Thursday, February 27, 2014

Eek, a bud!

It's that time of year again.  Actually, it's not, it's a little bit earlier than last year.  But try telling that to the Orange muscat vines, there is no denying that bud-swell is upon us.  Can we say over-achievers?  Calm down little buddies!
I finished pruning the Pinot grigio vines today, but I only have about 25% of the canes tied down (thanks to Vinomaker).  It's forecast to rain tomorrow, but I can still tie-down in the rain.  Then, on to the Cabernet Sauvignon vines.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bacchus amat colles.

Bacchus may indeed love the hills, but I've always thought of myself as a bit of a champion of valley-floor fruit.  Another freebie older wine courtesy of the owners of TWWIAGE, a 1985 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, has me rethinking my position on hillside versus valley-floor, at least as to regards the ageability of wines made from hillside fruit.  Dry farmed at an elevation between 1600' - 1800' up on Spring Mountain (by the Napa-pioneering Smith brothers), I think this bottle was a great example of a hillside wine.
The Smith-Madrone is not the oldest Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) that I have enjoyed, that is a distinction reserved for a 1982 TWWIAGE.  However, it had to be the most stunningly alive, wonderfully structured and still strikingly relevant Napa Valley CS that I have ever had the pleasure of drinking.  Subtle echoes of black-fruitiness, wonderfully understated integration of oak, with firm, assertive tannins...blah, blah, blah...this wine had all the winning characteristics of a well made, aged and balanced CS from anywhere on the planet.  To me it was very reminiscent of a Left Bank Bordeaux.  Loved it.  Vinomaker, on the other hand, was not nearly as enthused as I was about this wine; he thought it lacked fruit, I thought he was crazy.
Not everyone enjoys older wines.  Some people, and Vinomaker is one of them, prefer more pronounced fruit characters in wine.  I like fruity wines myself, but I also like the complexity of older wines.  I drank a lot of older, French wines growing up, so I have a little bit of experience with how CS, for example, bottle ages - whereas the average Californian is used to drinking younger, fruit forward wines.  That doesn't necessarily mean that I am cleverer than the aforementioned Californian wine consumer, but it does mean I have had a slightly more expansive older-wine education than most.  In the case of the Smith-Madrone, I was able to balance the loss of some of the bold-fruit notes (a minimal loss, I might add), for the the complexity that the wine had attained through bottle-aging for 28 years.  Curiously, Vinomaker finished this bottle of wine the next evening and loved it: for him the wine had opened up and was now displaying an acceptable level of fruitiness.  In my estimation, this beautiful, middle-aged wine had many more years of age-worthiness ahead of it.  And look at that price tag, I wish I could buy this wine at that price today.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Go 'ed girl!

Yesterday, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers held their 13th annual Napa County Pruning Contest.  The weather couldn't have been more cooperative on a day when the industry’s top vineyard workers get to challenge each other in the art, and speed, of grapevine pruning.  And the winners were;
Women’s Division:
1st Place: Celia Perez, V. Sattui
2nd Place: Maria Romero, Walsh Vineyard Management
3rd Place: Maria Dolores Torres, Promontory
4th Place: Maricruz Gutierrez, The Napa Valley Reserve
Men’s Division:
1st Place: Omar Perez, Joseph Phelps
2nd Place: Victor Silvestre, Renteria
3rd Place: Rolando Esquivel, Beckstoffer Vineyards
4th Place: Jesus Juarez, Moulds Family Vineyard
Now, I wouldn't normally be as specific as to name names, except for the fact that this year, for the first time, women were able to compete.  And it's about time that women were included in this fun contest.  Beginning at 8 a.m., at Beringer Vineyards Gamble Ranch, each contestant pruned six Chardonnay vines in the preliminary leg of the competition. Three judges reviewed the quality of the cuts which accounted for 40% of the total score, and the time it took to prune the vines which accounted for the remaining 60% of the score. The top six scoring women and top eight scoring men moved on to the finals, where four men and four women placed as winners.
Good job girls!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wines by the glass.

This evening I took Vinomaker to a birthday dinner at Mustards Grill (close to Yountville, on Highway 29).  It's a great restaurant, the food is wholesome, innovative, beautiful to look at and always very, very tasty.  Mustards also has a really nice 'By the Glass' wine list which, as I have mentioned before, is Vinomaker's absolute favourite way of pairing wines with food at a restaurant.  So one glass of Alban Viognier, Truchard Roussanne, Turley Cinsault, T-Vine Grenache and Parador Tempranillo later (paired with roasted artichokes, crispy calamari, grilled rabbit and smoked duck), Vinomaker was one very happy diner indeed.
Happy birthday Vinomaker!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy St. Valentine's Day: 2014.

From amidst the misty-morning shrouded, unpruned vines of Vinoland a simple mercury glass heart wishes friendly tidings to all who visit here, or simply pass by. 
Happy St. Valentine's Day to you all.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pruning 2014 has begun.

Today I got out my trusty Felcos and began to prune.  I am about a week behind schedule due to all the rain last weekend.  I didn't get much done because I had a lot of errands to run and chores to perform before I could get outside to the vines.  When I finally did get outside, I had to take some bird-netting off the Orange muscat before I could do any actual pruning.  I'm happy with the little bit I did get done though: it was a beautiful afternoon and I got to spend some quality time with the Vinodogs.  Hopefully I'll get twice as much done tomorrow.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Drought's over!

California's drought is not over, but one could be forgiven for thinking it was.  It is now 1 p.m. PST Sunday afternoon and it has been raining steadily, and heavily, since about 11 p.m. Thursday night - a solid 62 hours.  (That's about 61 hours more rain than I would have liked to have fall on me this weekend.)  And the rain didn't come in showers, no, it fell hard, unabated and relentless.  It's still falling now; it's blowing in sheets and visibility is quite poor, (I can't see the range of hills opposite Vinoland).  Yesterday, the news reports were of wind and flood warnings for the entire Bay Area, along with a treacherous-driving condition alert and the possibility of mudslides in hilly areas.  A small creek flood advisory was also issued and, right on cue, Vinoland's small creek breached it's banks...we now have our own rapids.  Lovely.
The photograph shows where the creek passes under the deer fence on the northern end of Vinoland.  The water is only about 24-30 inches deep there, but it is moving quickly and a little further on has flooded a 10' wide flat area - another 7-8 feet and the creek will have reached the Pinot grigio vines.  And to think I was going to start pruning the white grapes this weekend.  The best made plans...

Friday, February 07, 2014

Taking a Gamble.

I am often guilty of buying wine just because I like the label.  It can be a bit of a gamble (sorry, couldn't resist) selecting wine in this manner, but that's just the daredevil-type person I am (yea, right).  Sometimes the gamble pays off, but more often than not the wine turns out to be not so good.  When the wine turns out to be a winner I generally feel very pleased with myself.  The Gamble Family Vineyards, 2012 Sauvignon blanc (Yountville) is one such wine.  However, I chose this particular bottle of wine because of it's back label. 
Now, I don't normally like labels to have too much information on them.  I am more interested in the wine than somebody waffling on about their family history etc., but this label happens to be informative and fun.  I was interested to learn that this Savignon blanc (SB) is made from two different clones of SB; Sauvignon Musque (from the Loire) and the Preston clone (from Graves).  Am I familiar with these two clones?  Can I taste each of these clone's unique characteristics?  No, on both counts.  But it does get me thinking about viticulture and all the other stuff I love about wine other than simply how the wine tastes.  As it happens, this SB tasted great; nicely balanced acidity, a mouth-filling mid-palate, nice tropical fruit expression (with lashings of sweet candied-pineapple) and a satisfyingly long finish.
The fun stuff?  I like the inclusion of the case production figure - I just find it an interesting little factoid.  And I love the line, "...slowly made into wine by Gamble Family Vineyards" - because I agree with the old adage that says that 'wine is a journey, not a destination'.  Though I'm not sure about the Gamble Family's being desirous of me to, "...enjoy this wine over several hours" - I think I'd need more than just one bottle to make this delightful tipple last that long.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Happy birthday Tigger!

Today happens to be my English-family's pony's birthday.  Tigger is a lovely, mellow old soul and is well into his twenties.  So happy birthday Tigmeister.
It also happens to be Chinese New Year (well, I'm a day late), so gung hey fat choi!  Incidentally, it happens to be the year of the horse, so Tiggs is doing double duty.  (Yea, so OK, pony, horse - let's not split hairs here.)  Fittingly, I read in yesterday's paper that China is now the world's largest red wine consuming nation - ahead of France and Italy - according to a survey done by Vinexpo, the international wine and spirits exhibition organisation.  The Chinese were responsible for downing 1.865 billion bottles of wine in 2013.  Part of red wine's allure for the Chinese is said to be it's actual colour, as red has great symbolic importance within the Chinese culture.  I'm thinking they may just like the way it tastes too.
It also happens to be St. Trifon's Day, so glad tidings to all grape-pruners out there...which reminds me that I need to get started pruning soon.
So happy, happy, happy day!