Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nero d'Avola strikes again.

The weather is back on track. Thank goodness! It got up to a very pleasant 82 degrees today.
Vinomaker and I just finished a nice dinner of fettuccine alla bolognese, paired with a delightfully spicy, gingery 2009 Tami' Nero d'Avola. At only 13% alcohol, I treated myself to two glasses...hic!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It has rained all day. New grapevine shoots, that were yesterday reaching up towards the sun, are today bent over and water-laden. Local towns have recorded their lowest temperatures, for a June 28th, since records were first kept in 1868. The Vinodogs are bored.
Junuary weather at its finest!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Riesling hunting.

Another great Finger Lakes wine - a 2008 Red Tail Ridge Dry Riesling. Very tasty; lovely citrus notes (mainly lime), a very appealing minerality, and a zesty acidity that reminded me of the Lamoreaux Landing I had recently, but even nicer. Better still, it's available in my local wine shop: no hunting online necessary.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

April (and May) showers bring June grapes.

They are flower clusters no more: there are now actual grape clusters amongst the canopy.
Fruit set looks great, especially in the Syrah vines. The Orange muscat fruit set though is an altogether different matter. It appears that there is a significant amount of shatter in the Orange muscat, which unfortunately means fewer berries at harvest time.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

And the earth brought forth grass...

...boy, has it ever this year! Vinoland is covered in more different varieties of grasses than I ever could have imagined. Even the Vinodogs are covered in grass in the form of fox-tails and other ingeniously shaped grass seeds. A combination of rain, sun, rain, and more sun will do that.
Vinomaker has already mowed the vineyard four times - that is double the usual number of times the vineyard has needed to be mowed in previous years. All of the clippings (and this includes the vineyard's leguminous cover crop) are left in place to become green manure. Although technically green manure is ploughed into the soil, Vinoland happens to be a no-till zone. The thick layer of mower clippings is simply left to break down, adding nutrients to soil and acting also like a layer of mulch that should suppress weed growth - I say should.
I used to take the humble blade of grass, or any plant for that matter, for granted. But, having taken a vineyard soils class, I now better understand the chemistry behind the conversion, by sunlight, of carbon dioxide into organic compounds. That which we call a weed by any other name, would still be photosynthesis - C6H12O6 rocks life in Vinoland.
The same sun, bright and high in the blue California sky, that feels so good on my winter-weary skin, combined with unseen soil nutrients (both micro and macro) and water, brings forth a multitude of grasses, weeds, trees, flowers, and grapevines. Apparently, the sun must also feel good to the Vinodogs as they can seemingly bask away an entire day in it's nap-inducing, warming rays.
Of the many different types of grasses growing in Vinoland right now; rye grass, common velvetgrass, rabbitfoot polypogon - to identify just a few in the above photograph - I think I like the big quakinggrass (Briza maxima) the best as it reminds me of little Chinese lanterns. Of course, Chinese lanterns don't aggravate my hay fever. Ho hum!

Friday, June 24, 2011

I Love California.

Yes, I do love California. And I love wine, the Vinodogs, chocolate, England, Ben & Jerry's Pistachio Pistachio ice cream and, amongst other things, Tesco. So, you can imagine how excited I was when a local Fresh & Easy, Tesco's foray into the North American grocery business, recently opened a store in Napa. However, Fresh & Easy poses a bit of a conundrum for me. I'm not exactly disappointed in the store, but I am ever so slightly confused by it.
For starters, they don't carry many English food stuffs, not that I really expected them to. But, that's OK because I can get my Cadbury Flakes, McVitie's Hobnobs, and Bassetts Jelly Babies elsewhere. Fresh & Easy is described as a "neighbourhood market" - a one-stop convenience store that offers wholesome, freshly prepared meals for the perpetually time-strapped Californian consumer. It is in the very convenient offering of pre-marinated meat items and pre-chopped veggies where I think the problem lies for me. I cook 99.99% of my meals from scratch and when confronted with prepared food items I simply don't know what quite to make of them, literally. Bizarre, I know, but I tend to go about anything I do the long way! I'm not giving up on Fresh & Easy though, I have visited the store a few times now and I am determined to master their vision of grocery shopping. The prices are very reasonable, and that includes the above bottle of I Love California Pinot grigio, (specifically bottled for Fresh & Easy), which is priced at $3.99.
I am always amazed at how cheaply wine can be produced and bottled, (think Two Buck Chuck), especially when compared to say a premium winery like the one at which I am gainfully employed. With a bottling event coming up soon in Vinoland, Vinomaker has been busy sourcing bottles and corks. The most cost effective bottles he has found so far, Rhone style bottles for a Sonoma Syrah, cost $6.04 a case and come in plain white cardboard. The cheapest corks to be had, composite corks with a solid cork disc on either end, are priced at $74.00 per 1,000, but they are not the greatest quality - one probably really shouldn't use them on a wine intended for aging for an extended period. Then there's the cost of capsules, printed cases, labels, the initial cost of the grapes and barrels - and labour for approximately two years. The mind boggles that anyone could make a profit from a $3.99 wine sale. Is it simply a question of volume? I don't know.
But, how was the wine one might ask? It was actually OK, a little flabby maybe (my palate tends to favour wines with higher acidity), but it had plenty of fruit with quite obvious Pinto grigio characteristics. Surprisingly, it tasted better the next day. I think I just found my mum's summer wine.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cephus Le Blanc.

When I first looked at this bottle of wine I did indeed think that it was called Cephus Le Blanc - a bottle of Appalachian moonshine perhaps? But no, it was a delightful 60/40 blend of Colombard and Ugni blanc from the Armagnac region of France. Crisp, refreshing and under $11...I think I just found my summer wine.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The perfect flower.

At last, in the Orange muscat block, the calyptra (covering the stamens and carpels) are brown and are beginning to be pushed off by the embryonic grape below. As is also the case in the Pinot gris block, the Cabernet sauvignon, and the Syrah.
In botany, the grape flower is indeed the perfect flower as it is hermaphroditic - containing both female and male reproductive parts. Let the flowering begin...whoo hoo!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chin up!

With increasing regularity, most communication nowadays is of the electronic variety, so it is a rare treat to find something of fun in ones actual post box that arrived there the old fashioned way - by snail mail.
It was in this manner that I received what for me was a prize of sorts: a much coveted Wartime Housewife badge (move over Blue Peter). This winning little badge, with it's patriotic colour scheme (British of course) and inspirational slogan, brought to mind the US tradition of producing presidential campaign buttons (that's badges in English). With the 2012 Presidential shenanigans already afoot over here, it got me to thinking what platform I would run on if I ever were to contemplate a life of public service. Politicians as public servants? Humour me, please.
My campaign would begin with promising that every man, woman, and child would have a 100 point wine in every glass, and a barrel of said wine in every garage (move over Herbert Hoover)...before slowly working my way up to world domination.
Wartime Housewife has her cute frying-pan-wielding-pinny-clad wartime housewife and her stiff-upper-lip-inducing slogan. If I'm going to run for office, or even empress of the universe, I'm going to have to come up with my own logo, a catchy campaign slogan...and a badge. Suggestions welcome.
My name is Vinogirl, and this message was brought to you by me. I'd vote for me, wouldn't you?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Down the hatch!

This evening was spent doing something a little bit different from my everyday routine: I poured wine at The St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. I'd like to say that I was chosen to represent the winery at which I work because of my extensive wine knowledge and magnetic personality, but truthfully no one else was available, or wanted to work this event.
The yacht club had recently completed an extensive face-lift of their dining room and were holding a members only open house to showcase the remodeled eating area. It was a fun event held in beautiful surroundings, complete with breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay, scuttlebutts of wine, lots of yachty-type folk decked out in Sperry Top-Sider deck shoes and nautically themed ties, buckets of shrimp, boatloads of oysters, and last but not least, a jaw dropping sunset just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. It was worth the 108 mile commute.
Life is good.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Vin Pseudo.

In Europe, Parmesan cheese by definition must be produced in the Parma region of Italy, ditto with Parma ham. I don't get quite as agitated as my brother does about the American penchant for calling certain food items by what is traditionally considered their place of origin, when clearly the foods in question have been produced domestically in the USA. I simply attribute his alarm at these aberrations of nomenclature to the fact that he has lived all of his adult life under the labeling constraints of the European Union. On a personal level, I do appreciate the fact that Americans usually refrain from calling domestically produced sparkling wine Champagne - so, dear brother, all is not lost. However, at a dessert wine tasting the other day I must admit that I, myself, did experience a little bit of distress over one particular wine: a Vin Santo produced in St. Helena.
Vin Santo, Tuscany's classic dessert wine, is a deeply amber-coloured wine that is made from dessicated grapes. Without going into the maddening complexities of Italy's DOC or DOCG laws, it is generally understood that having DOC/G on a wine's label at least guarantees some semblance of authenticity as to the wine's origin. Whilst I know Vin Santo isn't an actual place, indeed they also produce a Vin Santo in Montepulciano, it did get me thinking about the naming of certain food products. Should the name Vin Santo be reserved for a dessert wine exclusively produced in Italy? Or is Vin Santo simply the name for this particular style of winemaking? Questions, questions.
As for the wine itself, in my opinion, the Il Ponte from L'Uvaggio di Giacomo Winery, wasn't a very good interpretation of this unique Italian digestif. Let me put it another way, I won't be dunking my biscotti into a glass of Il Ponte any time soon.
As today is the feast day of the patron saint of winemakers, St. Morand, maybe a little divine intervention will answer these questions for me. Holy Moly!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Vineyard coda.

A little while back, I did a post on the goings on in the Opus One vineyard in Oakville. At the time, I thought they were perhaps simply replacing their wooden vineyard posts with metal stakes. But, the old posts remained in disarray for what seemed an awfully long time for such a relatively uncomplicated vineyard operation, if that is indeed what the folks at Opus One were up to.
Shortly after budbreak, I noticed that all the new shoot growth had been cut away from the cordons, except on a few vines, here and there, that still had foliage on them but were surrounded by stakes and caution tape. I still wasn't quite sure what was going on in this vineyard.
More recently, I observed personnel from Napa County Agricultural Commissioner's office digging large holes around the vineyard, obviously in the process of removing samples of something for testing in the lab. I could only conclude that this vineyard had such a severe infestation of whatever was ailing it that it was only a matter of time before this particular block of premium winegrapes was history.
This morning, a very wet January 1st, sorry, I mean June 1st, when I passed the Opus One vineyard on a work errand, the vines had been ripped out and were now heaped in two enormous piles, and the vineyard floor was being disked.
I have emailed the folk at Opus One and asked them what particular creepy-crawly (as it seems most likely that this would be a pest rather than a virus) their vineyard is suffering from, and what exactly their IPM programme entails. However, I don't expect to hear back from them.
At $205 a bottle, whilst Baron Rothschild and Robert Mondavi may not be turning in their graves I'm sure they are at least a little restive.