goodness the vines aren't actually flowering yet otherwise they would have been battered to death!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The trouble with...

...cordon-training grapevines is the number of cuts, wounds really, that are inflicted upon the vine every year at pruning time. Potentially, each cut is indeed a wound through which any of a number of pathogens could enter into the vine e.g. the fungal disease Eutypa lata.
In the best possible scenario, for the cordon-trained vine in the above photograph, the vine has a minimum of 20 pruning wounds; one to remove one of last year's shoots and one to form this year's new 2 bud spur in each of its ten different positions. In comparison, the head-trained/cane-pruned vines in Vinoland have a mere 6 wounds; one to remove last years cane, one at the end of the new cane and one to form this year's 2 bud spur. The less wounds, the less chance of infection.
However, sometimes large wounds are unavoidable and that's why I have been known to daub Dreft on large cuts. You can see two really large wounds in the photo but on the bright side, this particular vine now has two brand new spurs on this one cordon alone.
Of course, there are many other considerations for choosing one style of training over another, but I personally think vine health is one of the, if not the, most important.
Anyhow...congratulations to the folks at Far Niente on the budbreak of their 2011 Chardonnay vintage.