Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012 Wine Blog Awards.

The organisers of the Wine Blog Awards sent me a finalist logo yesterday to display on Vinsanity - "if you like" they added.  It is again nice to be simply nominated for this fun award, albeit in a different category this time.  Trouble is the voting ends today, the 26th of July. So vote today, if you like.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let the games begin!

No, not the Olympic Summer Games of 2012: the Family Summer Fun Games.
I picked Family OTW up yesterday evening at SFO and in just a little more than 24 hours they all seem to be fully relaxed and thoroughly enjoying the California sun.
I did compete in one endurance race today though...trying to catch a very speedy 15 month old, clad in nothing but a GB/Union Jack nappy, for a quick photo op.  I'm pooped!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blue Plate Special.

Once upon a time, Chenin blanc was the most widely planted grape cultivar in California.  These days it's almost impossible to find a bottle of this appealing white wine which has it's origins in the Vouvray appellation in the Touraine district of the Loire.
Blue Plate Chenin blanc, is the creation of three wine-loving friends - Grant Hemingway, Jeff Anderson and Zach Bryant collectively plying their respective trades of viticulturist, marketer and winemaker as Picnic Wine Company - who source their grapes from a vineyard in the Clarksburg AVA which is located in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Featuring an original piece of artwork on the label, by artist Julia Zmed, Blue Plate's first vintage in 2010 was a blend of Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay and retailed for a very reasonable $10.  The 2011, in my opinion is better than the first vintage, contains no Chardonnay (yay!), and retails for a still reasonable sum of $11.  Just 12 % alcohol (yay again!).  No oak. No ML. Plenty of drinkability with it's soft-peachy-fruitiness, this is a charming glass of wine.  
I think I may have found my new summer white.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In praise of photosynthesis.

As I look out, from where I sit, at the verdancy that is Vinoland's grapevines, I can't help but wonder at the small miracle that is photosynthesis.  Sure, I mostly understand the soil chemistry that provides the mineral nutrients that aid in the production of plant materials such as cambium, leaves and fruit.  I get the importance of water - for all living things.  And I can actually feel the energy from the sun - in the form of sensible heat as I raise my face to the sky - so I grasp the role of light energy in the synthesis of raw materials into elaborated compounds.  Still, it never ceases to amaze me that the mass of plant material that I can see out in the vineyard seemingly sprang, almost impossibly, from my pruned and skeletal dormant winter vines.
Perhaps it is the not so lowly plant cell, or an ensemble of cells that form as tissue to perform specific functions, that I should be lauding instead: Cells that provide the intricate, physical structure of the vine and perform complex, chemical transformations within the vine.  For instance, the vascular system of the vine which provides mechanical structure, but whose chief function is to conduct mineral nutrients, water and compounds throughout the entire plant.  Or the tightly packed party-in-a-plant palisade cells whose gathering loci (calling all chloroplasts) are the primary site of photosynthesis.  And let's not forget the spongy mesophyll, the primary leaf tissue.  Well, actually I just like it's name: say it after me, spon-gy mes-o-phyll.
In the late afternoon sun, this Syrah vine is not baring its teeth in a malicious way.  Instead, the leaf blade is showing off its hydathodes - specialised secretory tissues that purge toxins from the vine - and is smiling right along with me, in praise of photosynthesis.
Aren't grapevines great?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A favourite moth.

Everyone has a favourite moth, right?  No?  Well, I'm shocked.  I do, and so does Vinomaker.  Whilst Vinomaker is quite partial to the Polyphemus moth (Antherea polyphemus), I like something a little more moth-sized...not bread plate-sized.  The Plume moth (Hellinsia homodactyla), or T-shaped moth as I usually call it, is just so funny looking that I can't help but like it.  These moths spend their time, quite happy it seems, amongst my potted herbs and annuals, until I disturb them by giving them an unsolicited daily shower.  This particular moth temporarily removed itself to a nearby hydrangea and waited, patiently, until I was finished watering.  Vinoland is such a diverse, happy place.
Hurt no living thing: 
Ladybird, nor butterfly, 
Nor moth with dusty wing.  C.G. Rossetti.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Achaia Clauss: Vin de Pays du Peloponnese.

Whilst doing a bit of (late) spring cleaning I came across this empty bottle.  It sort of ties in with my most recent posts about older wines - except this wine wasn't old when I purchased it (on Ithaca, or perhaps Cephalonia).  Carried all the way back to California, via Liverpool, I have fond memories of sharing this light-lemony-lovely wine with Vinomaker.  A blend of Roditis, Chardonnay and Ugni blanc, at only 11 % alcohol this was a very enjoyable tipple.
The good thing about wine is that you buy it, you consume it, it's gone, it doesn't gather dust.  We humans tend to hold on to too much stuff.  This bottle is now history:  you can't take it with you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More Martini.

So what was in Vinogirl's six-pack?  Well, amongst other wines, there was this bottle of 1984 Louis M. Martini, Monte Rosso, Sonoma Cabernet sauvignon.  Not nearly as attractive a label as on the 1979, this bottle had a decidedly 80s style to it and was, quite frankly, rather ugly.  But how about the wine inside? 
At 13.8% the alcohol was a bit higher than the 1979 (written as a decimal this time around), but it mattered little.  This was a fabulous wine; deep garnet-red, gentle mouth-watering acidity, soft and silky tannins (as can only be acquired by bottle aging a wine for 28 years), luscious brambly hedge-warm-off-the-bush blackberries, a hint of spice (the mustiness of white pepper, perhaps?) and a still persistent tannic finish.  To be expected, as ethanol becomes oxidised with age, there was a whiff of acetaldehyde, but really not enough to be a flaw:  the level of acetaldehyde I detected was just enough to be salutary to the wine's overall complexity.  Paired with a rare New York strip, piled high with sautéed mushrooms and onions, this wine was simply delightful.  I had to stop myself from finishing the whole bottle.
A thank you to my employers at TWWIAGE for cellaring this wine perfectly, just for me.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

True Wine Lover 13.

Recently, the owners of TWWIAGE decided to do a bit of wine-library spring cleaning, which resulted in all of the staff receiving six-packs of miscellaneous wines.  In the Marketing Queen's (MQ) six-pack was the above pictured bottle of a 1979 Louis M. Martini, Monte Rosso, Sonoma Cabernet sauvignon.  The MQ brought the empty bottle into work to show me as she thought I would like the label, and I did.  The colourful pastoral scene on the front label is delightful in it's simplicity and the verbiage on the back label is pretty much the same marketing spiel that wineries still use to this day.  And just look at the alcohol - 12 1/2%, written as a fraction, not as a decimal.  But how did this 1979 wine taste?  "Delicious" was the MQ's answer: almost 33 years later this wine apparently still had a lot to offer.
Louis M. Martini, born in 1887 in Pietra Ligure, Italy, was just 12 years old when he traveled alone to join his father in the USA. Agostino Martini was a fisherman in San Francisco and the young Louis began working alongside his father selling seafood from a cart.  Louis first made wine with his father in a small shed behind the family home in 1906.  Agostino sent his son back to Italy where Louis studied oenology at the University d'Alba.  He returned from Italy in 1911 determined to pursue his passion and make a living as a winemaker.  
In 1922, Louis founded the Louis M. Martini Grape Products Company in Kingsburg, California.  During the Prohibition era, the company thrived by producing medicinal and sacramental wine, and by also selling boxes of  'Forbidden Fruit' - with the express instructions:  "Do not add water, yeast and sugar or fermentation will result."  Martini emerged from Prohibition as one of the best winemakers in California and resolved to concentrate all of his efforts on the production of premium table wines. Anticipating the repeal of the Volstead Act, early in 1933 Louis purchased 10 acres south of St. Helena and rushed to get his newly planned winery into operation for the coming  vintage. 
Convinced of the superiority of mountain grown-grapes, in 1938 Martini purchased the Mt. Pisgah vineyard high on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas Mountains. He renamed it Monte Rosso for it's bright red volcanic soil.  It is from this vineyard that the MQ's elderly bottle of wine originated.
Described by André Tchelistcheff as an "apostle of the California wine industry," Martini was extremely instrumental in fashioning the Napa wine industry as one would recognise it today, in fact he was a true pioneer in a number of ways.  It is said that Martini was amongst the first, if not the first, in 1968 to varietally label Merlot and he later championed Zinfandel as a fine wine varietal.  In 1944, as a vintner with "arm-twisting powers," he was able to convince 7 other vintners to join him in the founding of the Napa Valley Vintners Association - a cooperative effort to facilitate the exchange of practical wine-related information common to all wineries.  Martini was the first to practice temperature controlled fermentation and he is also credited with the invention of the wind machine to combat frost damage.  The list goes on...
Gallo purchased the Louis M. Martini winery in 2002, but to this day the business remains the oldest, continuously family operated winery in the Napa Valley.
Louis M. Martini died in 1974.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy July 4th!

This Old Glory proudly waves, suspended between an avenue of trees just off the Oakville Crossroad,  all year round.  I rather enjoy it's constant, cheery presence.  However, it is the Star Spangled Banner's constancy here that poses a bit of a problem (not for this particular English person though).  The United States Flag Code details very specific etiquette for flying the national flag of the US of A - including requiring that if the Stars and Stripes is flown at night it must be illuminated, and this one isn't.  Oops!
Oh well.  Happy 236th birthday America!
Oh...and God save the Queen!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Hanging on for dear life.

Grapevines are amazing plants.  If I wasn't already convinced of this fact seeing this lone Pinot grigio vine, determined to survive even after the entire vineyard was bulldozed out last February, simply serves to reinforce what I believed prior to today.  I just wish I could dig this little survivor out and bring it back to Vinoland to live with it's cousins.  
Note to self:  put a shovel in the car...