Thursday, December 31, 2015

Joie de vivre!

This year, in homage to the people of Paris, I went 100% Français in the selection of wines for my traditional New Year's Eve bubbly event. Real Parisians, one and all, demonstrated remarkable stoicism in 2015 when faced with abominable barbarism.  Three cheers to freedom!
The wines?  Of the three Champagnes in tonight's tasting, the Perrier-Jouët was, unquestionably, my favourite.  A perfectly delightful tipple.
It had been quite a stressful day, with my little Vinodog 2 spending most of it at a veterinary clinic having an emergency surgical procedure, but, thankfully, the prognosis is good.  So tonight, in celebration of life, I had an extra glass of the Perrier-Jouët.  Tchin-tchin to 2016.
A Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sweetly doing nothing, or a lot.

Yesterday, I spent almost 2 ½ hours running errands for the owners of TWWIAGE.  I am not complaining, whilst I was out and about, I got to visit some of the most iconic, and prettiest, wineries in the entire Napa Valley.  And high on the pretty-o-meter is the driveway leading to the Far Niente Winery.
The driveway, that wends its way up to the gates of the Far Niente grounds, is impressively lined with more than one hundred Ginkgo biloba trees which look good not only in the summer months, but are very striking even now in the winter. Well done, Far Niente, well done.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Choosing stocking fillers can be fun, especially if said stocking fillers are for wine-lovers because there are so many to choose from.
In Vinomaker's stocking this year was the Capabunga, an innovative, liquid tight, silicone closure for partially used bottles of wine, so that they can be stored on their side in a refrigerator. The folks at CapaBunga also came up with the CapaBubbles a product which turns a partially emptied sparkling wine bottle into a screw cap, (a product absolutely not necessary in Vinoland).  But this post is not about how useful, and fun, CapaBunga's products are.  No, this post is about the fun, whimsical, bottle-shaped UPC code on the Capabunga's packinging.  I just love it, it's a great design.  God is in the detail.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Christmas: 2015.

A very Happy Christmas to all from Vinoland.  I might possibly remember Christmas Day 2015 as my first ever white Christmas in Napa: the frost was so heavy this morning that everywhere was indeed white.  No doubt due to the elevated humidity, from all the rain we have been having of late, there was just more moisture than normal to freeze.  It was just gorgeous.
Wishing you all a joyful day filled with family, friends, good food and great wine.  And a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to all.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve, 2015.

I spent the entire day baking and preparing food; two different types of bread; two batches of mince pies (thanks to Thud for the new mince pie tin); and a massive amount of 'Puppy Chow' (aka Chex Muddy Buddies).
I had so much fun as I mixed and stirred, whilst listening to, and singing along with, my favourite Christmas carols ('Once in Royal David's City' being my all time fave).
A happy Christmas Eve to everyone.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Solstice, 2015.

Looking north from Oakville on this the winter solstice, except there is nothing much to look at besides the rain and clouds.  A grey, rainy morning gave way to a grey, rainy afternoon.  So, yes, not much to see and even less to photograph on this winter-solstice sunset.  Except there was no detectable sunset.  And the solstice is not until 4.48 a.m. GMT (which will be the 22nd December PST) - which is about four hours from when this photograph was taken.  But you get my drift.
Happy winter solstice, everyone.
Sing it, Ian!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The rain and wind beat dark December.

A rainy December day called for something robust with dinner.  The Mi Sueño, 2011 Tempranillo, Rancho Chimiles (Napa Valley AVA), was just the wine to banish the rain-blahs away.  Lots of red plum and spicy red currant, and with great tannins, this Tempranillo was a great California rendition of an old Spanish classic.
I had actually tasted this wine before, although in a very different stage of the wine's development.  Usually, I don't care for barrel samples, as I am not a winemaker and I don't have a crystal ball that will tell me what to expect of the finished product.  However, I remember the barrel-sample of this wine as being quite stunning, even in its infancy.  Now that this Tempranillo is all grown up, I'm enjoying it once again.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The final.

Tonight was the final week of my wine marketing class - and the night I had to take the final exam.  I think I did alright, it was a fairly straight forward test on all of the topics covered over the entirety of the semester.
At the end of the exam, there was a question for extra credit.  The question was: Who said, "The medium is the message"?  Well, I could not for the life of me recall who had rambled off that particular, little expression.  I had written the quote down, but not the author, Marshall McLuhan.  I can't remember whether or not that I had felt that it wasn't important at the time to jot down a name.  Or that perhaps at that particular moment the instructor was speaking faster than my note taking ability.  Or even if I simply did not know how to even spell McLuhan, (Mc and Mac names can, at times, be bothersome).  I do know I won't be getting that extra point.  And I'll remember Mr. McLuhan from this point forward.
Anyway, school's out.  Whoo hoo!  Now the Christmas festivities can begin in earnest.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A bauble for my tree.

Another early Christmas gift, this time from my English family.  A lovely, surprise parcel arrived yesterday.  On opening the parcel this morning, (after first checking with my sister-in-law to make sure that I wouldn't spoil any surprise), I discovered this fantastic Liverbird adorned Christmas bauble.  I love it, it's brilliant and it's now on my tree.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Gaudete, 2015.

It's Gaudete Sunday.  As is the tradition here in Vinoland, the wine of choice for the third Sunday of the Advent season is always something pink.  I have to say, I am absolutely tickled pink with my wine selection this year. (Sorry, couldn't resist).
The Richard Grant, NV Cuvée Rosé Brut (North Coast AVA) may not be the best California sparkling wine I have ever had, but it is definitely a very pleasant tipple.  And it may not be the bubbliest methodé champenoise wine that I have ever had: this Blanc de Noirs has the level of fizz one would more commonly associate with a Crémant.  The nose is delicately floral, the mouth-feel is balanced and the sour-cherry-strawberry-red-apple-skin thing on the palate is quite moreish.  Whilst this sparkling wine may be average, the story behind this wine is anything but average.
Grant is the middle name of  Dr. Richard Peterson.  Dr. Peterson may have had one of the more storied Napa Valley wine industry careers, but now he owns, and farms, a Christmas tree farm just north of the city of Napa.  Dr. Peterson is the winemaker of my 2015 Gaudete rosé selection, a wine he produces from 2 acres of his property which is reserved for a Pinot noir (PN) vineyard.  The backstory of this particular PN clone is great stuff.
Dating back to Roman Britain, a mere 2,000 years, the Wrotham (pronounced root-um) clone of PN was discovered growing in a churchyard in the village of Wrotham, Kent.  Said to be naturally disease-resistant, the leaves of the Wrotham clone apparently have a covering of fine white hairs on the upper surface of the leaf blade - I shall have to try and see this for myself next spring.  Dr. Peterson's website has more information on this most unusual of Vitis vinifera clones.  Good stuff.
Rejoice with something pink.
Sing it Maddy!

Saturday, December 12, 2015


There was just a single directive on the invitation to TWWIAGE's 2015 Christmas party - Attire: Dazzling.  And a dazzling night it turned out to be.  This evening, all my coworkers, along with their guests, dazzled in their finest gladrags at our annual Christmas shindig which was once again held in the historic Barrel Room at Vintage Estates in Yountville. The dazzling, diamond strewn table tops were a particularly nice touch.
A good time was had by all.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Winery Christmas Lights 14.

Just to keep things interesting, I sometimes take a different way to and from TWWIAGE.  Call me crazy.  There is so much going on this time of year in the valley that I had forgotten that Trefethen Family Vineyards always has a fun Christmas light display on the corner of Highway 29 and Oak Knoll Avenue.  I saw Trefethen's Christmas lights on the way home from work on Wednesday night; a rustic buckboard with brightly illuminated Christmas packages.  Thanks, Trefethen Family.
I finally got my own Christmas tree up today.  I had wanted to get my tree up last week, but stuff got in the way.
Let's get this party started!

Thursday, December 10, 2015


I may have mused once or twice before that the English language is a funny old thing.  An example: about ten years ago, when I first started taking viticulture classes at Napa Valley College, I happened to mention to Vinomaker that I was revising for an exam.  "You are changing something?" he asked.  Pardon?  Americans generally use the word revision in the context of altering something.  Whereas, the British typically use the word revision to describe the process of going over something in the vain hope that one understands the subject matter sufficiently enough to pass an exam. Americans would simply use the word study.
Tonight's wine marketing class was a review of all the topics covered over the 16 weeks that the class was in session.  I hardly remembered any of it. So pardon me, I am off to do some revision, and panic: next week will be the final examination.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Anchor Christmas Ale: 2015.

Yay!  It's that time of year when Anchor Brewing Company's Christmas Ale is available in the shops.  This is the 41st time that Anchor has released their Christmas Ale, a tradition the company began in 1975.  And drinking it is a tradition I started for myself some years later.  I really look forward to the release of this ale, to me it means Christmas is coming.  The recipe is different each year and it is always kept a secret. This year, Anchor decided to add less spices, a throwback to earlier iterations when the ales malty-ness was more prominent.  And yes, the ale is quite malty this year, very fruity and very smooth.
The tree depicted on the 2015 label is a Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara), better known as the California Christmas Tree.  Evidently, this cedar "has been a San Francisco favourite for over 150 years."  Did not know that, but now I do.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

True Wine Lover 16.

Mon Docteur le Vin may have been an early Christmas present, but it was not my first.  This past Tuesday, one of the owners of TWWIAGE surprised me with a copy of  'The Winemaker' an autobiography by Dr. Richard G. Peterson.  But not just any old copy, she had had Dr. Peterson sign it with a personal message to me, (not Vinogirl).  So thoughtful and kind.
There is nothing that I can say about Dick Peterson that hasn't been said before, the man is a Napa Valley living legend, a true pioneer of the California wine industry.  And now there is a whole book about him for the rest of us to enjoy. Peterson has led a very accomplished life, but, perhaps, as viewed by a younger generation, his accomplishments have been partially eclipsed by those of his talented daughters; Holly Peterson Mondavi and, of course, Heidi Peterson Barrett.
And why exactly is Dick Peterson one of my True Wine Lovers?  Well, Dr. Peterson loved his chosen line of work so much that upon inventing a barrel rack, specifically designed to securely cradle wine barrels and protect them from mishaps, he decided not to patent his design (and therefore profit from it).  No, as an act of complete altruism, he offered his design to the entire wine industry as a gift.  Peterson's steel barrel pallet has been extremely beneficial to the wine industry, especially in earthquake-prone California.
Dick Peterson - a true wine lover.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Mon Docteur le Vin.

Tonight's marketing class began with all the students being given an early Christmas present of a book: Mon Docteur le Vin.  I thought that was very nice of our instructor, although I'm positive he was given them for free by a client, but nevertheless much appreciated.  (It almost made up for him placing us in groups again, this time to write a press release for an upcoming Napa Valley College event.  I said, almost.)
The book was originally published in 1936 by Gaston Derys who was apparently a well-known French gastronome, (aren't they all?).  One could be forgiven for thinking, by having a quick gander at the 'Contents' page, that the subject matter of this book was rather tongue in cheek. Rather, Derys collected a lot of supposed scientific quotes that alluded to the healthful properties of wine consumption.  My favourite chapter has to be chapter two, I mean who doesn't love the radioactivity of wine? Vinodog 2 says it is her favourite chapter also.
A sample:  "Exactly because of its radioactive properties, wine stimulates the vital functions, organs and glands, increases the vitality of the tissues, augments the red blood cell count, positively influences the nutritional process, and regulates the tone of the vagosympathetic system."
Doctor F. Dougnac.
Good stuff, think I'll pour myself a glass of wine.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Ta-ta tomatoes.

It is the 1st of December already, wow!  How did that happen?  It is the Christmas season already and day one of my advent calendar is already open.
Although it is still technically autumn, there have been some rather cold days this past week and we have had several frosty mornings. Enough frost events to finally finish off my tomato plants: this is my last handful of tomatoes for 2015.  There isn't going to be any more photosynthesis now that most of the foliage has been damaged by the frosts, the plants are done.  I'm going to make the most of my last homegrown salad of the year.