Friday, January 31, 2014

Bye bye Bluebell.

A year and one day after I closed one chapter of my Californian life, I find myself saying goodbye to another house, but this time it is my childhood home.  I knew the day would come when eventually this small, semi-detached house would no longer be a haven for me (albeit only mentally seeing as I live 6,000 miles away).  I knew that day would come.  I just didn't know how sad it would make me.  I feel so far away.
Goodbye little red-brick house, you were my family's rock.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Call me.

My iPhone sports a spiffy, antiqued Union Jack case which I love.  However, it didn't stop me from feeling a tad envious when I recently saw this particular 1990, Petrus iPhone case.  It's a nice bit of whimsy.  I almost considered searching on the internet for other wine label themed iPhone cases - after all, I couldn't have a Petrus, someone had already beat me to it.  Besides, I'd rather have a bottle of the real thing, 1990, or otherwise. 
Now I just have to get over my handbag envy.  Long story.

Monday, January 27, 2014

True Wine Lover 15.

On January 31st, following the annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium (held up in Sacramento), The American Society for Enology and Viticulture will honour Dr. Ann C. Noble for her extensive contribution to the world of wine.  During Dr. Noble's 30 year tenure at UC Davis, she conducted key studies in sensory science.  
Dr. Noble also invented the Wine Aroma Wheel, a tool that helps wine tasters identify and describe aromas and smells, aiding in the enhancement of the tasting experience.  The first woman faculty member at UC Davis's Department of Viticulture and Enology, since retirement Dr. Noble has remained active in the wine industry; selling the Aroma Wheel, judging at wine competitions and giving seminars on wine tasting.
I briefly met Dr. Noble when she visited TWWIAGE with an international group of Masters of Wine.  Finding myself alone in the staff kitchen with a complete stranger I offered her a cup of coffee and began to make small-talk.  My kitchen-companion asked me where I was from?  What I did at the winery?  Where did I go to school?  The usual stuff.  In return, I asked her what she did for a living, etc.  She answered that she was retired now, but had done "a little bit of work on sensory evaluation."  It was at that point that I noticed she was holding a stack of the aforementioned Aroma Wheels.  Quick, me. 
Well deserving of recognition for her commitment to educating others about wine (she obviously loves all things wine), I also happen to believe that Dr. Noble deserves an award for modesty.  Nice lady.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A provincial wine.

Peju Provence is an interesting winery.  Situated right in the thick of things on Hwy 29 in Rutherford, Peju attracts an incredible number of tourists/wine-tasters on a daily basis (mainly of the type who never bother to get off the beaten wine-track).  The winery has a row of American Sycamore trees along the length of it's driveway that are intriguingly pruned, sans branches, that look spectacular every December when bedecked with red Christmas lights.  The tasting experience is expansive in that they produce a lot of different wines (a few which are quite, erm, unusual blends), and in that there are several different areas of the winery to taste in.  The lucky, visiting wine enthusiast may be treated to a tasting hosted by the Yodelmeister (and that's all I'm going to say about that).  One of the tasting areas has the most unusually coloured stone floor and tasting bar: a quartzite called Azul Macauba which, apparently, is only found in Brazil...all fascinating stuff, but it has absolutely nothing to do with wine.
The Peju, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) wasn't a bad wine, but it was a bit thin and a tad unresolved.  The wine had a nice amount of oak, balanced acidity and a pleasant fruit vibe, but it was still just a bit, well, blah.  This Napa Cabernet went fairly well with food (this poor wine simply couldn't overpower anything if it tried), but it just didn't have any wow-ability factor.  I was given this wine, so it mattered little to me that it turned out to be just so-so.  But then again, that's just my opinion - the hundreds of tasters that process through this place on the weekends, and are responsible for about 96% of this winery's entire production being sold direct-to-consumer, would probably beg to differ.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A dry spell?

A really, really long spell.  As of the 17th of January California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for the state, saying that the state is facing "perhaps the worst drought that California has ever seen since records (began) about 100 years ago."  It has indeed been very dry and warm, 75° F today in Oakville, and we haven't had any measurable rainfall since the 6th of December.  Even so, I think the Governor will find plenty of northern California water to send to the southern end of the state.  Ho hum.
Now whilst I am loving this fantastic, but unseasonable weather, I understand that California is a rather dry place - even on a normal rainfall year - and we do need some rain to fall.  In many vineyards, no doubt, soil moisture content is at an all time low, and warm temperatures could mean an earlier than normal budbreak, especially in some white grape varieties.  Yesterday an owner/management company, of a vineyard on the Oakville Crossroad, decided to take matters into their own hands and water their vineyard.  The sprinklers sprinkled all day, were still sprinkling when I left work, and were still sprinkling when I arrived at work this morning.  The ensuing winter wonderland of icicle-laden grapevines was the result of the overnight temperatures dipping below freezing.  It looked fantastic, but I bet it used up a lot of water.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Morning in the Winery.

Couldn't think of a better way to spend one hour on a drizzly Napa Saturday morning, than visiting a winery that was participating in the inaugural Morning in the Winery (MITW) open house event.  So Vinomaker and I nipped over to Trefethen Family Vineyards.
A complementary event to 'Afternoon in the Vineyards' (also hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners), I chose to visit Trefethen because it was the nearest winery to Vinoland of the five wineries that were participating.  But also because I like the fact that Trefethen is still a family owned winery and that they give back to the community: in the late 2000s the family made a large donation that made it possible to fund the construction of part of Napa Valley College's teaching winery.
The Trefethen's have been making wine in the Napa Valley for over 40 years in a historic three-story, gravity flow, wooden structure that was built in 1886 by a Mr. Hamden McIntyre.  Originally called Eshcol, the winery survived the late 19th, early 20th century phylloxera infestation in the valley, only to see the business irreparably damaged by the introduction, in 1920, of Prohibition.  Eshcol closed it's doors in 1940 and remained closed until the Trefethen's bought it in 1968.
The Trefethen facility is a great place to visit and the MITW was a well organised event.  Visitors were able to visit several stations and talk to experts in the fields of viticulture and winemaking and taste wine.  Three wines were available to taste and although it was a bit early in the day I did go ahead and taste.  The 2011 Harmony Chardonnay was a little over-oaked and thin, but drinkable.  The 2012 Pinot noir was pinot-like, but also very thin.  The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was, well, just let me say that a sip of this wine took care of one of my five daily fruits and vegetables.  Can anyone say green beans with me?  It was very vegetal and also a little thin.
All in all, MITW was a fun event.  I hope it was successful enough with Napa residents to ensure that there is a 2015 MITW.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Goodbye Blighty, 2014.

My holiday is over.  Once again I have to bid family, and England, farewell.  It's been a good trip, but now I am looking forward to seeing Vinomaker and the Vinodogs (and wish them a happy new year).  So goodbye Blighty...California here I come.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Wheatsheaf Inn.

I'm  not a local.  I call the pub that I visited today by the name outside on it's shingle, The Wheatsheaf.  Apparently the locals call it The Thatch, and indeed it was recently rethatched. But roofing material aside, it was for the beer that I was here, or rather, there. A quick glass of Trapper's Hat, and an open coal fire, was a great cure for the increasingly greying sky outside.

Monday, January 06, 2014

A Chianti fiasco.

I have gotten off to a rather slow blogging-start to 2014. Being on holiday will do that to a person: rest and relaxation have been available in abundance.  What hasn't been available in abundance is wine. Vinogirl has been a tad under the weather, so, consequently, I have been a little off the vino.  However, I did imbibe in a cheap and cheerful Chianti, a 2012 offering from Famiglia Castellani, which paired very well with Thud's beefy-bucatini dinner offering. To be honest, a lot of time wasn't spent in the choosing of this £6.99 ($11.00) wine.  Thud picked this particular bottle of Chianti because it came in a flask, or fiasco, a familiar sight on shop shelves years ago, but not so common now. This uncomplicated wine paired fairly well with the pasta...and the packaging was, for me, nostalgic fun.