Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween! Quoth The Liverbird.

This Liverbird might have been frightened out of his feathers, but he has managed to hold on to a small cluster of Cabernet Sauvignon mummies.
Hope everybody has a fun and safe Halloween.
Eat chocolate!  Drink red wine!

Friday, October 30, 2015

One of my favourite tipples.

The weather continues to be spectacular in Napa.  A few of cool mornings have given way to afternoon temperatures into the low 80s: a threat of rain did not materialise this past Wednesday.  So Vinomaker and I continue to quaff chilled white wines, one of which is the ever pleasant Laird Family Estate, 2014 Pinot Grigio.  With screw cap-ease, sunsets are appreciated, navels are contemplated and all is right with the world.  Sigh.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Midterm Presentation.

Tonight, my little group of marketing-classmates and I presented our midterm assignment to the entire class.  And ours was indeed the littlest group.  I hadn't noticed before, but one of the other groups was comprised of seven people, (in theory, that's almost twice the man-hours that the larger group had to dedicate to writing their marketing project), so we were at a little disadvantage from the start.  And start we did, as I volunteered for my group to go first.  I wanted to get it over and done with. But I also wanted to be the first group to present our marketing ideas; wine pricing, label redesign, promotion, events, social media, etc., because I had a feeling that the three other groups would probably have the same sort of ideas that my group had come up with.  Tactics, tactics.
Speaking in public is not my favourite thing to do, but I can make myself do it.  As it turns out I didn't have to say much.  One member, a mere 25% of our motley crew, who is the lone American and the only one taking this class for a grade, (yes, 75% of my group are not Americans, or taking the class for a grade), did the majority of the presentation.  However, I didn't just stand around twiddling my thumbs, (no, I left that particular presentation skill to the two men in our group).  I busied myself with manning the class computer.  I had decided that the visual vehicle of our presentation should be driven by a blog that I had set up for that very purpose. (Thank you Blogger/Google for free blogging). The blog proved to be a great tactical coup because the other groups, as I had anticipated they would, used PowerPoint (boring) to present their visual content. Our instructor loved the blog format.
The fifteen minutes allotted to us flew by, thank goodness, and the feedback was very positive. Phew!  Then the instructor dropped a bombshell - we have to do it all over again next week for a couple of Napa Valley College-bigwigs, Shark Tank-style.  Not good.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

NVSVA Harvest Party, 2015.

Vinomaker and I have just returned from the annual Napa Valley Small Vineyard Association's harvest party at Phoenix Ranch Vineyards.  I missed it last year (as I was double booked for harvest parties that night), so I was really looking forward to attending this year.  I got to catch up with a bunch of people I hadn't seen in a while and also meet some new folks.  A good time was had by all.
I was a little disappointed that the Thingwall Tipplers (you know who you are) were not present, but it seems they flew back to Merseyside on Wednesday.  I was hoping to make my apologies in person for being a lousy emailer.  Sorry!
Great evening, great food, great wines.  Happy harvest season everyone!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Going snorkelling.

There is a new tool in Vinoland.  Meet, The Snorkel.
For years now, Vinomaker and I have been using a home-made apparatus to separate the free-run juice from the pressed juice.  Our DIY jobbie was made from food grade plastic and performed the task fairly well, but it was difficult to clean, and therein lies the problem.  Anything, absolutely anything, that is used in the winemaking process from beginning to end has to be cleanable.  There are a lot of ways to spoil wine and using dirty equipment is right at the top of the list.  The most important thing to remember about microbial spoilage - from yeasts and bacterium - is that it is a whole lot easier to prevent the development of these microorganisms in the production of wine than it is to deal with the adverse effects of spoilage once it has happened.
Not exactly a cheap item, The Snorkel's retail price is $290.  Vinomaker was considering another home-made gizmo, but when he did a little bit of research he found the cost of the materials alone would have been about $150. Much easier, and time management efficient, to just buy one that someone else manufactured. The Snorkel made the whole pressing operation, along with the fact that our hydraulic basket press was feeling better today, much more expeditious.
Harvest and winemaking 2015 is complete.  Yay!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Social media.

Tonight, being that our instructor is still out of town, my marketing-classmates and I had a guest speaker.  Andrew Healy, a native of Ireland, is the founder of 3 Rock Marketing.  3 Rock Marketing is a small marketing company based in Napa that specialises in social media. Mr. Healy's presentation was really interesting and he had a lot of good tips for those marketing-type folks who already use social media in their workplace.  In fact, he had so much to say that the class ran a little bit late, but nobody seemed too bothered.
Although Andrew's main focus was on Facebook, (and how to optimise your company's online presence - for a relatively small amount of money), Andrew covered most social media applications like; Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  Now, of late, I had been thinking that Facebook was a little passé, but apparently I am wrong.  It seems Facebook is still the go-to platform for companies who want to reach the most people...and translate eyes-on-the-page into dollars.
Nowadays, one cannot escape the ubiquitous, highly recognisible, stylised, little social media icons that appear on just about everything. The Facebook icon was even on a bottle of San Pellegrino that I took out of the refrigerator when I got home from class.  I'm left wondering who are the people who have the time to go to San Pellegrino's Facebook page and read about sparkling water, albeit Italian.   I am not one of those people.  I barely have time to post on this blog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Vinsanity: Another new logo.

How about this Liverbird for Vinsanity's logo? Cool, eh?
A co-worker of mine at TWWIAGE is quite a good doodler - he is always scribbling away at something or other.  Taking advantage of  The Doodler's talent, I asked him if he could draw me a Liverbird with grapes. Of course, I first had to explain to him exactly what a Liverbird was, but, after a couple of internet searches, it didn't take him long to come up with this sketch of my newest feathered-friend.
Fierce looking, with a bunch of grapes in its beak and a picking knife in its claw, this Liverbird looks all set for harvesting action - a bit like me...yeah, right.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A pressing matter.

Two weeks have passed since we harvested Vinoland's Syrah, so today it was time to press off the grapes.  Just one little problem though, we could not use our large hydraulic, stainless-steel basket press as it was feeling under the weather.  With the hydraulic press out of commission, (incapacitated by a temperamental capacitor), Vinomaker and I had to resort to using an old basket press that he had purchased back when he started making wine in the late 90s.  It took us forever.  But, looking on the bright side, although the process was long it did give me plenty of time to reflect upon how much I love electricity.
Tomorrow, I must see if I can borrow the neighbour's horse, hook up a plough and get the vineyard whipped into shape for the winter. Just joking.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sell, sell, sell!

Tonight, in my wine marketing class, I got to meet with my group of classmates and work on our mid-term project as our instructor is out of town.  He will be out of town next week also, as he was on October 1st (attending a conference in Spain).  Mr. Wagner is a busy man.  In lieu of a proper class, we were supposed to watch a film called Crazy People (about an advertising executive who goes mad), but we only got to see the opening credits as something was wrong with the DVD and nobody could get it to work. So, with nothing else scheduled for the evening, I had to meet with my group.
I have to say, my group is an interesting mix of people.  Originally the group was made up of 5 people, but then number 5 simply disappeared for a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, our instructor had given us an additional group member, number 6.  Then number 5 dropped the class and number 6 informed us that she didn't want to be in our group (ouch!) and so we became 4.  Only one member of our group is an American, so communication is a bit of a challenge.  Nevertheless, we put our heads together in an attempt to come up with a 5 year financial plan for selling the wine that the college produces.  (Our mid-term paper is due October 29th).  After 45 minutes I could stand getting nowhere no longer: I made my excuses and left.  Hopefully, my group and I will be able to come up with something feasible, (something better than the business plan I came up with on my own), over the next fortnight.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Harvest 2015 is complete!

Harvest 2015 in Vinoland is done (and it was the earliest harvest ever). Hooray!  Whereas the size of Vinoland's Syrah crop was about normal, the Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) crop was, perhaps, 25% down.  The CS harvest numbers are; 24.0 °B, a pH of 3.82 and a TA of 5.15 (a little low).
I had actually decided upon the harvest date a few weeks back due more to logistics than anything else.  Vinomaker was concerned that the fruit would not be ready, but, by the way in which harvest had been progressing valley wide, I really felt that harvest wouldn't be late in Vinoland.
Besides it being the earliest harvest in Vinoland it was also the fastest pick - which meant that the harvest lunch/afterglow got going a little sooner than expected; wine, food and more wine abounded.
A surprisingly enjoyable wine at lunch, brought along by Mrs. St. Helena Sot who had been given the bottle by the proprietor of the winery, was a Fantesca, 2012 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley AVA).  Yes, a Chardonnay! An absolutely beautiful wine, made by Heidi Barrett (whoo hoo! for women winemakers), this Chardonnay was balanced, delicately fruity and was possessed of an ethereal quality that was simply too hard to describe. A fun quote, from Margaret Thatcher, printed on the cork (Fantesca Fortune Corkies) just added to my enjoyment.
Harvest 2015 is done, just ask this woman.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The three-tier system.

So Vinomaker and I have a fairly frequent conversation that goes something like this;
VM: "Hey, it's Whatchamacallit's birthday, can you send him/her a bottle of TWWIAGE Cabernet Sauvignon?"
VG: "No, I can't."
VM: "Why can't you?"
VG: "Because I'd be committing a felony if I shipped a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to Whosit in, e.g., Pennsylvania."
VM: "Well, that's stupid!"
Yes, it would be a felony for me to ship wine into Pennsylvania and, yes, it is stupid.  But that is the current state of affairs when trying to navigate the shipping/distribution laws in the US.
Tonight's wine marketing class concentrated on the unique, and arcane, wine distribution system in the United States.  Simply put, the 'three-tier system' came into existence with the repeal of Prohibition (in 1933) which gave each state control over the sale and distribution of alcohol, (the three-tier system refers to the producers, distributors and retailers of wine).  And that is the way it continues to work to this day, with no real incentive to change the system in the states where the distributor has a monopoly (and the politicians like the status quo).  So, no, Thingamajig cannot have a birthday bottle of wine: I like my liberty too much.
It is much less complicated, in the US, to make wine than sell it.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Vinoland's Syrah Harvest: 2015.

The Syrah grapes are in, and I have to say the fruit looks gorgeous.  Look at the colour of that drop of juice on the berry to the lower left of the photograph: getting good colour extraction of of Syrah grapes is never a problem.  There was quite a bit more bee-damage than bird-damage this year which is a little unusual.  But I like bees, so it's alright.  Harvesting and destemming went smoothly.  And so did the party afterwards, (which is always a lot of fun).  A good harvest.
Syrah by the numbers, 26.5 °B, a pH of 3.56 and a TA of 5.75.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Happy 8th birthday V2!

Vinodog 2 turns 8 years old today - and she is clearly not impressed.  At least that is the feeling I am getting, as she looks like she is blowing a raspberry at the very thought of being so old. And the fact that her black bits are increasingly becoming more grey.  Of course, she did enjoy her extra helping of dog biscuits after breakfast and unwrapping her new squeaky toy (Sid the shark), but now she is outside napping in the Napa sunshine clearly underwhelmed by the day's events thus far.  I'll take her for a walk down by the river, she'll like that.  She's a great dog.
Happy birthday V2!