Saturday, April 30, 2016

Caldwell Vineyard.

Today, an impromptu tasting at Caldwell Vineyard had me looking back, from an elevation of about 600 feet, to Vinoland.  I love the Coombsville AVA, I love the wines and I love living here.  Surveying the eastern hills, I noted to myself that Mt. George (slightly left of centre) was looking particularly splendid in the late afternoon sunshine.
The tasting, hosted by proprietor John Caldwell, was extensive and seemed to include a majority of Caldwell Vineyard's wines (they make 21 different wines, about 5,000 cases in total).  But, in reality, I probably only tasted ten wines in total.  Still, that's a  lot of wines to taste.  A standout for me was the 2013 Caldwell 'Silver' Proprietary Red - a palate pleasing blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvginon and 25% Cabernet Franc (all from Caldwell's Coombsville estate), delicious blackcurrant, plum and violets (with Vinogirl-pleasing acidity).  And a lovely, get-the-beef-wellington-on-my-plate, 2013 Merlot which was all subtle red plum, red cherry yumminess. Then, there was a bourbon, phew, long story.  All in all, a great tasting.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Mead indeed.

Honestly, I cannot even think the word mead without my head being filled with visions of warty peasants in dimly lit, smokey taverns - full of wenches and wolfhounds - rambunctiously sloshing around mead-filled pewter tankards. Mead, sometimes referred to as 'nectar of the Gods', is made from fermented honey and is perhaps the oldest alcoholic drink known to man.  (I daresay Saint Bede drank mead.)
Traditional mead, simply honey, water and yeast, can be dry, sweet, still or sparkling.  With the addition of fruits, grains, herbs and spices mead is known by some other names.  For example; Braggot is made from honey and malt; Cyser is made from honey and apple juice; Pyment is made from honey and grapes and, germane to this post, Metheglin is made from honey, herbs and spices.  (Shakespeare refers to metheglin, along with malmsey, in Love's Labour's Lost.)
All the meads I have ever tried have been quite wine-like and have been packaged in wine-like bottles.  Nectar Creek, a mead produced in Corvallis, Oregon, is packaged in beer-like bottles which had me wondering if the contents would be more beer-like.  (Now, where did I put my pewter tankard?)  Chicory and Sting were two very different meads - the first a traditional mead, the second a metheglin, I suppose. They drank more wine-like, but with beer-like alcohol (ABVs of 5% and 6.2% respectively).  The Chicory was extremely honey-ish on the nose, with a little floral component mixed in, and felt like it had a bit more mouthfeel than the other. The decidedly-ginger-ale-reminiscent Sting had subtle, earthy undertones of honey.  Both meads were ever so slightly effervescent, and both were lacking in acid (for my taste).  I couldn't drink a lot of this stuff.  But, (not unlike the fad for the so-called, in the USA, hard ciders), mead is very trendy right now, so I reckon a fair amount of folks are drinking it: the creed of mead.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Oil on water.

I have recently noticed that there are a lot of Tesla electric cars in the Napa Valley.  A lot. There was a time when spotting a Tesla was a rare event, but now they are ten a penny. Yesterday, a dusty, brown Model S sneaked up on me outside the Oakville post office (those things are dangerously silent).  Then today, on my way to work, I was behind a Model S that had decided that I was going to drive up to TWWIAGE at no more than 35 mph.  God love 'em!
The shiny, navy blue Tesla of this morning was brand spanking new and, as yet, had no license plate.  In lieu of a license plate there was a card that read 'ZERO Emissions'.  Well, obviously there are zero emissions, it's an electric car. However, the power station responsible for generating the electricity to power my friend, the tortoise-like Tesla, is most definitely not pumping out zero emissions into the atmosphere: the generation of electricity is not without consequences.  That fact, unfortunately, just happens to be an inconvenient detail that most electric car owners seem to ignore. Generally, I have discovered that just ignoring, and denying, reality doesn't make it simply disappear. My musings reminded me of a story that I read in the Napa Valley Register last month.
A short road that dead-ends at the Napa River, and is soon to be developed with a 489 unit apartment village, is to be renamed.  The current name, Oil Company Road, has been deemed unsuitable for the new residential complex and so the road is to be renamed Sousa Lane West (the continuation of a small road on the other side of Soscol Avenue that heads east to the Silverado Trail).  And why is someone bothering to rename Oil Company Road?  A spokesman, when asked this question, said, "We chose to change it because of the confusion of 'oil company' with 'oil cans'; it carried a derogatory feeling to it." What? How fragile are the psyches of the folks who will eventually inhabit these new apartments? Apparently, history has to be forgotten, or worse rewritten, to save these apartment dwellers from the perceived horrors that are fossil fuels.
In the 1890s, this part of Napa - along the river, but on the opposite bank to downtown - was a dockyard area mainly occupied by gasoline wholesalers who when the demand for petroleum grew supplied that demand.  The flourishing industries that relied on the gasoline wholesalers were tanneries, mills, cream of tartar factories (there were a lot of grapes here, even then) and, of course, the power plants that supplied the electricity to these industries.  The same electricity that powers the myriad of Tesla motor cars that are tooting around the Napa Valley today.
I am glad that I got a photograph of the Oil Company Road sign before it is removed, and before the powers that be rewrite Napa history to the absolute detriment of future generations of Napa Valley residents.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Happy St. George's Day, 2016.

Charles Churchill (1731-1764), an English poet and satirist, (who, incidentally, was born on Vine Street, Westminster), wrote, "Be England what she will.  With all her faults, she is my country still."
Of course, I happen to be of the opinion that England doesn't have many faults.
Oh, and a happy 400th birthday to William Shakespeare!
Happy St. George's Day to my family, friends, and anyone who loves England as much as I do.
[Addendum: 23rd April 2016 was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.]

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day, 2016.

Since getting back from England, I have been busy working in the vineyard, working my day job and generally catching up with stuff.  It has rained most of the day today (even had a bit of hailstone this morning), so I have had a rather mellow day mainly spent indoors.
I did venture out into the vineyard, a little while ago, to see how the vines had fared in the gusting winds.  Syrah shoots are so succulent this time of year that they are susceptible to snapping and breaking in breezy weather: especially when I haven't had time to stuff all the shoots up and under the trellis wires.  I am happy to report that everything looks splendid in my immediate, humble patch of the Blue Planet.
I have managed to stay dry, which is more than can be said for the ladybird I found ambling about on a Cabernet Sauvignon vine, apparently unconcerned with being slightly water-logged. Rather it than me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Last night wine: 2016.

Goodbye Blighty, 2016.
Sigh, my English holiday is almost over.  For a last night tipple I decided to indulge in an English bubbly.  The Hambledon Vineyard NV Classic Cuvée, (an English Quality Sparkling Wine), was a delightful choice for toasting the conclusion of a wonderful trip.
The back label says, "Established in 1952, Hambledon Vineyard is England's oldest commercial vineyard.  Hambledon is also the cradle of cricket."  I did not know either of those little factoids.  I do now.
A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier this was a very nice sparkling wine which paired quite well with my salmon dinner.  Later, England!
California here I come.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Welsh wine.

I had wanted to try this wine when I was home last year.  There is a bit of Welsh blood in my family and so I thought it would be fun to try a wine produced in Wales, however I ran out of time on my last visit.  So yesterday, whilst out shopping in Marks & Spencer, I purchased a bottle of Tintern Parva, 2014 Bacchus (WQW or Welsh Quality Wine) to go with dinner this evening.  I have never had a wine from Wales before, this was to be a first.  At £13.00 (about $20.00) this bottle of wine wasn't exactly value priced (as compared to an imported Soave, for example), but for me the price was worth it for the novelty value.
The Wye Valley has always been one of my very favourite places on the planet and I have visited there a butt load (technical term) of times.  Of course I haven't been there for many years, but the memories I have of roaming around Tintern Abbey, (trying) to fish in the River Wye and just generally enjoying the bucolic landscape are simply magical.  And now wine is grown there.  Perfect.
Tintern is a village in the Wye Valley famous for its 12th century Cistercian abbey. It is thought that the Romans may have practised viticulture at Tintern during the period that Blighty was under the governance of Rome.  Hmmm.  It seems more likely that the monks at Tintern Abbey farmed grapevines for the purpose of sacramental wine, but I suppose the Roman connection makes for a good tale.  Tintern Parva (parva, the opposite of magna, means small or little) is a small hamlet where Parva Farm's vineyard, a mix of several grape varieties, is planted on a south facing slope. 
And the wine?  I have had wines made from the Bacchus grape, a hybrid, before and usually find them to be a little lacking in the acid-department.  However, this wine was perfectly palatable, the acidity good enough for pairing with food and the bottle was soon emptied.  I probably wouldn't buy this wine again, I've tried it now, but it was rather nice.  Neis iawn.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dry spell's over.

Wine, at last!  Thud picked the wine for this evenings meal - a nice Chianti Classico he had picked up at Marks & Spencer.  The 2012 Castello Della Paneretta, Chianti Classico Riserva (Firenze) came recommended by Thud, as he had had it several times before and had liked it considerably.
One of the reasons Thud likes this wine is in some part due to a tiny bit of secondary fermentation in the wine.  And this particular bottle did not disappoint Thud, or me for that matter, as there was indeed a little effervescence in the wine.  Quite appealing, and more than a little fun.
This deep ruby hued wine had a wonderful nose of cherries and herbs.  With a mixed red berry compote vibe on the palate and tannins that were softer than expected, the bottle didn't last long (between four people), as it paired well with the pasta dish Thud had prepared for dinner.  A very nice tipple with which to end my wine-drought.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Pretend wine.

I still have not had any wine.  So my 6 year old niece decided to draw me a glass of wine: she knows her Auntie Vinogirl well.  I pointed out to her that she had drawn me a glass of red wine when perhaps I would have preferred a glass of white wine, to which she responded, "I don't have a yellow pencil."  Fair enough, red pretend wine it is then.

Friday, April 08, 2016

A holiday from wine.

Not one drop of wine has passed my lips since I arrived in England.  I did not even have a glass of wine yesterday when I visited my favourite restaurant in Liverpool, the Casa Italia.  Why?  Well, mainly because I have been very busy.  Very busy.  Wine, to me, is meant to be enjoyed and savoured.  Wine is not meant to be consumed in a hurry, or because one feels like one has to have wine with dinner.  One doesn't.  Wine is nice, but it is not mandatory.
A couple of days ago, whilst planning with Mrs Thud what we were all going to have for dinner, Thud and I ventured into his wine room looking for a little inspiration amongst his collection (which is heavily Italian).  And then I came down with an awful cold.  Inevitable really, given my nieces and nephew have had colds and the temperatures have been hovering around 8-9° Celsius.  Brrr!  My sense of smell is now non-existent.  Apparently my personal wine-tasting equipment has gone on holiday also.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

This is Anfield.

After finishing a nice plate of Scouse, I asked Thud how Liverpool (the football club) were doing in their match against Tottenham Hotspur.  (It is a tradition of my English family to have Scouse on Saturday and then watch the footy results.)  "Well, you can find out for yourself," Thud said, "Come on."  What?  Yes, Thud was taking me to the match.  A quick drive into Liverpool, Anfield to be exact, and I found myself on the most hallowed of grounds: the LFC stadium.  (Seating capacity 44,741 + one Vinogirl.)
Not without some major bother, my sister in law, Mrs Thud, had managed to procure a couple of tickets to this evening's match.  What a surprise!  I was in a bit of a state of shock, walking through the streets of Liverpool, past La Serenissma's recently demolished grammar school (very sad), until I finally parked my bum in my seat and realised I was actually at the game.
And a great game it was.  The end result may have been a 1-1 draw, but it was a very entertaining match.  From the rousing rendition at the outset of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' to the standing ovation at the conclusion of the match that the Liverpool squad received from The Kop, and every other person that bleeds Liverpool Red in the audience, I was enthralled by the whole experience.  And then I sneaked down to the pitch and took this photograph from the corner.  Goal!