Monday, December 31, 2012

Wishing you a bubbly New Year!

Although I advocate the consumption of Champagne and sparkling wine at any old time, there is no denying that imbibing in a glass, or three, of something bubbly on a special occasion heightens the enjoyment of that particular festivity.  So as I embark on my annual New Year's Eve bubbly tasting, I want to raise my glass and wish you all a happy and safe New Year and the continued enjoyment of your favourite wines, the nectar of the vine, all the way through 2013.  Cheers!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

No recipe for living.

The past two days have been really nice weather-wise, especially today, with temperatures in the mid 50s and lots of pleasant, albeit wintry, sunshine.  I have spent as much time as possible outdoors with the Vinodogs, performing miscellaneous garden chores, e.g. pruning Vinoland's rose bushes - all seven of them. Northern California experienced a rather moist autumn which has resulted in abundant weed activity and lots, and lots, of mushrooms.  I think this year's fungi goings-on are the most I have ever seen.  I like to admire all the different types of mushrooms with their different forms, the way they age, the fairy rings they create, but that's it.  I am content with the entertainment garnered merely by observing their fun-guy life cycle.
Each and every mushroom season the Bay Area news outlets report of at least one fatality from somebody eating poisonous mushrooms, making it necessary to tack on a reminder to mushroom foragers about the dangers of consuming unidentified, or, more often than not, misidentified 'shrooms.  When these to-be-avoided woodland fungi often come with names like Poison Pie, Sickener and Deadly Conocybe, the average person could probably assume that there is a need for some caution when perhaps considering whipping these things up into an omelette.  I could be being a tad cynical when I say that maybe it's just Darwinism at work - except that this year, a caregiver at an old people's home, near Sacramento, killed four residents when she served them up Death Angel mushroom soup.  Like some modern day Typhoid Mary, the caregiver has been banned from working with and preparing food for the elderly ever again. Good call.
The past couple of months I have spotted many a mushroom popping up all over Vinoland, including the varieties Meadow Mushroom, Artist's Fungus and Sulphur Shelf.   However, the majority of the mushrooms in Vinoland seem to be of one species, Paxillus involutus, the Common Roll-rim which, yes, can be fatal if ingested - otherwise they merely destroy red blood cells and cause renal failure, that's all.  The Paxillius are rather large, fleshy mushrooms and it isn't too hard to imagine them chopped and tossed into a stir-fry and paired with a nice Nebbiolo.  I, for one, am not looking to make a little mushroom concoction my last supper. I'll just admire them from afar.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas: 2012.

Happy Christmas from all the denizens of Vinoland.
I hope everybody's day is filled with family, friends, food and good wine.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A treat for St. Nick.

No milk for Father Christmas this year.  Tonight when I go to bed, I will be leaving out a bottle of Anchor Brewing Company's Christmas Ale and a plate of freshly baked mince pies for the jolly old elf.  The 2012 edition of Anchor's Christmas Ale, with it's Araucaria heterophylla adorned label, was really quite hard to find this year, but I still don't mind sparing one bottle for my favourite, red-suited visitor.
Now, I just have to figure out how to keep V2 away from the mince pies.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Still here...

...and still drinking bubbly.  Let's get this party started!
I'm ready for Christmas.  I just have a few more things to wrap and my mince pies to bake.  But basically I don't have to do anything else except enjoy myself, starting right now with a glass of something pink and bubbly (it's the only civilised thing to do whilst tossing a green salad). And whereas some folks scorn the use of flute, or tulip, shaped glasses for any sparkling wine, I happen to love this particular flûte à Champagne with it's flared rim.  No doubt there are naysayers who would like to point out to me that I am missing out on  lots of wonderful aromas, but the glass is so delicate and fine it really does feel like I am drinking the stars! Besides, it's not like it's going to be in the glass for very long now, is it? Nope.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Red sky at night... sky in the morning, Mayans warning?
On this the winter solstice, I was pleased to see that dawn in Vinoland was a rather spectacular affair.  A camera lens does not do it justice.  The ensuing rainy morning did not deter me from heading north, out of Napa, to go and do some sparkling wine shopping.  Joined by quite a few of my co-workers (and with a quick tasting thrown in), quite a bit of the bubbly stuff exited chosen winery - a 50% discount will bring people out en masse.
Afterwards, whilst running some errands I learned that I had scored the highest in my Wines of the World final - a whopping 98%, whoo hoo!  That, along with a mixed case of Mumm Napa Valley's finest bubbly, made Vinogirl one very chuffed vine-nerd. It was a good day.
Now, if the Mayan's are to be believed, I really should drink all 12 bottles before midnight.  Or maybe I'll save some for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The end of Wines of the World is nigh.

Tonight my Wines of the World class came to it's conclusion (on the eve of the end of the world), as ordained by Dr. Krebs in his class syllabus.  The Mayans (nice folks, once) may have other ideas for tomorrow, but tonight I had a final to take.  The written portion of the exam, I knew, was going to be fairly routine, but the blind tasting component was the cause of a little consternation for me.  Six, brown-bagged, anonymous wines loomed large on a desk in the corner of the classroom...argh!
Unlike the results of the written exam, my classmates and I were given the identity of the mystery wines when we had finished taking the final. Unfortunately, I only managed to identify 4 out of the 6 wines.  The Riesling, Gewürtztraminer, Pinot noir and Sherry were really quite easy to identify.  A light, citrusy wine I identified as an Albariño was in fact a Facelli Winery, 2011, Washington State, Fumé blanc - oops!  And a nondescript, thin to medium bodied, vinous red wine which I identified as a Merlot turned out to be a Red Bicyclette, 2005, Syrah - damn French! On the whole I think I did alright, as I overheard some of my classmates bemoaning the fact that they only scored 2 or 3 out of the six - and they're budding, young winemakers.
Wines of the World, what a terrific class.  It's been a great semester, I learned a lot and I had a lot of fun to boot.  But then again, I have had fun in every class I have taken that was given by Dr. Krebs...he even managed to make Vineyard Soils entertaining!
Thanks Dr. Krebs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I woof Christmas!

Father Christmas, that's Santa to my colonial cousins, is not the only person who sports a red kit!
Merry Christmas from Vinodog 1.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gaudete, 2012.

It's Gaudete Sunday.  A quick glass of Vinomaker's finest Cabernet Sauvignon rosé is in order I think.  It's a great colour, it matches my Christmas tree decorations.
Gaudete in Domino Semper.
Sing it Maddy!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In vino veritas est: Wines of California.

Tonight, week 16, was the final, full tasting night of my Wines of the World class.  Next week my classmates and I will take our final exam, a component of which will be a blind tasting of six wines from who knows where in the world...yikes!  There was a whopping total of 39 wines tonight, the majority of which were donated from the wineries where my fellow students are gainfully employed.
Although California is my current home, and I am employed at a winery that was well represented tonight, I think I can be pretty impartial, as I did not grow up drinking California wines.  There are a lot of naysayers out in the world who decry anything oenologically-Californian, I myself have an aversion to high alcohol, over blown Pinot noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons.  But the truth is that California, and in particular Northern California, is an almost perfect place in which to grow wine grapes.  Some growing seasons maybe cooler and therefore not as ideal as others, but the grapes always ripen.  California's vintages are always good. However, some vintages are spectacular.
Each varietal wine that was poured tonight - Merlot, Tempranillo, Viognier, Tannat, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Muscat Canelli and Albariño, to name but a few - were all near perfect renditions of their olde worlde benchmark classics.  After all, isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery?  Sure, one could still, if one had an axe to grind, lament the very existence of the jammy, oaky, alcoholic, massively extracted wines that people associate with California, but that would be a gross generalisation. But the fact remains, the Californian climate allows winemakers to express the inherent characters found in almost every grape variety on the planet. Something which can't be said for other parts of the world, or even other parts of the USA.
The wine in the photograph was the first wine of the evening.  The Domaine Carneros, 2010 blanc de noirs, very recently disgorged and sporting a crown cap and an Avery label, was charming.  The acid and sugar were not as yet well integrated, but this wine had loads of potential: one could just see that this gangly adolescent was going to grow up to be one mature, bubbly individual.
So in conclusion, in my humble opinion, Dr. Krebs saved the best for last.
Next...Nothing, the semester is almost at an end.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winery Christmas Lights 11.

Well, it's not exactly a winery.  And it's not exactly the greatest of photographs.  But it's good enough to showcase this festive Rudolph, with his red-bulbed nose, who reappears every Christmas above the Silverado Trail to humour me on my drive home from TWWIAGE.  Situated atop a hillside vineyard in the Stags Leap District, this is the 8th year in a row that I have enjoyed this particular electronic display of cervine-cheerfulness.  I have no idea who is responsible for this random act of Christmas merriment, but I am really glad that their sense of whimsy repeatedly delivers a Yuletide treat for this particular Napa Valley commuter.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

In praise of Pinot Meunier.

I really don't need an excuse to drink bubbly (although conveniently, Christmas began early for me).  It's just wine, and should be enjoyed whenever one wants it - it just has bubbles.  I love it.  Anytime. Well, to be quite honest, I do not love blanc de blancs.  I am just not a fan of 100% Chardonnay bubbly.  But I could quite quickly become a fan of 100% Pinot Meunier bubbly.
A red grape variety and a member of the Pinot family, Pinot Meunier (PM) is considered the least important of Champagne's three main grape varieties, although it is more widely planted than either Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. PM and Pinot Noir make up about 72% of all Champagne's vineyards, both grapes contributing two thirds of the blend in non-vintage Champagnes.  Particularly well suited to Champagne's cool climate, PM does particularly well in the north-facing, sloping vineyards of the Marne Valley.  In Napa, PM is exclusively grown in the Carneros AVA where it is relatively cool compared to the rest of the valley.
Sometimes called simply Meunier (which is French for miller, a name that comes from the flour-dredged appearance of the underside of the leaves, a result of copious amounts of fine, white hairs), there are very few known clones of this cultivar.  Indeed, a mere 6 clones can be found at the Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis.  A vine of moderate to high vigour, PM has several advantages over it's appellation-mates;  the ability to bud and ripen more reliably than Pinot Noir, less prone to frost damage, less prone to coulure, less susceptible to powdery mildew than Pinot Noir and not as susceptible to Eutypa lata as Chardonnay. And acid levels in PM are usually more elevated than in Pinot Noir which lends a youthful fruitiness to wines made with this particular grape, balancing the weight of Pinot Noir and the finesse of Chardonnay.
The Mumm PM, a winery exclusive, was lovely, all floral-yumminess and fruity-yeastiness.  What a great glass of bubbly!  I must drive up to the winery and purchase more before Christmas. Apparently, there is one downside to bubblies made from PM: they are said to age quicker and are not as long lived as some other Pinot noir and Chardonnay based wines. So?  Sounds like a good excuse to drink them quicker.  Hic!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Party early for Christmas.

Last night Vinomaker and I joined my TWWIAGE co-workers to celebrate Christmas...Rat Pack-style.  To my mind it was a little early in the month for such festive goings-on, but suitable venues get booked up quickly in the valley and so December 7th it was. However, after a couple of glasses of bubbly, and several soaring renditions of Frank Sinatra classics, I had forgotten what the date was.  A good time was had by all.  So an early, Happy Christmas to everyone.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Pacific Northwest.

My Wines of the World class tonight ventured up north into the two states that lie above California - Oregon and Washington. Week 15, with 24 wines, aimed to showcase the vinous-wares of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) which is a relatively young, but snappily growing wine region.
To be quite honest, I rarely ever drink wines from this part of the world. The PNW is a region of the United States that is conventionally perceived as having no real, modern day, cultural identity.   When I think of the PNW I think of the rugged Pacific Ocean coastline, not vineyard vistas.  Maybe the entire wine industry up there, in the top-left corner of the contiguous United States, needs to hire a better public relations firm. The entire state of Washington has about 45,000 acres under vine, that's about the same amount of acreage as Napa County. Oregon has less than half that amount at around 21,000 acres. On paper, the PNW looks like ideal wine country: Washington and Oregon are at about the same latitudes as Bordeaux and Burgundy and benefit from longer daylight hours and generally cooler temperatures than here in California.  
So what about the wines?  Perhaps my palate has become a little jaded at this point in the semester, as I was once again underwhelmed by the evening's offerings.  Thankfully, they do not bottle any American Vitis wines in the PNW, so at least I was in familiar territory with Vitis vinifera.  The best white of the night for me was a King Estate Winery, 2011, Pinot gris.  The best red wine was a 2009 Pinot noir (and that's saying something that I picked a Pinot noir), hailing from the cellars of Domaine Drouhin. Does it take a well established Burgundy producer to make a decent Pinot noir in the PNW?  I don't know.  Domaine Drouhin also happened to be the most expensive wine of the evening with a Burgundian-esque price tag of $55.99.  Both wines were from Oregon. Washington fell a little short in the wine department for me, although I did choose to photograph two Washington Cabernet Sauvignons.  I just liked the raptor-adorned labels.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Mull it over.

There's no time like the present.  It's December 1st and it's time to start planning a happy, wine-filled Christmas season.  I usually make my own mulled wine - a little closer to Christmas in all honesty.  But this store bought, gold ribbon-cinched bag of mulling spices, given to me by Thud, is just so cute and Christmassy that I fetched it out of the pantry today simply for the gratuitous grin I knew it would induce.  I'm smiling.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy St. Andrew's Day.

I thought ahead (unusual for me) and photographed this Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) this past August, as I knew I wouldn't find one blooming in California in November.  More commonly known as Spear thistle in auld Caledonia, this spiky weed is the national symbol of the lugubrious land located at the northernmost reaches of Great Britain.  It's wild and quite beautiful up there.
If you are so inclined, pour yourself a wee dram of scotch and toast Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland.  I myself will be toasting him with something made from the grape, not grain.
And so concludes my year of blogs dedicated to the Patron Saints of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.  Amen!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Foxy lady.

Cue Jimi Hendrix!  It's week 14 of my Wines of the World class. This evening there were 30 wines to try from 12 states in the good, old US of A. The usual American grape-suspects where in tonight's vinous line-up; Concord (Vitis labrusca), Norton (Vitis aestivalis) and Scuppernong (Vitis rotundifolia).  Thrown into the fray were some more readily recognisable Vitis vinifera cultivars; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot.  Also represented were some French-American hybrid direct producers, bred for their hardiness and disease resistance; Chardonel, Vidal blanc and Chambourcin.
Grapevine cultivation has a rather long, and often disastrous, history in North America.  Exploring Vikings, upon landing on the American mainland, circa 1000 AD, named it Vinland for the grapevines they discovered growing there in abundance.  Some seven centuries later, England was convinced that the New World could become one, giant vineyard:  In 1657, King James I decreed that  all settlers must raise grapes.  However, the native grapes of America made poor tasting wine, so what was a thirsty colonial to do?  Then along came oenophile Thomas Jefferson.  Hoping that wine would become the everyday drink of Americans - in part to counter the ever growing consumption of that evil, reprobate spirit, whiskey - Jefferson planted, and replanted, European winegrape varieties at his plantation inVirginia, Monticello. Unfortunately for Tom, each vineyard replant died within a few years from a mysterious, but as it turned out native, disease.  Cue phylloxera!
So on to this evening's offerings.  The wines of the USA were astounding, but not in a particularly good way.  The foxy character, associated with Vitis labrusca, was evident in a few wines tonight.  It has variously been described as smelling like fox urine, or as having a cosmetic-perfumey quality. Dr. Krebs informed the class that the foxy component was most likely the smell of a female fox in heat - lovely!  Best white wine? Best red? It's tough.  From Pennsylvania, the Blue Mountain Winery, 2011 Riesling was drinkable, but not very varietal like. From Missouri, the Augusta Winery, 2011, Norton had great color extraction and nice acid, but that's about all I can say about it.
The silliest wines of the night were two pineapple wines from Hawaii. The most odoriferous wines were two Muscadines out of Florida - no one in the class could come up with a single descriptor for either of these Sunshine State wines.
I did get to taste two wines from Utah. I was interested in these two wines because of my familial connection to this particular state.  Castle Creek Winery is located near Moab, on the Colorado River, a part of the world more famous for it's National Parks than it's wine. Their white wine offering with the proprietal name of Uintah blanc, made from a blend of Muscat grapes and thus displaying a slight linalool character, was at least drinkable. Their red, a thin, vegetal mess of a Merlot, was not!
What a night.  Most students were stunned, or at least their palates were. The wines of the USA almost had me wishing for the wines of Eastern Europe!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What's inside Vinogirl's fridge?

Inspired by an article that appeared in People magazine, some 6 months ago now (what can I say?  I'm slow), about celebrity kitchens, I decided to take a quick snapshot of the contents of my own refrigerator. My humble fridge is not quite as highfalutin as Martha Stewart's refrigerator for example, but then again I'm not in the habit of throwing dinner parties for 200, or so, fancy-pants people.
All the essentials are there; chocolate, fresh fruit, beer, sparkling wine, egg nog (Vinomaker's), damson jam, yogurt (not essential) and more chocolate.  I did not stage this photograph.  Well, I did move extra bottles of beer to the shelf below and I put a half used tin of dog food in the bottom shelf of the door - lest you think I'm sort of weird by keeping unrecognisable, recycled animal bits suspended in gelatinous gloop next to my chocolate.
Purists, don't be alarmed.  The bottle of Mumm, 2006 Devaux Ranch sparkling wine, only went from the wine refrigerator to the non-wine-dog-food refrigerator last night.  And it's not going to be kept that chilled indefinitely, I wouldn't treat bubbly that way.  In fact, it will be consumed in fairly short order. Tonight to be exact, hic!
So what's in your fridge?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Meet the twins.

The Montes Twins, that is.
I am revisiting South America, Chile to be exact, but only because another Ralph Steadman label caught my eye in my local supermarket. C'mon, what is there not to love about a wine label with a nappy-clad cherub on it?  Better still, how about a label with twin nappy-clad cherubim on it?  Love it - even if the pudgy putti do somewhat resemble inebriated 2 year olds!
The Montes Twins 2011, Red Wine is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  This wine is a deep, opaque, purple-red-inky monster: colour extraction like this is no doubt the contribution of the Malbec.  The bouquet displayed a tad too much new, toasty-cooperage for my liking, but the ensuing vanilla component, paired with the aroma of sun-warmed blackberries, was very pleasing.  The vanilla and berry combination translated well through to the palate where they were complemented by a felicitous acidity. Things were gustatorily-groovy until the rather strident tannins stopped my taste buds firmly in their, well, stride. In wine, tartness and astringency exaggerate one another and apparently my threshold for this particular amount of astringency had reached it's limit.  But all in all, for $10.99, this wine was a fairly decent tipple.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day: 2012.

I am thankful for a lot of things in my life; family, friends, good health, good wine and, of course, the Vinodogs.  But this year, I want to say a special thank you to Mother Nature (if she's listening) for bestowing upon the Napa Valley a fantastic growing season in 2012...2010 and 2011 were a little rough, ma'am.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Muscat mosaic.

Rain today, sigh.
The poppy seeds that I planted last Sunday will have had a a good watering today.  In fact, rainy weather is forecast to continue all the way until Tuesday, double sigh.
I must admit, Vinoland and it's environs look rather pretty right now, as there is already a green-haze of r-selection plants covering vineyards, roadsides and every other available surface.  I will, however, have to say a reluctant goodbye to the fetching leafy-patchwork of warm, autumnal hues that until recently were the verdant sugar-factories of Vinoland's Orange Muscat vines, oh well.  The now soggy leaves will breakdown and will eventually be available, to the very same vines, as organic matter.  And the cycle continues...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

South of the border.

Wines of the World, week 13,  just happened to coincide with the occurrence of the third Thursday in November - which happens to be Beaujolais Nouveau release day.  Never one to miss a wine tasting opportunity, Dr. Krebs marked the occasion by adding two bottles of Georges Duboeuf to tonight's roster of wines. As one would expect from 10-12 week old, carbonically-macerated Gamay grapes, the wine was all fruity-bubblegum-ness.  I thought it perfectly pleasant, but the rest of the class did not share my view of this frivolous wine of limited breeding.
The real business of the night was the tasting of the wines of South America.  And as with the wines of the Antipodes last week I was on the whole underwhelmed.  For example, there were three Pinot noirs in the mix; one each from Uruguay, Chile and Argentina - all, in my humble opinion, barely recognisable as Pinot Noir.  If I had to pick a favourite white and a favourite red of the night...In the white flight I would have to choose a Chilean wine, an Amaral, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (DO Leyda Valley).  For the red, I'm going with an Argentinian selection, a Ksana, 2006, Bonarda (IG Mendoza).  They were both drinkable, but I was left longing for something Spanish or Italian.
There were 27 wines in all, the most expensive wine that was poured, at $99.99, was a TeHo, 2010, Malbec/Petit Verdot/Cabernet Franc (IG Mendoza).  This last wine seemed to be the favourite of most of my classmates.  Replete with lots of vanilla-oakiness on the nose, it came across as the most Napa-like.
The wine in the photograph?  A Montes, 2006, Cherub Rosé of Syrah (DO Colchagua Valley).  The wine was alright, but it was the label that I really liked.  It is by one of my my favourite illustrators, Ralph Steadman, who, like Vinogirl, is a product of Merseyside.
As it's Thanksgiving next week there is no class, but stay tuned for the November 29th installment.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Poppy Day: 2012.

This is a packet of Papaver rhoeas seeds I bought when I was home in England last spring.  I am going to plant them today in hopes that they bloom next summer: a reminder to me of the many, many sacrifices that countless heroic men and women have made so that I may live in peace.
Remember, freedom isn't free.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Napa Valley Can't-Get-To-See-A-Film Festival.

Today, I decided to do something a little bit out of my normal routine:  I tried to attend a showing of a film at the Napa Valley Film Festival.  A new documentary, SOMM - the story of four men trying to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam - was having it's premier at the festival and I thought I might eventually like to see it given my interest in wine etc.  And could there be a better venue for the premier of a wine industry related film than the Napa Valley?  I arranged to go with a friend who'd purchased a pass to the entire 5 day long festival.  He was going to do some research for me;  find out the film's schedule, the price of a one-off ticket, meet me at the cinema - The Cameo, in St. Helena - save me a seat etc. That was the plan. Today was the day. The best made plans of...
The Cameo Cinema is a very small cinema, just some 140 seats, and I assumed this would be a popular film.  Pass holders queued to one side, the folks for rush tickets, Vinogirl included, to the other.  I was about 6 people back, so it was looking promising. My friend came from the pass holder queue to say a quick hello before being admitted into the cinema.  Not even 5 minutes later, he reappeared and informed me and my queue-mates that today was not going to be our lucky day.  Apparently, three rows of the tiny cinema had been reserved for some big wig and there simply weren't enough seats for everybody else. Day Pass holders with their $50, red laminated passes - now a badge of shame, like some modern day Scarlet Letter - who initially had been admitted were now being unceremoniously ushered back out on to Main Street, persona non grata-like.  These types of goings-on are a perfect example of why I don't normally attempt to do stuff like this. The Festival organisers can have all the private showings they desire, but I personally don't think they should treat pass holders this way. These type of events are definitely not intended for the average person, like me, who is only interested in seeing one film. I won't bother again.
Like the Master Sommelier exam, an exam with one of the lowest pass rates in the world, SOMM is turning out to be one of the most difficult films for wine industry folks to get to see.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Antipodes and South Africa.

Tonight's tour of the wine world takes me Down Under - at least it would if I was still in England - to Australia and New Zealand.  But not before a quick stop off in South Africa.
Despite the illustrious grapegrowing and winemaking traditions behind these three wine regions - wine grapes were planted in South Africa a good 100 years before California - I was a tad disappointed with the wines I tasted.  In fact, I found myself overwhelmingly unimpressed.  It's week 12 of my Wines of the World class and perhaps I'm a little jaded, after all I seem to recollect that I have enjoyed many quaffable Australian wines in the past.  So I am just going to mention one wine from each country that I think I could buy and drink without too much bother or fuss.
From South Africa, in spite of the wince-inducing pun in this wine's name, I quite enjoyed a Goats Do Roam, 2006 Goat-Roti (WO Coastal Region). Similar to a northern Rhône blend, this was an easy drinking wine. Hailing from New Zealand a Sauvignon blanc, of course, a Craggy Range, 2010 (Martinborough).  Heavy on the pyrazines, I could imagine myself drinking this very chilled on a very hot day.  And from Australia, a d'Arenburg, 2008 The Laughing Magpie (McLaren Vale) - a Rhône blend, again.
I photographed the Yalumba Viognier just because I liked the label with it's depiction of rootstocks, but I can add that this particular wine displayed strong varietal characteristics.  Of the 23 wines tasted tonight only one had a cork closure - a Lameka, 2009 The Marschall Shiraz (Barossa Valley) - suggestive of the notion that in the New World wine producers have thoroughly embraced new wine bottle closures.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A chicken rack.

Today, Vinomaker and I attended the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, 2012 Viticulture Fair, an event that is held every other year and one that I really wouldn't like to miss.  It's an entertaining and informative trade show with lots of things to see and do; bundles of baby vines, shiny tractors, mobile wind machines and tons of miscellaneous, innovative vineyard tools and equipment.  I usually bump into people I know who are in the wine industry and so I enjoy the social aspect of attending the fair also.  I was having a great time wandering around when something truly wonderful caught my eye.  Behold, the mother of all hen-houses!
The CoopMaster Chicken Coop is made in the USA by Western Square Industries (WSI), a company who specialises in, amongst other wine industry equipment  the manufacturing of barrel racks. Really good, stainless steel barrel racks.  In fact, whilst chatting, the WSI representative, who had apparently noticed my name tag, commented that "You," she was referring to TWWIAGE,  "just bought a rather large order of stainless racks."  Yes, we did.  2012 has been a bumper vintage, so we needed more racks to put under all the extra barrels we bought.
But getting back to the rooster-residence.  I have wanted to get a small flock of Gallus gallus domesticus for quite a while, but have been putting off getting them for a number of reasons.  The main reason was waiting until I felt V2 was mature enough to not go and worry the poor things to death. Whilst I don't eat a ton of eggs, I am English and I don't know any self-respecting English person who doesn't like a good chucky egg now and again.  Fresh eggs are unbeatable.
Just as easy as stainless steel barrel racks are to maintain, this steel, powder-coated chicken coop is constructed with the discerning chicken's style, welfare and hygiene in mind.  WSI calls this hen-house The Chicken's Hilton.  I want one.  Besides, what could possibly more perfect in Vinoland than a wine industry manufactured chicken condo in Vinogirl Red?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


Since last June, when I met Giovanni Arcari, a winemaker for Camossi in Franciacorta, I have been dying to get my hands on some of these little known wines from the Lombardy region of Italy.  Having a presentation on Franciacorta wines in my Wines of the World class further fueled my curiosity.
Fortunately, in a way, I have been out of Napa quite a lot of late and have been able to visit some proper wine stores, (with the demise of JV Wine & Spirits buying wine in Napa is no fun), where I was able to purchase this bottle of Contadi Castaldi NV Brut. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a bottle of Camossi, sigh.  So what is this northern Italian wine region, Franciacorta, all about?
Franciacorta is a small, hilly wine appellation on the southern shore of Lake Iseo, northeast of Milan and close to the city of Brescia.  The appellation gets it's name from the village of Corte Franca where, in the late middle ages, the local monasteries and abbeys enjoyed the luxury of not having to tithe to the ruling lords. Having produced still wines for centuries, it was not until the 1960s that the sparkling wine industry made its first appearance. Granted DOCG status in 1995, (since 2008, the still wines of Franciacorta are known as Corte Franca), Franciacorta wines are made in the true champagne-method.  In fact, if truth be told, the sparkling wines of Franciacorta are made under the most demanding standards for sparkling wine anywhere in the world; longer bottle aging on the lees, smaller yields in the vineyards etc.  The most popular style of wine is Brut (which allows up to 12g per litre of residual sugar), but Franciacorta's flagship style is called Satèn - a name conjured up by a marketing firm in Milan to convey the idea of silk and satin.  Satèn is made primarily from Chardonnay with a soft and creamy mousse, the result of lower pressure in the bottle - what would be called a crémant in France.  Currently, there are about 100 Franciacorta producers, 90% of whom would be considered small to medium in size, with most only producing 100,000 bottles per year.
Which brings me to the bottle of Contadi Castaldi I bought.  I love their little symbol-logo, it reminds me of medieval runes, or such-like, which are repeated in a cartouche on the glass up towards the neck of the bottle. The wine itself was a light straw colour which spoke of youthfulness and purity - interestingly though, I couldn't find the sboccatura date on the back label.  With a toasty fresh-fruit nose, a light and refreshing acidity, a whiff of lemon grass, apple skin and almonds, and a nice, clean finish, I was surprised at how large the bubbles were - portly, vigorous and authoritative - which, for me, instantly distinguished this wine from Champagne proper.  I want to try more.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Cadillac of wine: Bordeaux.

Week 11.  24 wines.
What can I say about Bordeaux that hasn't been said before? Perhaps the most hallowed fine-wine producing region on the face of the planet, Bordeaux is known mainly for it's elegant red wines, a smaller number of dry white wines and a relatively tiny production of the liquid-gold wines of Sauternes.  And of course, the biggest marketing coup of all time - the 1855 Classification of Great Growths of the Gironde.
On to the wines.  My favourite white wine of the evening was a Domaine de Tariquet, 2011 (AOC Côtes de Gascogne), a blend of four grape varities, but predominantly Ugni blanc which is a variety I am already quite fond of.  Most disappointing was a Château La Louvière, 2009 (AOC Pessac-Léognan), a 85% Sauvignon blanc/15% Sémillon blend which held such promise, but was ridiculously over-oaked.
The red wines on offer were a bit of a mixed bunch, but represented a fairly wide range within Bordeaux. And speaking of Cadillac, I did indeed taste a Château de la Meuliere, 2008 (AOC Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux) which was a very pleasant tipple.  I had two favourites in this flight.  The first was a Château Haut Mayne, 2010 (AOC Graves) and the other was a Le Clarence de Haut-brion, 2007 (AOC Pessac-Lèognan).  Both wines, to me, had a very similar nose and palate, but came at vastly different costs - $21.99 and $84.99 respectively - which reinforced the fact that an individual's taste in wine and wine-pricing do not go hand-in-hand.
Speaking of the cost of wine, the most expensive wine this evening was a Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, 2005 (AOC Pauillac) at $138.99 - a nice wine, but nowhere near my favourite.
The evening ended with a gem of a wine from the southern end of the Graves district - a Château Rieussec, 2006 (AOC Sauternes). Golden and sweet, and at the same time tart, this young wine was surprisingly appreciated by the entire class - a Bordeaux miracle.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween: 2012.

Nothing says Halloween like a cheap, plastic skeletal-hand adorned wine glass filled with a chilled to the bone Sauvignon blanc.
I scare myself sometimes.
Happy Halloween everybody!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Seeds of success.

Vinomaker and I pressed off our Syrah today and I am happy to report that the young wine looks great - fantastic colour extraction - and has a very fruit-forward aroma.  The general consensus in the valley this year, now that the majority of grapes have been harvested, is that 2012 is going to be a stellar vintage.
Perhaps, one more indication of how fantastic 2012 has been as a growing season is to take a quick peep inside, in this case, a Syrah berry.  Whilst four seeds is considered the perfect number of seeds in a grape, two is more normal - at least here in Vinoland.  Climatic and nutritional conditions at bloom can really affect the success of fertilisation in the embryonic grape, so to see four seeds is evidence that the vines were loving life at that particular stage of their development.
Of course, double the number of seeds also doubles the potential amount of seed-derived compounds in wine, some of which are undesirable in higher concentrations   That is why, when pressing off wine, it is important to press as gently as possible to avoid breaking the seeds and releasing any compounds non grata. Pity I can't personally squish every single berry by hand.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Give a dog a Côte de Beaune.

Tonight was week 10 of my Wines of the World class.  I got to explore wines from a rather large geographical area this evening: Champagne all the way down to the southern end of the Rhône Valley, but not before I had taken a mid-term examination - yikes! Not to worry, even by Dr. Krebs own admission the academic requirements for this class are the least of any other class in the entire Napa Vallege College viticulture programme - hic!  The mid-term taken, a Charles Heidsieck NV Brut Champagne was poured for the class to enjoy during an episode of  Hugh Johnson's Vintage: The History of Wine series titled 'The Slopes of Gold'.
Beginning with a clean, crisp Chablis my classmates and I were soon thoroughly immersed in all things Côte-d'Or.  My favourite amongst the Chardonnays was a Joseph Drouhin, 2007 (AOC Bourgogne) - a wine that by Burgundian standards is considered inferior to the Chardonnays of perhaps Meursault and the Montrachets, Chassagne and Puligny - it was simple, but delightful. Next up were the Pinot noirs, however there was not a single Romanée Conti to be had. The top wine in this flight was a Domaine Xavier Monnot, 2008 (AOC Volnay) Premier Cru.  Light-fruity-strawberryness, pleasant and innocuously drinkable there isn't too much for me to say about these wines, except one was a Brett-bomb.
And last, but not least, into the valley of the Rhône.  After a very moreish Domaine Faury, 2010 (AOC Saint Jospeh) - a fine blend of Marsanne and Rousanne - and a quaffable Chateau de Trinquevedel, 2011 (AOC Tavel) - I love a nice rosé of Grenache - we were off into the reds.  The reds included representations from the AOCs of Gigondas, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côte Rôtie, all really nice and really drinkable - notable was the Grandes Serres, 2010 (AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape).
Only 19 wines tonight, but 19 good 'uns!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Read the label.

Something a little different in work today - I labelled TWWIAGE's Premiere Napa Valley auction lot.  
Held back in February, Premiere Napa Valley is The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association's annual wine futures auction.   This year's auction saw 200 premium Napa Valley wine lots bring in $3.1 million in just 3 hours of bidding.   The proceeds from the auction are used by the NVV to promote and protect the Napa Valley AVA -  you know, they need ready cash for the usual stuff; law suits, lobbyists etc.
I think it's the sixth or seventh time I have volunteered to do this particular little job of applying labels supplied by NVV to 10 cases of shiners - bottles without labels - of a unique batch of TWWIAGE's wine.  I originally volunteered because nobody else wanted to do it, but I rather enjoy the process and don't mind doing it one bit.
Names have been removed to protect the guilty.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fermentation Frenzy: Part 2.

That's it, harvest 2012 is at an end - we picked our Cabernet Sauvignon today.  And not a moment too soon, I might add, as Vinoland is running out of places in which to ferment grapes. Photographed is just one of the rooms that Vinomaker has set aside for fermentations, in the off-season this room doubles as storage for winemaking equipment.
A great growing season has resulted in slightly larger yields than expected.  In addition to the bigger crop the fruit is of fantastic quality, so there is a lot to ferment.
Go little yeasties, do your stuff!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fermentation Frenzy: Part 1.

There are a lot of fermentations ongoing right now in Vinoland, including a 30 gallon batch of Chardonnay that was gifted to Vinomaker by a commercial winemaker friend.
It's not a secret in these parts that Vinomaker just loves Chardonnay.  I don't understand his fascination with this particular grape variety, but then wouldn't the world be an extremely boring place if we all had the same taste in wine? Vinomaker's yeast of choice to ferment the Chardonnay, is a Saccharomyces cerevisiae hybrid yeast from a unique breeding programme of the Institute for Wine Biotechnology at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa - Cross Evolution. Known to increase the mouthfeel component of white and rosé wines, Cross Evolution also enhances varietal characteristics and in Chardonnay tends to accentuate fresh fruit and floral aromas. Sounds good so far.  I have seen this yeast in action at TWWIAGE and it really gives quite a dramatic performance, working itself up into a veritable, bubbling frenzy.  But just look at the bubbles in the photograph, they are very small and uniform - most different from the other yeasts that Vinomaker has awakened from their freeze-dried slumber - appearing rather docile and really do not resemble the frothing, fermentation-fiend it is about to become.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A butt of Malmsey.

Week 9.  Portugal.  Number of wines, 23.  I'm not only tasting the wines of the mainland tonight, but also wines from the island of Madeira.
The evening started off with two very recognisable wines from producers Mateus and Lancers who happen to make more wine each year than all the other wine producers of Portugal combined. Next, a tour of white and red table wines revealed passable tipples that were quite fruity with low alcohol levels.
Unlike George Plantagenet, the 1st Duke of Clarence, who is said to have drowned in a butt (477.3 litres) of Malmsey, I was in no danger from the flight of Madeiras - with just a once ounce pour of each.  Considering how pleasant the 'aged 10 years' Malmsey proved to be, I must say that I can almost see the merit in choosing this way to meet ones (wine)maker, perhaps.
However, I really rather enjoyed the flight of Vinho do Porto (or just plain port to the English speaking world), especially a Porto Rocha, 2003, Vintage offering.  At 20% alcohol by volume one couldn't consume a lot of these ports, unlike the 9% alcohol by volume Vinho Verdes poured earlier in the evening.  But the wines of Oporto left me in no doubt as to why the English made such an effort, when faced with the scarcity of French wine imports into England, to go in search of wines elsewhere - and found the wines of the Douro. Clever lads!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Change in all things is sweet.

Indeed it is.  The metamorphosis from grape juice to wine is a sweet thing unto itself.  Just look at that colour extraction - and this Syrah juice is not even 24 hours old yet!  I just love Syrah, the grapevine and the wine.  And the grape juice's specific gravity? See for yourself.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The long and short of it.

Vinoland's Syrah is harvested!  After two sunless days, the weather today couldn't have been more perfect for picking.  A little chilly to begin with, the morning quickly warmed up to a very pleasant 74° F and stayed that way for the post harvest festivities.
The fruit is perfect this year and seems to be juicier than previous vintages.  The clusters also seem to be a little larger and more dense this year.  Of course, not as big as the clusters of Vinoland's Red Globe table grape (which I have photographed before), but then again, what is?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Last of the summer wine?

Most people know that English weather can be dreadful, right? Well, apparently 2012 - the entire year - will go down as one of the wettest and coolest years in history.  I know this first hand, as when I was home in April/May of this year the weather was abysmal.  And from regular emails from my brother, Thud.
So it didn't really surprise me when I was forwarded this article, which appeared in the Daily Mail about UK wine production, from Thud with an added personal note about his dairy-farming neighbour's predicament: "The news is full of farmers showing their rotten crops etc.  Donald's maize here is under water and he has no idea how he will feed his cows over the winter..."  When we have had such a great 2012 growing season in Northern California, it makes me sad to think of any English grapegrower struggling all summer long to tend to grapes whose ultimate destiny is to become compost.
I have had several different English wines, including a sparkling wine from Nyetimber, and I think English winemakers do an admirable, palatable job - especially when thwarted by unsavoury climatic goings-on that must be trying any year when compared to the mostly reliable conditions here in the Napa Valley.  Good luck next year folks.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vinos de España.

Oh tonight I'm off to sunny Spain...
It's week 8 of my Wines of the World class and this evening I did indeed partake of the wines of Spain.  Tonight's tasting was a straight forward affair. The 24 Spanish wines selected for my oenological tour of Spain - a country which has more land under vine than anywhere else in the world and is yet only ranked third by production volume - ran the gamut from light, dry white wines to heavy, alcoholic reds.  And then there was the sherry flight.
My favourite amongst the whites was a Condes de Albarei, 2010 Albariño (DO Rias Baixas) and amongst the reds an Artazuri, 2008 Garnacha (DO Navarra).  My fellow classmates generally seemed to be happy with the selection of DOC Riojas, no doubt due to the liberal use of oak, whilst in that particular flight I preferred a 100% Tempranillo from the Ribero del Duero DO.
The sherry flight, comprised of 6 wines, was eye-opening: these were not my grandmother's chosen Christmas tipple of Harveys Bristol Cream. Ranging from pale, fruity, crisp and dry - a Lustau Manzanilla - to tawny, smooth, nutty and superbly balanced - a Lustau East India Solera - these wines were, above anything else, highly aromatic.  I have to confess, I would never have thought to try a glass of sherry of my own volition, so I'll always have this class to thank for broadening my horizons.  Of course, like the rest of me, my palate may just be maturing.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


At seemingly the same rate that the sugar in Vinoland's grapes is increasing, the local avian population are increasingly looking fat and happy.  But the realisation that the number of grape clusters available to Vinomaker, to make into wine, is going down at almost the same pace that the °Brix in the grapes is going up, is not actually my eureka moment.
No one will remember, but back at the beginning of 2011 I had a viticultural epiphany.  I decided I would focus all my pruning know-how towards altering the relative maturation rate of Vinoland's Clone 4 Cabernet Sauvignon (CS).  I planned to do this by flipping the order of pruning the CS with that of the Syrah.  I had no idea at that point that 2011 would turn out to be such a peculiarly cool year in which to try such an experiment.  Roll on 2012.
This year has been the perfect growing season thus far - and it's nearly at an end.  The past two weeks of sugar sampling has revealed a not before seen phenomenon in Vinoland: the °Brix in the CS is ahead of that in the Syrah.  Today saw 24.2 °B in the CS and only 23.4 °B in the Syrah - the Syrah that is usually ready to harvest at least two weeks prior to the CS. Both grape varieties had progressed exactly 2 °B since this time last week.  Of course, sugar is not the only factor in determining when the fruit is ready to be harvested, but it is a very useful indicator.
So eureka!  Pruning a little earlier does indeed seem to bring about earlier phenological maturity.  At least it does in my mini Petri dish that is Vinoland.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Stripped off.

The folks at Far Niente were busy diligently leaf pulling today in preparation for their Chardonnay harvest (or at least in this vineyard).  It's a tiny bit earlier than last year, but then 2012 overall has been a more even growing season compared to that of 2011.
The beginning of this week saw temperatures in the high 90s here in Vinoland.  Today it was just 75°F, partly overcast and rather breezy - what a difference.  The cooler weather will slow the sugars down a tad in our Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah vines, but I won't have any specific data until I do a sugar sampling on Sunday.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

My mini Vinitaly.

Week 7.  Tonight my class and I went Italia!  From sparkling to fortified, we had 26 wines to taste through.  So after a short film about Phylloxera, accompanied by a Spumante and a Moscato d'Asti, we were off.
The grumblings began with the very first still, white wine which was a 2010 Sardinian Vermentino from producer Arigolas which was just charming - or so I thought.  Dr. Krebs, yet again, had to point out that not all wines of the world are made in Napa's image. And that, like the wines of Spain and Portugal, Italian wines are really intended as an accompaniment to food.  So someone piped in and suggested that the Vermentino might pair well with calamari, at which point the professor regaled us with a story of meeting a model, down in San Diego in the 70s, who had posed for the International Calamari Council's (or something like that) industry calendar wearing nothing but calamari.  He never did find out which month she had been!
There were several standout wines for me tonight.  Amongst the whites, besides the Vermentino, I enjoyed a Sicilian Notalusa, 2009 Grillo and a Campanian Feudi di San Gregorio, 2010 Falanghina. My preferred reds of the evening included; a Terre dei Sicani, 2008 Nero d'Avola (IGT Sicily); a Luisi, 2010 Barbera (DOC Asti); a Zenato, 2007 Amarone (DOC Valpolicella); a Fattoria del Cerro, 2008 'Vino Nobile' (DOGC Montepulciano);  and, last but not least, my favourite of the night, a Rivetto, 2008 Barolo (DOCG Serralunga).  Not surprisingly, the majority of the class enjoyed a Ponti, 2009 'Super Tuscan' (IGT Toscano) priced at $120.99.  Of course they did, it was the wine that was most Napa-like!

Monday, October 01, 2012

It's V2's birthday!

Today is Vinodog 2's 5th birthday, whoo hoo!
V2 is a wonderful dog and deserves to have an enjoyable birthday. She's quirky, funny and very intelligent.  I'm sure she'll enjoy the couple of squeaky toys I got her as birthday pressies.  She's a great dog.
Happy birthday V2!

Saturday, September 29, 2012


I used to blame the appearance of the lurid purple splodges that show up on my car this time of year on birds bingeing on ripening Syrah grapes and then dumping their highly pigmented excreta onto my unsuspecting vehicle's paint-job.  I now know that the source of the purple-black splatter is instead courtesy of my feathered friends scoffing down the berries of Common Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana).
In the southern states, young pokeweed shoots are prepared and consumed as a vegetable despite the fact that the plant contains, amongst other harmful compounds, oxalates that can be fatally toxic to humans.  Also known as inkberry this is a relatively tall plant, much taller than me, whose foliage has a rather objectionable pong.
Thank goodness there is only one pokeweed growing in Vinoland, otherwise there would be no room for vines, dogs or anything else for that matter.  And I can't imagine what else would get peppered by poop!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A racy tasting.

Week 6 and my taste buds are aching!
Eastern Europe was the destination of my Wines of the World class tonight.  I, somewhat stoically I might add, tasted my way through the wines of Georgia, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Moldova.  Oh, and Israel - 21 wines in all.
Some of the wines were quite nice, for instance, a 2006 Yarden Merlot hailing from the Golan Heights region of Israel was rather decent.  Some of the wines were truly awful, here, a special mention has to be given to Serbian producer Rubin ad Krusevac for two of their wines, Czarina Milica and Czar Lazar, both non-vintage reds.  The highlight of the evening for me was a 2007 Royal Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos - smooth, unctuous and just plain delicious. Interestingly, the evening's wine selection also featured a 2010 light, dry white table wine from producer Olympia, which was made from the Furmint grape variety, a grape more famous for being the botrytised grape that goes into Tokaji's dessert wines.  This easy drinking white was pleasingly palatable.
I and my fellow students really had to race our way through the Eastern Bloc as the first 30 minutes of tonight's session featured a special presentation of some methode traditionnelle champenoise bubbles from the Lombardy region of Italy.  Paul Wagner, an instructor at NVC and owner of Balzac Communications, has amongst his clients the sparkling winemakers of Franciacorta. With all the oily glibness of a used car salesman, Mr. Wagner took us on a fuel-injected, Ferrari-like, PowerPoint aided tour of the Franciacorta region, it's people and it's wines - including a speed-tasting of four wines.  Twee comparisons of Renault automobiles and Champagne versus Lamborghinis and Franciacorta were thrown about with reckless abandon.  It was all a bit too much, but I must admit I did find a Berlucchi 2008 Brut Rosé to be a very, very nicely put together wine, followed by a La Montina NV Brut.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Move over California.

I just couldn't do it.  I could not limit myself to only drinking California wines this month.  I've gone Français, yet again.
California Wine Month 2012 has been a non-starter.  What had the potential of being a great marketing tool for California wines fizzled and sputtered into oblivion.  This blog was perhaps one of only a few places to even mention California Wine Month's existence.  The whole concept was generally met with great apathy the few times I brought it up in conversation with various folk.  I won't bother mentioning it next year.  So jettisoning my well meant intentions, I reverted to imbibing in an old favourite rosé when I was craving something pink the other night.
The 2011 Château Routas Rouvière is a blend of 45% Cinsault, 35% Grenache and 20% Syrah.  With a pleasing aroma of red currant, pear and fresh mint leaves this really is just a wonderful wine.  At 13% alcohol and with wonderfully balanced acidity I treated myself to 2 glasses.  And to be had for the paltry sum of $9.07 at BevMo it was a steal.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Once more unto the breach.

Yes, it's that time of year again.  A gorgeous autumnal day, albeit a slightly longer and busier day than anticipated, heralded the beginning of the 2012 harvest in Vinoland.  A day that saw Vinogirl and the Vinodogs in all their gloriously, sticky foolishness.  And Vinomaker happily employing his new Zambelli destemmer.
All good fun!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Autumn.

Today is the autumnal equinox.
I don't usually like to participate in an England versus USA spat, but I really, really dislike the word fall - it's so infantile.
Fear not little Orange Muscat grapes, you may look a little worse for wear, (but you taste great) for tomorrow we pick.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sprechen sie wein?

It's week 5 of my Wines of the World class.  Tonight found me and my fellow students traipsing through the cool-climate vineyards of Austria and Germany.  With 17 wines being poured again this session, I had some exploring to do.  After allowing myself a brief, internal titter in reminiscing about the Austrian wine industry's diethylene glycol scandal of 1985, I immersed myself in the task at hand.  It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it!
Even though these two countries more or less share the same language, I found the wines of Austria and Germany to be quite different, at least that is what seemed to be the case in the sampling of Teutonic wines being offered.  You don't have to be conversant in the lingo to understand German weins although one particular German word did keep popping into my mind.  Not surprisingly, that word was zucker.
Overall, the German wines displayed just a tad too much sweetness for my palate.  I did however enjoy a Mönchhof 2009 Spätlese Riesling which showed a perspicaciously finessed balance of sugar and acid.  My favourite wine of the evening turned out to be Austrian, a Laurenz 2011 Grüner Veltliner which was clean and fresh with a subtle white peachy-spiciness.  And it was dry.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Just desserts?

I spent yesterday performing some odds and ends in the vineyard operations department - sugar-testing and field-budding - but today I spent a little time in the oenology department - bottling Vinoland's small batch of 2011 late harvest Orange Muscat.
This little pet-project of Vinomaker's has resulted in a very agreeable late harvest tipple (as opposed to a dessert wine).  It is a well balanced marriage of sugar and acid that is not in the least syrupy, or cloying, as one might expect of a wine with residual sugar.  Instead, this wine is fresh and lively with a distinct aroma of, well, orange blossom - fancy that!  We decided to put it in 375 ml  bottles...a little goes a long way.