Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Federalist.

I love chili con carne, my own, homemade chili con carne that is.  And I love chili paired with a nice Zinfandel, however, California summer evenings are just too hot to indulge in a big plate of spicy, steaming hot chili (served over rice).  So between the months of May and September/October I simply don't make it, much to the vexation of Vinomaker.  We just recently enjoyed our last, cooler-spring-evening chili paired with a really nice Zinfandel that Thud had sent to me a couple of months back. 
The Federalist, 2010, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel was everything I like in a well made wine of this particular grape variety; pepper, red currant, plum and raspberry, yum!  Produced by The Terlato Wine Group (a company with an extensive wine portfolio which includes vineyard ownership and management, wine importing/exporting and many international winery collaborations), The Federalist hails from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County.  The Dry Creek AVA has come to be recognised as perhaps the premier viticultural area in the state for producing Zinfandel.  Zinfandel is considered the unofficial state grape of California.
And besides, I love the label.  Alexander Hamilton was an interesting man; born out of wedlock, he was a patriot, legal scholar, fiscal conservative and a defender of the Constitution of the United States.  All was going well for Hamilton until his career and reputation were derailed by his complicity in an 18th century sex scandal.  And then, to top it all off, he was mortally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr, a political rival.  Wow, what a life!  Spicy stuff, just like this wine.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Go wild in the country.

More unintended vegetative activity in Vinoland.  Several, 3 to 4 foot tall, sunflowers are growing here and there around the vineyard, surely the handywork of some mysterious, green-fingered, flower-loving horticulturist of the feathered variety.  The local population of nuthatches and titmice seem to be very fond of sunflower seeds, so I'm inclined to suspect that one, or both, of these frequent visitors to Vinoland's bird feeders are the culprits.
Vinomaker has humoured me and has mowed around the sunflowers for a few weeks now.  Thanks Vinomaker, they look so cheery.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

And life goes on.

In amongst a large pile of chipped up grapevine cuttings, the manifestation of new, joyously unrestrained life appears in the form of dozens of tiny, self-rooted Syrah, or possibly Cabernet Sauvignon, vines.  Life does indeed go on.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vinodog 1.

I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time? The misery of keeping a dog is his dying so soon. But, to be sure, if he lived for fifty years and then died, what would become of me?”
Sir Walter Scott.

Vinomaker greeted me as I arrived home from work today with the news that V1 had died in her sleep.  What a wonderful way to pass on,  I just wish I'd been with her.  She was a great dog. 
Godspeed Mya.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Head Trained.

Despite a busy day at TWWIAGE (and toasty mid 90s temps), a quick detour on the way home took me over to Napa Valley College Estate Winery where the VWT Department was holding it's 2014 May Fair.  The annual event is a showcase for the release of wines that the oenology students have produced.  It is always fun to taste the latest batch of wines made from the vines in the college's student vineyard.  But most importantly, this year's May Fair was a chance for me, and Vinomaker, to say good bye, and thank you, to Dr. Stephen Krebs.  Happy retirement Dr. Krebs.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Onion.

Having exhausted documenting almost all of the blue coloured wildflowers in Vinoland (although, I still have one up my sleeve), I have had to resort to photographing whatever is currently flowering.  And even that has been a bit difficult with the unusually breezy weather lately, but let me present to you this little, long-stalked cutey, the white onion (Allium neopolitanum).
A little bit of rain here and there (which includes an unexpected, unforecasted heavy shower today), and lashings of sunshine, has resulted in quite a variety of wildflowers blooming in Vinoland this spring.  Besides the white onion, there are plenty of wild hyacinth and blue-eyed grass in flower right now in an area of Vinoland that I won't let Vinomaker mow, for the time being, and it's driving him crazy.  Oh well.  Bloom on little onion.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Anthesis: 2014.

Today I noticed the onset of anthesis, or bloom, in the Pinot grigio vines - as I spent the entire day suckering, thinning, disbudding (odd word) and stuffing wayward shoots under trellis wires.  Buds, buds everywhere.  This time of year the vines, with their enthusiastic unruliness, tend to push buds out from wherever they can.  Leaf buds, flower buds, axillary buds, adventitious buds, lateral buds, water sprouts, suckers - there is new, succulent vegetative tissue pushing out everywhere.  Adventitious buds are sometimes helpful in replacing lost positions on a grapevine, but generally all this extra growth just serves to divert vigour and productivity from the buds I selected when I was pruning.
Some buds on grapevines can remain dormant indefinitely, but when conditions are just right these latent buds may become active and push out from the older, woody tissue where they have been snoozing.  The mini inflorescence in the photograph was apparently very impatient to do something this spring, as it budded out from this vines trunk, just above the graft union, without any leaves for companionship.  Hope it doesn't get too comfortable because it's coming off tomorrow.  Sorry buddy!

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Afternoon in the Vineyards: 2014.

The 14th annual 'Afternoon in the Vineyards' was held today, so Vinomaker and I put on some sensible vineyard-boots and headed over to the Carneros American Viticultural Area.  The closest vineyard, on the list of six from which to choose, was that of Pine Ridge Vineyards - their Carneros Collines vineyard on Buhman Avenue.
Pine Ridge grow Chardonnay and Merlot at this location and both varietal wines were available for tasting, so we did (Vinomaker even went back for seconds).  It's a nice vineyard.  Viticultural experts who work for the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, a co-sponsor of the event, were on hand to answer any questions visitors may have had.  The bottom, level half of the vineyard had originally been planted to Merlot and had been grafted over to Chardonnay clones 76, 95 and 96 within the last 2 years (I would guess). 
The old Merlot trunks were quite old and gnarly.  There were lots of questions from the attendees about these not-so-normal looking grapevines; How does one go about attaching the bud?  And how does one end up with the two arms of a bi-lateral cordon?  It was fun to stand in the sun, with my 2 ounces of Merlot, and just listen to the conversations.  Vinomaker and I didn't stay for too long, after all, I had things to do in my own vineyard.  It's always a fun event.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Sign language.

In December of 2011 Coombsville became the Napa Valley's sixteenth American Viticultural Area (AVA).  Just recently a large oval sign, a familiar sight in all fifteen other AVAs, was erected against a fence on the corner of the Rocca Family's Collinetta Vineyard on Coombsville Road.  So it's all official now.
Situated a little above the level of the road, I must have driven past the sign at least half a dozen times, but hadn't noticed it (whizzing past with groceries desperately in need of refrigeration) - until I was told to look for it by a friend.  In my defense I am usually looking at the vineyard on the south side of the road, but now that I know where the sign is my attention is drawn to it each time I pass by.  I like it.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Shoots galore!

When a winemaker/grower friend recently asked me if I had ever seen both the primary and secondary shoots push on a grapevine I answered, "Yes.  And even the tertiary bud occasionally".  She seemed a little concerned that something was amiss in her vineyard as she hadn't really witnessed this phenomenon before.  I, on the other hand, deal with this vegetative-merrymaking every year in Vinoland and have, in the past, simply attributed it to the over exuberance of certain vines.  One such Cabernet sauvignon vine, sporting all three shoots, posed for the above photograph.  But it did get me thinking.
After a quick shufty through all of my viticulture books with no satisfactory findings, I turned to the internet - not much joy there either I'm afraid.  The conventional wisdom online is that the main reason for a secondary shoot pushing is the death or removal of the primary shoot.  Call me old fashioned, but I think the primary shoot in the photograph looks very much alive.  The second reason is perhaps that the vine has suffered a severe pruning.  Nope, I prune the same every year - 2 eight-bud canes and 2 two-bud spurs (5' by 7' spacing) which, in my opinion, is not that severe.  The third reason given is boron deficiency.  Ha!  Coombsville is known for boron toxicity: a neighbour of mine even trucks in water for their vineyard because their boron-rich well water would kill their vines. 
Not being happy with any of my findings, my last resort was to email Dr. Stephen Krebs, my VWT professor at NVC (who, I just found, out is retiring this summer and I am just devastated by the news).  If there is one, ultimate viticultural-brain to pick then Dr. Krebs is in possession of it.  And he said; 
"As for the multiple-bud push, the only explanation that makes sense, of the ones you listed, is severe pruning (which translates to “over exuberance”). If you combine that with a lot of soil moisture and warm, sunny conditions at bud break, I think you get many doubles and even triples."
And there you have it, at least I am satisfied with that explanation.  The climatic conditions at budbreak were such that all of Vinoland's vines were invested with a natural exuberance - which translates as a lot of suckering and thinning in Vinogirl's near future.  I love vines.