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.