Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: Over and out.

Roger that.  Or rather, Pol Roger that.  Yes indeed, the line up for Vinoland's annual New Year's Eve bubbly tasting includes a bottle of Pol Roger Brut Réserve (Épernay), along with a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premiere (Reims) and a bottle of Mumm Napa, 2008, Devaux Ranch (Napa Valley).  A nice selection of bubbly, each one very distinct from the others, each one yummy in its own way.
I wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2015.  Happy New Year to one and all! 
Over and out, 2014.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA.

Situated directly north of the town of Napa, the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA has been celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.  Congratulations to it!  Calling this particular AVA 'it' is a whole lot quicker than calling it the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.  However, I feel that 'it' is a tad incongruous, so let's call it OKDNV, afterall, it took an entire 10 years for the then Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to approve OKDNV as the Napa Valley's 14th sub-appellation, so I feel I should be a little more respectful of the efforts and tenacity of those who put forth the initial proposal.
When the vintners and growers of the proposed new AVA got together and decided to petition the government for AVA status they met with a small problem.  The proprietors of a winery up in Hillsboro, Oregon, named Oak Knoll Winery objected to the use of the words 'oak' and 'knoll' for a new AVA in California.  Claiming that the Californians had no "true historical and viticultural data" to support the proposed name, the Oregonians feared that there would be "customer confusion" and an Oak Knoll in Napa would "negatively impact" their ability to market the Oregon winery.  The long and short of it is, the folks in the Napa Valley ended up with a moniker for their AVA which is a real mouthful.  Still, it is known amongst locals as simply Oak Knoll.
Cooler than most of the other AVAs, except Carneros and Coombsville, OKDNV is mostly planted to Bordeaux grape varieties.  OKDNV is a relatively large viticultural area, encompassing 8,300 acres, and is home to about 40 wineries (and many growers also).  Some of the more notable wineries, in my opinion, are; Blackbird Vineyards, Darms Lane Wine, Hendry, Luna Vineyards and Trefethen Vineyards.
Seven down, nine to go.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

On the third day of Christmas...

...I felt like I'd consumed far too many calories over the past few days, so I decided to take V2 over to Alston Park, on the west side of the valley, for an off-lead walk.  (Actually, we went over to Alston on Boxing Day also, but I didn't feel quite as, let's say, round two days ago.)  Vinodog 2 had a lot of fun and so did I.
Alston is a nice park that climbs gently up into the western hills a little way.  The views are quite pretty, north and east.  Nowadays most of the park is surrounded by vineyards (don't know whose these vines belong to).  The area looks a lot different from when I first visited the valley.  The mustard is rather abundant in this particular vineyard: everywhere is so green with all this rain we have been having.  The weather was beautiful, it had a nice crispness to it.  Couldn't have asked for better dog-walking weather.  Fun!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Christmas: 2014.

A very Happy Christmas from everybody in Vinoland...that's me, Vinomaker and a bauble-wielding Vinodog 2!
Wishing you all a joyful day filled with family, friends, good food and great wine.   Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Nativity in the vineyard.

Not much to say really.  This photograph says it all; nativity scene, a Napa vineyard, Christmas Eve.
Thank you to a neighbour for their effort in ensuring that Christmas-walkies are very special for me and Vinodog 2.
Happy Christmas Eve to all!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice, 2014.

As the sun was beginning to set today, I made my way almost to the top of Vinoland with Vinodog 2 to admire the view.  Of course a few trees got in the way but not one, solitary raincloud spoilt the vineyard-vista.  No, today I finally got to see the sun for the first time in what seems like ages.  And how appropriate that the sun reappeared for a little while on the shortest day of the year, (although I did feel like I was being rationed).
Funny story about the vineyard in the middle of the photograph (not that funny, actually).  The gentleman who owned this vineyard passed away last year and in his will he had bequeathed the vineyard to the UC Davis Viticulture & Enology Department.  But UC Davis didn't want it, they wanted cash instead.  Apparently, contrary to what a familiar proverbial phrase claims, beggars can be choosers.  The gentleman's widow is instead leasing the vineyard to Far Niente.
Happy winter solstice, enjoy, be happy...for tomorrow it starts to stay lighter, later.
Sing it Ian!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Happy anniversary ale!

This year is the 40th time that Anchor Brewing Company have produced their wonderful, limited edition Christmas Ale.  The recipe might change every year, but it never fails to disappoint.  This year the label is adorned with a charming ink drawing of a Sequoiadendron giganteum - the Giant Sequoia - which is a wonderful choice of tree this year.
Giant sequoias are the world's largest tree and can grow to upwards of 275 feet.  That's a lot of firewood!  To be able to visit a grove of these majestic trees, and stand in the cathedral-like space beneath their lofty bows, is just one of the great things about California.  Big tree.  Big anniversary.  Nice beer.  Well done Anchor Brewing Company, and happy Christmas.  I'm looking forward to your 41st edition.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Winery Christmas Lights 13.

A star, a star, dancing in the night, With a tail as big as a kite.
The folks over at Meteor Vineyard seem to be filled with the Christmas spirit, the gate to their vineyard is very festive.  Meteor's shooting-star fairy lights made me and Vinodog 2 feel very exultant on our walk today. 
Grapevines everywhere are naked now.  The onslaught of rain has beaten every last leaf to the ground, but I'm trying not to let it bother me.  I put on a silly, but festive, wooly hat that I purchased when I was home last month to walk V2 this afternoon.  If silly is synonymous with festive, then I am it.
I have never had a Meteor Vineyard wine.  Meteor produce a Cabernet Sauvignon, of course, that sells northwards of $225 per bottle, so I probably won't be trying it any time soon.  But I do appreciate that the owners of Meteor Vineyard observe festiveness throughout the year.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

No 'shroom at the inn.

One good thing, and only one, about all the recent rain that has fallen in the Bay Area (seemingly directly onto me), is the amount of fungi that have popped up around Vinoland, and the places that I roam about with Vinodog 2.  There are mushrooms everywhere and the variety is amazing, each one a little more fantastical than the next.
Whilst the Death Cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) is not particularly weird to look at, it is grotesque in its reputation: the Death Cap is the mushroom responsible for the most mushroom related deaths worldwide.  But what makes this non-native species so interesting to me is the fact that in California the Death Cap can be found growing under cork oaks (Quercus suber).  This Amanita is considered a beneficial mycorrhizal fungus as it lives on the roots of live cork oaks, providing the tree with nutrients - such as magnesium and phosphorous - in exchange for carbohydrates.  It is believed that Death Cap spores were first brought to North America on cork oak seedlings and it has since adapted to living on native California Quercus species.  This particular 'shroom was growing, all alone I might add, under a very large oak tree (not a Q. suber) right next to the house.
Yikes, I suppose I'd better take a good look at the cork that's bunging up this evenings wine offering.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gaudete, 2014.

It's Gaudete Sunday.  Once again I am paying homage to one particular rose-coloured candle by supping a rosé wine.  This year's rosé selection is a Miner Family, 2013 Rosato of Sangiovese (Mendocino AVA).  Made using the saignée method, this medium bodied rosé is huge on red berry-cherry goodness with a little candied-tropical thing going on (Thud, think Fruit Salad) and a deep, deep pink hue.  Gorgeous.  Today, rejoice with something pink.
Sing it Maddy!

Friday, December 12, 2014

That's all?

The climatic-claptrap from many Bay Area meteorologists on this past Tuesday night's newscasts had to be heard to be believed.  You would have thought that an apocalyptic deluge of biblical proportions was going to wash this particular chunk of Northern California into the Pacific Ocean.  Yes there was quite a bit of rain, beginning at 3.30 am on Thursday morning, but it wasn't nearly as much rain as the storm of last February.  Around the greater Bay Area, as Thursday progressed, a lot of people were hunkered down behind mounds of sandbags, some parking lots were flooded, blocked storm drains caused problems on some roadways, a few trees fell over, a flat supermarket roof crumpled under the weight of standing water, stuff like that.  However, Napa was relatively unscathed.
Here in Vinoland we received 3 inches of rain in just under 24 hours.  By English standards that's just a quick shower, but it isn't bad for California.  Vinoland's creek was flowing swiftly, but wasn't even close to breaching its banks.  We didn't even lose power which is very unusual, as normally one only has to look sideways at a neighbourhood transformer for it to give up the ghost (usually resulting in no power for at least 3 hours).  Vinodog 2 and I were very bored being indoors all day.  I hope the vines enjoy the resulting soil moisture content come the spring.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Quitting time.

All the grapevines in Vinoland have pretty much shut down.  In fact, driving through the valley, there aren't many leaves on vines to be seen anywhere - except for some apparently virused vines that are hanging onto their bright red leaves a little longer.  This particular node that I photographed, although it's a very nice node - nice bud, nice abscission scar, nice tendril - seems to be having a little trouble shutting down, as some of the tissue on this vine has not fully lignified.  The wood of this shoot is still slightly green and soft.  This vine also has quite a few petioles that are still clinging onto their shoot for dear life having abscised their individual leaf blades (the petiole usually separates with the leaf blade still attached).
Now I'm not an expert, and if there is anyone out there that can enlighten me further please feel free to chime in, but I do know that poor lignification of grapevine tissue can be due to a number of factors, among them; virus infection, water stress, deficiency of nutrients (as well as an oversupply) and differing levels of phytohormones such as auxins and cytokinins.
It's just one grapevine so I'm not unduly worried, but it does give me pause for thought.  And something else to research about the life and growing habits of these fascinating plants.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

The St. Helena AVA.

Just above the Rutherford AVA is the St. Helena AVA.  Named after the town of St. Helena, this AVA covers approximately 9,000 acres.  Besides being the home of my dear friends The St. Helena Sots, this storied AVA is home to many notable names/wineries such as; Corison Winery, Dancing Hares Vineyard, Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards, Louis M. Martini Winery, Pride Mountain Winery, Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery and Salvestrin Winery - a lot of wineries that mostly produce Bordeaux varietals.  Of course, in my humble opinion, it is getting a little too toasty for the production of Bordeaux varietals up in St. Helena: it is just a tad too far north to benefit from the cooling influence of the San Francisco Bay fog.  But that is just my opinion.
St. Helena is also notable as the home of the first winery in the entire state of California to be founded and run by a woman, Josephine Marlin Tychson, c. 1886, (the winery is now Freemark Abbey). Josephine Tychson is a much more interesting St. Helena story, but that's just my opinion.
Six down, ten to go.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Silver linings.

So much rain this week, I might as well be in England.  California definitely needs rain, but all at once?  Personally, I'd like a little bit of a break from being continually moist.  However, I must admit, grudgingly, that due to the inclement weather there has been some spectacular cloud-action, peculiar (in a good way) light-quality and a few, if fleeting, rainbow goings-on...silver linings.  Pity I kept forgetting my camera.  I had it yesterday though.
Here is an unusual view of Silver Oak Cellars and it's iconic water tower which is not normally this visible whilst driving along the Oakville Crossroad.  There has been a lot of bulldozing activity of late in many vineyards.  Given that harvest is well and truly over, now is the time that winegrowers begin the process of replanting a vineyard.  Not many people realise that the vines that grow in front of Silver Oak are not Silver Oak's vineyards.  No, they belong to Flora Springs.  (Silver Oak grow their Cabernet sauvignon up in Soda Canyon).  And Flora Springs has apparently decided to replant their Oakville vineyard.  And I will get to witness the whole process.  Fun.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Halloween wine?

I know it's a month past Halloween.  But this Transylvanian wine could be just the thing for future Halloween festivities except for one little fact; this wine is in no way scary, despite it's origin.
Whilst I was away in England, Vinomaker did quite a bit of wine-shopping.  The Recas, 2013, Fetească Regală (Transylvania, Romania) was just one of the interesting wines he purchased.  Not one to pass up an opportunity to test my taste buds, Vinomaker poured a glass of this wine for me and waited for me to play our Four Vees (varietal, valley, vintage and value) game.  Well, I failed miserably.  I was able to guess the vintage, but I had not one, single clue as to the wines origin, grape variety or price ($6.49 as it happens).  Opting for a domestic Viognier, for about $18, imagine how surprised I was to find out that I was drinking a Romanian wine.  And a wine made from a grape variety that I have never heard of.
Bright, peachy and delicately floral, this wine was really, really lovely.  Amazingly, I have since read that Romania is one of the world's largest wine producers.  Who would've thunk it?  Not me.  Fetească Regală is a nice little (fright) surprise.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Be happy and thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  There is a lot of stuff in my life that I am thankful for, I just have to remind myself now and again just how very fortunate I am.
Enjoy family, friends, food and a nice chilled glass of Sauvignon blanc, or any other wine you deem desirable alongside all those Thanksgiving fixings.
Let's get the holiday season started!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Two bottle night.

I didn't drink a lot of wine on my recent trip home, but one night Thud and I managed to polish off two bottles.  We did have some help, however, as Lord Roby and Miss Roby (his daughter) stopped by for a glass of something red and Sicilian.
The Torretta Di Mondelli, 2013, Nero d'avola (IGP Terre Siciliane) was not a particularly outstanding wine, it wasn't really very complex and only medium bodied, but it had plenty of fruit - various black and red berries - and an attractive liquorice component.  Not too tannic, not too acidic, just a nice wine.  Really nice considering the price was around £6.00 ($10.00), a bargain.
The Torretta was better than the other wine we drank.  The Palastri, 2012, Primitivo (IGT Puglia) was palatable, full bodied, but the fruit was just had a little stewed fruit thing going on.  Actually, I thought the wine was alright, but Thud didn't like it at all.  And the proof of the Primitivo pudding was, although it paired fairly decently with our evening meal of goulash, the bottle did not get emptied.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Back in the U.S. of A.

I'm back Stateside.  After a great holiday, I have returned to the Napa Valley.  The journey back was long and tedious, the only highlight being an Elvis impersonator who was on the flight from Manchester to London.  I lost track of Elvis in Heathrow.  I was hoping he would be on my flight from London to San Francisco, but, alas, he was probably on his way to Las Vegas.
It seemed like I was away for ages.  I don't know why, but I expected all sorts of things to be different when I woke up my first morning back.  The vines are a little more yellow, senescence is well and truly happening, but only the white grape varieties have lost any leaves to speak of.  It's a little cooler, but not cold, so there isn't a need to turning the heating on yet.  Still, it definitely feels like autumn.  Vinodog 2 made a big fuss of me, but she is such a creature of habit that just 5 minutes later it was like I'd never been away. 
Vinomaker was doing wine stuff when I left; racking, barreling down, topping etc., and he was still doing wine stuff when I got back.
Constancy is good.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chocks away!

Goodbye Blighty 2014, Part 2.
Once again my holiday has come to an end and early tomorrow I will be winging my way back to the US of A.  But not before I have a farewell glass of something domestic, a Spitfire Kentish Ale.
Spitfire bitter (pale ale) was first brewed in 1990 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, a limited edition entitled 'The Bottle of Britain'.  Seemingly, the folks at Shepherd Neame Brewery have a good sense of humour.  This particular edition is a partnership with the men's health charity, Movember.  In homage to Movember's annual moustache growing campaign, Spitfire's current label is adorned with a ginger mustache.  Cute.  Quite malty, fruity, hoppy and slightly bitter Spitfire is a very pleasant ale.  And a fitting way to send me off into the wide blue yonder.
California here I come.

Monday, November 10, 2014


A quick road trip from Thud Manor today found me in Deva Victrix, or just Deva for short, or simply Chester if you're not an ancient Roman.  Founded by the aforementioned Romans in 79 AD, Chester has always been one of my favourite places to visit, a place with serious history.  I had a lovely time wandering around what is to me a very familiar place, popping into familiar buildings and shops.  Corks Out, although it used to have a different name which I can't remember now, is one such shop.
As the name may suggest Corks Out is a wine (and spirits) merchant.  Located in a 13th century crypt, with a groin vault ceiling, this wine emporium was a place I shopped at fairly often when in search of something unusual as they always had a nice selection of uncommon wines.  I had a little nose about and a quick gander at the California-Napa-Sonoma wine collection (which wasn't much to write home, or on my blog, about).  And a nice chat to the clerk, which brought to mind my last time at Corks Out.  I remember chatting to the clerk then also.  In conversation, I mentioned that I was employed at a Napa Valley winery.  The clerk apparently didn't believe me as with a derisive snort he basically turned his back on me.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a business card with me to prove that I was indeed gainfully employed, so with a shrug I laughed to myself and left without buying any wine.  Vinogirl out!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The enemy.

Today is Remembrance Sunday.  This year is a particularly special year as it is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.  Since I arrived home on the 29th of October I have been wearing my poppy, (the emblem of the poppies that bloomed across the battlefields of Flanders), with pride. 
I used to love Poppy Day when I was a kid and I couldn't wait to place a small, kid-sized remittance in the familiar red collection box, a donation to benefit ex-servicemen and women.  In return I'd receive my red paper poppy with it's black plastic centre that I wore with enthusiasm.  The Royal British Legion raises a lot of money in their annual poppy appeal which funds their work with the Armed Forces community.  The ladybird in the photograph looks like it is sporting a brilliant red poppy on it's elytra in honour of the war dead.  It looks cute.  But looks can be deceiving.
The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis), a non-native species, is invading the British Isles.  The harlequin was first spotted here in 2004 and has quickly become one of the most common ladybirds in the country. The invasive harlequin is a rather large species of ladybird and it is a voracious predator, it is able to out-compete the native species for aphids and will also eat other ladybirds' eggs and larvae.  Not good.  The harlequins are clustered in large numbers around window and door frames and in any available nooks and crannies where they hope to overwinter.  Their numbers are quite impressive outdoors and inside: my bedroom and bathroom (at Thud's house) have been invaded also.  They're cute, but like The hun they are persona non grata here.  The world is an increasingly smaller place and invasive species hitchhiking around the globe is increasingly problematic.  I will definitely check my bags when I leave here later this week.
Lest we forget.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Domaine of the Bee.

A decent wine, at last.  Thud and I polished off this bottle last night.  The Domaine of the Bee, 2009 (IGP Côtes Catalanes), was a fairly decent wine, eventually, that is, as it took a little time to open up.  A Granache (blended with 15% Carignan), from northern Roussillon in the south of France, this wine was a little surprising in that the alcohol was a tad high (at 15%) and you could taste it.  Yes, I know it is probably rather toasty down there on the border with Spain, but the high alcohol reminded me of some overly extracted, out of balance Napa wines that I've had.  However, the wine's ripe raspberry and spicy-herb component saved the day.
I had bought this bottle of wine for Thud a couple of Christmases ago.  Actually, I bought three bottles for him.  After last night he only has one remaining, (I do like to help out my dear brother by depleting his wine reserves when I am home).  And seeing as it was a Christmas present I was a little disappointed at the state of the label.  Whilst the main label looked fine, there just happened to be a whole extra label concertinaed to the side.  Now, of course, a mishap in the labeling process would not have a deleterious effect on the taste of the wine, but this was a gift and I'm a little shocked that the folks at Domaine of the Bee would have chosen this particular bottle to send with the other two.  Just saying.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Bang! Bang!

It's Bonfire Night, yay!  I love Bonfire Night, or as we call it up in Liverpool, Bommy Night, (or Guy Fawkes to others).  I can't believe that it has been about 10 years since I was last home for Bommy Night, but I'm here now.
There are several essential ingredients for a successful Bonfire Night; the bonfire, of course, (the bigger the better), toffee apples (even though they make my teeth ache), treacle toffee (Thud's speciality), potatoes (to bake in the embers), hot chocolate (for the kids), something red and vinous (for the adults) and, last but not least, the fireworks (lots and lots of them).  Unlike California, there isn't any danger of soggy England going up in smoke.
Photographed is Thud's selection of pyrotechnic plunder for the family's entertainment.  Sparklers, rockets (lots of rockets), Catherine wheels and Roman candles abound.  Then there's The King and Big Mama, which resemble not so small incendiary devices.  Kaboom!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Morning in England.

Not a bad view to wake up to, eh?  Arrived in Blightly late at night, so I had to wait until the next morning to enjoy the beautiful countryside around Thud's home.  The weather has been unseasonably warm, until just last night when it got quite chilly, so consequently it feels a lot colder today. 
I have been busy catching up with family, too busy to post on Vinsanity.  Besides, I haven't done anything, or rather drank anything of any note to write about.  I have had a couple of nice meals out, but I haven't had any good wine yet.  Just one barely passable glass of Rioja and a rather dodgy Pinot Grigio.  I may have to rectify that and raid Thud's cellar tonight.  Hopefully he won't read this beforehand.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Get back... where I once belonged, Part 6.  Yes, later today, I'm off home to Blighty once again.  I love Liverpool and it will always be home to me.
Liverpool is a city teeming with history.  From being granted a royal charter by King John in 1207, lots of well known people have hailed from this maritime city (not just The Beatles, and me) and tons of interesting stuff has happened there.  Thriving docklands, which created great wealth (historically bananas and sheep were big business), led Liverpool to be known as the Second City of the Empire.   Liverpool can boast that it had the first United States Consul anywhere in the world, most definitely an indicator of the city's status and importance.  And it was also home to James Greig's cooperage.
This old photograph (on a postcard) of the J. Grieg, Cooper & General Cask Dealer is dispalyed in the Merseyside Museum of Labour History.  I haven't been able to find out much information about Mr. Greig's business other than the tidbit of information on the back of the postcard.  Apparently the photograph was taken in about 1900 and the cooperage was located at 23 Virgil Street (off Scotland Road, north of the city centre).  I think this photograph is wonderful, and not just because it has barrels in it, look at the character in the faces of those men.  I'm amusing myself with the idea that I may still recognise any one them on the street in Liverpool, only now in the faces of their descendents.  Not all Liverpudlians have left this much beloved city as I have.
Get back JoJo!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grappa anyone?

The 2014 harvest and the 2014 harvest-party season are well and truly over.  And last night I celebrated harvest's end with my co-workers at TWWIAGE.  I work with some great people and it's always nice to spend quality party-time with them.  For many of the production staff it was the first Saturday that they hadn't had to work since mid-September, so they really let their hair down.  And I mean they really let their hair down: the theme of the party was Woodstock so lots of bad, long, shaggy wigs abounded. 
Today, Vinomaker and I pressed off three different batches of Cabernet sauvignon.  It was a rather painless process this year, but still by the end of the day I was coloured purple from head to toe.  Quite psychedelic. 
Seeing all the skins reminds me that Vinomaker's friend, Sky King, usually pesters us to make a grappa from the pomace.  Too much trouble I say and it couldn't really be legally called grappa if produced in the USA.  What would I call it?  No matter, it's not going to happen.  Besides, I'm not a grappa drinker anyway.  The only grappa that I have ever thought half decent was one I purchased in a small caffé in Rome, just over the Ponte Sant'Angelo, which was made from Pinot Nero.  I digress.  Harvest is done.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Blighty calling?

I have photographed vineyards.  I have photographed red telephone boxes.  But I have never photographed a red telephone box in a vineyard.  Evidently, one of my Commenwealth brethren to the north has beaten me to it.  Drat! 
I'm sure Phil Luckett (a native of Nottingham), of Luckett Vineyards in Nova Scotia, is a lovely chap who makes lovely wines.  Apparently, Mr. Luckett has an arrangement with the Canadian telephone company to allow for toll free calls to anywhere in North America: 1-800-VINO?  Probably not.
I feel a phone call coming on.
Photo credit: George Medovoy

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Penultimate Party.

Actually, I have one and a bit more harvest parties to attend before the harvest season is over.  But the harvest festivity that I attended today is, perhaps, for me the ultimate harvest party.  I love the harvest party the vineyard workers throw for all of the staff at TWWIAGE.  Best Mexican food, EVER!
A couple of wines, other than TWWIAGE's, showed up with guests whom also have Oakville vineyards. My absolute favourite was the Gargiulo Vineyards, 2011 Money Road Ranch Merlot (Oakville AVA).  A beautiful wine that could almost make me forget about ever drinking any Cabernet Sauvignon ever again.  But then again, Gargiulo do a great job with all of their wines. Yummy.
Many thanks to the TWWIAGE vineyard boys.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

All done for 2014.

So that's it, Vinoland's 2014 harvest is over!
Fruit looked great, not that much bird or bee damage and the odd rain event that we have had, over the past few weeks, didn't really cause any mould problems either.  Weather was fantastic for a harvest day (even a tad on the toasty side), workers were affable and the harvest after-party enchiladas were yummy.  Once again, good friends, good wine, good food.  And to quote TWWIAGE's very own Marketing Queen, "...harvest.  Always makes me remember why I love living here."  Couldn't have put it better myself.
Of course, I think the fruitless vines look a little forlorn now, but that's just anthropomorphic me.  Now I'm looking forward to the 2015 growing season.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The stripper.

The harvest season is quickly coming to a close, so there is very little unpicked fruit left to be seen hanging around the Napa Valley.  TWWIAGE picked and processed their last fruit of 2014 on Tuesday.  In Vinoland only the Cabernet sauvignon is still hanging, but that's about to change come this Saturday.
As of today, the numbers on the Cabernet sauvignon were °Brix 25.8, pH 3.52 and TA 8.0, but since the decision to pick has already been made the numbers are sort of irrelevant.  The weather has turned quite autumnal and the vines have noticeably started to shut down.  I spent most of today pulling leaves, stripping the shoots of all basal leaves to help facilitate a quick and clean harvest.  And that's what I will be doing tomorrow also.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Rutherford AVA.

Right above the Oakville AVA (the AVA in which I work), is the Rutherford AVA.  Named after Thomas Rutherford who, upon marrying George C. Yount's daughter, was given 1,000 acres of land from his new father-in-law as a wedding present, Rutherford is/was the home of at least two of Napa's most historic wineries - Beaulieu Vineyard and Inglenook (whilst under the ownership of the visionary John Daniel Jr., not Francis Ford Coppola).  Nowadays, the AVA is the home of many renowned wineries e.g., Caymus Vineyards, Frog's Leap Winery, Mumm Cuvee Napa and, for all the wrong reasons, the nightmarish, to me at least, Raymond Vineyards.
Rutherford is perhaps best known for its soil, in fact the soil even has a society named after it: the aptly named Rutherford Dust Society.  André Tchelistcheff, who is credited with introducing modern winemaking practices to the Napa Valley (whilst at Beaulieu), said, "It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet."  Hmmm, I think the folks in the other AVAs would likely disagree.  The fact is, the entire Napa Valley is unique due to the diversity of the soils found here.  I personally can't really claim that I have ever tasted dust in any Rutherford wine I have tried, but I'll continue to experiment.  It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.
Five down, eleven to go.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The skinny on Grenache.

The ton of Grenache that Vinomaker was promised did not materialise.  Vinomaker was a little disappointed, but it means we are done drinking Grenache, at least for the time being.
The Skinner, 2010, Eighteen Sixty-One (El Dorado AVA) was quite a delightful wine (really a GSM with a little Cunoise thrown in).  With oodles of dark berry, raspberry and cedar-spiciness, Eighteen Sixty-One was not a particularly cheap wine, at around $27.00, but it was worth it.
The cheapest wine, at $11.49, in this little gargle was the Famille Chaudière, 2012, Le Paradou (Côtes du Ventoux AOC).  Le Paradou was great value for money and very easy on the palate, loved it.
And, now, the also-rans;
Calavera, 2011, Dalton Vineyard (Sierra Foothills AVA) $26.00.
Wow!  This wine would cure the most severe case of gingivitis, as in it would remove all gum tissue leaving the drinker with just their calavera!
Elizabeth Spencer, 2012, Special Cuvée (Mendocino AVA) $21.49.
Not bad, but certainly not great.
Yangarra, 2012, Old Vine (McLaren Vale) $24.49.
The label notes say this wine shows "elegance".  They've got to be kidding me, drinking this wine was like being hit in the mouth by a Mack truck.
Dashe, 2012, Les Enfants Terribles (Dry Creek Valley AVA) $22.49.
And terrible it was.  'Nough said.
In conclusion, I'd have to say that my little investigative experiment with Grenache didn't teach me much, except that Grenache does come in a lot of different styles from a lot of different places.  And that's the skinny on Grenache.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


Orange muscat grapes, that is.
Vinomaker and I picked our Orange muscat (OM) today.  Well, what was left of it.  Looking almost like something that had escaped from my compost bin, Vinomaker had deliberately delayed harvesting the OM in the hopes of making a late harvest wine.  OM clusters are rather loose which generally reduces environmental favourablitly for Botrytis cinerea infection (unlike Pinot grigio clusters which are tight and thus susceptible to infection), so instead, dessication, as the result of an extended hang time, was the plan.  Coming in at 34.5 °Brix there is certainly plenty of sugar for Vinomaker to work with.
Although the fruit was quite unprepossessing, (OM never looks pretty as the grapes have a tendency to crack and amber as they ripen), the aromatics of orange skin and honeysuckle as we processed the fruit was absolutely delightful.  No wonder honey bees are attracted to this grape variety.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Industrious Bee.

Erm, the industrious honey bees are eating my Cabernet sauvignon grapes.  I can't really blame them because the grapes are very sweet.  However, the bees should be wincing due to the high acidity - if only I could see their little, squinting eyes.
The numbers are in; °Brix 24.2, pH 3.38 and TA 8.75.  Sugars have been driven up due to nearly a week of mid to high 90s temperatures.  Time to water.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Happy birthday to my little Vinodog.

Yes, it's V2's birthday, she turns 7 today.  She started her day off with some extra peanut butter cookies and a couple of new stuffed toys.  Hopefully, as a birthday treat, I'll have time to take her for a walk down at the Napa River when I get home from work.
V2's a great little dog, full of personality.  It's been a little strange for me just having one dog around since the passing of V1, but my little mongrel has more than filled up the poochie-void in Vinoland with her boundless energy.  And she's gotten used to me plonking weird things on her head.
Happy birthday V2.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vitis californica.

I once said I wouldn't "clamber through a thicket" to get a closer look at Vitis californica: I lied.  This morning I did indeed find myself fighting through some riparian habitat to get a closer look at California's wild grape.  This rather sizable vine is growing on the western bank of the Napa River, just at the point where the Oakville Crossroad passes over the watercourse.
The vines become quite visible this time of year as the leaves begin to turn yellow.  There is a wonderful specimen, teeming with grape clusters, quite close to where I live that has climbed 12 - 15 feet up through a very accommodating tree.  However, the vine is on the side of an extremely busy road and there is no possible way that I could safely get out of the car to photograph it.  So I had to be content with this Oakville vine.  But because this vine was more accessible, I was actually able to taste a wild, California grape for the first time ever.  Yummy!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A tale of two Syrahs.

Vinoland's Syrah is harvested, whoo hoo!  Fruit looked lovely, acid and sugar a little low, but the colour coming out of the berries was already a deep, deep purple.  The day went very smoothly and the gathering of friends afterwards was a lot of fun.
To wash down the harvest chili I had prepared (with cornbread, two ways), there were a few interesting wines; a delightful Elyse, 2011 Nero Misto (California); a J Gregory, 2011 Celebration Cabernet Sauvignon (Coombsville AVA); and, lastly, a Lucas Vineyards, 2012 Syrah (Finger Lakes AVA).
The Elyse wine was lovely, very soft and round, made from "a unique selection of wonderful lesser known black grapes" (so says the back label).
The J Gregory was a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a relatively new producer, but the grapes were sourced from a very good friend's vineyard, here in Coombsville.  The wine was a little green, but it 's still very young and will perhaps age quite elegantly.
The Lucas Vineyards Syrah came with a former co-worker who had worked three harvests at this winery in Cayuga Lake, New York.  A fairly inoffensive wine, I was however struck with how little pigmentation there was in this wine compared to a Syrah grown in Napa.  This Syrah looked more like a Pinot noir.  The white pepper component in this wine did work well with the chili though. 
An interesting mix of wines.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Fox.

I'm still tasting my way through a gargle of Grenaches.  Tonight's offering was a tasty little white wine - a Renard, 2012 Grenache blanc (Lodi AVA).  I loved this wine (it's all gone).  I had a 2013 Vermentino from the same producer last week and loved that too.  I also love the blurb on the back label:
"In making our Grenache Blanc, we've selected only fruit with the greatest concentration of flavours.  The nose suggests crisp dill apple, minerally mandarin, and blah, blah, blah...Isn't wine indescribably fun?  Just enjoy it!"
It's like I wrote it myself, except for the Oxford comma.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dirty rotten scoundrels.

This time last week there were some rotten little scoundrels hanging around, up to no good, in the Pinot grigio block.
The above photograph of a cluster of grapes infected with Botrytis cinerea isn't that great (I could have fetched a better lens from the house, but I didn't).  However, the proficiency of the dessicating ability of this dastardly, necrotrophic organism is evident in the way in which it has sucked the living daylights out of the lower half of this cluster (the top half of the cluster looked perfectly normal).
Most of the infected clusters were discarded, but it's possible that some made it into the mix.  No biggie.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pinot grigio harvest 2014.

Vinoland's Pinot grigio was harvested today, whoo hoo!  The fruit looked beautiful.  I was fairly pleased with myself for farming such attractive berries.  Mama loves you little guys!
Finished processing fruit (and cleaning everything up), just in time to enjoy a fabulous harvest party at Black Cat Vineyards: just love Tracey Reichow's rosé of Cabernet franc.  Good friends and great wine.
Long day...

Friday, September 19, 2014

International Grenache Day 2014.

I actually remembered that today is International Grenache Day (IGD): Grenaches of the world unite!  Or is it International Garnacha Day?  Whichever it is, I decided to commemorate IGD 2014 with a Spanish Garnacha.  But I had to buy one first. 
To find something suitably Iberian, I took a quick trip over to Sonoma to visit Sonoma's Best which is a quaint shop with a surprisingly good Grenache selection, (a tip from Marcia Macomber, thanks).
The Borsao Monte Oton, 2012 (DO Campo de Borja) was a rather full-bodied version of Garnacha.  Hailing from Aragon, the very place where this grape variety is believed to have originated, this 100% Garnacha had fantastic colour extraction, a spicy-leathery-lavender thing going on, an enticingly ripe blackberry/blackcurrant compote vibe and a palate pleasing acidity.  The alcohol seemed a tad high at 14.5%, but this shouldn't have been a surprise considering where these grapes were grown.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I'm happy.  At $9.99, this was a more than satisfying wine that paired well with tonight's homemade burgers.
I hope everybody's IGD was a happy one!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Just because 8...

Heavy rain overnight, that started just after 4 a.m. and continued until 9.30 a.m., kept me out of the vineyard today.  That's OK, it gave me a chance to catch up on some reading.
The Sunday issue of The Napa Valley Register, each week, contains a Faces & Places section which lists local births, marriages and deaths.  While I'm not quite yet at the stage of my life when I'll start scanning the obituaries (like my grandmother did), on the off chance that there may be someone listed there that I know, or rather knew, a certain birth announcement did catch my eye.  On September 3rd the world welcomed a baby boy whose surname is Bourdeaux.  Now, one mustn't confuse this Bourdeaux with the famous Bordeaux winemaking region.  This particular Bourdeaux (with it's extra 'u') is a village in southeastern France.  But one wouldn't know that if one simply heard this surname spoken.
What a great surname; "Hi.  I'm Bob Bourdeaux," (or Zane in this case), it has a certain ring to it.  I generally like surnames that are nouns (mine isn't), however, I wouldn't like to have the surname Napa for fear that people might think I'm lazy. 
Anyhow, congratulations to Mr and Mrs Bourdeaux and their 7lb 11 oz bouncing bundle of joie.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

In the warm California sun.

Enough of my lollygagging with earthquakes, wine trains, AVA signs and that certain gargle of Grenaches.  Enough, I say! 
I spent an entire day spent in the vineyard today, pulling leaves in the Syrah and admiring the pretty sight that was these back-lit Pinot grigio grapes.  But wait a minute, what else is going on in the Pinot grigio block besides a impromptu photo opportunity?  Oh, not much, just 25.6 °B, a pH of 3.48 and a TA of 7.25.  Yikes, it's time!
Like clockwork, the mini heatwave that happens early, every September has done it's magic in bringing the fruit close to harvest perfection.  Of course, these numbers don't paint the whole picture: whilst the fruit tastes pretty darn good, the seeds have still not quite reached phenolic maturity.  So, tomorrow, the Pinot grigio vines will have the bejesus watered out of them to try to buy some further maturation time.  Slow down little grapies!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Yountville AVA.

Guide books often refer to the town of Yountville as being the "culinary capital" of the Napa Valley.  Indeed, famed chef Thomas Keller has three acclaimed restaurants, and a stellar bakery (yum), in this small town.  However, Yountville, to me at least, is more significant as the place where grapevines were first cultivated in the Napa Valley.  Oh, and Yountville also has great Christmas lights.
George Calvert Yount was the first United States citizen to be awarded a fairly sizeable Spanish land grant from the Mexican government back in 1836.  Yount called his land Rancho Caymus and on it he built a cabin and a grist mill making him the first Euro-American settler in the valley.  In 1855 Yount paid for a surveyor to lay out the boundaries for a village he called Sebastopol, despite the fact that there was a nearby town, one valley over, already named that.  Eventually, in 1876, two years after Yount's death, the town was renamed Yountville in honour of it's founder.
Yountville did not become an American Viticultural Area (AVA) until 1999.  With 2,700 acres of planted vineyards, this AVA has a rather unique climate.  Moderated by the Yountville Mounts (which is actually just one rather large hill that waylays the marine fog as it advances up, through the valley), the relatively cool climatic conditions here lend themselves to great grape growing.  Interestingly, there are more grape-growers than actual wineries in Yountville.  For example, Gamble Family Vineyards is considered an Oakville winery, but they produce a Yountville AVA Sauvignon blanc, that I have enjoyed in the past, which hails from a vineyard in the AVA that they own and farm.  I have, however, also enjoyed wines from wineries that are in the Yountville AVA proper, e.g. Goosecross Cellars, Dominus Estate and Noah Vineyards, to name but a few.  Yountville is a compelling AVA.
Four down, twelve to go.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

I believe in pink.

Vinomaker and I are still working our way through our "gargle" (thank you, Thud) of Grenaches.  Thus far, mid-gargle so to speak, there have been a couple of hits and a few misses.  This rosé offering, the Bergerie de l'Hortus, 2013 Pic St. Loup (Coteaux du Languedoc), was a definite hit.  A GSM, made in the saignée method, this delightful pink wine had plenty of ripe fruitiness going on; raspberry, strawberry and a little tropical something that I couldn't quite identify.  A little floral, a little creamy, with very balanced acidity, this was a very pleasant tipple.  Love the label too - modern, fun and very un-Frenchlike. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

A fortnight later.

It has been two weeks today since Napa's 6.0 earthquake rattled many of downtown's historic buildings.  And, let's face it, this being California, there were precious few historic buildings to begin with.  This past Thursday was the first time I had ventured into downtown Napa proper, as I had some errands to run, and I was surprised to see that the overall state of the town is definitely as bad as the news media make it look.
Vintner's Collective, on the corner of Main and Clinton, is one such building that sustained considerable damage in the quake.  The collective, which showcases wines from boutique wineries that are perhaps too small to have their own tasting rooms, is housed in a building that hails from around 1875.  Or at least it was.  The building is a total mess, but apparently they are going to be able to rebuild it as the internal structure is intact.  It's an attractive building and I'm really glad it is going to be saved.  Hopefully, engineers will be able to save the Second Street Post Office and The Goodman Library also.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Happy Blogday.

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the birth of Vinsanity.  Six years!  And this is my 891st post.  I do go on, don't I?  I'm starting my day with a celebratory breakfast: Earl Grey and a carrot cupcake, whoo hoo!  Perhaps I'll go wild and have some bubbly with tonight's dinner.
Again, thank you to all the nice folks who bother to read and comment on Vinsanity, I love the feedback.
Roll on year 7!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Stags Leap District AVA.

I had some errands to attend to up valley today.  Traffic on the Silverado Trail was pretty sparse, so I was able to pull over and take a photo of the Stags Leap District AVA sign.  It was a gorgeous day for a drive and I enjoyed passing by many picturesque vineyards on my way up to Miner Family (Oakville AVA) to purchase some wine for Vinomaker.  I almost felt like a tourist.
The Stags Leap AVA is a beautiful part of the valley, topographically stunning due to the lofty Stags Leap Palisades to the east and the soft, rolling hills to the west.  But the AVA is perhaps most famous for being the home of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, the winery whose 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon took first place in the red wine category at the historic 'Judgement of Paris' in 1976. 
Cabernet Sauvignon was first planted in this AVA in 1961 by Nathan Fay and to this day Stags Leap's 1,200 acres of planted vineyards are mainly dedicated to the cultivation of Bordeaux grape varieties - with a bit of Chardonnay and Zinfandel thrown in.  And while this year the AVA is only celebrating it's 25th anniversary, the Stags Leap District has been a grape-growing region since the late 1800s.  Note to self...must find something, Stags Leap-ish, in the cellar with which to toast the AVAs milestone.
Three down, thirteen to go.

Monday, September 01, 2014

A gaggle of Grenache.

I don't think there is an actual collective noun that is specific to a group of Grenache wines.  I just like gaggle and Grenache together, although bevy (as in quail), or bouquet (as in pheasants) might be more appropriate.  But I digress.
Vinomaker has been on a bit of a Grenache binge of late.  He has been promised some Grenache grapes this year and so, seeing as he has never made this particular wine varietal before, he has been out on a Grenache investigative-shopping spree (mostly Napa and Sonoma iterations).  Consequently, we both have been, and will be, tasting a fair amount of this wine varietal (whose grape is a native of the Rhône Valley) in order to get a little better acquainted with Californian-style Grenache. 
The Frith, 2012 Grenache Napa Valley, was an early standout for me; light to medium bodied, lots of raspberry (Vinomaker got strawberry), candied-cherry, a hint of spiciness and rather food friendly.  Sigh, unfortunately, in my estimation it had a tad too much oak.  Otherwise, the Frith was an intriguing little wine.
Most of the wines in Vinomaker's Grenache collection are blends containing Syrah and Mouvedre (GSMs).  But one, the Mathis, 2012 Grenache Sonoma Valley, contains Petite Sirah, Carignane and even a little Alicante Bouschet (a tinturier variety).  If I deem any of the other wines in the gaggle blog-worthy I'll more than likely post about them right here. 
At this rate, I may tire of Grenache before the next International Grenache Day, which is slated for September 19th, rolls around.  We'll see.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

View from a train.

Today, Vinomum and I had lunch on the Napa Valley Wine Train.  We spent a leisurely 3 hours travelling up and down the valley (at about 15 miles per hour), gazing at moving vineyard-vistas, eating a three course meal and quaffing a bottle of Mumm Brut Prestige.  Life could be worse. 
The Wine Train was relatively quiet for what is considered peak season in the Napa Valley - harvest time.  Our waiter informed us that a lot of prospective passengers had cancelled their reservations due to fears related to Sunday's earthquake.  What a shame!  I don't think there are many other pastimes that could possibly be much more soothing to frayed nerves than sipping bubbly whilst being unhurriedly ferried through beautifully calming scenery. 
The wine list needs some help, and the waiter could do with brushing up on his facts a little bit, but other than that Vinomum and I had a wonderful afternoon ride on the Wine Train.