Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wine Train crossing.

On the way home from work tonight, I had to stop on Jefferson Street in order to let the Wine Train cross traffic.  It was hot and I was tired, but I didn't really mind because I'm quite fond of trains and I like seeing this particular train in action.  Besides, it was fun to see the happy, most probably inebriated, tourists hanging off the end car waving to anybody and everybody in the hopes that someone might possibly wave back.  So, I waved.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

I fibbed.  I said I wasn't going to bore anyone with yet another picture of bloom, but it's just such a fascinating time out in the vineyard that I couldn't help myself.  So, sue me!
Vinoland's Syrah vines are about 10% into bloom, not much I know, but it's a start.  Unfortunately, it rained today.  Not a lot, but three rather heavy cloudburst-like showers which were enough to send the Vinodogs and me running for cover in the barn each time. Vinomaker had just sprayed the vines with sulphur on Wednesday morning, so this rain event was particularly badly timed.
I hope this vintage is not going to be like 2011: a vintage in which Mother Nature roundly reminded the Napa Valley's winegrowers, by way of delivering rainy weather through to the very end of June, just who is boss.  Natural crop control at it's finest?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Another semester is at an end.

I had my photography final tonight.  I was a little nervous that my prints were not going to be good enough, but it turned out that I had nothing to worry about.  Once my images were tacked up onto the classroom wall they made a fairly strong and cohesive storyline - the River Mersey - and were well received.  My fellow students are all pretty good photographers and I was glad that my work was up to their standards.
I don't know yet if I am going to take the next darkroom photography class in the fall semester.  It's hard getting to class two nights a week after work and quite frankly I am running out of ideas.  But instead of worrying about it tonight I decided to just celebrate being out of school with a glass of bubbly...and pretty soon  I wasn't worrying about anything.  For the time being, I'll just enjoy the summer.
Also, thanks to Thud and Monkey for suggesting I take a photograph of this half sunken boat.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunny Sunday.

And indeed it was a lovely, sunny Sunday in Vinoland (until around 6.30 pm when the annular solar eclipse made the light quality very weird).
I spent the majority of the weekend stuffing shoots and suckering the trunks of the Cabernet sauvignon vines. It's a bit of a boring vineyard operation, but the Vinodogs generally keep me company and amused. After breakfast I took a walk through the Pinot grigio block and noticed that bloom has begun.  So, I went and checked the Orange muscat vines, but nothing is happening with them yet. Not wanting to bore anyone with yet another photograph of a grape flower, I decided instead to use an image of a Yellow Mariposa Lily (Calochortus luteus) that I spotted, blooming above the vines, as I ambled about Vinoland.  I also found a couple of other wildflowers that I am fond of - fodder for future posts methinks.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Chef's Market.

Tonight was the beginning of the 2012 Chef's Market season in downtown Napa, so Vinomaker and I, along with a couple of friends, ventured into town to grab a little something to eat and a glass of vino.  The event, which is held every Thursday evening through the summer months, entails several downtown Napa streets being blocked off and pedestrianised so that attendees can have free run of the locales surrounding First Street.  Beer and wine tents are dotted here and there throughout the area; one side street is dedicated to food trucks, another to children's activities and yet another to a traditional farmer's market.  There are cooking demonstrations, three stages of live music and lots of vendors selling anything from art to olive oil.
After walking the entire length of the Chef's Market to get a quick overview of what was on offer this week, and chatting to some friends I bumped into, it was time to eat.  I settled on a beef empanada (a Mexican pasty, basically) which I paired with a serviceable red wine - The Third Bottle from Gustavo Thrace.
I took quite a few photographs of the crowd, the vendors, the downtown Napa buildings, baskets piled high with produce etc., in order to see which image would best illustrate my post.  It was only when I was leaving First Street that I spotted this British racing green convertible Mini, replete with a pair of Wirehaired Pointing Griffon sentinels who let me stroke them, that I knew which pic to use.  
If only the Vinodogs were so well trained!
Photo taken with Instagram for Android.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rate My Sausage.

Everybody likes a nice sausage, right?  If you have a couple of spare minutes today click on this (sausage) link (d'ya get it?) and have a peep at my guest post on  Rate My Sausage - a blog devoted to all things saucisson.
And if you happen to be in downtown Napa, or San Francisco, stop by The Fatted Calf Charcuterie and treat yourself to something deliciously meaty.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Afternoon in the Vineyards: 2012.

The 12th annual Afternoon in the Vineyards is being held today. At five different vineyards, from Napa to St. Helena, attendees get to rub shoulders with viticulturists, winemakers and vineyard owners if so inclined.
It's a great event, meant specifically for locals, and is hosted by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and the Napa Valley Vintners.
It's free, the weather is gorgeous, there is wine to be had, and one can get to act like an ü me.  And, if I'm in attendance it means I'm not out in my vineyard stuffing shoots!   What's not to love about such an event?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

All stuffed up.

I might have been on holiday, but the grapevines haven't.  There is a lot to do right now out in the vineyard;  suckering the trunks, thinning out the heads and stuffing the shoots into the trellis wires. When I have gently coaxed all the shoots under the first trellis wire the vines will be all stuffed up, just like me, as I returned from Blighty with a nasty virus that has been totally enfeebling.
The weather was pretty nice in Vinoland whilst I was away, glorious by English standards.  The vines all look healthy, verdant and vigorous - and virus free, unlike me.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The leaving of Liverpool: 2012.

Well, once again it is time to take leave of my home-city.  Thus, in the immortal words of Gerry Marsden:
So ferry 'cross the Mersey
And always take me there
The place I love.
See you next year Liverpool.
California, here I come!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Ba, ba, ba, ba, Barbaresco... my glass.
A fairly decent wine, consumed over two nights.  A little tight and uninviting on the nose the first night, this wine really opened up on the second.  Medium bodied and definitely displaying the distinct bouquet of roses and liquorice, as promised on the front label, it went very well with the steak on my plate.  Yum!   

Sunday, May 06, 2012


With the closure of Napa's one decent wine shop imminent, J V Wine & Spirits, the availability of any wines in Napa other than local wines will be severely limited.  I mean, where will I now get my supply of Inama Soave and other Italian, and Spanish, wines? The wine selection in the local Whole Foods store is OK, but I really don't feel like paying Whole Foods prices, commonly referred to as Whole Pay-Cheque, all the time.  I admit, I've been a bit spoiled by taking advantage of the generous inter-winery discounts that local wineries extend to industry personnel and I buy a lot of wine directly from the producers.
With the wine-retail experience on my mind, I stopped off at Thud's local Majestic Wine Warehouse today to have a peek at what they had to offer. Majestic is the UK's biggest wine retailer that specialises in selling mixed wines by the case, or the half-case. Seeing as I didn't want to buy six bottles of wine I left without purchasing anything, but I did have a chat to a very well informed assistant who seemed to know his stuff - and was a little impressed with the fact that I worked at a winery in the Napa Valley.  The selection was fair, the prices seemed reasonable and the assortment of California wines was slim - as expected (although a Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 2009 Karia Chardonnay was a bit of a surprise).
With Majestic close by, and also a branch of the Cork's Out chain, and the wine departments in supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's, Thud has a larger choice of outlets at which to procure wine than I do.  Surely there's something wrong with this picture.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Earth to Vinogirl.

My posts have been a bit sparse, I know - thank you BT.
I can't remember the last time I was without internet access for a solid 3 days, probably never.  I have become so used to being able to get online at the drop of a hat that being without the abilitity to instantly look up an unspecified, useful only to me, morsel of minutiae was quite disconcerting.  More disturbing was the little issue of it being a bank holiday weekend here in Blighty and BT informing Thud that internet service could possibly be down until Wednesday. Yikes!  Thank goodness the worst possible case scenario did not materialise.
The other day, Thud whipped up a fairly quick Bolognese-meatball-fettucine dish which we paired with a bottle of 2010 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo La Francese - part of the Tesco Finest line. Made from the Montepulciano grape this young wine was surprisingly very tannic and did not open up one iota during the course of our meal.  There was certainly a hint of bitter black cherries and vanilla-spiciness, but these flavours were suggestions only and did not develop into anything.  The left over wine became wine-ice cubes...lots of them.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Happy May Day.

Out for a walk with Thud, I spotted this seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) loitering around on a hedge of common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) that enclosed a newly ploughed field.  One would be forgiven for thinking this a very pastoral, appropriately spring-like image, except for the fact that it was rather chilly on our ramble. This is spring English-style after all.
The ladybird seems to have an extra half-spot on it's right wing (only I could find an abnormal ladybird to photograph), so it's really a seven-and-a-half-spot ladybird.
Mutant insects and cold spring weather...there's no place like home.