Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lug this!

The St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon (clone 7), appeared in Vinoland this morning; in 1/2 ton picking bins; in 30lb lug bins; in 32 gallon Rubbermaid trash cans (that can hold up to about 220 lbs). In fact, the fruit showed up in anything that could transport the larger than expected crop to Vinoland for processing.
It makes sense that the 2013 crop is a tad more bountiful than last year.  Although the actual growing season was a smidgen better in 2012, the perfect conditions that existed last spring (when this years buds were formed, a textbook April and May 2012), made for very fruitful-buds this vintage.  The grapevine is always thinking about the next vintage.  More reds, please...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On your marks.

This morning, a quick sugar-sampling of Vinoland's black grapes revealed °Brix of 24.4 for the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and 24.2 for the Syrah (which surprised me a little).  They're almost neck and neck in the race to harvest which presents a small logistical problem in having to organise two, very close together picking days.  But 2013 has been another great year for growing grapes in the Napa Valley, so I'm not really complaining.
However, I think I may have a little bit of wiggle room; the acid in the Syrah needs to come down a little (otherwise the flavours are great); seed maturity is just a tad off (photograph); and the skins are only just beginning to give off good colour.  The Cabernet Sauvignon, although it has higher sugar than the Syrah at this point, is still showing a soupçon of unwanted herbaceousness about it and, at a push, could possibly hang in there for another two weeks.  Just, maybe.  At least all my feathered friends will be happy about the extended hang time in Vinoland.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Out, damned methoxypyrazines...

...out, I say!  The past two afternoons have found me leaf-pulling (east side only) in the Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) vines.  CS tends to have high levels of methoxypyrazines; a class of chemical compounds responsible for the characteristic green, herbaceous, or vegetative aromas found in CS (and Sauvignon blanc).  So in an attempt to banish a little more of those undesirable flavours I have been removing leaves in the fruit zone to maximise UV penetration.  That was until today when almost an inch of rain fell in just 3 hours.  At least here, unlike in England, the rain falls straight down, so one can get out of its way.  So that's exactly what the Vinodogs and I did, stayed out of the rain.
Roll on tomorrow.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

And the winner is...

...the NHW (aka Dennis Tsiorbas). 
In a contest that was just a 50/50 proposition (something like the America's Cup), the New Hampshire Wine-Man was the winning entry pulled from V2's bowl.  (Dogs and wine - that's just the way we roll around here).  The one other contestant, Thomas Pellechia, is busy writing his own book, so I'm sure he won't mind.  The signed copy of James Conaway's Nose will be making it's way, all the way, back east to New Hampshire.  Congratulations NHW, enjoy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gris et blanc: Harvest 2013.

Harvest began today, and it was a long day.  Both of Vinoland's white grape varieties are in and are currently having their little bums chilled in preparation for inoculation.  The Pinot grigio crop (I know, I use gris and grigio interchangeably, so sue me) looked fabulous - healthy, tight, juicy clusters.  But hang on a second, have a gander at this cluster, it has both grey (Pinot grigio?) and white (Pinot blanc?) grapes.
This year, a handful of the Pinot grigio vines entirely sported green (white) grapes.  One particular vine had all grey grapes except for the apical shoot position (on just one of it's two fruiting canes) which had two green clusters.  And then there was the cluster above which had about 50% each of both grey and green. 
All grapevines have unique characteristics called transposons, also known as jumping genes, which can express themselves in different growing seasons.  Pinot noir - most likely the parent/origin of Pinots blanc, gris and Meunier - has a really strong proclivity toward spontaneous mutation in the vineyard.  And that's all well and good, I just wasn't prepared for so many instances of the Pinot family's genetic instability in my vineyard.  The grapevines are apparently confused, and so am I.  Oh well, what's new?  Happy harvest!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Read my Nose.

When a friend, who recently moved to Sante Fe, offered to let me have her (signed) copy of James Conaway's Nose to read I jumped at the chance.  I'd heard it was a tale of wine and mystery, so what wouldn't there be in this book for me to like?  Sigh.  I really wanted to like this novel, I really did.  I have read two other James Conaway books; Napa: The Story of an American Eden and The Far Side of Eden enjoying them both (save for a bit of gratuitous gossiping).  However, those two books were works of non-fiction and, if  Nose is anything to go by, non-fiction is the genre that Mr. Conaway should stick to. 
Nose is a relatively quick-read, the story is set in the fictional, San Francisco Bay Area, wine-centric town of Caterina (a very thinly disguised Napa).  The cast of characters is more or less predictable; the nouveau riche developer who'll stop at nothing to make a killing in the wine industry; the tree-hugging, earth-muffin winemaker with a conscience; the good-living and overly influential wine critic (incidentally the most interesting character, but not for long); and the young, new-comer journalist who is going to expose them all - for good and for bad.  Yeah, again, sigh.
This book held such promise.  But for me the story was somewhat unstructured and the prose often ponderous.  Character development was poor (please, fleetingly meet Esme) and contradictory statements/occurrences abound (well, two glaring ones at least, e.g. pp 241-244, the stacked washer-dryer - it's stacked, one shouldn't be able to, erm, sit on it!).  What this book really needed was an editor.  Apparently, the book did have an editor, but I can only assume that she must have been drinking on the job. (Copernicus, maybe?  Just joking.)  Now I'm no grammarian (although I am the self-proclaimed queen of the dangling modifier), but that's alright because I'm not writing a book for publication and sale.  If I was writing a book I would definitely employ an editor who recognised my weaknesses and who would be subsequently tasked with correcting my grammatical crimes. 
Anyway, enough of all that.  The deal is that this book was given to me with the express request that it'd be passed on to someone else when I had finished reading it.  So who wants it next?  All qualifying requests (in the comment section) will be put into one of the Vinodog's bowls for a drawing.  Good luck.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Grapevine chic?

Well, sort of.  These strips of cloth, stretched along the length of the rows in the Rudd vineyard, at the corner of the Silverado Trail and the Oakville Crossroad, may just well be the viticultural equivalent of a cool pair of designer sunglasses - they are designed to keep the sun out of the eyes (humour me, please) of the ripening grapes. 
There are only a handful of vineyards in the Napa Valley (for now) who have decided to adopt this approach in reducing the damaging effects of periods of high UV light, as it is yet another time consuming (and no doubt costly) vineyard operation.  But installing shade cloth on the west facing side of a vine row (in vineyards planted north/south) is indeed a new and novel approach to protecting a grape crop from the potentially intense heat that can occur at this point in the valley's growing season.  The installation of of shade cloth - on hillside vineyards, on vines on low-yielding soils and rootstocks, on vineyards with deficit irrigation programmes, or even in wide spaced vineyards in which the vines receive no respite from harsh UV light in the form of the angled shade from a neighbouring row - can help to promote phenolic maturity (seed-browning and tannin maturation) and not just spikes in sugar accumulation (as a result of dehydration).  The uniform strip of cloth adds sun protection, but still allows for diffused UV light and air circulation around the clusters.
Leaf-pulling may now becoming passé, but in Vinoland I still perform this particular vineyard operation - but only on the east side of the vines thus ensuring that the clusters on the west side (that may otherwise be susceptible to sunburn and raisining) each have their own individual parasols.  Now, that's chic.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Getting on the net.

I joke sometimes that I wish I could bird-net all of my vines at once.  Not having to worry about losing one, solitary grape to my feathered friends is a dream of mine.   I have seen whole vineyards (and orchards) netted, but only in books and on video (when I was taking my Vineyard Management class).  I just hadn't seen it in the flesh, or rather polypropylene, until today.
A vineyard, not too far from Vinoland, has been entirely covered in bird-netting: the owners/installers have even utilised a vineyard fan like one would the centre-pole of a circus big top. Wow!  It's pretty impressive to look at.  And it must have cost a pretty penny.   I seem to remember this particular vineyard was for sale a couple of years ago and I believe the parcel was just over ten acres.  I don't know exactly how much of that acreage is planted to grapevines, but I'm thinking that netting even just one acre would be quite an undertaking.  
Dream on Vinogirl.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Happy Blogday.

Happy anniversary to me. 
Happy anniversary to me. 
Happy anniversary, dear Vinogirl. 
Happy anniversary to meeeeeeee! 
I am celebrating my 5th Blogiversary with a glass of Vinomaker's Cabernet Sauvignon rosé.  This is my 761st post.  I can't believe I have had that much to say/rant/complain about, but there are those who would beg to differ.  Anyway, a quick, but sincere, thank you to those who regularly visit Vinsanity.  And an especially big thanks to those who bother to comment.  You rock!
Roll on year 6!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Cheap and cheerful.

Was this wine cheap?  Yes, at $3.99 this Vinho Verde may just qualify as the cheapest bottle of wine I have purchased this year.  Was it cheerful?  Absolutely, it's lively spritziness definitely put a smile on my face.  Attracted by the colourful label, I was pleasantly surprised by this non-vintage, fun wine.  Nice flavours of lime, green apple and pear, and low alcohol (9%), made this a very quaffable tipple. 
I've always liked Vinho Verde, it says summer to me.  Hailing from northern Portugal, Vinho Verde is not an actual grape variety: rather, this green wine is produced from several different grape varieties, e.g. Arinto, Azal, Loureiro, and Trajadura (amongst others).  Fresh and fruity, this bottle of Gazela was alright, but I probably wouldn't buy it again.  There are just too many other Vinho Verdes out in the world to try.