Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween.

My faithful old pal, V1, has decided to get into the spirit of things and has donned a seasonal-themed calabasa-chapeau for the occassion.  Isn't she cute?  Just love her.
Happy Halloween everybody!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Good old mould.

These Semillon grapes are looking good, or rather bad - which is a good thing when they are destined to become a late harvest wine.  This Coombsville vineyard is the source of Semillon grapes for Far Niente's Dolce, a delicious late harvest blend of the aforementioned grape and Sauvignon blanc. 
It hasn't been the greatest growing season for late harvest wines.  It has actually been too warm and dry - there has been no rainfall in October.  Last week there was heavy ground fog nearly every day, which is a more desirable climatic condition for Noble Rot, but it may be too little, too late.  Last Tuesday, whilst driving to work, I did espy a vineyard crew working their way through the vineyard with 5 gallon buckets, no doubt making one of many picking passes, selecting only clusters that were showing a good dose of Botrytis cinerea.  I hear the Dolce harvest can last up to 6 weeks.  It's not a cheap wine, but it is a great tipple.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Yeehaw! Harvest 2013 is done.

A western-themed harvest party last night at TWWIAGE concluded my harvest season festivities.  I'm not sad, as I was getting a bit tired with so much merrymaking going on.  Lots of fun was had by all party attendees (mainly staff); beer (and wine) was served in Mason jars; the party fare (buffalo chili) was served on tin plates; a mechanical bull had been procurred for entertainment (I didn't participate).  And amongst the party-goers, working the crowd, was a cowboy riding a dinosaur (don't ask).  Fun!
On another note, today in Vinoland we pressed off the last of our fermentations, so harvest 2013 is truly at an end.  It was a good one.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ne Cede Malis.

Don't give in to misfortune.
Last night Vinomaker went down to the wine cellar to find something that would pair with our meatloaf dinner.  He reappeared with a bottle of older wine that neither one of us could remember buying.  At that point, I didn't know how old the bottle was as Vinomaker decided to blind-taste me on the mystery wine.  I did OK - Napa Valley, red blend (heavy on the Syrah), vintage 2008.  Whoops, wrong!
The Stags' Leap, 1998 Ne Cede Malis, Napa Valley Reserve is a blend of Petite Syrah (their spelling), Carignane, Grenache, Syrah, Peloursin and Mourvedre.  Erm, yes, I was a whole decade off on the vintage - the still deep, ruby hue of this wine belied it's real age.  On the nose I got hearty oakiness, rosy-lavender-talcyness and lots of mellow, red plum.  This wasn't a big wine on the palate, more akin to a lighter Rhône style, but the structure was finely balanced.  Again, red plums, floral notes, confident astringency (suggesting oak tannins to me), not the slightest hint of bitterness, but with the telltale chalkiness, for me anyway, that I often get from Petite Sirah.
This particular vintage, the 1998, was slammed by the wine press upon release.  The Wine Speculator called 1998 the "Black Sheep Vintage," the resulting wines "tough, tannic and expensive."  At 15 years old this wine is aging beautifully.  Take that, Jim Laube!
Unfortunately, the Ne Cede Malis didn't pair that well with the meatloaf, it was just so-so.  But I didn't give in to that little misfortune, besides I had a delightful Cabernet Franc waiting in the wings.
Nice find Vinomaker.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Delicious autumn.

The weather has changed, quite suddenly.  Autumn has well and truly arrived.  There has been heavy ground fog every morning since Monday - today the fog lingered until about noon.  Temperatures have gone from low 80s last week to mid 60s this week, brrr!  But the cooler weather does have it's enticements.  I may not like the shorter daylight hours, but I do like the pumpkin-squash-cinnamon-spicy flavours of the season.  Like, as a case in point, this pumpkin seed brittle, made with pale ale, that Thud sent to me.  Yum!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A veritable feast of parties.

Harvest parties that is.  Two down, one to go.
Last night I attended the Napa Valley Small Vineyard Association's harvest party.  It was a relatively simple affair, but it was a welcome opportunity to break bread with friends who all share a love of grape-farming.  Tales of crop yields, grape quality and sugar content abounded.  I'm a total geek, so I was in my element.  And I got to eat a lot of dessert; pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice cupcakes, assorted brownies and two slices of a grape decorated sponge cake. Too much?  Leave me alone, I'm stocking up for winter.
I have always liked the idea of celebrating the harvest, any harvest.  I loved harvest festival when I was little, right down to the diminutive bread mouse on the wheat sheaf shaped loaf that was baked each year as part of the harvest festivities.  Good times.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The less said...

A little while back, when a lady-winemaker friend related to me the angst she experienced when having to write tasting notes for each new vintage she released, I started thinking about tasting notes in general.  Over the years I've read some tasting notes that were so silly that they made me laugh out loud, (and not just the poorly translated notes on Eastern European wine bottles).  I commiserate with winemakers who struggle to come up with something original, pertinent and easily understood by the consumer, and have to do it vintage, after vintage.  Even at TWWIAGE the tasting notes are often repetitions of previous vintages - especially when describing a growing season's weather conditions which, to be honest, are not dramatically different one year from the next in the Napa Valley.  Sure, there have been notably cooler and wetter vintages, e.g. 1998 and 2011, but generally speaking the climate here is pretty consistent when it comes to growing wine grapes.
Recently I bought a bottle of wine simply because the tasting notes made me chortle.  The Arrow & Branch, 2012 Sauvignon blanc, Napa Valley was not an inexpensive bottle of wine.  At $35 it was more than I would normally pay for a Sauvignon blanc, as my go-to Sauvignon blanc retails for under $20.  Furthermore, if one happened to be in the market for Sauvignon blanc grapes in 2012, the average price per ton was $1800, so it irks me a tad that Arrow & Branch charge nearly twice as much for their product as some other wineries.  But still, I was curious as to how a $35 Sauvignon blanc tasted.
If the tasting notes for this wine are to be believed, this tipple is an alchemistic-combo of most Sauvignon blanc styles from around the globe; "stone and flint" (from the Loire, maybe?); "grapefruit peel" (New Zealand, anyone?); "new apricots, ripe nectarine" (California, perhaps?)...I'd have been happy with just one style.  The winemaker, Jennifer Williams, claims this wine is "un-muddled and well-delineated", but it succeeded in leaving me a little befuddled.  I liked the wine a little bit more than Vinomaker did: for him there was a component he didn't quite care for, but couldn't quite identify from in amongst the hodge-podge of flavours.  We were both thrown off by the "hints of bouillon" (pass me the gravy boat, please) and the "ground coriander" descriptor had me digging through my spice rack for a quick snort of the aforementioned herb, (I actually did agree with this last element, after initially dismissing it merely as floral).
I am sure there is an art to composing tasting notes, I know I certainly don't possess this particular skill, but I if I was in the business of writing tasting notes, I'd like to think I'd keep the lyric-waxing to a minimum.  Often, less is more.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Harvest 2013 is at an end.

Today was the final day of harvest in Vinoland, but it also happened to be the earliest date that we have ever brought in our Cabernet Sauvignon fruit.  Picking went without a hitch and the grapes looked great - although the yield seemed to be a tiny bit down from last year.
The vines will now begin the process of shutting down for the winter and it seems they'll be getting a helping hand from Mother Nature, temperature wise.  With temps as low as 40° F the past couple of mornings the vines will probably enter dormancy a tad earlier this year than any previous growing season. 
May thy slumber be blessed - see you next spring kids!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Vino inferno.

What a great idea, burning old cordons in a BBQ instead of briquettes.  Today was the annual harvest party that the vineyard workers at TWWIAGE throw for everybody.  It's the best Mexican food, ever!  The hot, bubbled, cordon-toasted tortillas were delicious.  Burn baby burn.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The happiest of industries.

I love the wine-industry, wine-folks are just so darned happy, and helpful. Whilst quaffing a couple of Pinot grigios, Vinomaker wondered out loud what the TA and pH could possibly be in the two nicely balanced wines before us (a 2010 Swanson and a 2012 Gargiulo).   "Let's ask," I say.  So I emailed Chris Phelps, winemaker at Swanson Vineyards, and Kristof Anderson, winemaker at Gargiulo Vineyards, to inquire if they could give me some specific numbers for their respective wines. Lickety split, both of my emails were answered: neither of these winemakers hesitated when it came to answering my paltry query...and this is their busiest time of the year!  Definitely a healthier display of bonhomie than in my previous career of banking.
Thanks lads, it's so gratifying to know that you both enjoy your jobs so much that you'll share your expertise with anybody.   Happy, indeed.

Friday, October 04, 2013

A Syrah shower.

Vinoland's Syrah is harvested, yay!  Here it is going through the destemmer.  Harvest was quick and painless; fruit looked great and seemed extra juicy; breaking of harvest-bread afterwards with friends was fun and relaxing.  The Syrah came in at 26 °Brix and tastes just lovely. 
Vinoland had some new volunteers (or wineslaves) this year, we warmly welcomed the Lafayette Lushes who fitted right in with the St. Helena Sots and our one, ever reliable, Coombsville Carouser.  It was quite a large group of pickers.  That leaves just the Cabernet Sauvignon to be picked and Harvest 2013 will be at an end.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Grapes from The Smoke.

It took me a while to find something that I owned from London to photograph for this post.  I finally found this heart-shaped postcard amongst my postcard collection, sent to me by my sister-in-law before she was my sister-in-law.  But this post is not about my postcard collection, thank goodness.
Thud sent me an interesting article that appeared in the Daily Mail about a vineyard growing within a stone's throw of the heart of London, one of the world's largest capital cities.  The Forty Hall Vineyard, in Enfield, has about 7,000 vines of several different grape varieties, including Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier.  I think it's about time that England finally regained temperatures conducive to grape vine cultivation.  One day, Blighty might even get as warm as it was back in the Middle Ages...snigger, snigger.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Best wishes V2!

My puppy is 6 years old today!  Sure, Vinodog 2's black bits might be going a little grey and her veterinarian says she is approaching middle age, but she still acts like a mischievous little puppy.  She is always ready for fun and is a constant source of amusement to me.  First thing this morning, right after her birthday breakfast, she went out and rolled in some unidentified critter-scat, so now her white bits are greeny-brown.  Disgusting, but still funny.
Happy birthday V2!