Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pinot prunio.

Today was my first day off in almost two weeks that it hasn't rained. Thank goodness!  So I was able to get out into the vineyard to begin pruning the Pinot grigio vines.  Yay!
It is still rather wet in the vineyard, so I was very careful about where I trod: it always amazes me how quickly a small, soggy gopher mound can turn into a fully fledged quagmire.  Vinoland's creek has almost retreated back behind its banks, but it is impossible to walk anywhere near the flood plain without having at least one wellie ripped off.  Hate when that happens.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cult vineyard?

So I have been giving some thought to the whole cult wine phenomenon - just a little, not a lot. (The subject was recently raised, in the comments section of my 'Pluviophile...' post, by New Hampshire Wine-man.)
I have to say, I am more than a little sceptical when it comes to the whole cult wine thing, (I have been accused of being a doubting Thomas in the past).  But I cannot ignore the fact that some people might, and do, pay an ungodly amount of money for a wine that merely has the perception of being extra special, for one reason or another.  To me the whole cult wine faction, amongst the wine buying public, is akin to those folks who have to wear the latest designer labels.
Just last week, at a Napa Valley Vintners event, I was able to taste a Herb Lamb Vineyards, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley AVA).  The vineyard this wine is produced from, the Herb Lamb Vineyard, is perhaps better known in cult wine-circles as the vineyard from which one of the first cult wines in the Napa Valley hailed; the Colgin Cellars, 'Herb Lamb Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Colgin was a wine with all the hallmarks of cult status; small production, vineyard designation, high critical acclaim and a lofty price point.  But what actually made it a cult wine in the first place?  The proprietor?  The winemaker? The vineyard? The farming practices?  Hmm.
Well, the commonality here, with Colgin and the wine I tasted, is, of course, the Herb Lamb Vineyard itself.  The seven acre vineyard is located in the hills just below the Howell Mountain AVA at some 800 feet in elevation. The soil is rocky and the exposure is northeastern.  Is great terroir, a terroir that produces high quality grapes, the sole factor in determining that a resulting wine will be of cult status?  I think not. To me it is arbitrary and faddish.  There, I said it.
And how was the Herb Lamb Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon?  Smooth, sufficient fruit up front,  soft tannins, a little lacking in the acid department, a brusque finish, just okay.  But then, I'm not really a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon-type Vinogirl.  No, I happen to be in the possession of taste buds of the doubting Thomas-persuasion.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pruning 2017.

It may be a Friday the 13th, but I was lucky enough to be able to get out into the vineyard for a little while today.  The weather was very pleasant this afternoon which meant I was able to start pruning.  It was cold, sunny and, most importantly, dry.
As usual, I started to prune the Orange Muscat vines first.  It is the earliest date on which I have ever started to prune, but I am anticipating more rain in the coming weeks, so I thought I'd get an early start.  I love pruning, so I'm not complaining.  Prune on!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pluviophile, I am not.

I am not ombrophobic, nor am I pluviophobic. No, I am not afraid of rain, I just dislike rain intensely.  So I have decided that I am most definitely a heliophile.  What is there not to love about going outside, anytime time one wishes, and staying dry?  Not much, for me anyway.
My drive home from TWWIAGE on Tuesday evening was an interesting one - not fun, but certainly an experience.  Nearly every other winery in the Napa Valley had closed early due to a major rain storm so, consequently, traffic was light, but it was dark and very, very wet. Come daylight, and on my commute to work yesterday morning, I could see that most valley-floor vineyards were under water.  This photograph, of a rather waterlogged Groth Vineyards & Winery, was not an uncommon sight as I made my way across the valley.
Napa is officially at 171% of normal rainfall for the season: I think we've had enough.  I know I certainly have.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Morning in the Winery: 4.

This morning, Vinomaker and I ventured upvalley to partake in the annual event, Morning in the Winery (MITW).  This year there were five wineries to choose from; Humanitas Wines, Bouchaine Vineyards, Odette Estate Winery, Silver Oak Cellars and Beringer Vineyards.  We would normally pick the winery closest to home to visit, but a shortish drive up to Odette Estate Winery seemed in order.  (I have been wanting to visit this particular winery for a while.)   This may have been only the fourth time MITW has been held, but the event seems to be a victim of its own success.  MITW is a good event and I did enjoy myself, but perhaps not as much as at previously held events.
Despite some of the heaviest rain of the season so far, some 300 plus people converged upon Odette, a smallish winery (which was formerly Steltzner Winery), all of whom were milling about and trying to avoid the heavy rain.  A general air of disorganization hung over the event, much like the low-lying rain clouds above the Stag's Leap District AVA, but it didn't stop me from tasting through the Odette wines.  And the wines were; a 2014 Reserve (titter, titter) Chardonnay (oaky, sigh), $66; a 2014 Adaptation Cabernet Sauvignon (tasted unfinished), $54; a 2013 Odette Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (pleasant, nice lavender vibe), $126; and a 2014 Adaptation Petite Sirah (soft, fruit-forward, with an appealing acidity that balanced the chalky-tannin character that poorly made Petite Sirah can exhibit in spades, best of the bunch), $44.
As an aside, when Odette first opened to the public, the winery's By Appointment Only (BAO) sign was conspicuously located on the first slat below the Odette Estate name.  After several months, perhaps, (I drive by this winery on my way to TWWIAGE) the BAO sign had migrated to a lower slat and was, consequently, obscured by the landscaping.  Then, just recently, the sign was newly relocated to its current, and once again visible, position. Curious, I thought then.  Now I know why.
Without diving head first into the intricacies of Napa County's Winery Definition Ordinance, I think it is safe to say that Odette rethought the positioning of their BAO sign because they had signed up to particpate in a high profile event, i.e., MITW.  Whilst an obscured BAO sign will increase the number of walk-in tasters, thus maximizing potential wine sales, it will also maximize how much trouble a winery can get into with Napa County, (dependent upon how egregiously a winery flouts the limitations set forth in its use permit.)  In 2013, Caymus agreed to pay a $1,000,000 fine to the county for violating the terms defined in its particular use permit.  It's alcohol and it's regulated.
I shall keep my eye on Odette's peripatetic signage.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Fox news.

It's a slow, January news day in Vinoland.  Even this grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), that Vinodog 2 had stuck up a tree for a couple of hours until it went dark, looks bored.  Mr. Fox certainly wasn't bothered by the rather annoying, little black and white dog creating a scene some 13 feet below him.  Although I was a bit disturbed by the commotion as I tried to do complete some outdoor chores.  It's a good thing our neighbours aren't very close.
And as regards to Mr. Fox, he made a very strong statement showing up like he did in the middle of the afternoon.  It is almost like he knows I have just found a chicken coop that I like and may purchase.  Hmm.
Like I said, slow news day.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Party animal.

My traditional New Year's Day walk through the vineyard this morning was a little disappointing. I had wanted it to be crisp and white with frost (like it has been every morning since Christmas Eve), but instead, because the weather has warmed up a bit, everything was moist and green. Nonetheless, I got to have a good look around and assess the job close at hand - pruning.  Vinodog 2 accompanied me, but I insisted she leave her glad rags in the house.
A happy 2017 to all!