Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Global warming?

The Napa Valley, once again, finds itself featured in the media as the poster child for the potential results of climate change. Perhaps because wine grapes, more than any other crop, are sensitive to vintage temperatures (and climatic conditions in general), and because people are often drawn to the romance of vineyards, and wine production, there is more interest in the farming of wine grapes than say turnips, or spuds.
A recent 4 year study led by Dr. Daniel R. Cayan, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, found that average temperatures had only increased by a degree or two (Fahrenheit) over the past several decades, mainly affecting overnight temps rather than daytime temps. That really doesn't surprise me, especially seeing as it is possible for the diurnal/nocturnal temperature differential in Napa to be as much as 40 to 50 degrees.
Vinoland's Cabernet sauvignon vines are approximately 80% through veraison. Due to persistent cool temperatures (our second below average summer in a row), it's hard to tell if my pruning experiment this year has had any impact on the maturation of the Cabernet vines. With possibly two full months still until harvest I can only cross my fingers and hope for warm, dry weather during September and through October.
Whilst I do understand that the San Francisco Bay Area is well known for it's diverse micro climates - and it is indeed the cool marine layer that aids in quality grape production in this part of the world - I long for more typical summer is California after all.
Global warming is awfully cold!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Let the grapes begin!

Harvest 2011 may indeed, for many reasons, qualify as an Olympic event, least of all for it's degree of difficulty. Logistically, getting every last grape harvested may prove to be a slightly nightmarish game in the valley this year.
On Monday, at last, the sparkling wine producers of the Napa Valley began to harvest Pinot noir and Chardonnay for their bubbly production. It's always good to see harvest get under way, however this year it is at least two weeks late.
As you can see, the temperature in Vinoland got up to a whopping 75 degrees today - barely hot enough for photosynthesis to take place - not to mention that the marine layer did not burn off until noon. Our Clone 4 Cabernet sauvignon, hailing from the Mendoza region of Argentina, is used to some what warmer temperatures. At this rate it may never ripen. Ho hum!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bottling 2011: Done and dusted.

The swirling mass of 2009 Cabernet franc, in the above photo, is now contentedly idling in antique green Bordeaux bottles. A mini bottling event held today in Vinoland, and amiably assisted by Family OTW, was the last such event of this year.
It's a good feeling to have all of the wines from 2009 out of the barrels and into the bottles. Now, let's get ready for harvest...whenever that may be.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Main Street Reunion 2011.

This afternoon was spent in downtown Napa at the annual Main Street Reunion Car Show. I love this event, I mean, what isn't there to love about old American cars. With 408 cars entered this year it was the largest turn out in the events history.
Back in Vinoland, it was gourmet hot dogs (with wonderful buns from Alexis Baking Company), and wine all round. A good time was had by all.
Vroom, vroom!

Friday, August 19, 2011

To my sweetie pie.

Today is my, and Vinomaker's, 5th wedding anniversary.
This isn't the greatest picture, but it is one of the only photos I have of our wedding cake; a chocolate fudge confection filled with chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries, and topped off with a rolled fondant depiction of our respective national flags.
Sweetie Pies, in downtown Napa, did a pretty nice job of the cake, especially seeing as when I requested that a Union Jack be on one half of the cake the lady told me she had no idea what a Union Jack was, never mind what one looked like! Thank goodness for the internet.
Happy Vinalia Rustica everyone!
Happy anniversary Vinomaker.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The fruit of a different vine.

My first, and only, ripe tomato of the season.
Persistant cool temperatures in northern California are not helping with the ripening of my tomatoes. It's a shame because this year's crop looks to be bountiful, but nothing is happening. Now, where did I put that fried green tomato recipe?
I certainly won't be seeing fruit ripening through October like I did in 2008 (the last real summer here), when the nights were seasonably cool, but the days were still in the low 80s.
At least this tomato is not sporting a freakish horn and will eventually make its way into a salad. It seems to be perfectly formed - except that it is supposed to be a cherry tomato and is 3 times bigger than any of its siblings on the same stalk. Overachiever? Mutant? It matters not, as this may be the only tomato that ripens in Vinoland this summer.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Napa nest 4.

Working in the Pinot grigio vines this afternoon, I came across this little architectural masterpiece. Woven from a diminutive grass variety, and lined with what looks like Vinodog fur, the nest is too large to be a hummingbird's nest and too small to be that of a California Towhee. There is not a shred of evidence left inside, like an eggshell fragment, or a downy feather, that would help me identify the builder. I will just have to keep on guessing as to the identity of the mystery mastermind behind this marvelous construction, who was genius enough to utilise the vine's tendrils as structural anchors.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Veraison 2011.

I had intended to do a post about lignification today - the process in which the vine's shoots become woody through the formation and deposit of lignin in specialised cell walls - but, whilst working in the vineyard, I noticed that veraison is well under way in the Syrah and Pinot grigio vines.
With this summer being so cool, I had expected the vines to be behind in their maturation. However, looking back over the previous two year's posts on Vinsanity it seems that veraison is right on schedule.
I don't know why I was worried: I always tell people, when talking about viticulture, trust them...the vines know what their doing. Why do I ever doubt them?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!

I just got back from a few whirlwind days in Sin City. I was there primarily to attend a wedding (and a wonderful event it turned out to be), but also to grab a little rest and recreation with family and friends. Las Vegas might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I happen to love it.
Money, and lots of it, is the name of the game in Vegas, but curiously gambling seems to have taken a bit of a back seat. Casino-resorts must have to constantly come up with new and innovative ways to display all sorts of consumer goods, not in the least fine wines, as an irresistible means to separate visitors from their winnings, or more likely their hard-earned wages. When one thinks of Las Vegas there are a lot of things that spring to mind, but fine wine is probably not one of them. However, presumably most people are familiar with the gimmicky Wine Angels of Aureole, in the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, who retrieve customer's wine selections from a 42 ft Lucite tower. Onda Ristorante and Wine Lounge, in The Mirage, impressively displays wine bottles in a back-lit, approx. 16 ft high wall of barrels at the entrance to the restaurant. It's very eye-catching, it had me making a detour, across the casino floor, away from the Dolphin Habitat where I had been heading with my nieces OTW. I'm easily distracted, what can I say?
I didn't actually drink much vino on this trip as my partner in wine-crime, Vinomaker, decided to stay at home with the Vinodogs. At the wedding reception, held at Bouchon in The Venetian, I had an okay glass of Sancere and a passable domestic Merlot, but that was it.
So, my Las Vegas jaunt by numbers; 3 days, 108 degrees F, 6% humidity, 2 glasses of wine, and zero Elvis sightings.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Hermit Crab.

I had high expectations for this wine, but d'Arenburg's 2009 The Hermit Crab failed to impress. In fact, this wine left me feeling decidedly crabby...forgive the pun.
I have enjoyed d'Arenberg wines in the past (mostly reds), with their The Dead Arm once being my go-to Shiraz. Unfortunately, although The Hermit Crab delivered pretty stone fruit on the nose, on the palate it was flabby and waxy. So, to rescue our evening meal, Vinomaker opened a 2009 Saddleback Cellars Viognier. It did the trick...smiles all round.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Bottled Po8-try.

Hailing from Stagecoach Vineyards, 1650 feet above the Napa Valley proper, the Krupp Brothers 2006 Black Bart Syrah is a delightful expression of this Rhône valley varietal. This particular bottle of wine would be a fine example to use as a way to introduce a novice to Californian Syrah which tends, actually I think, to be rather atypical in that varietal Syrah can vary a great deal due to climate (the Napa Valley being famous for it's micro climates) and terroir.
Black Bart, big on brambly-fruits, vanilla and smoky black pepper, with a nice floral note in the background, is about as typical a Syrah as one would expect from Napa Valley hillside fruit (which generally exhibits a more tannic intensity than valley floor fruit). I thoroughly enjoyed this bottle of wine. Mind you, I have enjoyed all the wines I have tried from this particular producer, except for a 2006 Marsanne which was much too oaky. And, I really like their labels.
Besides, what is there not to love about a wine named for an English born outlaw?