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.