Saturday, December 31, 2011

A rosé outlook for the New Year.

For Vinoland's annual New Year's Eve bubbly tasting I chose two rosé wines - one French, one domestic.  Both wines are remarkably similiar to look at, with their deep salmon hue, but quite different on the palate.  
The Mumm Brut Rosé is, as always, delightfully pleasant and approachable with subtle black cherries and strawberries and, thankfully, only 15% Chardonnay content.  
The Cuveé Rose Laurent Perrier has always been one of my top three favoutire Champagnes, and his bottle did not fail to disappoint my palate. Made with 100% Pinot noir this elegant red-berry, subtle rosy-vanilla, lean citrusy-mineral wine, in it's distinctively shaped bottle, is simply sublime.  And that's all I'm going to say on the matter - I'm wasting valuable drinking time.
Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On the fourth day of Christmas...

...I got a little bit fed up with wine and decided to have a Christmas beer instead.
Anchor Brewing Company's Christmas Ale is something I look forward to each year - if I can find it.  This Christmas Ale is a limited production and is only available during a specific period: early November through mid January.  But honestly, I have never seen it in the shops for that amount of time.  I buy it as soon as I see it because it sells out fast.
With a different, tree-adorned label every year this ale is medium bodied, quite dark, pleasantly spicy and altogether delightful. Throughout the year I often imbibe in an Anchor Steam Beer, or sometimes a bottle or two of their Porter, but it's the release of this San Franciscan brewery's Christmas offering that I eagerly await every autumn.
My purple, polka-dotted glass just adds to the festivities.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas: 2011.

Yuletide greetings from the Napa Valley.  I'm wishing everyone, who visits Vinsanity, a very festive Christmas.  I hope you are all surrounded by the foods, wines, poochies, friends and family members who make you the happiest.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas Eve.

A little bit of home.  The smell of baking mince pies today transported me back to the Yuletides of my childhood.  Classic, home-cooked Christmas goodness, helped along by James Robertson's mincemeat - the last jar in my local supermarket.  I could have been in my mother's kitchen.
Wishing the simple joys of Christmas to you all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A crumb of cheese.

I love cheese, and when confronted with this veritable wall of blue cheese at the Oxbow Public Market today, whilst cheese-shopping with Vinomaker, I nearly passed out with excitement.
The Oxbow Cheese Merchant's selection of coagulated milk products may not be the most extensive I have seen, but it is nonetheless impressive - and the staff are very attentive and knowledgeable.  As I stood salivating over the Colston Bassett Stilton, the resident cheese-monger (why wasn't cheese-mongering a career choice offered when I was in school?) interrupted my reverie to point out Stichelton Dairy's blue cheese made from unpasteurised  milk.   Hadn't had it before, had to have it now!   
Other cheeses selected included one called Challerhocker chosen by Vinomaker (which means, perhaps appropriately for a winemaker, 'sitting in the cellar' - which he does on occasion), and I couldn't leave The Oxbow without a cheese called St. Foin which promises to be irresistible when paired with Champagne.  We'll see.
Jacob Marley better not get between me and any crumb of cheese, otherwise he may end up looking like "an undigested bit of beef."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winery Christmas Lights 10.

I usually take the photographs for my Winery Christmas Lights (WCL) series after dark to showcase the Christmas lights in all of their glistering glory.  Unfortunately, the Christmas trees at Darioush Winery, on the Silverado trail, are behind locked gates at night and thus inaccessible to me and my camera (unless I have a telephoto lens).  So, this week I decided to revisit a previous WCL to get up close and personal, so to speak, with the winery's decorations.
The architectural style of Darioush is not one of my favourites in the valley, I have to say.  Designing a winery building in California to look like a temple in Persepolis (in ancient Persia) works I suppose if you are Iranian, and proprietor Darioush Khaledi is indeed Iranian.  Khaledi grew up in Shiraz, (yes, it has been suggested that that is where the actual grape of the same name originated), apparently fell in love with wine at an early age, became rich, started a winery, etc.  Darioush specialises in Bordeaux varietal wines, but they do make a very nice Viognier also.  But, back to the lights.  
Darioush has four Christmas trees, bedecked with garlands made from large leaves (Magnolia fraseri perhaps), some a natural dried brown and some sprayed totally silver.  Three of the trees have blue lights and one has white (the lights in previous years have all been blue).  Blue lights always look a bit cold and austere to me, and somehow leave me feeling a little well, blue.  Something more red, green and sparkly is more in order if I am to be completely honest, but I am appreciative that this winery made any effort at all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hanging in there.

On this, the occasion of the winter solstice, I decided to take a quick walk around the vineyard with the Vinodogs.  Although we have had little rain, we have had quite a windy autumn and all the grapevines are now stripped of their leaves.  To my surprise, I found a skeletonised bunch of Red Globe table grapes that I obviously missed when picking the rest.  It looks like wasps have had their evil way with this bunch of grapes, but I'm hoping some birds have also found this a tasty little treat.  I learned, this past growing season, that the Red Globe grapes are rather immune to infection by powdery mildew...on the other hand Crimson Seedless and July Muscat are extremely susceptible to infection...hence the lack of those two varieties of grapes on my table this year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Brassica (Monkey) weather.

We are having lovely weather right now; cold frosty mornings, with some foggy ones like this morning, and wonderfully sunny afternoons with temperatures in the low 60s.  And there is no rain forecast through Christmas. The weather has been altogether unseasonably mild and may, in part, be responsible for the early appearance of mustard in several vineyards (same vineyard as here) around the valley.  It seems really early this year, but then again I say that every year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

True Wine Lover 12.

For my latest True Wine Lover, I have decided to showcase the nifty work of Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk, oft credited with the discovery of the sparkling wine production technique known today as méthode champenoise.  
Dom Pierre Pérignon arrived at the abbey of Hautvilliers in 1668 at the age of 30.  He immediately showed a great acumen for winemaking and soon became the maître de chai. Father Pérignon did not exactly invent Champagne, in fact he believed that secondary fermentation (which creates the bubbles that I love), was in actual fact a fault and referred to the resulting wine as "vin de diable".  I bet the old, tonsured monk was none too fond of the exploding bottles either - it's always better to have a full head of hair when there are exploding bottles around.  Yikes!
It is an Englishman, one Christopher Merrett, who actually holds the distinction of being the first to document the deliberate addition of sugar to wine to precipitate secondary fermentation - when the fizz happens - and then continued to refine the technique.  Furthermore, Merrett was a keen metallurgist and is accredited with inventing the thicker glass needed to prevent winemaking's most dangerous occupational hazard.
However, Dom Pérignon did pioneer a number of innovations in the production not only of Champagne, but of still wines also.  It is said that he was amongst one of the first advocates of natural and organic winemaking.  Pérignon was also a skilled grape grower and was adept at blending small lots of grapes before fermentation.
Moët et Chandon's Dom Pérignon bubbly is certainly not the greatest Champagne; and the supposed Pierre Pérignon quote, "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!" turns out merely to be an early marketing slogan. But still, you have to raise your glass and toast an old monk whose name, to this day, is synonymous with good times, celebrations and festivities.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A new dawn for Coombsville.

This picture, taken last summer, shows sunrise in the quiet south-east corner of the Napa Valley that I call home.  As of this past Wednesday, December 14th 2011, I now live in the Napa Valley's newest American Viticultural Area (AVA).  Or, in this case, Antarctic Viticultural Area as Vinomaker likes to refer to our little piece of Coombsville, (not so affectionately known to him as The Tundra).
The US Department of the Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau conferred upon Coombsville the honour of appellation status, making it the valley's 16th AVA.  The petition, co-authored by vintners Tom Farella and Brad Kitson, took a little over 2 years to be approved by the federal government (your tax dollars at work).
So to celebrate Vinomaker and I are going to imbibe in a little something from a Coombsville winery, a 2008 Black Cat Vineyard Syrah, and toast our good fortune in having Vinoland recognised by Uncle Sam.
Now, let's see what this does to land and grape prices!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's a girl!

I may be a little tardy, but I didn't want this week to end without acknowledging the arrival of a little angel who deigned to grace us with her presence.
On Monday, Jeremy (aka Do Bianchi) and Tracie Parzen became the proud parents of the gorgeous Georgia Ann. So, please join me in raising a glass of something sparkling (in this case, appropriately, a yummy Mumm) to congratulate Mr & Mrs Do Bianchi on a job well done.
I hope Georgia enjoys her first Christmas...and Hanukkah.
Welcome to the world little one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

School's out!

Tonight was my last night of school. My semester of photography classes is at an end and I can now relax on Monday and Wednesday evenings with Vinomaker and the Vinodogs. I don't know if I will take the advanced level class, starting in January, as I am running out of ideas for photographs. Aside from learning photographic techniques and darkroom protocols, I also learned that to be a good photographer you have to have a vivid imagination - and sadly I'm a little lacking in that department. Ho hum! Never mind, Christmas is enough to keep my small brain occupied for the time being.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gaudete, 2011.

Once again, it's Gaudete Sunday. And, once again I'm indulging in something pink (but this year, Italian) to pair with dinner. I'm also rejoicing at the fact that I got my tree up and decorated. Phew!
The 2009 Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri Scalabrone Rosato is a delightful wine. It's a rather fleshy rosé, extremely fruity (dried cranberry and plum), deeply pink, well balanced, with a surprisingly long finish. I love Italian wines. If I wasn't Liverpool-Catholic I think I'd like to be Italian-Catholic...better wine. I'm just sayin'!

Sing it again Maddy!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Brix and mortar.

All too often Christmas can become a blur of glossy tinsel, twinkling lights, and unrestrained consumerism.   How often can we say that we relaxed and simply enjoyed the spirit of the season?   As I get older, I am increasingly aware of the fact that the memories of quality time spent with loved ones and friends are the greatest gifts I receive each Yuletide.
This evening, Vinomaker and I enjoyed the company of my co-workers and friends at Brix in Yountville.  Good company, good food, good wine (and a fun mealtime game of passing a novelty gift to your table-mate on the right after each course), were shared by one and all.  This bricks and mortar restaurant, that at any other time of the year is merely a place to grab a bite to eat, tonight became not just a building but the physical embodiment of the Christmas spirit.   A good time was had by all.
Merry Christmas to all my co-workers!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmas is a-coming!

Whoo hoo! Several frosty mornings in a row.  A Christmas parcel today from Blighty.  O Come All Ye Faithful playing in the background.  A nice glass of Mi Sueno Syrah next to my laptop.   The Vinodogs slumbering in front of a log fire.
Ahhh. Life is good.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Pregnancy prohibited?

If I didn't already know that I enjoy a glass of Soave every now and again, it certainly could be helpful, to aid in my choice of purchasing this wine, to know that this bottle's content was dry and crisp.  That it has 12% alcohol by volume - again, somewhat helpful.  Vegetarian - important to some people, not me (I'm assuming the producer uses bentonite only when fining).  UK units - at this point I'd have to pull out my calculator to figure out the recommended daily allowance for myself (only if I was drinking this in the UK, that is).   I have to say, there is quite a bit of potentially useful information crammed onto the back label of this Soave Classico offering from Tesco.   However, the universal prohibition sign, which I am assuming warns of the dangers of consuming alcohol whilst pregnant, merely looks like getting pregnant is disallowed.   Consumer nannyism at its best.
The bottle is glass - good to know.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Death by Cabernet!

I could not stand them any longer: I had to do something about the swarms of fruit flies that were orbiting my noggin as I tried to enjoy a chilled glass of Sauvignon blanc with dinner last night. Where do these beastly flies come from? Fermentation is well and truly over and there's not even a piece of rotten fruit lurking at the bottom of our fruit bowl. One day Vinoland seemed relatively Drosophila melanogaster free, the next - veritable mobs of those little te noires everywhere (although they're not black). Of course, it has been unseasonably warm these past few days.
It seemed I had only one recourse, to promptly make a fruit fly trap. And, as soon as I had finished breakfast this morning I was on it. Within a short few hours, my cling film-topped plastic cup, baited with a premium Napa Cabernet sauvignon, contains at least six dozen trapped, dying and dead fruit flies (there are worse ways to pop one's clogs).
Seriously, where are these things coming from?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

When to prune?

Like a fine Swiss timepiece, the Far Niente vineyard crew have been out and about these past two days pre-pruning their Chardonnay vines. Once again, this post-harvest operation has been performed in this particular vineyard with precision timing.
Vinoland's vines, as I have mentioned on this blog once or twice, are head-trained and cane (and spur) pruned so I don't perform any pre-pruning. Besides, I'm not exactly a planner-type person (am I, Vinomaker?), so if I get started pruning approximately sometime in February that's planning enough for me! However, I did exercise some forethought this past week and purposely went out and found myself an Advent calendar in anticipation of today, December 1st.
It's all about priorities really, isn't it?