Monday, July 31, 2017

Wine meld.

There are no shortcuts in the making of a fine wine; it is a long, slow, laborious process.  Whilst not as vulnerable to the capriciousness of Mother Nature as is the grape grower, the winemaker must nevertheless practice patience and, to a certain extent, let nature run its course. Blending, like winemaking, is an exacting endeavour.  And like winemaking, it is an undertaking that cannot be rushed along.
The week before last, I was thrilled to be able to get a small insight into the art of blending wine. For several weeks, the production team at TWWIAGE had been hard at work determining the base blend of the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. Taking into consideration some 30 possible candidates for the blend, the winemaker, his assistant, the oenologist and others - not quite a cast of thousands, but several more folks, including the owners of TWWIAGE - had painstakingly, and through trial and error, agreed upon four finalists.  It was these four wines that the production team now presented to the rest of the staff to taste, even though the final final blend had already been decided upon.
It was an extremely interesting, fun, informative and educational tasting. The majority of the staff, myself included, concurred with the winemaking team by choosing the same finished blend.  Great.  But that's not the end of this long, drawn out exercise.  Now the winemaking team will start tasting trials anew, as they decide upon how much Merlot will make it into the finished wine.  Hope I get an opportunity to try those blends also.  I, for one, am glad that the production team take their sweet time: a great glass of wine should never be hurried.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Napa nest 7.

I've been working in the vineyard the past few afternoons.  Well, actually, today I got distracted by Vinoland's bountiful blackberry crop. Wow, all that winter rain has paid off.  I'm going to be consuming a lot of vanilla gelato in the next few weeks, just sayin'.  But back to the grapes. Everything is looking good; healthy canopy; nice crop.
On Thursday, a California towhee alerted me to the presence of her nest whilst I was working in the Syrah vines.  Momma towhee's usually mellow, but bright, single-note call was whipped-up into a frenzied chip-chip-chip as I got closer to her nest which was hidden in the top of the canopy. Momma-bird got even further agitated when I got out a step ladder so that I could take a photograph.  Sorry Momma, just had to get a photo of this horse hair-lined, luxury Napa nest.
I am happy to report that Momma and the eggs survived my interloping: the past couple of days she has been dutifully sitting on the nest doing the stuff that birds do best.  So adorable.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Black measles.

What is happening with this bunch of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes has me both excited, and sad. Excited because I have never seen this particular grapevine disease before.  And I must admit that it is extremely interesting to see it in person, rather than in the pages of a text book. However, it also makes me sad because it means this grapevine (located upvalley in a favourite vineyard) is infected with a disease that will seriously impact its longevity: Black Measles. Measles refers to the purple/black blemishes found on the fruit.  Look at the spots on those grapes.  Grab the calamine lotion, quick!
The cause of black measles, sometimes called Apoplexy (severe infections), or Esca (in France), is not fully understood.  But it is has been established that the disease is closely correlated with vascular fungal infections and pathogens that cause other vine-trunk diseases/rot.  All vines are prone to disease, but black measles starts to show symptoms in infected vines that are 10 years old, or older. Whilst this particular vine was not exhibiting foliar symptoms; i.e., interveinal chlorosis (in white grapes), or reddening (in black grapes) followed by necrosis, a nearby vine had a couple of shoots that were entirely dried up and had raisined fruit.  The economic impact due to crop loss could prove devastating to a grape grower.
There really is no treatment for a measles infected vine.  Applications of sodium arsenite, a recognised carcinogen, seemed to keep the spread of black measles in check, but its usage is no longer acceptable.  Now, with infections becoming more widespread in grape growing regions across the globe, researchers are studying possible causes, such as bad pruning practices, poor propagation of plant material (in grapevine nurseries) and plain, old-fashioned water stress.  Farming is hard.
Like I said, I have mixed feelings about witnessing this particular grape malady, literally, in the flesh.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

On the turn.

I suppose I should have checked the Syrah vines before the Pinot grigio (PG) vines, but it just so happens that the PG vines are closest to the house and I pass by them more often.  The Syrah vines, like the PG vines, are indeed going through veraison, forming anthocyanins and dumping said pigment into the grapes. Veraison, to me, is a particularly wondrous physiological change in the vine's life cycle and it never ceases to amaze. Carry on, grapies!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Veraison: PG-17.

Whilst on my way out to walk Vinodog 2 this evening, after I got home from work, I noticed the first blush of veraison in my Pinot grigio vines.
It is that time of year again: the onset of ripening that signals the imminent culmination of the growing season.  The Pinot grigio vines are transitioning from berry development to berry ripening - getting nice and juicy.  And sweet.  It is about time that Vinomaker and I break out the bird-netting.  Sigh.  Not one of my favourite vineyard operations.
Must have a look-see in the Syrah vines tomorrow and check if veraison has started there.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A vicennial.

Last night, Vinomaker and I headed upvalley to join the Herrera family, and about 100 other people, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of Mi Sueño Winery.
The event was held at Auberge du Soleil which is the restaurant where winemaker Rolando Herrera took a job, (as a dishwasher on the night shift), to support himself when he was just a teenager.  Twenty years later, now an accomplished winemaker, the owner of a successful winery, and with six children in tow, Rolando was celebrating a major milestone with family and friends in a private dining room at the restaurant.
Highlights of the evening included little speeches from Warren Winiarski (of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars) and Marketta Formeaux (of Château Potelle), who had both employed Rolando in his formative years.  However, for me, the real highlight of the night happened to be a food and wine pairing.  My appetizer of sautéed 'Day Boat' scallop, with corn purée, English peas and vanilla oil, was paired with a 2010 Herrera Perla, Chardonnay (Sonoma Mountain AVA), which made for a truly amazing palate-pleasing-phenomenon.  (Yes, I know, I just put Chardonnay and amazing in a sentence together.)  The vanilla component of the food made the fruit and vanilla in the wine just explode, or at least I think that that was what was going on.  It was just superb.  The experience was enhanced further by the little gem of a tablemate seated to my right: none other than the effervescent Miss Perla Herrera.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Oh, Deere me! Part 2.

Not content with his new John Deere 35G Compact Excavator, Vinomaker (VM) decided he needed something with a little more muscle: his new 50G arrived this morning.  Vinoland's newer John Deere will assume the 35G's sobriquet of Digger Deere (DD). Thankfully, VM is not keeping both excavators.  Phew!
As Vinodog 2 and I were leaving for our morning perambulation, I heard VM saying to Mr. Papé Machinery, who was cheerfully unloading DD's extra buckets and accessories from the bed of his pickup truck, "You can never have too much power. You can always throttle back, but..."
Hmm, I wonder what will turn up next.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Oak axe.

I haven't had much red wine lately.  In fact, I haven't had much wine of any colour, I've been too busy.  Vinomaker and I did, however, try this 94% Tempranillo/6% Petite Sirah blend recently.
The 2012 Acha, by Mark Herold Wines, was a big, ripe-berry-fruit, soft-on-the-palate wine that was very easy to drink (and paired well with a homemade pizza). Unfortunately, in my opinion, the wine was over-oaked - it was as if someone had took an axe (acha is hatchet in Spanish, apparently) lopped off a limb from an oak tree and lobbed it into the stainless steel tank with the fermenting wine.  I have always thought that oak should not be the dominant, primary bouquet/flavour/descriptor in wine: this bottle of Acha just reinforced my belief.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tan lines.

Tan is not a good colour descriptor for wine; tawny for a port, perhaps, but definitely not sunburn for a Cabernet Sauvignon (CS). However, the sunburn issue here, rather, is heat damage on CS grapes not the hue of a finished wine.
The Napa Valley experienced a rather cool spring (I think I've mentioned that before), coupled with the elevated moisture content of the soil, due to California's excessively wet winter, the grapevines have had a fine start to the 2017 growing season.  In such conditions the vines tend to experience a period of rapid growth, putting all their energy into leaf, shoot and grape making.  A sudden hot spell, like that which arrived in the second week of June, caught the vines unawares and they were not well prepared to deal with, or quick enough to react to, the ensuing heat stress.
The heat damage to the photographed cluster of CS grapes is minor and occurred due to the fact that that particular grapevine is always a little weak and thus cannot produce a better canopy with which to shade the immature clusters.  It is likely that this cluster will raisin and I'll have to drop it (and any others displaying similar heat damage). Wine made from fruit that is sunburnt can be bitter, raisin-like and have issues with VA; all of which are characteristics found in bad wines, made from poor fruit, that are persona non grata in my glass.  So, off with their heads.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Oh, Deere me!

Vinomaker (VM) took delivery of a new toy yesterday, a John Deere 35G Compact Excavator.  More rolling stock in Vinoland, oh joy!
About two weeks ago, VM decided that his full-sized New Holland excavator was just too big for most jobs around Vinoland.  My husband works quickly; he found what he wanted (although he said, needed) at Papé Machinery up in Rohnert Park and ordered it.  Within minutes of the delivery of the new John Deere, the old New Holland (which we affectionately referred to as Jumbo), was unceremoniously loaded onto a lowboy trailer and driven off by the new owner. I must admit, I was a little teary-eyed.  Sigh.
As I sit here typing this post, I can hear VM outside playing with his new toy - a machine that henceforth will be known as Digger Deere (or just DD) - the back-up alarm blithely beeping away.  Boys!  

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Independence Day, 2017.

Happy 241st birthday America!
Vinodog 2 and I want to wish everyone a very happy 4th of July.  This adorable American poochie, of British heritage, will be partying alongside her English mum and her American dad.
Nowhere is perfect, but the U.S. of A. still seems to be the destination of choice for the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."  I'll add just one small caveat: one should love America once one is here.
God bless America.
Oh...and God save the Queen!