Thursday, June 28, 2012

A rosy occupation.

Today, the second bottling event of Vinoland's 2012 bottling season was successfully executed.  The St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon (clone 7) and the Stags Leap District Cabernet Franc (unknown clone) are now resting in antique green Bordeaux bottles, whilst snuggling up to a natural cork.  The grapegrowers departed Vinoland well pleased with their vinous plunder-laden pickups.
Also bottled was a delightful saignée of the aforementioned Cabernet Sauvignon.  A perfectly balanced, deeply hued, expression of a Cabernet Sauvignon rosé.
Job well done, Vinomaker.

Friday, June 22, 2012

2B, or not to be, in Napa.

Tonight I had the pleasure of meeting  Dr. Jeremey Parzen who is the author of one of my very favourite blogs, Do Bianchi. Accompanied by his Italian buddy, winemaker Giovanni Arcari (pictured at left), Jeremy took time, out of his busy meeting filled day, to drive up to Yountville (where I was representing TWWIAGE at a private event hosted at Brix Restaurant), to say a quick hello.  It was short and sweet, but really nice to meet a fellow blogger.  Thanks 2B.
Did you know that there is no Italian word for bromance?  Me neither.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Vinoland, my tiny corner of vineyard heaven, is a pretty healthy place. Any regular visitor to Vinsanity can probably deduce from the various posts I pen about wildflowers, weeds and creepy crawlies that the flora and fauna here are rather diverse. Of all Vinoland's cultivated ornamental plants, lavender grows particularly well and attracts copious numbers of bumble bees and honey bees.  The bees whilst not necessary for the pollination of grape-flowers are beneficial to every other flowering plant on the property.  Vinoland is certainly no monoculture.  
Sustaining the health of the vineyard, through cover-cropping and composting etc., is of the utmost importance.  In winter, when the vines are dormant, Vinomaker will apply a narrow strip of herbicide directly beneath the vines to discourage unwanted weeds from becoming a problem later in the growing season.  This means that Vinoland could not be certified organic, but is instead sustainably farmed.  However, I think this method of weed eradication is much preferred over repeatedly driving a tractor, with a French plow attached, through the vines burning diesel and compacting the vineyard soil in the process - not good.  Also, Vinoland is far from being biodynamic as I personally don't work to an astronomical timetable.
Yesterday, whilst trying to catch up on a weeks worth of Napa Valley Register articles that Vinomaker had put aside for me, I spotted this story: Purple haze - Harms Lavender Fields hosts annual open house. Well, I like lavender, and I love Jimi Hendrix, so I read on.  There is, apparently, a farm in north Napa that was originally planted all to vines, but now includes 1.5 acres of several different lavender varieties. In 1999, experiencing farming difficulties and facing possible financial ruin the owners of the land sought help from a consultant who, upon examining an offending block of vines that would not ripen, advocated biodynamic agricultural techniques as a solution. Soon after adopting biodynamics, the Virgin Mary appeared and the vineyard owner observed that  "...The vines progressed through six weeks of ripening in just 10 days."  Really?  Well actually no, I made up the viticultural-visitation bit, but I think somebody else made up the viticultural-miracle bit.  Methinks some fantastical wizardry, other than simply embracing biodynamic farming, would have to be employed to produce such sensational physiological results in any fruit bearing plant.  
Like I said, codswallop!   
Have a happy solstice everyone!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Of the fields.

I was very surprised today to see a small stand of large hop clover (Trifolium campestre) still growing in Vinoland.  A native of Europe, this cool-season clover should be just about at an end for 2012. With it's distinctive hop flower-like blooms already beginning to turn brown as they go to seed, the days on which an industrious ladybird can clamber over this clover's cheery-looking flowers are well and truly numbered.  Never mind, this beneficial legume will hopefully be back next year to continue to work it's nitrogen-fixing magic on Vinoland's soil.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Just because 6...

...I love dogs, and I love England.  And just because today happens to be Queen Elizabeth's official birthday (her real birthday is the 21st of April). But it is with a certain royal Mendelian experiment that this post is primarily concerned.
The Queen of England has long been associated with the Welsh Corgi and is pictured above with her own first corgi Susan, an eighteenth birthday present for the then Princess Elizabeth. Decades later a descendant of Susan's, a corgi named Tiny, accidentally I hope, bred with Pipkin a dachshund owned by Princess Margaret.  The result of this little genetic mishap?  Enter the dorgi.
At the time, not wanting to openly appear offended by this travesty of mongreldom delivered upon them by their monarch and patron, The Kennel Club released this statement:  "The dachshund was evolved to chase badgers down holes, and the corgi to round up cattle.  If anyone loses a herd of cattle down a badger hole, then these are just the dogs to get them out."  Love it!
Happy Birthday QE II.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The incredible cork.

The first bottling event of Vinoland's bottling season went without a hitch today.  Vinomaker has been busy all week sourcing pallets of Burgundy style bottles (for a 2010 Sonoma Syrah) and vacuum-sealed bags of SO2 treated corks.
Whilst I do appreciate the incontrovertible simplicity of a screw cap closure (on an inexpensive white wine perhaps), I am a big fan of cork - I think I've mentioned that before.  Screw caps are perhaps the perfect wine-bottle closure in technical terms, but I still favour the age old tradition of a natural cork closure.  Call me old-fashioned.
Someone once advocated to me the use of crown caps for wine bottles (especially for home-winemaking), the very same closure as one would find atop a beer bottle. Far fetched?  Hardly, considering even the very finest champagnes on the planet are sealed with crown caps all the way through tirage and remuage etc.  I can imagine dégorgement would be much more difficult a process if dealing with a cork.
Funny, suddenly I feel like a glass of something bubbly.  Beer, or champagne?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Half hitched.

This is a little bit of overkill in the tendril department, but that's Pinot grigio for you.  This particular grapevine is making a statement - it's not going anywhere!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Fruit set: Pinot grigio.

With a diameter of about 4 mm, these baby Pinot grigio grapes seem to be really enjoying Napa's favourable, for grape-growing, climatic conditions - definitely over those of 2011.  Fruit set, aided by dry weather during bloom, looks great.  The 2012 vintage looks promising, so far.
Funny, suddenly I feel like a glass of Pinot grigio.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The state of the union?

The state of this Cabernet sauvignon graft union is rather good: the cambium of the stock and that of the scion appear to be calloused perfectly.
I have been busy performing some odds and ends of vineyard operations the past couple of days, which has included the training up of a few Cabernet and Syrah vines that I field-budded last September.  Meanwhile, Vinomaker has been entertaining himself by replacing broken valves, and failed drip irrigation hose and emitters, to ensure that the vines will have an adequate water supply during the coming summer months.  Although, Vinomaker didn't seem that entertained.  I think I got the better of the vineyard chores.  Sorry Vinomaker!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

A jubilee jamboree!

In spite of the dreadful English weather, Britons turned out today in their millions to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee.  Besides getting an email from Thud about the awful weather at home, I had to laugh at this NBC News report:  "Black clouds, gusting winds and often torrential rain - the hallmarks of a British summer outdoor event - were unable to darken the magnificence of the display, although several people were treated for hypothermia."  So all in all, a typical English summer day.
Here in Vinoland the celebrations went without a hitch and under much better climatic conditions.  With an English reinforcement, the School Teacher, a selection of English, Welsh and Scottish cheeses were consumed (with Jacob's Cream Crackers, of course), all washed down with a bottle or two of Newcastle Summer Ale.  
A good time, under the warm California sun, was had by all.

Saturday, June 02, 2012


This weekend marks the occurrence of the 32nd annual, larger-than-wine spectacular that is Auction Napa Valley. Proceeds from the four day event are donated, by the Napa Valley Vintners, to local nonprofits.  It's a good weekend for me to stay well away from the valley's two main thoroughfares and concentrate on my jubilee celebrations at home.
Wake me up when it's over...

Friday, June 01, 2012

Keep calm and drink wine.

Happy Friday!  Happy first day of June!  I'm feeling in a celebratory mood.
This weekend, with a little pomp and circumstance, I'm going to join in the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne, from my little corner of California.
Sixty years, that's quite an achievement.  During her long reign Elizabeth II has managed to remain calm - suffering through bothersome in-laws, ever diminishing dominions, the waxing and waning of the monarchy's popularity and her famous annus horribilis - which I'd like to think could possibly be attributed to drinking wine. However, I hear the Queen often favours martinis over first-growth clarets.  But still, I bet she has a more than passable collection of Bordeaux in the cellars beneath Buckingham Palace.
So with my Union Jack embellished serviettes, fairy cake cases and yards and yards of bunting I'm ready for a party in Vinoland.
Deus servo Regina.