Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Done and dusted.

This is the bubbly line up for Vinoland's New Year festivities.  Can't wait.
2016 was a funny old year, neither good nor bad - which is a good thing I suppose.  But time marches on and here we all are on the eve of a new year.  I, for one, am ready to embrace the next 365 days.
I hope 2017 is prosperous, safe, healthy and blessed for all those that I hold near and dear. And for some other, random folks as well. Cheers!
Have a very Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Port out, starboard home.

Two, sort of, related things happened yesterday; my kind neighbour popped over and gifted Vinomaker and I a bottle of Heitz Cellars, Ink Grade Port (Napa Valley AVA), and I read a story about Porto, Portugal, in the Napa Valley Register.  (Oh, and a third unrelated thing, it was also my Vinomum's birthday.)
I have never tried this particular 'port' before, but my neighbour assures me it is delightful.  I can't wait to try it - tomorrow night, perhaps. The wine is a blend of eight, classic Portuguese grape varieties; Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Souzão, Tinta Bairrada, Tinta Madeira, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Cão and Bastardo.  (I think I am going to be particularly enamored by that last grape.  Titter, titter.)
The article in my local newspaper wasn't a typical fluff-piece written with the purpose of luring tourists to Porto.  No, instead the front page story was a report about a junket that three Napa County Supervisors recently took to the aforementioned city.  At a cost of $17,500 to the taxpayers of Napa County, the three supervisors, whilst in Porto, attended a conference called 'Great Wine Capitals' with the intention that they'd experience "a wonderful learning see what the rivals are doing". One Supervisor, Keith Caldwell, seems to not really have enjoyed the trip at all, or at least what he learned there.
In the article, Supervisor Caldwell bemoans the fact that he did not see more of the problems that Porto faces.  "They really went out of their way for us not to see some of the negatives," Caldwell complained.  What? The audacity!  God forbid the officials of that particular municipality, some 5,500 miles away from the Napa Valley, wanting to make a good impression on their visitors.
Caldwell continued, "What I think we could do is have an international dialogue about, 'What are you doing, Porto, to address homelessness?'" Hang on a minute, I have a suggestion.  Er, maybe the Napa County Supervisors could start by donating that $17,500 to a local homeless charity.  But no, it's other people's money.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Christmas: 2016.

I woke up to another frosty morning in Vinoland, it meant everywhere was white and very Christmassy.  Not as white and Christmassy as the morning my sister, La Serenissima, woke up to in Utah though: my brother-in-law is now busy shoveling out from behind 18 inches of 'White Christmas' personified.
Enjoy food, family, friends and the spirit of the season.  Oh, and wine.
Happy Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve, 2016.

I have been baking all day.  It's been lots of fun, very Christmassy.  And the house smells great. What would Christmas be without mince pies? I don't know, because I have never had a Christmas without them - thanks to my grandmother, my mother, my sister, my brother and, now, me.  Life is good.
I'm sitting here right now, with a glass of Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, watching Father Christmas (yes, my colonial cousins, Santa) wing his way around the globe on the Norad Santa Tracker. Der Weihnactsmann, (my thoughts are with the people of Berlin), is currently on his way to Ikeq Island, Greenland: free to spread his particular variety of Christmas joyfulness. Life's really good.
Happy Christmas Eve, folks!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Solstice, 2016.

A quick peek into my rear view mirror on the drive home form work tonight had me pulling off the road to take a quick photograph.  Whilst not quite as spectacular as the sunset this past Monday, which was simply stunning, the winter solstice sunset was not too shabby.  Looking west-southwest, through a vineyard of leafless vines, I stood for a little while and just enjoyed the view.  Aah.
Happy winter solstice, enjoy, be happy...for tomorrow it starts to stay lighter, later.
Sing it, Ian!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Baby, it's cold outside.

And I'm loving it.  The past five mornings have been white and bright.
After so much rain last Thursday, 3.5 inches fell in just under 5 hours, the sunny, dry, crisp weather has been a more than welcome respite. Of course, all that rain meant there was plenty of moisture about to actually freeze and the resulting 1/8 inch of hoarfrost over every surface, including Vinoland's grapevines, made for some spectacular sugar-sprinkled vistas on my early morning walks with Vinodog 2.  And it made everything seem just that little bit more Christmassy.  Love it.

Friday, December 16, 2016


I'm stuffed!
Whilst the Far Niente vineyard crew were pre-pruning their neighbourhood, Coombsville vineyard this morning (a little later than is usual for them, but then we have been having a lot of rain lately), I was getting ready to go to a luncheon with all my female co-workers...and TWWIAGE's controller who absolutely insists on treating all the girls to a nice lunch every Christmas.  It is difficult for me to eat, and drink, so much at lunch, but it is hard not to when one dines at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena.  I now feel like a sloth, but a bit of work outside this afternoon will hopefully prepare me for my second round of festiveness this evening (also TWWIAGE related).  It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The winner by a nose.

Continuing with the continuing education theme, when the TWWIAGE production team are not actively making wine, the winemaker (or the oenologist) organises 'blind' tastings for the entire staff.  There is always a theme; usually a comparison of a particular vintage, AVA or price point. Or sometimes a vertical tasting of his own wines.  It is a serious, but fun exercise.
In a recent comparative-tasting, TWWIAGE's flagship Cabernet Sauvignon was pitted against five other 2013 Cabs from throughout the Napa Valley, all of them more expensive than TWWIAGE's offering.
Unfortunately, one wine was corked so it was, for all the tasters, relegated to last place.  Hate when that happens.
To cut a long tasting-story short, the winner, by one point only, was Far Niente's Cabernet Sauvignon.  The very close second went to the TWWIAGE wine (incidentally, my second place wine also).  My favourite wine in the tasting was the offering from Chateau Montelena - quite a light and elegant wine, but, I thought, a wine that would be very food friendly: (it came in third overall.)
And that was that, I feel much more clever now.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Gaudete, 2016.

It's Gaudete Sunday, 2016.  My rosé of choice this evening, for this the third Sunday in Advent, is a saignée of Cabernet Sauvignon produced by TWWIAGE.
Now, TWWIAGE do not make a rosé.  No, the Cabernet Sauvignon TWWIAGE actually retails is very, very red.  But the production crew did have a little bit of fun during harvest 2015 and produced enough of this very tasty wine for every staff member to get a whole case of it.  Yay, love when that happens!
This wine has a wonderful nose of strawberries, raspberries and cherries. The strawberry thing continues on the palate, but is joined by a hint of dried cherries this time, with a slightly sour, white peach vibe on the finish.  Beautifully, deeply hued, this wine has lots of layers and is, for the most part, balanced - though I suspect the alcohol is a bit high.  Although, I wouldn't really know what the declared alcohol is in this rosé as it didn't come with a front label, only a back label.  Just have to have that government health warning.  Titter, titter.
Sing it Maddy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The vineyards of Oakville.

Harvest 2016 is well and truly over in Vinoland, but it has been over much longer at TWWIAGE.  It is warmer up north in Oakville and harvest happened sooner, and finished faster, than here in the Coombsville tundra.  Grape-picking may be at an end, and wine is, well, still making, but now, in what is now considered the off-season for all things grape and wine, is a great time to partake in a little continuing education.
This morning, the winemaker at TWWIAGE took me, and several of my co-workers, on a field trip to some neighbouring Oakville vineyards. TWWIAGE does buy a small amount of grapes from a handful of well established Oakville growers with whom the winemaker, and the owners of TWWIAGE, have forged strong and stable relationships.
Buying grapes from other growers means that a winery can produce more wine to sell.  But purchasing fruit grown on different soils, from distinct micro-climates and with alternative clone/rootstock/training combinations can lead to various nuances and complexities in the final blend.
Our little band of wily winery-workers trudged through five vineyards in all, committing to memory soil-types, trellising systems and crop yield: it was very educational.  And fun, for a geek like me.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gratitude and gladness.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
Even though Thanksgiving is not an English holiday I think it is good to have a day when all of us count our blessings be they big, or small.  I am thankful for family, friends, good health, a roof over my head and a full tummy.  And, last but not least, Vinodog 2.  (I just love her to death).
Vinomaker is currently enjoying a chilled glass of 2014, Groth Chardonnay (Napa Valley AVA). Of course he is.  I haven't decided what I am going to quaff today, but I have a pretty good idea that it is going to be sparkling.
Let's get this holiday season started!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Colour palette.

This mess may look like a Rothko, Pollack, or some other impossible-to-interpret abstract foolishness, but in actual fact it is an emptied half ton Macro Bin which until just recently held fermenting Petite Sirah.  Just look at that colour extraction, it's stupendous!
All fermentation in Vinoland is now finished. And every last drop of wine, late harvest wine and a couple of batches of 'port' are pressed off and barreled down.  Phew, it was a long harvest this year (and I was absent for two weeks of it even).  Good job, Vinomaker.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Poppy Day: 2016.

Vinodog 2 and I are wearing our poppies today in remembrance of all the men and women who fought fearlessly, and sacrificed much in countless wars and conflicts, to safeguard our freedom and liberty. Brave beyond modern day comprehension, the veterans of both World Wars deserve to have their sacrifices commemorated.  But let us not forget those who are currently serving in the armed forces: cheers to them.
Remember, freedom isn't free.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Last night wine: 2016, part 2.

Goodbye Blighty.  It's time for my holiday to come to an end.  My last night wine this visit was a lovely Tempranillo that Thud had purchased in Marks & Spencer (once again).  The 2012 Bellota Tempranillo was a lovely wine; fruity, balanced, smooth and very, very moreish.  A delightful wine with which to toast the end of a wonderful visit.
Later, England!
California here I come.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Liverpool Gin.

I'm not a gin drinker, but all my family do like the odd gin and tonic.  I don't really like spirits at all, actually.  So I had to ask Thud what he thought of this gin: he said it's alright.  I just like the bottle.  It has a Liverbird on it, so why wouldn't I like it?  Liverpool Gin is indeed made in Liverpool.
I'm a sucker for good packaging and I don't care if that makes me seem shallow.  The makers of Liverpool Gin have ginned up the label with a bit of gold to appeal to people like me, except I'm never going to buy it, ever. It's still a very appealing bottle.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

The Un-Bonfire Night.

The Bonfire Night that wasn't, that was Bonfire Night, 2016.  Ho hum.  I think I mentioned in my previous post that the weather was forecast to turn gangster: it didn't disappoint.  Although it was dry, it was just far too windy to have a bonfire.  Not that there is the danger of a bonfire getting out of control in England (unlike perhaps it would in tinderbox-dry California), but it was just too unpleasant to be outside.  I did see lots of other fireworks, off in the distance, but they did not totally satisfy my inner pyromaniac. Thud had made some delicious treacle toffee earlier in the day, so I did get to partake of something traditional this Bommy Night.
In lieu of a list of pyrotechnic-wonderment, I thought I'd mention a quick round up of some wines that I have had in the past week.  Paired with a nice Bolognese that Thud made, the 2014 Messapi, Aglianico (DOC Acerenza), purchased in Marks & Spencer, was quite nice (though a tad bit oaky).  And at a couple of lunches out with my Vinomum at The Red Fox pub in Thornton Hough, I took advantage of the establishment's 'By the Glass' wine list and had a glass each of; a 2015 Terre Di Passione Pinot Grigio (Veneto IGT); 2015 Crusan Colombard/Sauvignon Blanc (Cotes de Gascogne); and a 2015 Lanya Sauvignon Blanc (Chile).  All passable quaffing whites, with perhaps the Sauvignon Blanc edging out the other two by a nose. Literally, a very aromatic wine.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

I do like to be beside the seaside.

The weather has been unusually nice whilst I have been home.  Except for a drizzly few hours last Friday it has been dry, sunny and, surprisingly, warmer than average for the time of year.  This morning Thud and I drove over to New Brighton for a coffee.  It was a beautiful autumn morning.
The wind that comes across the Irish Sea into Liverpool Bay, and then up the River Mersey, is often stronger than anything I have ever experienced in the USA.  But with little in the way of wind this morning, just a bracing breeze, I was able to walk a little ways along the promenade and take this photograph.  Oh!  I really do like to be beside the seaside.
Of course, the weather is forecast to turn gangster on Friday, sigh.  But the good weather has meant that I have been able to spend sometime outside with Thud.  Whilst he has been busy building a sandstone wall and a fire pit, I have assisted with raking leaves, feeding chickens and, most importantly, building a bonfire.  Whoo hoo!

Sunday, October 30, 2016


A small, but significant, successful business development of Thud's meant that a glass, or two, of bubbly was the order of the evening.  The Heidsieck, 2007 Monopole Gold Top was a delightful choice with which to celebrate.  All toasty-rich, appley goodness, the Gold Top was a suitable tipple for the occasion.  And that of my 1200th post.
I have been busy since I got home: the Vino-nieces and Vino-nephew have been on half term from school and I have been kept on the go.  I have only had one other wine in the past week. It wasn't very good, which was disappointing as I hoped it would be great.  Made from the Marzemino grape, the wine definitely had plummy characteristics, but it also had a very bad case of volatile acidity. Hate when that happens.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Get back... where I once belonged, Part 9.
Yes, I'm on my way to Blighty once again.
Vinomaker and I toasted my upcoming holiday, at dinner last night, with a bottle of Bodkin, Cuvée Agincourt, Blanc de Sauvignon Blanc. Bodkin is a sparkling Sauvignon blanc; it's not the greatest of wines, it's not bad just vinous and not very complex.  It may have been a little better if it hadn't seemed slightly old and a little oxidised (perhaps it was just a bad bottle). However, I thought it a fitting wine for this particular trip, for when I wake up on my first morning at home, the 25th of October, it will be St.Crispin's Day.  And the 601st anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.
Get back JoJo!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bring the Brini.

Hee, hee!  I had forgotten all about this bottle of Lambrini that I had brought back from England with me last April.  Marketed almost exclusively to women, Lambrini is a cheap, sweet, low alcohol, sparkling perry that is produced in Liverpool.  A lot of good things have come out of Liverpool over the years.  However, Lambrini isn't one of them.
I had meant to do a blind tasting of the Lambrini with Vinomaker this summer whilst Thud was visiting, but I forgot.  I thought it would have been an entertaining tasting for me and Thud to share the Lambrini with someone who had never tasted it before.  Then I completely forgot all about the Lambrini again - until just yesterday when I spotted it in my wine-stash (whilst looking for a particular vintage of something altogether more serious).  Time for some Lambrini-larks.
Well, it wasn't much of a test for Vinomaker, as he immediately deduced that the tipple in his glass was not made from grapes.  He's good. Still, I wasn't altogether disappointed in my quest for cheap entertainment at Vinomaker's expense: his face upon first tasting the perry had to be seen to be believed.  He very quickly poured himself a glass of a 2015, Miner Family Viognier.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The grass is greener.

Deere, John:
The 1.75 inches of rain that fell on me last weekend (I always take it personally), when paired with five days of ample sunshine with temperatures in the mid to high 70°s, have produced a distinct green haze of sprouting grasses and weed-seedlings all over Vinoland. Like magic, opportunistic r-selection plants have taken full advantage of the combination of rain and sun and have begun the process of turning California's rolling, golden hills and the vineyard floors of the Napa Valley into velvety-verdant vistas.  Then, a little time later, and after subsequent rain events, everywhere will have to be mowed.  Cycles.
Love, Vinogirl.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pressing business.

Vinomaker and I pressed off a lot of wine this afternoon.  A lot!  (Two batches of St. Helena Cabernet sauvignon and Vinoland's Syrah.)  As usual, Vinomaker had slightly underestimated how juicy the Syrah grapes were and so there was a bit of a scramble to find another container to transport the wine from the crush pad up to Vinoland's modest barrel chai.  It was a busy day.
But not before I had taken a quick jaunt up to Oakville to join my co-workers at TWWIAGE in celebrating the end of Harvest 2016.  The vineyard crew at TWWIAGE had harvested the last grapes back on October 8th.  (TWWIAGE's last tank of Cabernet Sauvignon was pressed off on October 17th and was commemorated with a sparkling wine toast.) Those vineyard lads definitely know how to throw a harvest party: it is by far my favourite celebration of the season. Actually, it will be my only harvest party this year, as I won't be able to make it to the other two that I have been invited to.  I have other pressing engagements.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Just juice.

Harvest 2016 is finished, yay!  Vinoland's Cabernet sauvignon grapes, the ones I lovingly tended all summer long, are now just juice (well, skins and seeds too).  The must is now awaiting inoculation with Vinomaker's yeast of choice. My job is done.
Special thanks go out to the St. Helena Sots (both sets), the Barrow Lane Boozer, the Atlas Peak Alky and the Coombsville Carouser, all of whom got just as drenched as me whilst harvesting the grapes.  Cheers, my dears!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cabernet revealed.

I spent most of today leaf pulling in the Cabernet sauvignon vines in preparation for harvest tomorrow.  I got a good look at the fruit as I stripped the leaves away and I'm estimating the crop is a little lighter than last year.  And the vines seem to be shutting down rather early.
The leaf pulling was a very dusty activity, I was filthy by the time I had finished.  The Napa Valley is expecting its first storm-series of the season tomorrow, perfectly timed to coincide with the Cabernet harvest.  It will be a rather soggy harvest event, but at least I, and the grapes, will be clean at the end of it.  Oh well, sigh.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Press the grape-flesh.

Vinomaker and I pressed off the Vichyssyrah today; it was a very small batch of wine, so it took no time at all.  In fact, cleaning up after the whole pressing process always takes much longer than the actual squishing of the pomace. But Vinomaker is a dab hand when it comes to using a pressure washer and he usually gets it done rather quickly. There are countless cleaning and sanitizing steps involved in every aspect of winemaking and there really are no shortcuts when it comes to cleanliness.  As Bob Pepi, founder of Pepi Winery, once said, "Eighty percent of great winemaking is cleanliness."  I'm of the opinion that the other 20% is spent just thinking about cleaning stuff.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Syrah, sorted.

Vinoland's Syrah is picked, yay!  Harvest was quick and painless and the fruit looks beautiful.  The harvest party (Harvest Chili with jalapeno cornbread, then brownies and Neopolitan ice cream for dessert) was a lot of fun and included a great selection of wines.  All of which were consumed down to the very last drop.
One particular wine, that our merry little harvest group imbibed, was a Syrah made by a co-worker of mine (at TWWIAGE) from grapes from the 2014 harvest in Vinoland.  I was gifted a bottle of  the Syrah last Christmas.  My co-worker and her boyfriend had bottled this wine when it was less than a year old.  The main consideration for the early bottling was that they didn't have enough room at their house to live, for an extended period of time, with a barrel of maturing wine.  And the brief barrel-aging was clearly apparent.
Like a wine that has spent very little time in oak, this young Syrah had proportionally very little going on in the bouquet, or in the taste, department.  Unlike the novel, bubblegum-fun-factor appeal of an adolescent Gamay, i.e., a Beaujolais nouveau, the only interesting thing about this wine was the rather attractive wax seal that embellished the bottle.  (The E and V are the couple's initials, but I suppose they could also stand for enologist and vintner.)
The Syrah wasn't a bad wine, it was just nondescript.  Of course, the entire bottle was consumed.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Syrah strip.

I spent most of today pulling leaves in the Syrah vines in preparation for harvesting tomorrow.  Stripping the leaves from the fruit zone makes the picking of the clusters much quicker, and easier.  The yield looks average, but the quality of the crop looks great.  I ate some grapes as I worked and they tasted lovely, so I am predicting that 2016 is going to be a nice vintage.
Vinodog 2 accompanied me whilst I worked my way along the rows.  Well, actually, she was busy harassing four deer in our neighbour's property who were staring her down.  Then, tired with all that patrol-activity, she passed out on a comfy bed of leaves I had just removed from a vine.  It's a dog's life.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Happy 9th birthday V2!

My little Vinodog 2 is 9 years old today.  How did that happen?  Time flies.  V2 has had a rather rough year, so she thoroughly deserves to have a fuss made of her on her 9th birthday.
People who know me know that I like dogs, but they really have no idea how much.  I could not love V2 any more if I tried.  I simply adore her, she's great.  Just looking at her makes me happy. She's my funny, adorable little mongrel.
I have to work today, but I'll make sure I take her for a good walk when I get home.  Then I'll celebrate her big day with a glass of something bubbly.
Happy birthday V2!

Friday, September 30, 2016

When I smell violets, others smell singed hair.

I have posted before on Vinsanity about wine descriptors and how each wine drinker has different ways of describing what they are tasting, usually dependent on their individual life experiences.  I have written of how Vinomaker is often reminded of Necco Wafers whilst drinking certain wines.  And, for me, how certain wines evoke the very olfactory-memorable smell of Parma Violets.  (First happened to me with a bottle of Château Margaux, purchased by Thud for my 18th birthday.)  Well, just recently, I began to follow an Instagram-er (who shall remain nameless) who has the craziest wine descriptors I have ever read.  (I wish I'd known about this wine reviewer last year when I was required to find some outlandish wine descriptors for the marketing class I was taking at NVC.)
Here is a selection of the reviews (and the wines described within);
"...bell pepper, warm wet concrete and garden hose.  Apple butter and dirt road this is red-checkered-tablecloths and old-fashioned wine glasses."  (2011 Illuminati Ilico Riserva, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, DOC.)
"Barnyard bluster, full of funk, spit, manure and warm hay, framing an intense lilikoi and apricot, giving a fantastic ying/yang tropical/stone situation--with a decidedly buttery edge.  Minerality and oak play alongside pomegranate-skin tannin, banana and pineapple..."  (2014 Sea Monster Chardonnay, Los Alamos Vineyard, Santa Barbara County.)
"Tomato compote, kefir and green melon explodes into eucalyptus bark, dusty road while an icy vermouth and raspberry leaf tea warmth prop up the chalky brilliance."  (2014 Liquid Farm Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County.)
"Hair singeing rotten vegetables, Barbie sweat and dog-killed grass over a firm foundation of vegan hotdogs and turpentine-fueled electrical fire."  (2011 Red Lava Vineyards, Syrah, Lake County AVA.)
"Thin and bright, steely barnyard loveliness. Urine on galvanized steel and fat woodsy wet needles salted with nutmeg."  (2013 Villa Borghetti, Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, DOC.)
I hope these wine reviews are meant to be tongue-in-cheek because Vinomaker and I have been having a laugh making fun of them: they are simply preposterous.  But then, who am I to pooh-pooh someone else's life experiences?  Titter, titter.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I dream of Zin.

A new offering from Mi Sueño, the 2013 Zinfandel (Sonoma Mountain AVA) is a big, impactful wine.  I've probably said it before, but I like it when winemakers flex their oenological-muscles.
I love a good Zinfandel because I think this particular wine varietal always pairs well with a myriad of meat-based meals, e.g., barbecued ribs etc.  Long considered the native grape of California, Zinfandel accounts for about 10% of all wine-grapes grown in The Golden State. Folks in California have been imbibing in wine made from this grape variety, now known to be indigenous to Croatia, since the mid 1800s - it's been around a long time.  However, this is not your grandmother's Zinfandel. No, this Mi Sueño Zinfandel is a rather stylistically-meaty interpretation of this varietal: it would definitely knock an old dear's socks off.
Deeply hued, this wine displays oodles of spicy-vanilla-caramelized plums on the nose, followed by more pluminess, a hint of dried cranberries, with a vanilla-smokiness on the lingering finish. And nice balance, considering the 14.8% ABV.  If I have one criticism, it is that this wine is slightly over-oaked, (but that is a Rolando Herrera trademark, after all).  The Zinfandel is, unfortunately, only available through Mi Sueño's wine club.  Paired well with my homemade beef burger.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A yeast feast.

Vinoland's first red fermentation of 2016 is under way.  The Vichyssyrah fruit showed up on Friday, was inoculated on Saturday and this evening the must is already merrily foaming along.  However, I don't expect too much foam with this fermentation due to the characteristics of the particular yeast that Vinomaker selected for this Syrah.
Coming in at 24°Brix the Vichy grapes were crushed and destemmed before being introduced to their partner-in-fermentation, Lalvin ICV-D254 (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Lallemand's ICV-D254, a Rhône specialist, is a low foaming yeast selected to ferment in low nitrogen musts and contributes aromas of ripe fruit, cedar, spice and licorice. Sounds lovely, I can't wait to taste it - in two years time.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Go Vatican!

I borrowed the title of this post from a teaser in the subject line of Karen MacNeil's (author of the Wine Bible) weekly e-zine, Winespeed (September 16th issue).  I subscribed to Winespeed a few months ago, but of late it has become something of a mini-obsession with me - I just love it and look forward to it arriving in my inbox each Friday.
Winespeed is packed with fascinating wine facts and tidbits of vinous information.  It's a fun, snappy read; included therein is a weekly wine recommendation, a 'Wine Question of the Week' and the 'Verbatim' feature - a quote from some or other wine-personage.  And other good stuff.  So what was so interesting to me about the 'Go Vatican!' item in Winespeed?  Everything, it's the type of wine-factoid that I just geek-out on.
"16.  Number of gallons of wine consumed per person annually in the Vatican City State--the highest per capita consumption of any country in the world.  Only 836 people live in the Vatican, but the country's voluminous wine usage is partly the result of the Catholic celebration in which bread and wine are consecrated during the Mass.  By comparison, U.S. per capita wine consumption is about 3 gallons."
Anyone interested can subscribe to Winespeed here.
Oh, and happy first day of autumn!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Black Cat's meow.

This afternoon, Vinomaker and I spent a pleasant couple of hours at Black Cat Vineyard's harvest/wine club pick-up party.  Proprietor, and winemaker, Tracey Reichow was also releasing her 2014 Howell Mountain Zinfandel and 2014 Coombsville Syrah.  I had a quick taste of both new releases, but due to the rather toasty temperature, (it got to 89°F down the road in Vinoland), I stuck with a rosé that was being poured. And lots of water.  Lots of water.  I tasted enough of the Zinfandel, however, to determine that it did pair well with the barbequed ribs, Italian sausage and beef brisket with crispy grits that were being served, yum.
Good fun and good wine.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Whites are in.

It's been a long day, but Vinoland's two white grape varieties are now just grape juice and are safely chilling their little bottoms off in the cellar.  The Pinot grigio fruit looked beautiful and came in at 26 °Brix (not sure about the Orange Muscat sugar).  I'm pooped.
This year we experimented with rice hulls as a press aid and they really seemed to help with the extraction of more grape juice.  There was plenty to go around, enough to share with this thirsty honey bee.
Whites down, reds to go.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Berry close.

These Pinot grigio grapes are cuddled up and squished very close to each other.  They are also very close to being harvested.  Vinomaker tasted a few berries this morning and then requested that I collect some grapes for him to test.  A quick 100 berry sample later, the Pinot grigio's vital statistics are; 25.6°B, a pH of 3.4 and a TA of 7.4.  It appears that they are good to go.
The weather has cooled down considerably the past two days and it's suddenly feeling quite autumn-like.  I am glad that it has cooled down, (though, it has been quite chilly at breakfast the past couple of mornings), as it will buy me a little bit of time to get things organised for picking. Never a dull moment.

Friday, September 09, 2016

A red leaf day.

I have spent quite a bit of time in the vineyard the past two days.  I am still playing catch up, but I have also started to do some pre-harvest prepping; some leaf removal, a fair amount of canopy management and a little bit of weeding.  There were several, persistent stands of shortpod mustard (Hirschfeldia incana) and spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper) to be dealt with.  I tripped over a large mat of sharpoint fluvellin (Kickxia elatine) myself, so I think it made sense to remove any large weeds that may get in the way of those who will harvest Vinoland's grapes.
Even though it was a bit toasty out in the vineyard (especially yesterday afternoon) I had an enjoyable time and was even able to stop and have a look at the fruit, the odd insect (including the really odd insect that unexpectedly jumped on me, but which I reflexively flicked away before I could ID it) and the dark red leaf (in the photograph) with the telltale girdling on its petiole.  Darn insects!

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Happy Blogday: 2016.

Happy 8th anniversary of blogging to me!  Yup, it is eight years today since I wrote my first post on Vinsanity: this post is my 1,181st.  I have had a lot to say.
My niece, the one who sketched a glass of pretend wine for me when I was back home last April, and who is now 7 years old, recently presented me with another wine-themed drawing.  Should I be worried, or at the very least slightly concerned, that each time this child wants to draw something for me it involves wine? Hmmm.  I have been blogging for longer than she has been on the planet so I'm just going to blame it on osmosis.  Or something.
Thanks to everyone for commenting on, and thus contributing to, Vinsanity.
Roll on year 9!

Sunday, September 04, 2016


Today was a bottling day in Vinoland.  In an effort to tie up some odds and ends before our harvest begins, Vinomaker and I bottled a barrel (24 cases) of Syrah by ourselves.  The 2014 Syrah, from a small vineyard on Vichy Avenue (hence the title of this post, titter, titter), was all spicy-dark-berry-plum on the palate, and displayed a softer tannic profile than is usual for this varietal.  I think the Vichyites will enjoy it.
With loud music for motivation, the bottling event went rather speedily. Vinomaker had done a lot of prep work yesterday, so things moved along at a brisk pace.  I think I may have worked even quicker if I had had the musical accompaniment of The Ramones.  But, instead, I acquiesced to Vinomaker's choice of music, Lynyrd Skynyrd, as he is the winemaker after all; I am just chief cook and (almost literally) bottle-washer.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Sugar levels.

I tested the sugar in the Pinot grigio grapes for the first time today. Using a handheld refractometer I took a simple measurement of the fermentable sugars available in a 100 berry sample from the vineyard and came up with a reading of 23.2 °Brix.  Not bad, for starters.
The 2016 growing season has been uncharacteristically cool and rather reminiscent of the 2010 growing season, methinks.  The month of August has been much cooler than is normal, so ripening has slowed down for everyone in the Napa Valley.  But the fruit looks great in Vinoland, so I think the future is looking sweet.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Party's over.

My family returned home to England yesterday, and today I returned to the vineyard.  I have a lot of catching up to do.
I usually like to post photographs of all four of Vinoland's grape varieties going through their particular physiological stages, but I was a bit busy this summer.  I totally missed the Cabernet sauvignon (CS) grapevines going through veraison.
Vinoland's CS vines are 100% through veraison, as they should be this time of year, yes, even my little slowcoach Clone 4.  And I missed it all. Now I have to get my head out of holiday-mode and into harvest-mode. (TWWIAGE harvested their first grapes of 2016, Sauvignon blanc, on August 25th.)  The grapes themselves will keep me on schedule: I am now on their timetable.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Beer jelly.

I have had a few beers of late.  And I have had some jelly also.  Today was the first time that I have ever had beer flavoured jelly.  Or beer flavoured Jelly Belly jelly beans to be exact.
A quick trip out of Napa with Thud and his three oldest children found us at the Jelly Belly Candy Company (located at One Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield, of course).  I just love seeing things being made and packaged (love bottling-time at TWWIAGE) and so I found the Jelly Belly factory very interesting.  One can witness the entire jelly bean making process at this very busy production facility.  We all had lots of fun, but at the same time learned a lot about food manufacturing.
Perhaps in an attempt to attract more adults, Jelly Belly are now offering wine and chocolate pairings in a '21 and over' tasting room.  And grown-up jelly bean flavours like 'Champagne' and 'Draft Beer'.  The champagne jelly beans tasted like stale, still white wine to me, but Thud thought the draft beer beans actually tasted like beer: my taste buds were not that convinced. Weird.  I'll just stick with Juicy Pear, my favourite flavour.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Birthday brews.

I have been very busy lately with family goings-on.  A lot of driving has been necessary, so, consequently, I haven't really been drinking.
I had one glass of wine last Friday night, which was my and Vinomaker's anniversary, an agreeable 2014 Chenin blanc from Vinum Cellars (Clarksburg AVA).  I had half a glass of beer at the Main Street Reunion car show on Saturday.  And on Sunday, in celebration of Thud's birthday, I had two bottles of beer; a bottle each of the Kona Brewing Company's Castaway IPA and Fire Rock pale ale.  Both beers were very pleasant and paired well with the tasty BBQ fare on my plate.  I'm not complaining, I'm having fun.
This evening, my family and I are planning on throwing an Earthquake Party: it is two years since a rather angry temblor shook the Napa Valley to its roots.  The little ones have suggested that we all eat jelly (Jello), popcorn and Pop Rocks.  Kids!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Main Street Reunion 2016.

This afternoon, my family and I spent quite a bit of our time oohing and aahing (and at one point I think I may have even slobbered a tad) over a fabulous collection of classic American cars.  Yes, the 2016 Main Street Reunion car show was held today in downtown Napa.  I have said it before, and I'll say it again, I love this event; great automobiles, happy people, fabulous music (lots of Johnny Cash and Eddie Cochrane) playing loud.  Love it!
At the conclusion of the event we all lingered in one particular area to watch, and listen, as many of the cars and trucks fired up their engines and rolled out into the greater Napa Valley.  Very impressive.
Vroom, vroom!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Family net work.

One of my least favourite vineyard operations - installing the bird netting on the white grape varieties - was made more bearable today due to the fact that Vinomaker and I were assisted by Thud, two Vinonieces and one Vinonephew.  It actually was a lot of fun; the little ones caught on quickly and were just the right height to apply the clothes pegs below the vines to secure the nets.
I had a quick taste of some secondary clusters, that I removed as I worked my way down the rows, and I have to say my little grape-babies have quite a bit of flavour already.  And the crop looks beautiful.  I can sleep soundly tonight knowing that my grapes are safe from hungry birds.  Thanks kids!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

All aboard.

For lunch today Vinomum and I decided to take a trip up the valley on the Napa Valley Wine Train.  It is almost two years since we last rode on the wine train together.  Last time we were on the train we basically had it all to ourselves, as lots of visitors to the valley had cancelled their reservations due to the very recent, and rather large, earthquake (that had rattled a lot of nerves) in August 2014.
It was a perfectly gorgeous day for sitting back, enjoying the views and being waited on hand and foot - for three hours.  I did not really have anything to drink, well, just a small glass of Chandon bubbles, because I was driving.  But I sure ate a lot.  A very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Land Remembers.

Another new book arrived in the post today.  The book, The Land Remembers, is ostensibly a treatise on viticulture and terroir.  However, my first impression, after a quick shufty through the book, is that this book is more about one man's love affair with his very own garden of Eden at Indian Springs Ranch, Kenwood (Sonoma Valley).
George MacLeod and his family bought acreage back in 1974 without really knowing anything about winegrape growing, it seems.  But he brought plenty of passion with him.  If one is in doubt as to Mr. MacLeod's romance with the land, his inscription to me, at the front of the book, says,"To Vinogirl - Here is a true vineyard love story! With affection, George, grower".  Case closed.
The Land Remembers has some interesting sections on soil, topography and water, with accompanying charts and photographs - all the vine-geeky stuff I love.  There is a short chapter on 'Microbial Terroir' which has really piqued my curiosity.  I am really enjoying all the viticultural reading I have been doing of late.  This book is a lovely addition to my humble reference library.
The book was written with Arthur Dawson, and other contributors.  One of the contributors is yours truly: yes, I contributed a photograph of a smudge pot (page 79).  Ta da!  That's my 15 minutes of fame done.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Can the can.

I only bought this wine because Thud absolutely hated the whole concept of wine in an aluminium can.  My dear brother generally doesn't like any beverage in a can; he much prefers beer, soda and wine packaged in glass bottles.  He would can this can.
I didn't have strong feelings one way or another about this packaging initially, but now I love it.  The can (produced by the Ball Corporation, better known for its jars) is just so convenient, it's less weight than glass and the wine seemed to chill better in aluminium.  This can is possibly the perfect wine packaging for travelling, picnics, or just throwing one in your handbag.
Purchased at Whole Foods for $4.97 (which would make this 375ml can a $10.00 bottle of wine), the Underwood Pinot gris, from the Union Wine Co., in Oregon, wasn't the greatest wine, but it made a pretty decent apéritif for three people.  Searing lemon-drop acidity, which definitely knocked my 'Queen of Tart' crown off my head, dominated the palate, with a bit of Granny Smith-malic-acidy-zip thrown in for good measure. Clean, quite refreshing and with a hint of effervescence, I would try this wine again.  I even like Union Wine Company's use of the social media metadata tag of #pinkiesdown with which they aim to take the pretension out of wine drinking.  Fun.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Dr. Frank.

The next book, in my personal quest to understand more about the history of Vitis vinifera in the United States, is this book by Tom Russ: Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank.
Dr. Frank was by all accounts a bit of a poop disturber; in that he tried to shake up the New York state wine industry by repeatedly insisting that V. vinifera, i.e., European winegrape varieties, could thrive in the eastern United States.  It is in Dr. Frank's expertise as a viticulturalist, and his scientific approach to clonal selections, that I am mostly interested in.
Love wine-history.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Customer Disservice.

Yesterday was International Albariño Day.  Yay!
A few months ago I began my search for an Albariño that I might not have tried before. Then, just recently, in the Napa Register, I read of a new wine label, Eighty Four.  Eighty Four is a new project by Elias Fernandez and Doug Shafer (of Shafer Vineyards).  It just so happens that they produce an Albariño, so I thought it would be a good candidate with which to laud the upcoming festivity.
I called Shafer to find out if the Albariño was available for sale to the general public (sometimes these faddy wines aren't).  I was helped (and I say helped in the loosest possible sense of the word) by a woman who answered my questions with one syllable words only. Okey-dokey. I supposed she was just having a bad day.
I had a similar experience when I drove up to Shafer on my day off.  I wasn't greeted upon entering the winery although there was a person in the reception area.  The gentleman, at a desk staring into his computer screen, only acknowledged me when I ventured, "Hello" in my cheeriest voice.  I told him what I wanted, handed him my business card, I made some idle chit-chat and then paid for the wine (no inter-winery discount at Shafer, by the way).  Our entire interaction was conducted with having barely any eye contact at all.  He was that disinterested, very bizarre.  I suppose all Shafer employees continually have bad days.
The wine itself went something like this; the wine was very yellow in the glass; strong lemon and candy floss (cotton candy) on the nose; first sip was a little briny; the taste was of pineapple chunks and apple tarts (two sweets, candy, from my childhood).  And the wine was very tart, like it had been acidulated with citric acid.  Now, I consider myself the 'Queen of Tart' as I generally like an elevated acidity in my wine, but this was a little over the top.  Overall the wine, whilst not unpleasant, seemed a little tired. It wasn't oxidised, but all that candied stuff going on just made the wine seem a little over-worked.
An average wine, served with bad customer service, sigh.  I can't get my $28.00 back, but I can make sure that I never spend another penny of my hard earned wages at Shafer.  If one feels inclined to waste some time, one can read the Register article here.  Enjoy.  Or not.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Happy National Mutt Day.

Dogs, vines and wines - just a few of my favourite things (in that order, actually).  I have been posting a lot on Vinsanity about vines and wines lately, but not enough about dogs.  Or one dog in particular. So what better way to celebrate that today is National Mutt Day than by posting a photograph of the best poochie in the nation, Vinodog 2.
V2 has had a bit of a rough time the past 5 weeks - far too many trips to the vet - but she is on the mend now.  She's a great dog, very clever, bright and endlessly entertaining.  I could live without vines and wines, but I seriously could not live without dogs.
Happy National Mutt Day to every furry canine-companion in America!